Some of the most picturesque scenery in the world is reachable only via cruise ship, from the fjords of Norway to the fall foliage of New England, from the active Kilauea volcano to the mystical glaciers of Antarctica. And while some destinations are reachable from land, there’s no more breathtaking or unique perspective than from the sea.
With hundreds of cruises each year offering ultimate scenic experiences, selecting the right cruise can be overwhelming. To help the novice traveler or the connoisseur looking for something new, The Avid Cruiser has compiled its list of the ‘Top Seven Scenic Cruises of a Lifetime.’
Alaskan Glaciers: Alaska cruises continue to be as popular as ever, not only for their breathtaking views and natural wonders but also because The Last Frontier state remains a region best viewed from the sea. In addition to the calving glaciers of colossal heights that leave spectators in awe, passengers are treated to an abundance of wildlife, including soaring eagles, breaching whales, brown bears and roaming caribou. The stunning Hubbard Glacier of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park highlights many cruises. College Fjord, Tracy Arm and Mendenhall Glacier are featured on the different itineraries, along with calls at popular Alaskan favorites such as Juneau, Skagway, Sitka and Ketchikan
Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords: This is a journey that few in the world are fortunate enough to make. Travel to the ends of civilization while witnessing the sights and sounds of Antarctica that promise imposing views and once-in-a-lifetime encounters. On select South America itineraries the mysteries and marvels of Antarctica are explored for three days of cruising, including the Neumayer and Lemaire channels, known as ‘Kodak Gap’ for its dramatic scenery. Penguins gliding down icecaps into the sea and island-sized glaciers are ethereal sights that leave visitors in admiration of the secluded continent.
Voyages to the ice-capped fjords of South America treat guests to some of the most impressive scenery in all of travel. As albatross soar over the water, guests marvel at the unearthly beauty of the Chilean fjords via the Darwin Channel and Strait of Magellan. Another ‘˜once-in-a-lifetime’ adventure awaits those on the Chilean Fjords sailings — scenic cruising past historic Cape Horn. Passable at only certain times of the year due to fierce weather conditions, journeying to the Cape remains a milestone in sailing cultures.
Fall Foliage: On fall voyages to New England and eastern Canada, visitors are greeted by the world’s ultimate palette of colors with panoramic views of leaves changing from emerald green to hues of ruby, amber and gold. As summer turns to autumn, seven- to 15-day itineraries sail along the East Coast of North America for the unparalleled annual display of fall foliage. Each itinerary ensures there is plenty of time to sample some Maine lobster, hunt for antiques and capture the vibrant leaves on film. Scenic cruising along the St. Lawrence River and Saguenay Fjord — some of the most stunning and marine-rich environments in the world — highlight the sailings.
New Zealand Fjords and Australia: For fjords of a different color, sail throughout New Zealand to the Fjordland National Park via the Dusky, Doubtful and Milford sounds, and explore the verdant hills and snow-sprinkled mountaintops of the region. Sailing on 14- to 18-day itineraries during the summer months of October through February south of the equator, the lush sounds of New Zealand are a photographer’s paradise boasting tree-covered peaks and a picturesque backdrop to the warm-weather cruises. Also on these cruises, passengers will experience an amazing view of White Island Volcano — New Zealand’s most active volcano — and its frequent explosive eruptions. The island is home to a large colony of Australian Gannets, and marine life can be seen in the area including whales and dolphins.
Additionally, passengers on these cruises will be treated to the cosmopolitan sights of Australia. Often called the most spectacular harbor in the world to enter via a cruise ship, Sydney’s famed Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge await guests on deck.
Kilauea Volcano and Hawaii: Always guaranteed to produce a buzz from passengers, there’s no greater natural demonstration than a volcano spewing lava into the night sky or steaming into the ocean off Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Most eruptions are relatively gentle, with red sparks popping and lava flowing from fountains ranging from a few to a few hundred feet. The view from the deck of a ship allows a closer observation of the fiery eruptions than from land.
The Hawaiian Islands themselves attract visitors from around the globe for their supreme beauty. Obtaining a glimpse of the tropical paradise from the sea allows passengers to capture panoramic views and appreciate the flora and fauna on a larger scale. Scenic cruising past the Na Pali coast off Kauai treats onlookers to the vision of unusual rugged cliffs and valleys that end abruptly at the sea. Numerous sea caves, small beaches and high waterfalls add to the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape.
Norwegian Fjords: Along the popular Norwegian fjords route, cobalt blue glaciers along uninhabited inlets and the imposing beauty of jagged walls of glacier ice surround ships as they weave among the vistas and steep cliffs that adorn the coast of Norway. And with 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, travelers are treated to late-night scenic cruising around the North Cape, a region known as the ‘top of the world,’ with visibility as if it were the afternoon.
Panama Canal: Slicing through the heart of Central America, the Panama Canal opened in 1914, shaving some 9,000 miles from the trip around Cape Horn. Today, the man-made marvel continues to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans — providing a sight that still leaves those who traverse it in wonder. The path of the canal is lined in a lush jungle canopy, juxtaposed with the machinery of the locks that raises and lowers the ships making the transit possible. With numerous departures during the traditional spring and fall repositioning seasons, as well as both full and partial transits, this special passage continues to be an awe-inspiring favorite.
Exploring The Scenic Wonders With Holland America Line
Touching nearly every corner of the globe, Holland America Line’s fleet of 13 ships explores virtually every type of pictorial geographic display imaginable, making the line a pioneer in offering cruises to all seven continents. With a variety of scenic backdrops comes even more varied wildlife, and guests on nearly every cruise can observe animals on land and in the sea, including polar bears, penguins, dolphins and orcas.