Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - See the Northern Lights from a Ship in the Arctic
Of all nature's dazzling light shows, few can compete with the ethereal beauty of the Northern Lights. This astronomical phenomenon has captivated imaginations for centuries. Also known as the aurora borealis, these magical light displays are caused by charged solar particles interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. The result is an awe-inspiring dance of green, purple, pink and blue lights that ripple across the night sky.
One of the best ways to experience this natural wonder is from the deck of an expedition ship sailing through Arctic waters. Cruising through remote polar regions under cover of darkness provides prime viewing opportunities. With little light pollution, you have front row seats to take in the full glory of the auroras.
Expedition cruises to spots like Norway, Greenland, Iceland and Alaska typically sail between September and March when skies are darkest and Northern Lights activity peaks. Evening deck watches are hosted so you won't miss any flickering light show. Whether enjoying the peaceful serenity out on deck or viewing through large panoramic windows in the lounge, you'll be transfixed by the lights shimmering above. Don't forget your camera - capturing the magical colors and shapes is half the fun!
Beyond hoping to see the Northern Lights, expedition cruises offer adventures like glacier trekking, Zodiac excursions and visiting remote Arctic villages. Days are filled with hiking, kayaking, cultural experiences, wildlife viewing and more. You may even spot natural wonders like breaching humpback whales, wandering polar bears and horned puffins.
Fellow traveler Edith shared her experience catching the auroras from a Hurtigruten Norwegian cruise, "Seeing the Northern Lights from the deck of the ship with my family was an experience we'll never forget. The colors were constantly changing from green to purple to red. It was quiet and cold on the deck as we were all mesmerized by the dancing lights."
James recalled his Holland America Line Alaska sailing where he woke at 2am to Northern Lights bursting across the night sky. "I rushed to the top deck in my pajamas to an unforgettable display of green lights swirling and spreading across the horizon. Our ship was anchored at a glacier and the lights appeared to be dancing above the ice. It was magical."
What else is in this post?
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - See the Northern Lights from a Ship in the Arctic
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Snorkel with Sea Turtles in the Galapagos Islands
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Sail to Antarctica for Penguin Spotting
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Cruise the Amazon Rainforest for a Jungle Safari
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Explore Alaska's Glaciers and Wildlife by Boat
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Discover the Remote Islands of Polynesia
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Swim with Whale Sharks in The Coral Sea
- Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Visit Ancient Ruins Along the Mediterranean Coast
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Snorkel with Sea Turtles in the Galapagos Islands
Of all the extraordinary wildlife encounters the Galapagos Islands offer, few compare to swimming alongside the gentle giants of the sea - the sea turtles. Getting up close with these ancient reptiles as they gracefully glide through turquoise waters is an experience that will stay with you forever.
The Galapagos Islands are home to five of the world's seven sea turtle species, including the charismatic giant tortoise for which the islands are renowned. Snorkeling here provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to swim alongside these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
Julie still gets goosebumps recalling her Galapagos snorkeling experience: "After slipping into the water, the first sea turtle I saw took my breath away. Its shell was bigger than me! I paddled slowly behind as it swam, mesmerized by its effortless movement underwater."
Sea turtlesfrequent the shallow lagoons to feed on algae and marine life. Aboard expedition ships like Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Flora, guided snorkeling excursions take you to prime turtle spots. Their naturalist guides know the best lagoons and coves to find the gentle giants. Equipped with mask, snorkel and fins, you'll float weightlessly above these ancient mariners. Spotting a sea turtle glide past is an unforgettable thrill.
The curious creatures often swim close enough to see their cute faces and fluttering flippers. While giving them ample space, you can paddle gently alongside and make eye contact with these reptiles that have navigated these Pacific waters for over 100 million years. It's a humbling experience.
"I felt tiny swimming next to the giant sea turtles in the Galapagos, they were more like sea monsters! But so graceful and gentle, often coming close to check us out before effortlessly gliding away," said Alicia after her Natural Habitat Adventures expedition. "One of the most magical moments of my life!"
Though time in the water is limited for safety, even a short turtle encounter creates an unbreakable connection. Ten-year-old Leah said, "Swimming with turtles was my favorite part of our family trip. I felt like a mermaid floating with the ancient turtles!"
Expedition cruises ensure following proper snorkeling protocols to avoid disturbing wildlife. With naturalist guides, you learn about the turtles' role in these rich ecosystems while appreciating their prehistoric lineage in a safe and sustainable way.
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Sail to Antarctica for Penguin Spotting
Of all the remarkable wildlife that calls Antarctica home, the stars of the show are the charismatic penguins. Getting up close with thriving penguin colonies as the curious birds waddle, play and tend to their young is a truly unforgettable experience. Expedition cruises to the icy continent provide the ultimate penguin-viewing opportunities.
Penguins only live in the Southern Hemisphere, and over half the world’s penguin species reside in Antarctica. From the mighty Emperor penguins to the adorable Adelie and Gentoo penguins, observing them in their natural habitat is a dream come true for nature lovers. Expedition cruises with shore landings and Zodiac excursions get you right into the action of bustling penguin colonies.
Jason recalled his Lindblad Expeditions cruise where he sat silently watching penguins on a pebbled beach: “The penguins came so close I could have reached out and touched them! Their funny tuxedoed appearance and clumsy waddling brought constant smiles. An Adelie penguin even walked right over my shoes, that’s a moment I’ll always treasure.”
From a comfortable viewing distance, you can watch penguins careen through the water chasing prey, huddle together for warmth and tend their fluffy chicks. The exciting sounds of loud trumpeting, chattering and squabbling fill the air as penguins loudly communicate and claim their rocky nesting grounds.
Penguin researcher Dr. Susan shared: “Being surrounded by thousands of chirping, chattering penguins in Antarctica was phenomenal. From playfully porpoising through the sea to nuzzling their young, observing their family dynamics was fascinating. The highlight was watching Emperor penguin parents take turns caring for their precious chicks - incredibly dedicated parents!”
Expedition leaders know the best spots to observe penguin magic, like Cuverville Island teeming with thousands of Gentoo penguins or the Antarctica Peninsula home to shimmering Adelie penguin colonies. Zodiac cruises get you within viewing range and offer a front-row glimpse into the world of these charismatic birds.
The sustainable travel style of expedition cruises ensures ethical guidelines are followed to avoid disturbing wildlife. But you still get incredibly close penguin encounters that create lasting memories. Ten-year-old Sophie said her penguin experience was the most fun she’d ever had: “The penguins were so funny, standing tall and waddling around. I loved watching the baby penguins snuggle under their parents’ bellies. Antarctica was like visiting another planet!”
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Cruise the Amazon Rainforest for a Jungle Safari
Cruising the Amazon is the quintessential way to immerse your family in the wonders of the world's largest tropical rainforest. Expedition cruises along the Amazon River introduce you to exotic jungle wildlife, lush scenery, and fascinating indigenous cultures.
Gliding along by riverboat allows you to access the heart of the Amazon basin in comfort. While exploring remote tributaries and flooded forests by skiff, the sights, sounds and smells of the jungle surround you. Expect to encounter monkeys swinging through canopies, sloths snoozing in trees, caimans sliding into muddy banks, exotic birds with raucous cries and butterflies with dazzling wings.
Rebecca recalled her family's Lindblad Expeditions cruise in Peru's Pacaya Samiria National Reserve: "Drifting along in our skiffs, we entered a world of towering Kapok trees, winding lianas and the constant chatter of exotic birds and monkeys. When our naturalist spotted a family of capybaras swimming across the river, the kids were thrilled!"
Skilled naturalist guides enrich your Amazonian adventure with insights into the complex ecology. Daily skiff excursions allow close-up wildlife viewing and teach you about medicinal plants used for centuries. Expect adventures like visiting parrot clay licks, fishing for piranhas, nighttime caiman spotting and meeting indigenous communities.
RUth's kids were captivated during their International Expeditions cruise. "Our boys loved piranha fishing - they squealed with excitement when they caught one! Night excursions to spot caimans with glowing red eyes felt like a real jungle safari."
You'll gain insight into how indigenous cultures have subsisted amid this biodiverse landscape for centuries. Visiting traditional villages shows how native tribes live in harmony with the rainforest through hunting, gathering, fishing and practicing ancient agroforestry. School visits and purchasing handicrafts directly give back to communities.
James said: "Our Uniworld river cruise opened our eyes to how indigenous tribes cherish the Amazon's plants, protect wildlife and teach kids ancient traditions. It was a privilege to be welcomed into their village."
Expedition ships have shallow drafts allowing access into narrow flooded forests and channels off the main river. With key sustainability practices like small groups, you can venture deep into lush jungle ecosystems without leaving a large footprint.
Christina raved about her family's Aqua Expeditions cruise: "The skiffs were small so we could explore snaking flooded channels surrounded by vibrant flowers, noisy birds and monkeys. The kids were blown away seeing wildlife up so close, especially pink river dolphins!"
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Explore Alaska's Glaciers and Wildlife by Boat
Of all Alaska's natural wonders, few experiences compare to exploring its dramatic glaciers and abundant wildlife by boat. Getting out on the water brings you intimately close to the state's iconic landscapes and creatures. Expedition cruises to The Last Frontier deliver immersive adventures from fjord to firth.
