St. Thomas, Juneau, Monaco -- ho-hum? If you're bored with the tried-and-true ports in the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, then it's time to broaden your horizons and think about more unusual cruise destinations.
Typically, reaching the most unusual cruise destinations means you have to pay more, as luxury cruise lines tend to have longer and more exotic itineraries, or go small, on an expedition ship that only takes 200 or so passengers (unfortunately, this also requires paying more, most of the time).
The best ways to stick with a large mainstream line and tick a few little-seen cruise ports off your list is to take a transatlantic or transpacific crossing that stops at remote archipelagos such as the Azores, the Marquesas or Easter Island. European cruise lines, such as MSC and Costa, often go to destinations that are less familiar to North Americans. Or, think river cruising, which continues to expand into waterways around the world.
Here are some of our picks for the most unusual cruise destinations, ones that are guaranteed to send you searching for a map:
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Updated March 3, 2020
Where Is It? The Seychelles are a group of islands in the Indian Ocean that are technically part of Africa. If you're looking at a map, they are east of Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia.
Why Go? A haven for jet-setters and honeymooners (although still rustic), the Seychelles boast beautiful beaches and nature, including indigenous wildlife.
How Do You Get There? Crystal Esprit, a luxury yacht, has made regular sailings; these will resume in winter 2020. Other luxury lines, such as Silversea and Oceania, also make occasional stops.
Where Is It? Off the coast of South Korea, Jeju Island is a well-known vacation spot throughout Asia, attracting Japanese, Korean and Chinese visitors.
Why Go? The beach resorts are a draw, but adventure seekers will enjoy the lava tubes -- caves carved from the volcanos that created the island.
How Do You Get There? With more cruise lines putting ships in Asia, getting to Jeju is easier than ever. Look for Asian cruise itineraries on Celebrity, as well as Silversea.
Where Is It? Located in Kentucky on the Ohio River, Paducah lies about halfway between St. Louis, Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee.
Why Go? The ultimate small town hamlet, Paducah is best known for antiquing and crafts. The former is represented by multitudes of antique and collectible shops and the latter can be seen in the popular National Quilt Museum, the town's largest tourist attraction.
How Do You Get There? Paducah is a stop on many Ohio River cruises. Look for it on American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines.
Why Go? Lions and leopards and rhino, oh my! South African game parks are home to the "Big Five," and Addo Elephant Park almost guarantee you'll see them. As a bonus, the reserve is considered malaria free.
How Do You Get There? Silversea is perhaps the most reliable cruise line to make stops in Port Elizabeth, as the company has a ship that regularly does African cruises. MSC, too, has regular South African itineraries. Other lines that make occasional visits include Regent, Seabourn, Holland America Line, Oceania and Cunard.
Sir Bani Yas
Where Is It? Part of the United Arab Emirates, Sir Bani Yas is an island located in the Arabian Gulf between Dubai and the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain.
Why Go? Established as a nature reserve in the 1970s, Sir Bani Yas is now a wildlife sanctuary; over half of the island is part of the Arabian Wildlife Park. The other part has been given over to resorts, with beaches, water sports and other activities.
How Do You Get There? Several cruise lines stop at Sir Bani Yas on their Arabian Gulf itineraries, including MSC, Costa, Celebrity, Oceania, Azamara, Crystal and Seabourn.
Where Is It? Once shut away behind the Iron Curtain, Albania has been one of the Eastern European countries that's been the slowest to embrace tourism, despite being so close to better-known touristic countries such as Greece and Croatia.
Why Go? The ruins of Butrint, accessible from Salande in the country's south, are an UNESCO World Heritage site, with Greek, Roman and Middle Age artifacts. Durres, at the country's northern end, is the oldest port, with preserved monuments. There's another UNESCO site nearby -- Berat, a hillside city with architecture from the Ottoman period.
How Do You Get There? Eastern Mediterranean itineraries departing from Athens or Venice occasionally include Albanian stops; look at lines like MSC, Azamara, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Holland America Line.
Where Is It? Located on Russia's far eastern shores and part of Siberia, the Kamchatka Peninsula lies between the Bering Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk -- and is one of the most remote places on this list.
Why Go? Spectacular snow-capped mountains and volcanos, towns where indigenous culture still thrives and wildlife – many brown bears are found here, as well as sea otters and a host of birds – make this a truly unusual voyage.
How Do You Get There? Cruises to Kamchatka -- the port is called Petropavlovsk -- either leave from Japan, to the south, or Nome, Alaska, to the east. Silversea is the primary cruise line to have Russia Far Eastern itineraries, although you'll also find it occasionally as a stop on world cruises by Crystal and Holland America.
Where Is It? The Kimberley is perhaps the sparsest settled region in Australia -- and that's saying a lot in a country full of deserts and wilderness. It's located in Western Australia, bordered by the Indian Ocean and Timor Sea.
Why Go? Gorges and rugged sandstone cliffs make up the eerie landscape, which is protected by a score of national and marine parks. Native animals include crocodiles, rare shorebirds, turtles and -- don't get squeamish -- large colonies of bats. Marine sightings of whales and other sea mammals are also part of the trip.
How Do You Get There? An expedition trip with North Star Cruises is the best way to see the area in-depth. You can get a taste, though, on an Australian circumnavigation. These popular cruises are run by lines like Princess, Holland America and Cunard, but they sell out well in advance.
Papua New Guinea
Where Is It? North of Australia and east of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea is one half of New Guinea in the South Pacific.
Why Go? Papua New Guinea is perhaps best known for its traditional tribal villages, hidden among dense rain forests. A shore excursion that encompasses local culture is a must. Otherwise, the island -- like most in this area of the world -- has gorgeous beaches, volcanos, hiking and watersports.
How Do You Get There? Cruise ships from Australia-based lines like P&O Australia, True North and Coral Expeditions make regular stops in the PNG ports of Alotau and Rabaul (Madang is the country's third port). Of the lines more familiar to North Americans, Princess makes the most stops, while Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Cunard and Oceania sail occasionally.