8 Exotic Cruise Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List


Typically when people think of cruise destinations, they think of sunny places with pristine beaches, like the Caribbean or a coastal town in Mexico. But cruises don’t just travel to the equatorial beaches of Central and South America. In truth, you can find cruises that traverse pretty much anywhere where there is a body of water for them to sail on, and many of those places are far more exotic than a beach in Bermuda! Whether you are trying to fill out your bucket list, or just looking for the perfect Instagram photo op to make your friends jealous, here are 8 of the most exotic cruise destinations from across the globe.

The Irrawaddy River, Myanmar(Burma)

The Irrawaddy river in Myanmar

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Myanmar, also known as Burma, is located in Southeast Asia between Thailand and Bangladesh and is known for its many ancient Buddhist monuments, diverse tribal cultures, and for its vibrant landscapes. You can get up close and personal with this magnificent country by taking a river cruise up the Irrawaddy River, which bisects the country from North to South for over 2,000 km and leads right up to Mandalay, the cultural and religious center of the nation. On the way to Mandalay, river cruises pass by several former royal capitals, including the ancient city of Bagan, where stone temples built a thousand years ago still stand today. Out on the water, you can expect to see some truly unique wildlife as well. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of rare Irrawaddy dolphins, an endangered species of dolphin whose global population is believed to be around 7,000.


A cruise ship in Antartica

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If you are used to taking cruises to sunny places like the Caribbean or Mexico, then this one will be a change of pace. Easily one of the most breathtaking cruise destinations out there, Antarctica is one of the last places on Earth that truly feels untouched by humankind. This cold and seemingly desolate landscape is home to a large variety of marine life, including seals, whales, albatross, and lots and lots of penguins. Antarctica also holds 90% of the glacial ice in the world, and the ice shelves are known to break off thrusting icebergs up to 50 miles long into the ocean. As such, specially outfitted expedition ships are required to navigate the treacherous waters that surround it. But if you are brave enough to make the journey, you will be treated to one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes you will ever see.

Southeast Africa

The lemurs of Madagascar

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Africa is well known for its majestic wildlife, and while you may not expect it, a cruise can actually be a great way to see it. From Cape Town in South Africa, all the way up to Kenya, there are many spots along the coast where cruise ships will make port, offering passengers a chance to get a glimpse of the magnificent flora and fauna that Africa is famous for. During these voyages, shore excursions will include guided wildlife tours where you will surely be able to see many of the Big Five (lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and African buffalo). In addition to ports on the mainland, many cruises will also cross the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar, where cruisers can see a unique ecosystem full of species endemic exclusively to the massive island, including the iconic lemurs that live there. 


The crystal blue waters of Tahiti

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Located way out in the middle of the Pacific ocean, some 3,000 miles from Australia, this small Island is one of the most isolated places on Earth. Tahiti is well known for its pristine white-sand beaches and lush lagoons lined with palm trees, with crystal clear waters that shimmer like sapphires in the sun. Whether you are just snorkeling or going all in on a scuba diving excursion, getting a closer look at the marine life just under the surface is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and not something you should pass up. Fiji is also not too far away (relatively speaking, of course), so many cruises will visit both. But if you had to choose between the two, Tahiti takes the cake due to its teeming wildlife and breathtaking mountain backdrop.

Amazon River, South America

A man feeding a pink river dolphin

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The Amazon Rainforest is easily the most biologically diverse place in the world, being home to one-third of all recorded animal species on Earth. Cutting through the forest for more than 4,000 miles is the spectacular Amazon River, rivaled in length only by the Nile River in Africa. This makes for one of the most rewarding places to take a river cruise, as you can get an up-close look at the lush forest and diverse ecosystem. One particularly unique denizen of this massive river is the pink river dolphins that can be seen throughout the river system. These strange-looking creatures only live in freshwater and don’t do well in captivity, so a river cruise through the Amazon will likely be your only chance to get a glimpse of one.

The Galapagos Island

An iguana of the Galapagos Islands

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Located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are known for having some of the most unique wildlife in the world. The wildlife that lives on this group of islands has been completely separate from their mainland counterparts for so long that they have evolved into completely different and unique species, inspiring Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution almost 200 years ago. The remote island remains biologically diverse today, thanks in large part to the many different habitat zones, from the highland forests to underwater coral reefs. Cruises that visit will typically offer expeditions with certified naturalists to guide you, offering a closer look at wildlife that is unlike anything you will find anywhere else.

Chobe River, Botswana

An elephant in front of a river cruise ship

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The Chobe River runs through south-central Africa along the northern border of Botswana and flows right through Chobe National Park. The park is known for its dense elephant population, as well as having many other majestic African animals, and a river cruise here is the perfect way to get up close and personal with the local wildlife. You can expect to see elephants wading in the waters, hippos bathing in the sun, and crocodiles peeping up from beneath the surface. Chobe National Park offers river cruises on one of their Chobe Princess boats with no itinerary and only a few guests, allowing for a more intimate and relaxed river safari experience. From there, guests can take a tender boat out on the water to get even closer to the wildlife, while disturbing them less than they would on a game drive.

Yangtze River, China

The Yangtze River in China

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The Yangtze River in China is the longest river in Eurasia and an iconic symbol for the country. The river is an important resource, providing transportation, irrigation, and energy to the region for thousands of years. But for cruisers, what it offers is absolutely stunning views of the mountains through which it passes, as well as an easy way to experience the country’s rich culture. Traversing China as a tourist can be quite daunting, but a cruise will allow you to see large stretches of wilderness and a host of different towns along the way, all without having to navigate a country where you don’t speak the language. 

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