As any veteran cruiser will tell you: the ship itself is only one element of what it is to ‘cruise’. Shore excursions are where the real action takes place.
And the sheer breadth of what’s available is amazing. From helicopter rides to deep jungle treks and private tours of the most private palaces in the world. As cruise lines continually strive to better each other’s shore excursions, it’s the passengers that are going to reap the rewards. And who are we to argue about that?
Below we’ve compiled some of our favourite and most extravagant ultimate shore excursions to give you a little taster of what’s available. Enjoy!
Snorkelling in Antarctica
Expedition cruise and adventure company Aurora Expeditions is offering passengers the chance to snorkel in Antarctica, new for the 2014 season. This ground breaking new activity provides passengers with the opportunity to explore stunning icebergs in icy waters alongside penguins, seals and whales.
This unique experience allows passengers to see Antarctica in a completely new dimension, witnessing wildlife and scenery unlike any other place on earth.
Through crystal clear waters adventurers will discover the amazing mobility and speed of penguins entering and exiting from the ice, marvel at the beauty of sculpted icebergs below the water and swim alongside vast marine mammals.
Experience costs approximately £595
Dubai helicopter tour
The Middle East’s most famous hub is where the ultra modern meets tradition. Dubai is where the world comes to do business and what better way to see those dramatic sights – including the Burj Khalifa – than by helicopter?
The 25-minute ride will also give passengers an opportunity to see the wind-towered houses of the old town, Port Rashid and the abras and dhows on the creek. All with a chauffeur driven car from the port to the helipad too of course!
Experience costs approximately £120
Monte Carlo VIP clubbing
To coincide with the Monaco Grand Prix, Crystal Cruises invites its guests to come to the race’s exclusive after party – at the Amber Lounge.
The late night ultimate shore excursion includes a private table at the nightclub, free-flowing Don Perignon champagne and all night fun.
Experience costs US$2,259
Private tour of the Vatican
Luxury cruise line Oceania Cruises puts on a tour of Rome’s Vatican City that gives guests exclusive access to off-limits areas.
The excursion takes in the many wonders and secrets of the Pope’s palace and includes a viewing of his own exclusive place of worship – Niccoline Chapel – as well as a rare opportunity to see the Papal Treasures.
Experience is priced per sailing.
The Volcanic Flyover
Guests onboard Silversea’s San Francisco sailing to Hawaii have the opportunity to take a helicopter over one of the Aloha State’s most impressive sights: the Kilauea Volcano.
The helicopter tour is something truly special and allows passengers to see lava activity, black beaches as well as the area’s tropical rainforest. The ultimate buzz for the ultimate shore excursion.
Experience is priced per sailing
Sossusvlei Dune Overland Adventure
Holland America Line
This four day adventure sees guests leave the ship in Cape Town and board a flight to Walvis Bay and then on to Sossusvlei. From there passengers are transferred on to Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in Namibia’s Namib Desert.
During their stay those lucky enough to go will be able to use the lodge’s powerful observatory, go on game drives and also take up opportunities to explore the desert.
Experience costs £2,531
Camping with penguins
While Norwegian specialists Hurtigruten are renowned for cruises within their homeland – it’s expedition ship, the MS Fram, has made its fair share of headlines too.
For this ultimate shore excursion Hurtigruten gives guests the opportunity to do something which very few people will ever get the opportunity to experience: camp on the Antarctic ice.
Equipped with specialist gear this experience is available to just 15 people a time, with the location of the camping experience determined by the local expedition team.
Experience costs £330
Yes, that’s right, a cruise line is offering the opportunity to have your very own Cool Runnings moment.
The experience takes place on the island’s Mystic Mountain, known for its dense rainforest – and of course, its 3,000ft bobsled track.
Passengers will take a cable car up to the top, skimming the jungle canopy, and see the history exhibit and explore the butterfly and hummingbird gardens – before taking the plunge.
Experience is priced per sailing