By Elissa Garay
You could ride in the wake of the cruise-crowd herds headed to the been-there, done-that Bahamas or Caribbean, or make way instead for far-flung islands so secluded that you’ve never even heard of them. Yes, the ultimate get-away-from-it-all vacation awaits when cruising to tongue-twisting island escapes like Takapoto in the Tuamotus (in the South Pacific) or SGang Gwaay in Haida Gwaii (known as the Canadian Galapagos) — just hop aboard one of these 10 upcoming cruises to truly set sail into new horizons.
Set Out in Search of South Pacific Seclusion
Fakarava island in the Tuamotus. (Courtesy: Windstar Cruises)
Channel those legendary maritime explorers of yore and set out to sail the farthest reaches of the South Pacific. Look to Windstar Cruises for its brand-new 11- and 12-night itineraries to Tahiti and the Tuamotu Islands. Aboard the newly renovated, 148-passenger Wind Spirit, a motorized yacht equipped with billowing white sails and a special water sports platform, you’ll uncover the better-known French Polynesian treasures of Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Moorea, but venture further still to lesser-known Society Islands (like Raiatea and Huahine) and the Tuamotus (with Takapoto, Tiputa, and Fakarava). The Tuamotus offer underwater dreamscapes for snorkelers and divers, complete with colorful tropical fish, rays, and dolphins. (Fakarava is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.) Rates from $4,199/person, including use of water sports equipment; select sailing dates in May, October, and December 2015.
Hiva Oa in the Marquesas islands (Courtesy: Paul Gauguin Cruises)
Also calling on the remote Tuamotus is the plush, Polynesian-inspired, 332-passenger Paul Gauguin, which sails two-week itineraries round-trip from Tahiti (at Papeete) to Fakarava run by Paul Gauguin Cruises. The sailing also incorporates several stops in the Society Islands, including pristine Huahine, the cruise line’s private motu at Motu Mahana, and popular beach retreats Bora Bora and Moorea. Plus, it calls on the less-visited Marquesas Islands, with islands like Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, and Nuku Hiva marked by jungle greenery, waterfalls, volcanic peaks, and cultural treasures. Rates from $6,995/person, including round-trip air from L.A., select onboard alcoholic beverages, use of snorkeling gear and water sports equipment, and gratuities; embarks Aug. 29 and Nov. 21, 2015.
The Cook Islands (Photo: Jack Swenson/Lindblad Expeditions)
Lindblad Expeditions likewise plies little-explored South Pacific waterways. Sign up for the company’s one-off 12-night “Fiji to The Cook Islands: Polynesian Discovery” voyage, aboard the 102-passenger National Geographic Orion, and follow a rare route from Nadi, Fiji, to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Along the way, guests set out on Zodiac excursions to snorkel, dive, hike, and more through four Pacific nations, including Taveuni in Fiji, Neiafu in Tonga, and the island nation of Niue (touting one of the world’s largest uplifted coral atolls, and a national population of about 1,400), before disembarking in the Cook Islands. Rates from $9,783/person, including guided excursions, a $1,500 air credit, and a take-home snorkeling suit; embarks Oct. 24, 2015.
Rabaul Volcano (Courtesy: Papua New Guinea Tourism)
Princess Cruises, meanwhile, operates select itineraries to the Melanesian island nation of Papua New Guinea out of Sydney and Brisbane, Australia. Try a nine-night sailing trip from Brisbane this November aboard the 1,998-passenger Sea Princess, and observe turtle nesting grounds on Doini Island, encounter rich tribal traditions on Kitava, or hike volcanoes in Rabaul on New Britain island. Rates from $1,449/person; embarks Nov. 24, 2015.
Mystery Island, Vanuatu (Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)
Also in Melanesia, Carnival Cruise Line is running a series of eight- to 12-night voyages out of Sydney on the 2,600-passenger Carnival Spirit, with uninhabited Mystery Island included as a port of call in the Vanuatu archipelago (new for 2015, guests here can go paddleboarding, snorkeling, or kayaking on glass-bottom boats). Additional stops include Nouméa, Maré, and the Isle of Pines in French-flavored New Caledonia. (Note: Despite the recent cyclone that devastated Vanuatu, the cruise line is confident it will resume operations there by June.) Rates from $668/person; sailings available on select dates year-round.
