For those partial to the more luxurious things in life, curating your own exclusive, first-class experiences are fundamental to fulfilling life’s great pleasures. Though, there is the question of where to look when we crave something a little different to the norm. An expedition cruise can offer much more than simply a holiday – it’s a gateway to uncovering the finer and more unique experiences across the world. Voyaging to far-flung, fascinating destinations, only accessible by ship, means many once in a lifetime jaunts can be crossed off your travel checklist.

Delight in the giant moai statues of Easter Island, immerse yourself in Greenlanders dogsledding traditions or get up close and personal to wildlife unique to the Galapagos. If you have an appetite for unconventional pastimes that retain the all-important element of luxury, embark on these once in a lifetime experiences for a voyage like no other!

1. Meet Wildlife Exclusive to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

A close encounter with the unique animals of the Galapagos Islands is an extraordinary once in a lifetime pursuit that cannot be experienced anywhere else in the world. Located 600 miles west of Ecuador, and famed by Charles Darwin and his evolution theory, more than 120 isolated islands and islets exist, that are teeming with rare plants and wildlife. Meet Española lava lizards, giant Galapagos tortoises, blue-footed boobies and a sizeable colony of frigate birds – animals that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth.

Take this opportunity to snorkel in the Galapagos’ warm, diverse waters, whilst surrounded by fur seals, sea turtles and fishes resembling all colours of the rainbow. Or take a hike on the hardened black lava hills, for a chance to dip your toes in the black sandy beaches and emerald green shores. And the voyage doesn’t have to end in this natural paradise – Galapagos Island cruise itineraries typically feature stops in destinations such as Santa Cruz, Española, Isabela and the San Cristóbal islands too.

2. Admire the Remarkable Views of Antarctica

Few experiences are as unconventional and unique as the frozen utopia that is Antarctica, let alone an expedition voyage to the ice-covered landmass. To get a true view, you need to get there by sea, as land accommodations can sometimes be limited to scientists, therefore a smaller vessel such as an expedition ship is the only way to visit these breath-taking corners of the world. A chance to sail past the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole is one that shouldn’t be overlooked. A difficult place to reach, few lines offer outings on the shore, so this once in a lifetime opportunity is not one to be missed.

Bask in the remarkable views of the snowy Roja Peak and Bryde Peak, look for minke whales and lazy elephant seals, and embark on kayaking tours to Elephant Island on small inflatable boats. Cruises without shore excursions will feature real-time sightseeing commentary from onboard experts.

3. Embrace the Culture of Easter Island, Chile

For a dose of history, culture and secluded locales – a voyage to Easter Island in Chile can fulfil all three. This far-flung island is located 2,000 miles west of mainland Chile. It’s best known for its incredible moai statues – large ceremonial carvings from between 1400 and 1600, carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui community. A small populated island, Easter Island may be the most remote inhabited places on the planet. Therefore, meeting the locals is guaranteed to be a cultural and fascinating experience that cannot be witnessed elsewhere.

Many cruise lines offer week and month-long voyages that stop here during trips to Sydney and Tahiti. And whilst docked in Easter Island’s main town – Hanga Roa – there will be many once in a lifetime opportunities to check off your bucket list. Hike or horseback ride up an extinct volcano, enjoy a traditional folk show and delight in the beautiful waters of Anakena Beach.

4. Visit the World’s Longest River in the Amazon, South America

A cruise is the only way to truly appreciate how large the world’s longest river really is. In most areas of the Amazon – there are no roads. Therefore, whether you opt for a small vessel in Peru or a larger cruise ship across the Brazil portion of the waterway – you will be sailing along magnificence. Not many are able to say that they voyaged alongside the unique animals, birds and flowers that make the Amazon the rare ecosystem that it is. When travelling to this wonder by ship, you have the luxury of being shielded from the humidity, rain and bugs of the Amazon.