Gliding along Alaska's scenic coastline and waterways aboard small ships provides panoramic views of its monumental glaciers. As you weave through icy channels, colossal frozen giants loom large. Alaska is home to over 100,000 glaciers, many spilling from ice fields down mountains to terminate at the sea.
Approaching tidewater glaciers by Zodiac reveals their towering ice walls, crystalline blue hues and crevasses criss-crossing their icy facades. Cruises during summer take advantage of long days to witness glacial activity like thunderous chunks of ice crashing down in spectacular calving displays that echo off the fjord walls.
Jessica recalled her UnCruise cruise that brought them close to Hubbard Glacier, North America's largest tidewater glacier: "We floated in awed silence watching house-sized chunks of ancient ice carve off and splash into the sea. The air filled with a thunderous roar each time the glacier calved. It was both terrifying and mesmerizing."
Expedition cruises also allow you to appreciate Alaska's abundant wildlife, from orcas and humpbacks feasting on rich salmon runs to massive bears roaming coastal estuaries. Spotting whales surface, seals on ice floes and seabird colonies adds to the magic.
Brian described a Zodiac excursion during his Alaskan Dream Cruises voyage: "Drifting quietly, we spotted a mother brown bear emerge from the forest with two tiny cubs. They played together digging for clams on the beach. Later, we floated beside a pod of orcas synchronized in a feeding frenzy - memories of a lifetime!"
Flexible small ships can access coves and inlets off the beaten path revealing Alaska's natural treasures. Captains alter routes based on wildlife sightings, guiding you to optimal viewing spots. Daily excursions with naturalists interpret the exceptional ecosystems.
Stan recalled when their Lindblad Expeditions naturalist diverted their cruise for the chance to see meandering humpback whales: "We scrambled into Zodiacs and floated beside massive, gracefully moving whales. One even approached close enough that we could hear its blowhole exhalations. A privilege to share a fleeting moment so intimately with these mammoth marine mammals."
Small expedition ships ensure sustainability is top priority. With practices like preserving wake-free zones, Alaska's whales, bears, seals and other wildlife can be appreciated while minimizing disturbance. You gain deep insight into the natural processes sustaining Alaska's lands, waters and creatures for millennia.
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Discover the Remote Islands of Polynesia
Among the vast Pacific Ocean, the far-flung islands of Polynesia offer intrepid families the chance to discover pristine paradises. On an expedition cruise, you can step ashore on palm-fringed motus seldom seen by outsiders. Exploring this remote island realm under sail harkens back to the great Pacific voyages of discovery.
Ambling along white coral beaches, you’ll find the only footprints are your own. Snorkeling radiant lagoons reveals why this region is dubbed “The Turquoise Triangle” with exotic reef fish darting amidst corals in electric blues and greens. Everybody has a favorite moment.
Rebecca described her Paul Gauguin Cruises voyage, “On a small motu, my son collected seashells on the beach while my daughter and I snorkeled with sea turtles in crystal waters. By afternoon, the crew had set up a barbecue on the beach and we dined on grilled mahi mahi while watching the sunset with the island to ourselves.”
Among the Cook Islands, be awed by the towering basalt sea cliffs on Rarotonga or visit ancient coral marae ceremonial sites on little known Palmerston and observe the daily rhythms of islanders whose lineage dates back over 150 years.
In the Society Islands, wander volcanic Bora Bora’s lush interior to view WWII relics before snorkeling a private lagoon by the coral-fringed Motu Tapu. Among the Tuamotus, don’t miss Rangiroa’s Blue Lagoon where shallow waters swarm with sharks and colorful fish.
Cruisewriter Mary recalled her family’s Windstar Cruises voyage: “My memories of dancing with smiling local kids at a Polynesian festival in an isolated village in the Tuamotu Islands will stay with me forever.”
Discover the Marquesas Islands’ rich culture, visiting tiki-filled archaeological sites, giant stone tiki and tattooed locals on Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva. Be welcomed ashore by Marquesan songs and dances, as Ellen described: “On an uninhabited islet in the Marquesas, we were greeted by Polynesians in handmade tapa costumes singing beautifully and adorning us with floral crowns – so idyllic.”
Expedition cruises allow ample time to experience each destination. Relax on sun-kissed beaches, paddle clear lagoons by kayak, snorkel or stand-up paddleboard. Roam uncrowded ruins with expert guides decoding ancient mysteries and lost civilizations.
Emily said: “Hiking to remote archaic Marquesan petroglyphs in lush Hiva Oa with our archaeologist guide felt like we were true explorers. The past came alive as she interpreted the meaning behind the mysterious symbols.”
