Top 13 Cruise Destinations for Adventure

Cruisers taking a swim in clear blue waters with large waves and stunning mountains in the background
A simple shore excursion on your cruise can turn into an exhilarating adventure. | Author: Luke McKeown

If you ask what most people think about cruises, they would probably envisage relaxation and slow-paced excursions. The reality is that a cruise can be whatever you make of it. No matter if for you beautiful beaches, new cultures, exciting history or culinary experiences are the most important thing when choosing a destination. And also if you’re a thrill seeker then there are many great cruise destinations for adventure.

Whether you want to swim with manta rays, visit a national park or head out on expedition ships, there are many choices for the adventurous. Here we look at 13 diverse ways that you can have fun all across the globe.

13. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil is a vibrant country where many great adventures can be undertaken, including sailing down the Amazon but that is a whole vacation in its own right. If you’re looking for a great Brazilian cruise destination then it doesn’t get better than Rio de Janeiro.

While Copacabana beach would be able to provide enough adventure for most people, if you really wanted to challenge yourself, you would be able to hike up Sugar Loaf Mountain and see the ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue that is situated at the top.

If you’re feeling really extreme then there are even rappelling opportunities down the mountain. Princess Cruises have a cruise ship that has excursions to take you there. Once back down you’d be able to continue your adventurous South American coastal cruise.

12. Queenstown, New Zealand

New Zealand is known for being a very peaceful country but it’s also one that is home to many great adventures. There are a couple of bungee jumps that you are going to be able to do and many whitewater activities to enjoy.

In Queenstown there is also zip lining where you can experience the thrill of flying through the luscious treetops. Another crazy activity that you can do in Queenstown is canyon swinging. It is an exhilarating experience as you swing yourself through the beautiful scenery. 

Royal Caribbean has many great cruises throughout the region, with many cabin types to choose from on which to enjoy your vacation. They will give you the ship and excursion you need to turn your time away into a great adventure.

A paraglider in the air flying over the beautiful landscape of New Zealand
Whether you want to do zip lining or paragliding, in Queenstown you have a lot of adventure. | Author: Pablo Heimplatz

11. Costa Rica

Costa Rica is another country that has plenty of zip lines for you to explore as you glide over their beautiful rainforests. Away from the rainforests, Costa Rica is also a great country for surfing if that is what you love to be doing.

There are also volcanos to climb, jungles to explore and waterfalls to see. There are many different activities you can do in Costa Rica and it’s a great idea to plan ahead to make sure that you are going to be able to get the most out of your trip.

For cruises to Costa Rica, MSC cruises has many ships running through the region and they also provide shore excursions that will help you enjoy the adventure that is on offer. It will help to make a wonderful cruise memory.

10. Sydney, Australia

Sydney is another dynamic destination where you would be able to enjoy some incredible beaches, experience the opera or just enjoy the unique cuisine. There is also adventure to be had though, in a place that you can see from where the cruise ships sail, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

If you’re scared of heights, then this adventure activity is not going to be for you. You can climb to the top of the bridge which is 440 feet above sea level. It’s not for the faint hearted but will give you incredible views of Sydney.

If this idea of a cruise adventure turns your stomach then you could also head to Bondi Beach for a host of thrilling water sports. For those wanting to make the trip up to the top of the bridge, Cunard has a variety of exciting excursions that can take you there.

9. Dublin, