7 Amazing Cruises Most of Us Can’t Afford
Have you ever dreamt about new cruises to take and fallen into a rabbit hole of what-if research, only to discover how many voyages are out there that blow your budget out of the water? We may never have the opportunity (aka, the funds) to sail on these ships, but just for fun, we’ve compiled this list of some of the most exotic, jaw-dropping cruise experiences to consider adding to your bucket list.
1. Celebrity's Expedition Ships
Fleet: Celebrity Xploration, Xperience, Xpedition, and Flora (after May 2019, only Xpedition and Flora will remain in Celebrity's Galapagos fleet)
Region: Galapagos Islands
Prices: About $700 - $1,500 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: The ships are extremely intimate, holding just 16 to 100 passengers. All beverages, dining, wifi, use of equipment, and gratuities are included in the cruise fare. Though the ships are comfortable and luxurious, the focus is on the stunning Ecuadorian islands and nature filled with wildlife. A naturalist is always on hand to offer information both onboard as well as ashore, so these cruises are well suited for those that want to learn about where they’re sailing, not just those looking for a luxury small ship experience.
Example Itinerary: 10 Night Northern Loop trip from Quito to Black Turtle Cove, Isabela Island, Santiago Island, Darwin Bay, and more (7 day cruise, 3 days on land in Quito)
Alternative: A southern Pacific cruise that visits lesser-known islands, such as Mystery Island, the Cook Islands, and the Tiwi islands. Princess Cruises is one line that’s known for having unique voyages like this.
2. UnCruise Adventures
Fleet: Nine ships ranging in capacity from 22 to 90 passengers
Regions: Alaska, Columbia & Snake Rivers, Costa Rica & Panama, Galapagos, Hawaii, Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest
Prices: About $450 to $1,500 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: As their name suggests, UnCruise is in many ways the opposite of the traditional cruising experience. The focus is on the nature in the regions it sails, so vessels have kayaks, paddleboards, and a loading platform where in many destinations passengers are allowed to jump right into the water. Crew and passengers get to know each other well because of the intimate sizes of the ships, and there’s an open-bridge policy where travelers can even visit with the captain. To sweeten the deal, excursions, drinks, and just about everything else is included in the fare.
Example Itinerary: 7 Night Glacier Bay Small Ship Cruise roundtrip from Juneau to Glacier Bay National Park, Kuiu Island, Dawes Glacier, Frederick Sound, and Chatham Strait
Alternative: UnCruise sails in a lot of places, but one destination in particular that they’re known for doing really well is Alaska. A great mainstream alternative is a cruise on Holland America or Princess that goes through Glacier Bay, and bonus points if you go with a longer 10 or 12-night voyage that stops at more off-the-beaten-path Alaskan ports.
3. Lindblad National Geographic
Fleet: 14 vessels ranging in capacity from 28 to 148 passengers
Regions: North America, Central America, South America, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia & Pacific, Antarctica, Arctic & Russian Far East, and Egypt
Prices: About $600 to $1,500 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: Lindblad Expeditions’ longtime partnership with National Geographic has resulted in small ship voyages that are perfect for amateur and professional photographers and those who love exploring the great outdoors. The ships are all different: some look like mini cruise ships, some are riverboats, and one is a sailing yacht. Unique things that passengers can enjoy on these sailings include sea kayaks, paddleboards, and undersea cameras and hydrophones to feel even closer to the action by seeing and hearing what’s happening beneath the waves. Those interested in photography will be happy to know that there are trained photo instructors on every sailing to answer any photography questions and help capture those once in a lifetime moments.
Example Itinerary: 14 Night Antarctica: The White Continent roundtrip from Buenos Aires (flight days from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia where the ship is and back are included in the itinerary length). On the voyage, six full days are spent sailing in and stopping in Antarctica, along with sea days before and after.
Alternative: A more traditional river cruise through Asia, Europe, or on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the US Pacific Northwest. River cruises are still pricey, but mainstream river lines will be more budget-friendly compared to expedition cruises and have the same intimate feel and focus on destinations. Many Europe river companies include roundtrip air or other amenities that make their offers more enticing.
4. Paul Gauguin Cruises
Ship: The Gauguin
Region: South Pacific
Prices: About $500 to $900 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: Airfare is included in the cost of the cruise, but only roundtrip from the Los Angeles or San Francisco airports. Also included are gratuities, all beverages, dining, and watersports such as kayaking and paddleboarding. The ship features a retractable marina from which passengers can utilize watersports and scuba dive to enjoy the warm South Pacific waters. Those that aren’t certified don’t have to feel left out, either, as the line offers PADI certification on board. Of course, most potential guests are drawn in by the allure of the exotic South Pacific islands The Gauguin visits, particularly because some of them are so obscure and largely untouched by visitors. The rare destinations alone makes Paul Gauguin a standout cruise line.
