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7 Bucket List–Worthy Cruises You Won’t Want to Skip

Explore the best of the world’s oceans, rivers, and canals.

Boats in the water off the coast of Miami, USA.
Hi, I'm Diane!

Based in Vancouver, B.C., Diane Selkirk enjoys writing stories where science, history, or social justice intersect with travel. Her work has appeared in BBC Travel, National Geographic Travel, and The Globe and Mail.

Cruising by water offers a peaceful contrast to the bustle of airports, and allows you to appreciate the journey just as much as the destination. While most people are familiar with classic Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises, only savvy travelers know about these special destinations that come with plenty of sun, rugged wilderness, or deep cultural connections. Here are seven dreamy cruising journeys you may never have considered.

1. Castelnaudary to Carcassonne, France

The Canal du Midi in Carcassonne, France, with people aboard a boat.
Keep it easy with a cruise down France's Canal du Midi.Photo Credit: trabantos / Shutterstock

The DIY option for the intrepid traveler.

France’s Canal du Midi connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea, providing miles of opportunities to enjoy idyllic, boat-side views of the prettiest spots in France. For the independent traveler, rent your own boat in Castelnaudary (home to the famous French dish of cassoulet) and navigate to the city of Carcassonne, which is topped with a medieval walled city. This route is a peaceful one—tie up at the side of the canal when you’re done boating for the day, and spend your days wine-tasting and wandering through the South of France.

Related: Around France in 15 Dishes

2. Masset to Sandspit, Canada

Boats in the water off the West Coast of Canada.
Canada has some of the best cruise options in the world.Photo Credit: Nalidsa / Shutterstock

Discover the magic of Canada’s Haida Gwaii archipelago.

The remote Haida Gwaii archipelago on Canada’s west coast is full of life—the richness of its nature is matched only by the depth of the history and culture attached to the land. An intimate small ship cruise gives you the chance to spot humpback whales, eagles, bears, and orcas and learn about the cultures of the Indigenous Haida People. Along the shoreline, you’ll spot towering totem poles and the remnants of the villages where the Haida People have lived since time immemorial.

3. Punta Arenas, Chile to the Antarctic Peninsula

Visitors admire the views over icebergs on an Antarctica cruise.
Antarctica is one of the most popular cruising destinations.Photo Credit: Marco Ramerini / Shutterstock

Follow in the footsteps of long-ago explorers and cruise past icebergs.

An expedition-style cruise departing from Punta Arenas lets you focus on the dramatic beauty of Antarctica. You’ll sail across the Drake Passage, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, before arriving at the Antarctic Peninsula. Cruises typically take in the South Shetland Islands, providing opportunities for hiking and wildlife observation, including the chance to see whales, penguins, and seals. As you sail, you’ll be surrounded by the deep blue of glacier walls which creak and groan as if they’re alive.

4. Durban, South Africa to Pomene, Mozambique

Boats in the water off the coast of Africa.
Mozambique is an uncommon but worthwhile cruise destination.Photo Credit: lcswart / Shutterstock

Take on the Indian Ocean.

Soak in the sun on this Indian Ocean route which takes you from the big city of Durban to protected and pristine Pomene Bay. The short distance between stops makes this an ideal cruise for those with limited time while departing and returning to Durban adds convenience. On arrival in Pomene, spend time splashing in the clear turquoise water and exploring the coral reefs below the surface which remain in stunning condition thanks to the Pomene Nature Reserve. Make time on either end of the cruise to explore Durban—particularly the peaceful Durban Botanic Gardens and the colorful Victoria Street Market.

5. Cartagena, Colombia to Miami, US

A cruise ship arriving in the port of Miami, USA
Colombia to Miami? What more could you want from a cruise route!Photo Credit: Mia2you / Shutterstock

For an atypical Caribbean cruise experience.

Historic Cartagena is worth a few days of exploration. The city’s cobbled streets take you back in time and its brightly colored colonial-era buildings are a photographer's dream. Common routes between these destinations include Curacao (famous for its blue liquor and excellent seafood); St. Lucia (a haven for duty-free shoppers); and Puerto Rico, which boasts stunning rainforests and beaches. Upon arrival in Miami, spend your time lounging on the beaches, reveling in the nightlife, or searching out the hottest new restaurant.

6. Cape Town, South Africa to St. Helena

Cape Town in the background of a cruise ship with people enjoying the view.
Visitors enjoy the view from a cruise ship off the coast of South Africa.Photo Credit: Richard van der Spuy / Shutterstock

The Atlantic Ocean’s best-kept secret.

Sail from sunny Cape Town, nicknamed the Rainbow City for its diversity and joyful atmosphere, to St. Helena, a bucolic surprise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Best known as the remote island where the British imprisoned Napoleon Bonaparte, St. Helena is known today for its hikes, friendly locals (nicknamed "Saints"), and resemblance to the English countryside. Visit Jonathan, the 190-year-old tortoise that lives on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion; see the former home of Napoleon; and challenge yourself on the dramatic hike to Lot’s Wife Ponds.

Insider tip: Trips between these ports are often part of longer, round-the-world cruises. But this is a worthwhile leg of the journey to join.

7. Tanjung Puting National Park to Camp Leakey, Indonesia

Boat makes its way down the river in Indonesia.
Indonesia offers some truly unique cruise options.Photo Credit: Paulharding00 / Shutterstock

The perfect option for those seeking an unconventional adventure.

Camp Leakey was established in 1971 as part of an effort to study and protect orangutans. Today, you can learn about conservation efforts and spot orangutans in their natural habitat. River cruises depart from the mouth of the Sekonyer River in Borneo, Indonesia, and spend several days meandering through the thick jungle, stopping at research and feeding stations throughout the park to observe the wildlife. Most people typically rent their own private boat and sleep on the deck protected by canopies erected by the crew. It’s a wholly unique cruise that fully immerses you in the nature of Indonesia.

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