Luxury cruising has a new twist. Spacious suites with private balconies, dedicated butlers, and gourmet dining are still high in demand, but instead of lounging on the deck drinking bubbly or visiting a different city at each docking, today’s intrepid luxury travellers want to explore a pristine wilderness destination only accessible by ship. They want to stand inches away from a blue-footed booby doing its mating dance in the Galápagos; hike in Shackleton’s footsteps in Antarctica; depart by helicopter to trek in Western Australia’s Kimberley; or peer at the beady eyes of a caiman in the Amazon.
And there’s more. Today’s traveller dreams of adventuring on a new kind of ship which doesn’t hug the water: a spaceship. Soon, outer space will be the greatest and most pristine adventure of all. So grab your camera, hiking boots, and your sense of adventure, and try a bespoke cruise to some of the most inaccessible destinations on earth and beyond. Here are our top picks.
Snorkel with sea lions, swim with penguins, hike along lava tunnels, and discover the many species that captivated Charles Darwin on an expedition to the Galápagos Islands. This archipelago lying just off the western coast of South America is one of the most isolated places in the world. And that inaccessibility has allowed nature to develop in ways exclusive to the Galápagos. It is, in fact, a natural laboratory of evolution.
Pack your bags and set sail with Silversea which offers voyages and cruise expeditions to more than 800 destinations on all seven continents. For this luxury adventure, choose the Silver Galápagos cruise ship, with 50 all ocean-view suites, most with verandahs and all with tailored mini-bars. Grab the expedition-supplied binoculars in your cabin and hop aboard a Zodiac for a guided tour of a different island (with different wildlife) each day. You’ll encounter all the different species up close, accompanied by highly experienced guides certified by the National Park of the Galápagos. Watch gigantic elephant bull seals challenge each other, see a blue-footed booby court his potential mate, try not to step on an iguana basking in the sun, gaze in awe at Darwin’s famous finches, albatrosses, wild flamingos, and giant tortoises (that’s what the word galápagos means).
For more extreme adventure, snorkel with the sea lions (watch out – a male will chase you away if you come too close to his harem) or kayak with them at sea-level. Return to your spacious private verandah suite with flat screen television, direct-dial telephone, and Wi-Fi before heading to the massage room, fitness centre, beauty salon or whirlpool. Join lectures in the lounge and unwind at the Piano Bar.
In 2017, Silver Galápagos will circumnavigate additional destinations in the Galápagos where you will spot an array of exotic birds, more flamingos, and sea turtles.
ADVENTURES IN THE GALÁPAGOS | Snorkel with sea lions, kayak to see them at sea level, hike around lava tubes, join guided Zodiac tours to all the islands.
BEST TIME TO GO | There’s never a bad time to visit the Galápagos. Peak season runs from mid-June through early September and from mid-December through mid-January. Book early because it is almost impossible to find a last-minute deal at these times.
PRICES | From to $7,150 to $9,350 per passenger. The all-inclusive package covers flights between Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, transfers, pre and post hotel and National Park Fees, guided Zodiac land and sea tours, shore-side activities led by the expeditions team, private butler, complimentary wines and spirits, Wi-Fi, gratuities, room service and open-seated dining options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
CONTACT | +44 (0) 20 7340 0741 | silversea.com/ships/silver-galapagos
Antarctica – a pristine landscape of gigantic icebergs and sprawling glaciers, soaring mountains, and endless wildlife. There are 11-day trips, that do not include the Falkland Islands, with thousands of Rockhopper penguins or South Georgia with King Penguins as far as the eye can see. You can choose one of the scenics luxury ships offering Antarctica expeditions, but you’ll be better served waiting for the debut of the brand new all-inclusive ultra-luxurious Scenic Eclipse.
This vessel, the world’s first ‘discovery’ cruise yacht and the most technologically advanced, includes two six-seat helicopters for additional exploration and landings in extremely remote places otherwise inaccessible and a seven-seat submarine to adventure beneath the sea. The Scenic Eclipse has a 1:1 staff to guest ratio, 114 verandah suites (starting at 32sq m), each with a lounge area and verandah, oversized bathroom, and lavish amenities including a pillow menu.