An experience like no other, one minute you may have long-tailed monkeys swinging by to play with your hair, and the next, you may see fish swimming through the waters below. There are many ways to expedition along this river, whether you begin from Brazil or Peru – both offer once in a lifetime memories. If you’re planning to take this trip between May to November (dry season), you will have the chance to get up close and personal with sloths and other jungle animals. Or if you visit between December to April (wet season), the higher waters till take you nearer to the forest canopy to meet a richer variety of wildlife.

5. Immerse Yourself in the World’s Largest Island, Greenland

An expedition cruise to the world’s largest island means coming face-to-face with gigantic icebergs and educating yourself on Inuit culture. Greenland is one of the few countries left on the Earth that maintains a sense of the unexplored. Located between the Arctic and the North Atlantic oceans, the island is sure to leave even the most experienced traveller speechless. Travelling to the island by plane can be cumbersome. Therefore, an expedition is a great alternative to travel, and at the same time, you will be able to experience multiple cities in one trip. Travelling by ship offers the chance to see once in a lifetime natural wonders, such as the captivating Aurora Borealis and the midnight sun in the summer.

Once you have soaked up the spectacular scenery, you will have the chance to visit one of the world’s tiniest capital cities – Nuuk. The city is filled with brightly coloured homes nestled in the mountains, and immensely rich history in its museums. If you are looking for a unique excursion, immerse yourself in Greenland’s traditions with a dogsledding adventure. Soar across frozen icescapes whilst accompanied by a team of huskies, and then unwind and take in the picture-perfect scenes in a traditional tent – the lavvu. And if you’re not quite ready for this trip to end, some cruises will also call at other magnificent destinations, such as Iceland and Canada’s eastern seaboard.

6. Glide Through the Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal spreads across Panama, from Colon on the Atlantic Coast to Balboa on the Pacific side. It runs for 48 miles and was created as a shortcut, to prevent ships from having to make the long and perilous voyage over the southern tip of South America. To truly appreciate the 100-foot-wide waterway, travelling by cruise is essential. And with the opportunity to call at remarkable destinations such as Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean – this truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

If you’re a history aficionado, the Panama Canal is sure to be on your life’s bucket list. As you glide through the canal, you’ll go through a series of locks that adjust the water level, providing a cruise experience unlike any other. It’s unlikely you’ll disembark whilst in the canal, though many Panama Canal cruise programs do dock in Panama City. Here, you will have the opportunity to learn about the country’s gold industry, discover the Gamboa Rainforest via aerial tram and ride the Panama Canal Railway.

7. Discover Another Side to Japan

When we think of Japan, we automatically picture trees brimming with pink cherry blossoms, neon-lit megacities and the snow-covered Mount Fuji. However, venture to the southern reaches of the Japanese archipelago and you will be greeted by a whole new world. From Tokyo to Taipei, expect a series of sub-tropical islands, such as Okinawa and Yaeyama, with majestic white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters ideal for snorkelling.

Japan has many onsens (natural hot spring baths) scattered through all its major islands. Take a cable car up Mount Rokko in Kobe and detox in the steamy Arima Onsen town – famed for its medicinal properties. Or if you call at Beppu, take your pick of over 2,000 onsens, or observe the bubbling azure waters of Jikoku Onsen.

Embark on a historical lesson through the islands to experience the very best of Japan with your cruise. Stop off in Kobe and tickle your taste buds with its famous wagyu beef, then continue to the old capital of Kyoto, where you’ll find centuries-old shrines intermingle with skyscrapers. Japan is a country known for festivals. And on exclusive sailings you can encounter the fascinating spectacle known as the Awa Odori Dance Festival in Tokushima or experience first-hand the exquisite parade floats used in Aomori’s annual Nebuta Festival.

Cruises open up a whole host of remote and inaccessible destinations around the globe. And this is perfect for checking off those once in a lifetime experiences. With a range of uniqueness at your disposal, from the hidden gems of Japan to the frozen paradise that is Antarctica – a voyage exclusive to you awaits you.

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Bethany Ward

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