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There are certain vacations you take that just could not turn out any better. Everything about them keeps you not only reliving the adventure, but telling the tale to anyone who will listen for years to come. You see stunning sites, do things outside of your comfort zone, have a blast, make great new lifelong friends, and never want to leave. You find yourself planning the next trip before this one ends. Welcome to the world of adventure cruising.

When you take an adventure cruise, your experiences are plentiful and most likely will exceed any expectations.

On one adventure you might find yourself in a kayak with penguins jumping over the boat.

On another you are taking photography lessons from a renowned NatGeo photographer in the Antarctic.

And not to be outdone, on still another you find yourself doing a polar plunge off the back of your boat into the freezing Alaska waters...just because.

Braving a polar plunge in the icy waters of Alaska.

Adventure cruises are nothing remotely close to your typical cruise. First, they tend to be very small with at most about 100 people. Second, they are extremely casual; little luxury and frills. And third, the whole trip is preplanned with activities. All you have to do is show up and be open for whatever mother nature and the crew throws at you.

My first experience on an adventure cruise was with Lindblad Expeditions to Antartica. If you have not been, get yourself there before climate change destroys the character forever. It is truly a trip of a lifetime. I have subsequently taken trips with UnCruise Adventures traveling through the wilderness of Alaska and Costa Rica. There are many companies to choose from besides the ones I mention. So, do your own research, talk to friends, or ask your travel agent for recommendations.

Just be warned...Adventure cruising could easily become a habit and your favorite way to vacation. They are even great for kids. Here's why...

Fly-fishing in Alaska with success.

Simplicity is Key to On Board Life

As I mentioned, these cruises are not for people seeking total luxury comfort, having staff at your beck and call, and if you're looking for night life. That said, there are differences in amenities between companies. We found Lindblad to be on the higher end in terms of rooms, amenities, and food. So search for your comfort level. But here is what makes on board life special.

Everything is pretty much taken care for you. Your only decisions might be which activity to partake in and which entree you want for dinner. Typical decisions you might have to make include if you want to kayak, bushwhack, do a shoreline hike, snorkel, or do that polar plunge off the back of the boat.

Everyone goes to one dining room at the same time and while choices are limited, they are accommodating to dietary restrictions. There's no decision on what you are going to do or reservations to be made.There's not an endless buffet or tons of snacks available and you actually get in a bunch of exercise with all the available adventures/activities. This is really a good thing. Plus, the food is actually excellent.

Life on board adventure cruises with your fellow passengers.

There's no long walk to get to the dining room or any other space. It literally takes you a minute or two to get anywhere on board.

You won't be told some activity is fully booked. You can embark and disembark quickly. We're talking literally 5 minutes.

Casual is the keyword. No dressy clothes are needed and if you bring them, you will feel totally out of place. This is your chance to glam it down! It makes packing a snap, leaves more time for fun and socializing, no worrying about what to wear, putting on make-up, or blowdrying your hair. Seriously, you are too afraid you're going to miss out on something spectacular. Then, there's always your chance to spend time with the captain and crew on the bridge.

And perhaps best of all, if you want to read a book or take a few moments for yourself, there are plenty of spaces you can go to be alone or share if you so choose...

Taking a breather on an Alaskan adventure cruise.

The People

I'm talking both your fellow passengers and the staff. You will have great opportunities to meet many new friends or at the very least, enjoy your time on the cruise together. First, you will be traveling with like-minded people who chose this trip for its itinerary and activities. So, you're starting off with something in common. Second, most activities including meals are done as a group, sort of forcing you to be together. Besides, people generally don't take adventure cruises if they are anti-social. They want to share the experience, making camaraderie and socialization easy. An added bonus is that many times these cruises have passengers from around the world, which means the chance to make a new friend from New Zealand just got easier.

In terms of the crew, they actually get to know who you are and call you by your name. You fill out a questionnaire ahead of time, so they know all about your preferences, allergies, and dietary restrictions and from the interactions, you can tell they've actually read it! They're also professional, knowledgable, make great guides, and like to have fun. I've yet to meet a shy crew member on my trips! And of course, hugs and kisses are handed out as you disembark.

New lifelong friends in Antarctica...check.

It's All About the Adventures

Perhaps you're dying to hike in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Or maybe your bucket list includes visiting the Antarctic continent. If not, maybe you envision yourself kayaking by the icebergs in Alaska. Or to you, the perfect vacation is fly-fishing in the waters off Belize. Your choices for adventure abound and really depend on what sites you want to see and the level of activity you're ready for. But, here's what I love about the adventure in adventure cruises...

You'll get to smaller ports simply because your boat can navigate in and out of places that you just can't do with a large ship. And with access to smaller ports, comes access to more authentic experiences with the local people and their culture. You get to soak it all in without swarms of tourists around. Plus being so small, the ship's crew can arrange private events and unique excursions in the ports just for the passengers. On one trip, after a full day of being out in the wild, we were treated to dancing and music from the local people accompanied by a meal prepared with all local foods.

There's just more time for the adventures.You can swim, kayak, and paddle board right off the boat. Plus, you can participate in activities you wouldn't be able to on just any regular vacation. You will never kayak among icebergs and penguins unless you get there by boat. Which also means, you'll get to see so much more up close and personal, like being so close to a whale or iceberg, you could literally touch it. Well, we did in one instance...

Yes, kissing an iceberg in Alaska.

You have experts on board such as photographers, naturalists, and oceanographers that are there to impart their knowledge and act as your guide. This means that a big focus of the trip is not only on the adventure part, but also education, making these trips great for kids. Many nights, the passengers gather in the common room and review what has been seen and learned from that day. You'll also find books on board about the places you'll visit and the wildlife. There are few, if any, stops at tourist traps for you to shop for souvenirs. Yeah!

The element of surprise is always present. You never know in nature what you will find around the next bend. If the captain spots something amazing, they can cruise on over or stay longer in one place. We got to encounter "whale soup," a stunning sunset, and a mamma grizzly and her cubs fishing for food because the crew is always on the lookout for something spectacular to add to your memories.

Luckily, the cruises I have been on have a great respect for and appreciation of and are better for the environment. This is very important to me when I travel and something I do worry about. You're not bombarding a town with hordes of people impacting the natural environment. Besides, the crew are very attuned to this and let you know what you can and can't do in this regard.

Kayaking in Costa Rica. Photo credit UnCruise Adventures.

I honestly can't think of any negatives to adventure cruises unless, of course, you simply hate being on boats or hate being active! But, if becoming lifelong friends with fellow passengers, being able to relax and just enjoy the journey, and being open to new experiences and educational opportunities sound like your kind of vacation, then what are you waiting for...

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We're Dana and Sherry. From travel to food to fabulous finds, we believe life should be lived with gusto, style, and sparkle, along with generosity and kindness. We're here to share with you our travel adventures and the tips we pick up along the journey. Because travel done well isn't just about luxury travel, but it's a great start!
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