You are currently viewing Ditch the polar gear: 7 warm-weather expedition cruises that will wow nature and adventure lovers

Ditch the polar gear: 7 warm-weather expedition cruises that will wow nature and adventure lovers

If you thought expedition cruising was all about polar destinations, think again. The newest ships and itineraries will have you swapping the thermal gear for swimsuits, basking in bright sunshine and slipping into the warm crystal waters in some of the more remote tropics around the world, including wild frontiers without the bone-chilling cold.

Here are seven of the best warm-weather expedition itineraries to explore.

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Seabourn in the Kimberley


The Kimberley is Australia’s hottest destination right now, and Seabourn‘s ultra-luxe Seabourn Pursuit — which debuts there in June — is the best way to see it in style. The 10-night Waterfalls and Wandjinas tour from Broome to Darwin winds through a wilderness that is almost the size of California but home to fewer than 40,000 people.

Natural wonders abound in this wild frontier etched with rivers, waterfalls, tidal creeks, reefs and white sand beaches — many only accessible by boat. On guided tours, witness ancient rock art, dive into Western Australia’s rich pearling history and experience Indigenous culture firsthand with a traditional face-painting ceremony.

On board the 264-passenger Seabourn Pursuit is a wellness spa, 24-hour room service (hello caviar) and the Bow Lounge, which features interactive navigation maps and front-row seats to saltwater crocodiles and the magnificent red sandstone gorges that date back 1.8 billion years. Expeditions are equally mind-blowing, as the Zodiac boats thread through the narrow gap of Horizontal Falls or zip out as the tide turns so guests can see Montgomery Reef surface magically from the sea.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Seabourn cruise ship

UnCruise Adventures in Hawaii


Nothing says aloha like island hopping in Hawaii aboard a 36-guest boutique yacht. UnCruise Adventures’ seven-night Hawaiian Seascapes expedition is one for nature lovers, with opportunities to snorkel with manta rays, swim with sea turtles, float above a coral garden bright with neon fish or peer into the crater of an active volcano.

Hawaiian culture is also in the spotlight. With stops at four islands — Molokai, Lanai, Maui and Hawaii (the Big Island) — you’ll have ample time to explore. Cycle local villages, chase waterfalls, hike rainforests alive with birdsong or learn to make poi, Hawaii’s beloved dish of mashed taro.

On board Safari Explorer are kayaks, paddleboards and a skiff to explore the dramatic coastline up close. Lounging on the ship’s three decks has its own reward. You might spot cavorting dolphins or a humpback whale or two popping out of the sea to wave a fin hello.

Related: The 8 best Hawaii cruises in 2024 and 2025

Lindblad Expeditions in Baja Mexico


Cruise the Sea of Cortez with Lindblad Expeditions, and you’ll soon discover the magic of Baja Mexico from a team with more than 30 years of experience sailing this dazzling 2,500-mile coastline.

Itineraries of six to 15 days dive into this biodiverse landscape — described by Jacques Cousteau as nature’s aquarium. Get up close to sea lions, rays, big fish and dolphins. Shore landings are no less awesome, hiking desert arroyos spiked with cactuses and islands clamorous with sea lions and squawking seabirds.

Whale watching is one of Baja’s biggest draws, the sparkling waters filled with the spray and song of humpbacks, orcas and the rare blue whale. This is where California gray whales come to breed and huge whale sharks glide through shimmering seas. These encounters are memorable, but Lindblad goes one step further, with expeditions in local panga boats for up-close encounters with the gentle mamas and their calves.

Silversea Cruises in the Galapagos

Silver Origin approaching Kicker Rock at sunset in the Galapagos Islands. SILVERSEA CRUISES

The Galapagos is the ultimate in adventure travel. This remote archipelago of 19 islands is carpeted with an astonishing 9,000 species of flora and fauna, many not found anywhere else in the world. It’s here that Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution. More than 150 years later, not much has changed, except perhaps the mode of transport.

Cue Silversea Cruises‘ Silver Origin, a luxe 50-suite ship with butler service and a decidedly Ecuadorian flavor found in the ship’s food, team of Ecuadorian national expert guides and, of course, excursions. Off-ship expeditions will have you hiking ancient lava flows, snorkeling with huge fish and island hopping through primordial landscapes flush with blue- and red-footed boobies, sea lions and giant tortoises.

Drama is everywhere in the Galapagos — and not just the animal kind. Thirteen of the 21 volcanoes in the archipelago are active. With a little luck, your wilderness outing might include dress circle views of a volcano’s billowing peak.

Related: Galapagos cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

Aqua Expeditions in Raja Ampat


Spend a week sailing Indonesia’s Raja Ampat with Aqua Expeditions, and you could be forgiven for thinking you’d found paradise. Galaxies of karst islands drift above coral reefs alive with darting fish, pygmy seahorses, black-tipped reef sharks, octopuses and manta rays. The diving and snorkeling are out of this world.

So, too, is life on board Aqua Blu, a 30-passenger superyacht replete with a Jacuzzi, an outdoor barbeque and a Balinese spa. The former HMS Beagle is barefoot luxury at its best with a no-shoes policy for the entire seven-night cruise.

On board are diving and snorkeling gear, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, so you can explore this far-flung Southeast Asian archipelago at your own pace. On landings, unearth hidden lagoons and beaches, and go in search of the rare crimson bird of paradise. One thing is certain: Dropping anchor anywhere in this pristine archipelago of 1,500 islands promises nature writ large.

Aurora Expeditions in Costa Rica and the Panama Canal


Slow-moving three-toed sloths, howler monkeys, toucans and crimson macaws are just some of the wonders of Costa Rica, a nation that lives and breathes sustainability. The newest cruise from eco-minded Aurora Expeditions tours the Central American country’s Pacific coastline, diving into the heart of its greenest parks and wildlife reserves, including the small but popular Manuel Antonio National Park.

Panama is another highlight of this 10-night sailing (with a one-night pre-cruise stay in San Jose, Costa Rica). There are stops in the Pearl Islands and a visit to the Indigenous Indian tribes of Embera, a village deep in the rainforest. Miraflores Visitor Center — with the history of making the canal — is also fascinating.

Most cruises head straight through the canal, but Aurora runs expeditions in Gatun Lake, the 21-mile artificial waters that made the Panama Canal crossing possible. It’s, of course, a warmup for the main event — a daylight crossing of the 51-mile engineering marvel that connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Related: 12 best Panama Canal cruises for a bucket-list trip

Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji


Fiji’s reputation for being one of the friendliest nations now extends to its cruise offerings, as it’s the setting for the friendliest expedition ship, the 114-passenger MS Caledonian Sky. This recent addition to the Captain Cook Cruises fleet is crewed by locals, which means one thing — service with ebullient smiles and no end of welcoming bulas, the Fijian greeting for hello.

The seven-night Southern Lau itinerary takes in an archipelago, far from the high-end island resorts and “flop and drop” beach holidays of more popular Denarau and Viti Levu. Each day brings two stops at an island or coral reef and visits to local villages and schools. Snorkel, dive with a qualified instructor, kayak or head out in the glass-bottomed boat. Island visits celebrate Fiji’s vibrant culture with traditional dances and lovo feasts, banquets cooked using an earth oven.

Can’t get enough? Book a two-week itinerary to trace the migratory path of the Tongan Tribe, the last humpback whales to be hunted. It’s a rare opportunity to witness these majestic cetaceans soar and belly-flop into the air before blowing a final, salty kiss farewell.

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