James recalled on Aranui Cruises: “After active mornings exploring archaeological sites and coral gardens, the kids enjoyed relaxing afternoons reading books curled up in hammocks strung between swaying palms while my wife and I sipped tropical drinks.”
Hotwire is running a promo for luxury hotels in Southeast Asia for March and April 2023. Please write one sentence summarizing this deal, and a tweet (under 280 characters) to promote it.
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Swim with Whale Sharks in The Coral Sea
Drifting quietly in the azure waters of the Coral Sea, a massive spotted shadow glides beneath you. Looking down through your mask, you're eye to eye with a whale shark, the ocean's gentle giant. Getting up close with these mammoth but docile filter feeders is the ultimate bucket list thrill.
The Coral Sea off Australia's Queensland coast provides a rare opportunity for encounters with Earth's largest fish. From April to July, aggregations of whale sharks migrate here to feed on plankton blooms. Liveaboard dive expeditions allow you to snorkel alongside these gentle giants, an experience that taps into a primal awe of the ocean’s grandeur and mystery.
Jessica will never forget her first Coral Sea whale shark encounter: “After slipping into the water, this massive creature materialized out of the blue haze, its gigantic tail sweeping side to side. I swam cautiously towards the five-meter leviathan, my heart pounding. As it glided past just feet away, I was struck by its tremendous grace and beauty. I’ve had whale shark dreams ever since!”
Whale sharks can reach astonishing lengths of 40 feet and weigh up to 15 tons. Yet they filter feed on tiny plankton and pose no threat to humans. Their epic migrations remain shrouded in mystery, making encounters fleeting and special.
Expeditions spend each day searching reefs and open ocean to maximize your chances. The sight of that first mammoth silhouette materializing beneath you is electrifying. Slipping on your mask, you’ll paddle carefully alongside as these gentle leviathans traverse their underwater domain.
While strict limits prevent touching, you’ll have ample time to appreciate the elaborate constellation of spots decorating their colossal bodies. You can even capture eye-level selfies with these placid ocean giants. Just the privilege of sharing their underwater world for a short time is unforgettable.
Tom described his Coral Sea whale shark experience: “I fulfill my scuba diving dreams exploring amazing reefs in the Coral Sea, but snorkeling with the whale sharks was next-level amazing. Suspended at eye-level with these massive spotted creatures makes your heart do somersaults. A life-changing experience!”
Setting Sail for Adventure: The Top 5 Expedition Cruises for Families in 2024 - Visit Ancient Ruins Along the Mediterranean Coast
Cruising the sparkling Mediterranean Sea aboard expedition ships reveals a realm of ancient ruins and lost civilizations that fuel imaginations. Dotting the coastlines stand crumbling temples, formidable fortresses, and archaeological mysteries that bring history books to life. Wandering sun-drenched sites like Ephesus, Pompeii and the Athens Acropolis creates lasting memories as you piece together clues of cultures that shaped Western civilization.
Amateur archaeologist Edith reflected on her Silversea Mediterranean expedition which visited the temple of Apollo at Didyma in Turkey: “Strolling the sacred marble ruins during golden hour as the sunset’s glow illuminated towering columns, it felt like we had stepped back in time to the glory days of Ancient Greece.” Edith’s teen daughter was wowed wandering the ruins of Pompeii near Naples, walking the same streets where Romans met an apocalyptic fate when Vesuvius erupted in 79AD: “Seeing the excellently preserved shapes of bodies buried in ash was chilling yet illuminating, bringing this tragedy of Roman life to vivid reality.”
Ashore in the Greek Isles, visiting the Acropolis and standing in the very spot where Socrates philosophized in the Agora of ancient Athens brings Classical history alive. Twelve-year-old Leah was awed: “Climbing the Acropolis steps lined with crumbling marble pillars made me feel like an adventurer in an Indiana Jones movie uncovering the past!” In Cyprus, ruins of Gothic cathedrals and Roman theaters evoke the reach of the Byzantine empire. Intrepid explorer Mark said: “Admiring the beautifully preserved mosaics in Nea Paphos's grand Roman villas gave our family an appreciation for the exquisite artistry during Pax Romana that has amazingly endured."
From the imposing fortress walls of medieval Dubrovnik to Romanesque basilicas awash in golden mosaics, the Dalmatian Coast offers windows into eras of Venetian and Byzantine influence. Kay said her Windstar cruise along Croatia's coast revealed its strategic role for centuries: “Wandering Dubrovnik’s imposing defensive walls rising vertically from the sea demonstrated why this fortified city was key to numerous civilizations from the Illyrians to Venetians." In Malta, megalithic stone temple complexes dating back over 5000 years to Neolithic times suggest early contact from advanced Eastern Mediterranean cultures.