The ship offers six dining venues (including in your own suite), a 465sq m spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, jacuzzi, gym/yoga/Pilates studio, 240-seat theatre, and library. A top marine biologist, ornithologist, geologist, and polar historian compose the ship’s Discovery team. A dozen Zodiacs cruise to the icebergs, abandoned whaling villages, and pristine snow-covered islands. Paddle around the icebergs and wildlife in a kayak, but for the ultimate in bragging rights, go swimming in the sea off Deception Island.
ADVENTURES IN ANTARCTICA | Have a swim in the ice-cold waters of the Antarctic Peninsula; kayak between giant icebergs; chopper to an aerial view of endless penguins; hop aboard a submarine and view wildlife beneath the ocean; join a Zodiac expedition to trek in the snow following the footsteps of famous explorer, Ernest Shackleton.
BEST TIME TO GO | Late December, early January are best for watching the eggs hatch and seeing thousands of adorable fluffy penguin chicks close-up; in February, you’ll also be treated to new life, and March is the preparation for the great migration north (and some might already be gone).
PRICES | For a 12-day cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula per person: from $13,895 for a verandah suite to $43,795 for a 233sq m two-bedroom penthouse. For a 21-day cruise including the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, Deception Island and the Antarctic Peninsula: from $24,495 for a verandah suite to $75,795 for a two-bedroom penthouse.
Includes | Internal flights, butler service for all guests, five dining venues from casual to fine plus room service, unlimited beverages, complimentary Wi-Fi, Discovery Team, all shore excursions, all transfers and gratuities, bottled water onshore. The only additional charge is for submarine and helicopter exploration trips, massages and the hair dresser.
CONTACT | +44 (0)808 301 4882 | scenic.co.uk
Northwest Australia’s Kimberley coastline is one of the world’s last great wilderness areas, a place of secluded beaches and rivers, spectacular waterfalls, and dazzling gorges. Here, intrepid visitors view indigenous rock art, abundant wildlife, and partake in dozens of activities ranging from hiking above the waterfalls to fishing for the elusive barramundi.
Join North Star Cruises for the “Ultimate Kimberley’s” adventure onboard the 36-passenger True North. The ship comes complete with helicopter for touring, six expedition boats, an internet café, dining room with panoramic windows, and snug ocean-facing cabins with satellite phones. Guests can hike to the top of King Cascade and then dip into a secluded swimming hole. Certified divers and snorkellers can swim or take the chopper over untouched coral gardens with giant potato cod, turtles, and manta rays.
With no “at sea” days, guests enjoy heli-flights, fishing for mangrove jack and big barramundi, observing the crocodiles, mud-crabbing (the chef will cook up the catch on board) and bush walking. One of the highlights is visiting the “Bradshaws,” ancient rock art, possibly the oldest ‘paintings’ known to man. Indulge in mouth-watering picnics alongside picture-perfect waterfalls and visit an isolated site in the rainforest where a lone bomber crashed during World War II.
At the end of the day, drink champagne as the sun sets on the ocean. And if you don’t have time for two weeks in the Kimberley, there’s always the “Snapshot” itinerary which condenses the trip into a week (but remember, just like Antarctica, you will probably not return to this pristine wilderness, so go for the two-week adventure). A separate Kimberley itinerary features the remote Rowley Shoals where divers and snorkellers can swim with giant potato cod, turtles, and manta rays.
ADVENTURES IN THE KIMBERLEY | Bush walking, swimming in secluded billabongs, fishing for barramundi and mangrove jack, helicopter rides to mountaintops and waterfalls, and mud-crabbing.
BEST TIME TO GO | The Kimberley region’s climate is tropical with two distinct seasons: the WET season, from December through March and the DRY season, April through November. Choose winter, the dry season – warm, sunny and no rain.
PRICES | “Kimberley Snapshot” seven nights (per person) from $11,995 to $16,995 to December 2016. For 2017: from $12,995 (per person) to $17,995.
