Cruise Vacations for Animal Lovers

Cruise ships are a great way to get face to face with a whole cast of wonderful critters.

Marine iguana and blue footed boobies in the Galapagos

Photo: iStock

Whether your ship takes you to the balmy Caribbean or South Africa, brisk Alaska or Antarctica, or one of many other destinations, cruise travel offers an enticing array of close encounters with wildlife.

Cruise lines head to all seven continents on a wide variety of ships, and many specific itineraries feature world-class wildlife-watching opportunities. The options include—but certainly aren’t limited to—wild dolphin-watching trips in the Caribbean or off the coast of California, Hawaii and Polynesia; spotting whales, bears, eagles and more in Alaska; experiencing the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador; watching for whales and other marine life in Europe or Komodo dragons and other exotic animals in Asia; safaris and more in Africa; snorkeling and scuba diving with exotic marine life in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; and observing thousands of penguins and many other animals cavorting on the ice and in the frigid waters of Antarctica and South America, or polar bears and more up in the Arctic.

Dolphin-watching trips remain popular for good reason. It’s easy to book a shore excursion on which you’ll see wild dolphins—maybe even whales and other marine life, depending on the location and season. You could book a cruise on one of the many Carnival® ships that sail the Caribbean, or on one of Seabourn Cruise Line’s luxurious Caribbean offerings, or on Celebrity Cruises’® newest ship, Celebrity EdgeSM or one of their many modern luxury ships sailing the Caribbean, or on Oceania Cruises’ “Pure Polynesia” or myriad other offerings—the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Alaska is well-known for its wildlife, and a variety of cruise lines offer shore excursions that focus on watching wildlife. Holland America Line is celebrating its 70th year in the Last Frontier. They know Alaska and its wildlife better than just about anyone. Whether you’re into searching for bears, eagles and whales on shore excursions in Icy Strait Point or watching wildlife on excursions in southeast Alaska ports like Juneau, Haines, Ketchikan and Skagway, wild Alaska is easy to experience on a cruise.

Whether you’re cruising with Celebrity Cruises® or on a boutique offering from Alexander+Roberts (such as its “Machu Picchu + the Galapagos” itinerary), wildlife-watching opportunities in the Galapagos include giant tortoises, marine iguanas, boobies and other unique birds and mammals.

Over in Europe, shore excursions in Scandinavia, the Mediterranean and beyond feature varied wildlife. Whether it’s whale-watching in the cold waters of Norway or scuba diving and snorkeling in the warm Mediterranean, large and small cruise lines alike offer wildlife-watching excursions in many European ports of call.

Kangaroos in Australia

Photo: iStock

In Africa, many cruise lines offer safari shore excursions that feature big game viewing. Several itineraries also offer overnight safari camp stays during the cruise, as well as pre- and post-cruise safaris and other wildlife-watching adventures.

In Asia, river cruises and oceangoing itineraries feature many shore excursions that focus on the continent’s wildlife, whether they observe giant Komodo dragons in Indonesia or visit native wildlife sanctuaries.

Heading Down Under to Australia puts you in the land of kangaroos and Tasmanian devils, and there’s also world-class snorkeling and scuba diving with exotic marine life out in the Great Barrier Reef.

Antarctica is home to varied species of penguins, seals and whales, and birds in large numbers. Seabourn’s 21-day “Ultimate Antarctica & Patagonia” is just one of many Antarctica options for that wildlife bucket list.

Given all these options and so many more on all seven continents, it’s easy to see why cruises and shore excursions are an ideal way for animal lovers to go wildlife-watching.

Heidi Kazemi, AAA Travel Counselor, Roseville, Calif.

Customization is always my top priority when planning a client's vacation. I ask about their family and where they've been before. Their preferences guide our planning so the vacation is perfectly tailored for them.

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