Uncover Hidden Alaska
Petersburg, Mitkof Island (Courtesy: Alaskan Dream Cruises)
Alaskan Dream Cruises specializes in small-ship adventures to little visited ports within Alaska. Try the 10-night “Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Explorer” itinerary to Alaska’s “ABC islands,” aboard the 49-passenger Baranof Dream. Sailing round-trip from Sitka, the cruise hits up more frequented destinations like Juneau, Skagway, Haines, Glacier Bay National Park, and Tracy Arm fjord, but also ventures to little-visited island locales like Kupreanof Island and Mitkof Island. Expect ample encounters with wilderness, wildlife, and native cultures along the way. Rates from $4,399/person, including select shore excursions, ground transfers, and wine or beer with dinner; embarks May 20 or Aug. 26, 2015.
Get to off-the-Beaten-Path Greece
MS Galileo in Polyaigos (Courtesy: Variety Cruises)
The gorgeous Greek Isles were inherently designed for sailing adventures, and Greece-based small ship cruise line Variety Cruises proposes itineraries that incorporate the best-known of them along with more hidden gems. Set out aboard the company’s 49-passenger MS Galileo, trimmed by atmospheric white sails, on seven-night “Jewels of the Cyclades” voyages, sailing round-trip from Athens. The cruise takes in must-see big-name ports like Santorini and Mykonos (along with the neighboring UNESCO-protected archaeological isle of Delos), but also docks in the heart of lesser-known but no-less-beautiful Cycladic isles including Poros, Polyaigos (an uninhabited island), Folegandros, Paros, Syros, and Kythnos. Best of all, the ship docks overnight in many ports, enabling guests to experience the isles’ local nightlife. Rates from $1,881/person (includes use of fishing and snorkeling equipment), with dinner or lunch daily; runs select dates from April through October 2015.
Explore the Canadian Galapagos
SGangGwaay, Haida Gwaii (Courtesy: Kevin J. Smith/Maple Leaf Adventures)
Sail aboard the newly converted upscale tugboat MV Swell or classic schooner SV Maple Leaf, operated by Canadian small ship expedition line Maple Leaf Adventures, in search of the “Canadian Galapagos,” at Haida Gwaii. Set 90 miles west of the British Columbia mainland, this remote archipelago of 138 islands and islets — accessible only by water (there are no roads here) — unfolds along the continental shelf, and comes rich in wilderness (including ancient temperate rainforests), wildlife (especially humpback whales and seabirds), and cultural history (with indigenous Haida villages and cultural monuments). The intimate eight-night voyages here, accommodating just 8 to 10 guests, are helmed by an expert naturalist and gourmet chef. They explore far-flung islands like SGang Gwaay and Gandll K’in Gwaay.yaay along the way, with excursions like hiking, wildlife viewing, and more. Rates from $3,890/person, including all guided excursions; trips run from May through July.
Sail to Far-Flung Indonesian Isles
Silolona (Courtesy: Black Tomato)
Sample some of the best of the thousands of diverse islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago aboard a cruise adventure designed by custom-travel coordinator Black Tomato. Sail for four nights aboard the 12-passenger Silolona, a handcrafted Indonesian vessel designed to recall traditional Spice Route sailing ships. Cruise four nights from the island of Flores to Moyo, with beach stops on Sabolon, Banta, and Komodo islands; opportunities to swim with mantas off of Langkoi; cultural encounters on Savu; and Komodo dragon viewing on Rinca island. Rates from $8,679/person, including international flight and transfers; runs from April to November 2015 .
Make Way for Australia’s Northern Reaches
Tiwi Islands (Courtesy: Coral Princess Cruises)
If you’ve never heard of Australia’s Tiwi Islands or Lizard Island, that’s precisely the point. Discover Australia’s off-the-path Northern Territory aboard the 48-passenger Coral Princess, operated by Australian-owned Coral Princess Cruises. Twelve-night itineraries, running between Darwin and Cairns, take in the rarely visited Tiwi Islands (expect cultural encounters with the traditional Tiwi people), along with other interesting island stops like the Aboriginal and arts centers of the Arnhem Land islands; Queensland’s pristine Lizard Island, site of the Lizard Island Research Station; Thursday Island, the perfect base for swimming and snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef; and more. Rates from $5,971/person, including guided excursions; embarks in October 2015 and March 2016.