Example Itinerary: 7 Night Tahiti & The Society Islands roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti with stops in Moorea, Bora Bora, and Huahine in French Polynesia, as well as Taha’A in the Society Islands
Alternative: Similarly to Celebrity’s expedition ships alternative, the best comparable cruise on a mainstream line to a Paul Gauguin cruise would be Princess Cruises’ unique South Pacific itineraries.
Fleet: 13 vessels ranging in capacity from 318 to 970 passengers
Regions: Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Northwest Passage, Alaska, North America, South America, Europe, Russia, Caribbean & Central America, and Antarctica
Prices: About $270 to $750 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: Even though Hurtigruten sails in many regions, they are best known for cruises around their homeland: Norway. Hurtigruten does cold weather cruises very well in particular, offering extensive and in-depth itineraries in Alaska, Antarctica, and Iceland. Many ships in the fleet are used not only for leisurely passenger cruises but are also set up as scientific bases for research and data collection. Onboard, Expedition Teams give lectures and presentations about the landscape and sea life as passengers experience it first hand. It’s not super *cough* afjordable, but those who want to go in depth on the environments the ship visits would be well suited for Hurtigruten.
Example Itinerary: 11 Night The Land of the Elves Sagas & Volcanoes roundtrip Reykjavik, Iceland stopping in Isafjordur, Husavik, Akureyri, Grimsey Island, and other places in Iceland
Alternative: Most major lines sail to Norway and other parts of Northern Europe, so there are lots of alternatives to Hurtigruten that won’t break the bank. Those set on Iceland have mainstream options, such as Princess and Holland America.
6. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Fleet: Seven Seas Voyager, Explorer, Mariner, and Navigator (Splendor will debut in 2020) ranging in capacity from 490 to 750 passengers
Regions: Africa & Arabia, Alaska, Asia, Australia & New Zealand, Bermuda, Canada & New England, Caribbean, Panama Canal, Cuba, Mediterranean, Northern Europe, South America, South Pacific, and World Cruises
Prices: About $270 to $920 per night, per person
What Makes it Special: Aside from the fact that their ships are smaller and less crowded compared to mainstream cruise lines, the top things that set Regent Seven Seas apart are both its exclusivity and truly all-inclusive experience. Cruise fare includes airfare, unlimited shore excursions, unlimited drinks, gratuities, wifi, and just about anything else you could think of or want while onboard. Service onboard is also next-to-none, where all guests have access to a butler and out-of-the-ordinary requests are not only expected but welcomed.
Example Itinerary: 7 Night Cuban Paradise roundtrip from Miami to Key West as well as Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and Cienfuegos, Cuba
Alternative: If you want the luxury without such a big blow to the wallet, consider Oceania which usually ranges from $150 to just under $400 per night, or an ocean cruise on Viking. Viking ocean ships hold 920 passengers and include wifi, specialty dining, and one excursion in each port. They are still expensive but have a better selection of sailings that lean towards the lower luxury price point at $200 to $300 per night.
7. World Cruises
There are many cruise lines that offer a World Cruise from the more affordable Holland America Line or Costa Cruises to the ultra-inclusive Regent Seven Seas Cruises. When you break down the cost per night, most of them are actually quite affordable compared to the other circumnavigation options offered by land tour companies and other cruises on this list. However, since they span several months on the high seas, the upfront cost is nothing to scoff at. Those that have been looking to explore a larger part of the world than is possible via traditional trips might find that a world cruise is a perfect solution. Another neat feature is that being on a world cruise has some perks that you won’t get on a regular cruise such as unlimited free self-serve laundry, free alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, onboard spending money, and commemorative gifts. The best thing about a World Cruise is the experience of traveling around the world and checking off the top items on your bucket list.
Here are some examples of current world cruises that are available for booking:
- 63 Night Divine Discoveries from Hong Kong to New York on Oceania’s Insignia
- 112 Night World Tour roundtrip from Venice on Costa Cruises’ Costa Deliziosa
- 116 Night World Cruise roundtrip from Versaille on MSC Cruises’ MSC Magnifica
- 90 Night Full World Cruise - Epic Empires & Idyllic Isles from Los Angeles to Rome on Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity
- 131 Night A World of Luxury Cruise roundtrip from Miami on Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner
Alternative: Let’s face it, there’s no real alternative to a world cruise. But if you love the sound of taking a long cruise and sailing to different continents only unpacking your suitcase once, a neat alternative to a full world sailing is choosing a shorter segment or two within the world cruise. You embark either at the starting point with those that will be taking the entire voyage, or somewhere along the itinerary. Then, you disembark the cruise at another port along the way or at the ending port. Typically these segments are at least 20 nights or more. There are lots of cruise lines out there that break down their world cruises into shorter segments so that there’s options for those that can’t afford a full sailing or be away from home for that long. It’s a great way to get a taste of a world cruise by actually being on one, but not committing to the full length.