Five Great Cruise Destinations You've Never Heard Of - Page 2

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An Arctic cruise with Lindblad Expeditions in a Zodiac raft to get a closer view
Rights: Single Use
An Arctic cruise in a Zodiac raft to get a closer view  (Ralph Lee Hopkins/ Lindblad Expeditions)

Hebridean Islands
The Scottish Hebrides are an alluring and unusual European cruise destination: Ethereal in their beauty; sparsely populated (with more wildlife than people); and serving up spectacular lochs, bird reserves, and even the occasional castle or mysterious stone circle. There are hundreds of islands in the chain, located west and north of Scotland, the diverse archipelago including such patches of land as Eigg, dominated by a volcanic peak and barren seashore. Weeklong cruises on the 50-passenger Hebridean Princess sail from Oban, March to November, and take passengers to such highlights as Skye's Trotternish Peninsula, where rolling moorland leads to striking rock pillars and pinnacles; and Ulva and Mull to see whales and dolphins frolicking in the sea.

Lakshadweep Islands
These remote islands, some 200 miles east of Kochi in the Maldives, are new on the cruise itinerary map. Zegrahm Epeditions visits for the first time on a two-week Southern India and Maldives cruise on the 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey in December 2012. The 36 islands, atolls, and coral reefs of the Lakshadweep archipelago make up the smallest Union Territory of India, totaling just 11 square miles of land. But they present a paradise of stunning lagoons, colorful birds, many varieties of flora and fauna, unspoiled beaches, and reefs teaming with hundreds of marine species. The cruise itinerary also visits World Heritage attractions in Sri Lanka, including Temple of the Tooth; takes time searching for wild elephants on a 4x4 tour; and spends three days exploring the pristine beaches and waters of the atolls north of Male, including Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve noteworthy for its large numbers of manta rays and hawksbill turtles.

Cruise north from Norway's North Cape to see polar bears in the Arctic, a cruise experience not as chilly as you think—temps range from 35 to 70 Fahrenheit during the June to August cruise season. The kings of the ice are the big attraction, but the huge carnivores happen to live in a breathtaking wilderness of glistening glaciers and enormous icebergs. The Midnight Sun itself is an attraction not only to cruise ship passengers but to the thousands of rare seabirds, beluga whales, walruses, reindeer, and other creatures that come out to play. In the near endless sunlight wildflowers even bloom. The seven-night cruise on the 148-passenger expedition ship National Geographic Explorer, operated by Lindblad Expeditions, embarks from Longyearbyen and spends six days in and around the fjords of Arctic Svalbard. Close-up views are obtained via inflatable Zodiacs and kayaks.

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