“Kimberly Ultimate” 13 nights (per person) from $19,995 to $27,995 to December 2016. For 2017: from $20,995 to $28,995.
CONTACT | +61 (08) 9192 1829 | northstarcruises.com.au
The Peruvian Amazon is one of the most environmentally diverse countries in the world, and the way to see it is on Aqua Expeditions’ luxurious 16-suite Aria Amazon, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows in every cabin. Each day, naturalist guides lead guests on motorised launch boats (skiffs) either in small groups or privately into Amazonia’s snaking tributaries. There, you’ll observe armoured catfish, red-bellied piranhas, and spectacled caimans in the black waters. Look up and you’ll see Titi monkeys playing in the tree canopy, sloths, endless varieties of birds, and anteaters.
Take out a kayak to get up close and personal with the wildlife, fish for red-bellied piranhas (the chef will cook them up for you), and swim in a beautiful lake-like natural swimming pool surrounded by tropical rainforest. Your guides will transport a bicycle to shore so you can bike around the town of Nauta to look at traditional Peruvian houses and shop for one-of-a-kind Amazonia souvenirs.
If it is a low water day, hike beneath the rainforest canopy, then return to the ship for an outdoor jacuzzi on the observation deck. Sip a pisco punch while watching the pink river dolphins frolic in the water. Dine on Amazon-influenced gourmet fare paired with South America’s best wines. At night, the light show takes place with stars as big as cluster bombs.
ADVENTURES IN THE AMAZON | Fish for a piranha, kayak the Amazon, trek in the rainforest, bike to a local village, swim in a natural swimming pool. Onboard, enjoy cooking and cocktail demonstrations.
BEST TIME TO GO | The dry season is best, mid-May to mid-November. The rest of the year it rains heavily, making jungle excursions slippery and muddy. Still, during the wet season, the river is higher so the boats travel faster and can take you further into the jungle to explore the flora and fauna.
PRICES | Three-night Discovery Cruise: from now to December 2016: $3,480 per person, per cruise. January 2017-April 2017: $3,645 per person, per cruise.
Four-night Explorer Cruise: from now to December 2016: $4,640 per person, per cruise. January 2017-April 2017: $4,860 per person, per cruise.
Seven-night Expedition Cruise: from now to December 2016: $8,120 per person, per cruise. January 2017-April 2017: $8,505 per person, per cruise.
Includes | All meals onboard, all excursions off the Aqua Amazon, beverages, transfers to/from vessel, Pacaya Samiria National Reserve entrance fee;
Not Included: Air tickets to and from Iquitos, guide and crew gratuities, boutique purchases
CONTACT | 1-866-6033687 | aquaexpeditions.com
If you are intrepid enough to adventure beyond Earth’s boundaries and cross the final frontier, soon, you will be able to do that. On the world’s first commercial spaceship, VSS Unity, part of Sir Richard Branson’s spaceline, Virgin Galactic, signing up for space travel is open to qualified applicants. So far, during the five decades of the space age, only 555 people have traveled above the Earth’s atmosphere and into space, but future astronauts will be able to claim that title for a fee of $250,000.
While you will not step out onto another planet, you will still experience first-hand the world’s greatest adventure into the unknown. Virgin Galactic plans to operate flights from Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the southern part of New Mexico. Here, you’ll take part in three days of pre-flight preparation, bonding, and training. You’ll learn how to be most comfortable in microgravity and how to make the most of your time. Finally, aerospace medical experts will ensure that you are safe and ready to fly on the spaceship.
ADVENTURES IN OUTER SPACE | As wild as your imagination.
APPLYING TO BECOME A FUTURE ASTRONAUT | Applicants must complete and submit the Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut Application form at virgingalactic.com/human-spaceflight/fly-with-us/application.
BEST TIME TO GO | Anytime you can get a reservation. At present, more than 700 people have purchased tickets and signed up for the Future Astronaut community.
PRICES | $250,000
CONTACT | + 44 (0)20 3227 2200 | virgingalactic.com