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View of the Greenland ice cap from the helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
View of the Greenland ice cap from the helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

9 Unusual Cruise Destinations and How to Get There

View of the Greenland ice cap from the helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
View of the Greenland ice cap from the helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
Executive Editor, U.S.
Chris Gray Faust

Last updated
Mar 1, 2024

Read time
6 min read

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:

On This Page

  • Seychelles
  • Jeju Island
  • Paducah
  • Port Elizabeth
  • Sir Bani Yas
  • Albania
  • Greenland
  • Kimberley
  • Papua New Guinea

Seychelles

Cruising the Seychelles with Variety Cruises' Pegasus (Photo/Jeannine Williamson)
Cruising the Seychelles with Variety Cruises' Pegasus (Photo/Jeannine Williamson)

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? Luxury lines often put the Seychelles on one-off itineraries. Look at Silversea, Regent, Seabourn, Crystal and Oceania to make occasional stops. Two small ship lines making regular sailings to the Seychelles in 2024 and 2025 are Emerald and Variety Cruises. MSC Cruises, Holland America Line and Norwegian also have stops planned in Mahe, the archipelago's biggest island.

Why you Should Cruise to the Seychelles

Jeju Island

Jeju Island
Jeju Island (Photo: haveseen/Shutterstock.com)

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. Royal Caribbean, MSC, Cunard, Norwegian, Crystal and Seabourn.

East Asia Cruise Tips

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Paducah

The quaint streets of Paducah at sunset (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
The quaint streets of Paducah at sunset (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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 Cruise Lines.

Ohio River Cruise Tips

Port Elizabeth

Elephants on a game drive near Port Elizabeth (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Elephants on a game drive near Port Elizabeth (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Where Is It? Along the South African coast, about midway between Cape Town and Durban, Port Elizabeth is a jumping-off point for most cruise line African safaris.

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 and Norwegian are two of the most reliable cruise lines to make stops in Port Elizabeth, as both have ships that regularly do African cruises. MSC, too, has regular South African itineraries. Other lines that make occasional visits include Regent, Azamara, Seabourn, Crystal, Oceania and Cunard.

Going on an African Safari From a Cruise

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Sir Bani Yas

Sir Bani Yas Island, in the United Arab Emirates (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Sir Bani Yas Island, in the United Arab Emirates (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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 Celestyal, MSC, Azamara, Crystal, Seabourn and Norwegian.

8 Reasons to Cruise the Arabian Gulf

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Albania

Albania
Albania (Photo: Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock.com)

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 Seabourn, Atlas, CroisiEurope, Regent, Lindblad, Oceania, Silversea, Emerald, Holland America Line, Norwegian, and SeaDream Yacht Club.

Top 10 Ancient & Historic Sites in the Eastern Mediterranean

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Greenland

Ice in Greenland seen from the air by helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
Ice in Greenland seen from the air by helicopter on Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

Where Is It? Greenland is the world's largest island, and while it's closer to North America, it's overseen as a territory by Denmark. Most of the island is covered by glaciers, but global warming has taken a toll; expedition cruise leaders will tell you that Greenland is showing the effects of melting faster than other polar areas.

Why Go? Greenland is a haven for whales, particularly on the eastern side. Small settlements with colorful houses dot the coast, and visiting them gives you a window into Inuit life. The glaciers and landscape that you see in Greenland are otherworldly. If you're really lucky, you might even see a polar bear -- at a distance, of course.

How Do You Get There? More expedition ships are doing sailings in Greenland, often combined with some time in Iceland. Look at Seabourn, Silversea, HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions), Ponant, Scenic, Atlas, Quark and Lindblad, Mainstream ships with lines such as Oceania, Princess, Holland America, MSC and even Royal Caribbean and Carnival stop in some of the bigger settlements such as Nuuk.

Kimberley

Much of The Kimberley is inaccessible by anything other than zodiac rafts (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Much of The Kimberley is inaccessible by anything other than zodiac rafts (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

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? More expedition ships are visiting the Kimberley when they take a break from the polar regions. Lines with regular seasons include Seabourn, Silversea, Lindblad and Scenic, as well as Australian lines like Coral Expeditions and True North. You can also get a taste of the Kimberley on an Australian circumnavigation. These popular cruises are run by lines like Viking, Silversea, Princess, Holland America and Cunard, but they sell out well in advance.

5 Best Kimberley Cruise Tips

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea (Photo: Strelyuk/Shutterstock.com)

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, Paul Gauguin, Lindblad, Seabourn, Silversea, Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, Carnival, Holland America and Oceania sail occasionally.

Cruises to Rabaul

8 Things You Didn't Know About Cruising the South Pacific


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