These kinds of experiences are just a taste of what’s on offer on cruises and ensure your dinner party guests are enthralled for years to come.
Shore excursions offer everything from adrenalin rushes to sitting in the ancient ruins of the breathtaking library in Ephesus for dinner or a bespoke pilgrimage to the WWII resting place of family members.
But sometimes just pottering about in a new town, having lunch at an outdoor restaurant and people watching is a perfect day too. And that’s the beauty of cruising: doing as much or as little as you wish.
Here’s a tip though, some of these unique excursions fill up quickly so once you’re booked, or even at the time of booking your cruise, it’s a good idea to book in for some of these side trips before you travel so you don’t miss out.
Here are some of the more unique shore excursions that might help you decide which cruise to book…
The aforementioned husky sledding is an amazing experience for the whole family as you meet the pack of excited dogs eager to run like the wind towing you along behind them. But another really special activity is a float plane that takes off from the sea and flies over the magnificent waters of coastal Alaska to a river where, right beside a salmon hatchery, you can stand, camera stuck to your face, and watch as black bears meander out from the woods into the river about 30 metres away to catch their dinner. And to top it off, look up and you’ll see American bald eagles circling overhead ready to pick up any leftovers.
Cook my Catch
For the fisherman (or woman) in your life, Princess Cruises® offers an excursion in Alaska where you can head out on a salmon or halibut fishing excursion by day and bring your catch back to the chef to cook it the way you’d like it for dinner that night. You’ll find this unique experience on itineraries in Juneau and Ketchikan.
An evening tapas walking tour in Barcelona is an excellent way to see the city and at the same time be guided around the best tastes it has to offer. You’ll walk up Las Ramblas and drink in the sights of Gaudi’s architecture melding with regular buildings and enjoy the whole melee. You’ll visit the food market and see shops decorated with dozens of parma ham legs hanging from ceilings, then finish in the Gothic Quarter at one of the best restaurants in the city. But, while Sagrada Familia is touristy, if you haven’t been INSIDE this incredible cathedral, this is a must-do. The tapas can come after.
Dine locally around the world
Cruise with Azamara Club Cruises and you’ll get to really immerse yourself into the daily life of locals at each port with their Cruise Global Taste Local programme. Foodies will love having the freedom to dine locally at the best authentic restaurants on shore. You might like to add a private guided tour, a car rental or just potter off on your own with some ideas from the crew for their best recommendations if you wish.
On a sand bar out in the sea at Grand Cayman is what is known as Stingray City. It’s where dozens of friendly Southern Atlantic Stingrays come and hang out in about a metre of water and where loads of small boats come and anchor for an hour or so to swim, snorkel and hop about among them. People bring squid to feed them and they suck it out of your hand from their mouths which are underneath their bodies. The females can be up to a metre wide and they feel like a wet mushroom slithering against your legs. Bring an underwater camera for this excursion as the water is crystal clear and you’ll get some amazing shots here.
Dine amongst the ruins in Ephesus
Take an Ancient Wonders of Greece and Ephesus cruise with Windstar Cruises and when you get to Kusadasi (the port for Ephesus) you can enjoy a complimentary breathtaking dinner in front of the Library of Celsus. Dating back to about 117AD you’ll walk down the Marble Road to the magnificent building built to store 12,000 scrolls which will be lit up under the night sky so you can clearly see the detailed sculptures and niches on the facade. You’ll pinch yourself as you sit at tables under the stars and enjoy a five-course white-gloved dinner accompanied by a trio from the Aegean Chamber Orchestra.
Kayaking in Antarctica
The small ships that sail into the pristine Antarctic offer a swathe of unique expeditions that include kayaking and even a polar plunge for the truly brave who strip off to their bathing suits and hurl themselves into the icy drink, before towelling off, redressing all the layers and speeding back to the ship on a Zodiac for a nice hot shower.
Italy - war cemetery visits
A popular and very moving excursion is to visit the final resting place of your grandfather, uncles and loved ones who fought and died in Europe during WWI and WWII. Rome (Civitavecchia) is one of the closest ports to the Battle of Cassino which took place for 123 days in 1944 between with four main attacks. Here you’ll find thousands of graves with headstones or crosses and you can visit the battle field where it all took place then find your relative’s grave to pay your respects.
If you know where to find your relative, that’s all that is required for a personalised tour with a guide who will meet you at the ship and can take you to several cemeteries including Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Sicily and more.
Look out for overnight port stays
Cruises that offer late departures or overnight stays in port open up a whole new world of options for local dining and night life to really ensure an authentic and less touristy experience.