|Travelers who think cruise-line sightseeing tours are passive propositions are in for a surprise nothing could be further from the truth!
Today, cruise lines offer a wide variety of heart-pounding shore excursions including whitewater rafting, race-car driving, rappelling, diving and zip-lining atop rain-forest canopies.
The increased availability of high-activity sightseeing tours is evidence of the changing tastes of today's seagoing vacationers, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)
“Active or adventurous optional tours add excitement and enrichment to a cruise vacation,” said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of CLIA . “A significant number of today's cruise vacationers are seekers and explorers. They're not the passive bus-tour type. They may kayak one day and join a mountain-bike trek the next, and they'll find these and other activities aboard today's ships.”
Those in search of more “traditional” tours need not worry, as cruise lines continue to feature popular visits to landmarks, historical sites, museums, botanical gardens and other mainstream sightseeing options.
Following is a sampling of active sightseeing options offered by some of the cruise lines:
Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines offers its guests a sightseeing adventure that uniquely combines cave tubing and rain forest exploration in Belize. On this tour, travelers have the opportunity to tube down the Sibun River amidst craggy cave and rock formations, as well as view the lush foliage and vegetation of the Belizean jungle during a 45-minute hike.
A Celebrity Cruises' excursion lets guests soar between the tops of St. Martin's 200-year-old mango and mahogany trees to experience the largest bird habitat in the northeastern Caribbean. The course comprises a sequence of zip-lines, rope swings and bridges suspended from platforms mounted from forest trees.
In the Mediterranean, Crystal Cruises' guests have the chance to drive a Formula 1 race car with instruction both on and off the course in Monte Carlo. This Crystal Adventures extreme excursion is aimed at “ driving technique purists as well as gear lever and heel-and-toe enthusiasts.”
Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2 South America cruises offer whitewater rafting excursions in the majestic Chilean fjords from Puerto Mont. Guides take passengers on a 12-mile-long descent of the azure waters of the Petrohue River, which features spectacular waterfalls, verdant forests, mountains and volcanoes.
Disney Cruise Line
A guided, 40-minute nature walk to the tranquil side of Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay, introduces vacationers to the history and geology of the Bahamas. Once there, they embark on a one-hour kayak excursion through the ecologically sensitive mangrove environment and tidal zones.
Holland America Line
As part of Holland America Line's new adventuresome series of Off the Beaten Path tours, passengers journey on a photo safari via small boat from the Croatian village of Opuzen to where the Neretva River delta forms a huge marsh with numerous birds, fishes and other species.
When MSC Cruises visits Roatan Island, off the northern coast of Honduras, certified divers can explore a coral reef that was the cause of many naval disasters and is now Honduras' only location for a shark encounter that may include Black Tip, Bulk and Silver sharks.
Norwegian Coastal Voyage
Passengers on Norwegian Coastal Voyage's expeditions to Antarctica & the Chilean Fjords have the chance to observe several hundred Magellanic penguins in their natural habitat at a colony on Seno Otway (Otway Sound), located 40 miles north of Punta Arenas, Chile the southernmost city on earth.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line's NCL America brand offers heli-hike adventures on Maui. Guests fly over Hana and its majestic rainforest to Haleakala, the world's largest dormant volcano, where they touch down at a remote site, before ascending the slopes to the crater's summit for a hike.
Among Princess Cruises' most popular excursions, Canopy Tours let guests “fly through the treetops” on a series of zip-lines. Some also offer rappelling, rope bridges, obstacle courses and other elements. These Canopy Tours are available in Puerto Vallarta, Kauai, Maui, Ketchikan, Jamaica, Belize and Costa Rica.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
In Corsica, Regent Seven Seas Cruises lets amateurs feel like professional rock climbers. With an expert guide, participants in safety harnesses scale the sides of steep ridges and up rock faces clipped to a system of cables called the Via Ferrata, the Italian phrase for “Iron Way.”
Royal Caribbean International
From Skagway, Alaska, Royal Caribbean International offers a Klondike rock climbing and rappelling tour featuring the smooth granite walls of the White Pass. Travelers hike a short distance to the base of rock cliffs smoothed by retreating glaciers. There are climbing options for all abilities.
Seabourn Cruise Line
From the fishing village of Sanary-Sur-Mer on the French Riviera, Seabourn Cruise Line guests can travel to quaint Bandol in the Cotes de Provence for a mountain biking adventure among fields of flowers and vineyards and through groves of pine and mimosas dotted with villas.
A kayak adventure in Vietnam? Silversea Cruises offers this optional excursion from the port of Ha Long Bay. Participants, who travel in two-person canoes, explore a fishing village and host of grottoes and caves, including famous Luon Cave, featured in the French film Indochine in 1991.
In Costa Rica, Windstar Cruises features a full-day river float excursion down the Corobici River, depending on the water level. While paddling down river, participants will view a variety of birds that nest near Palo Verde National Park and chattering monkeys hanging by their tails.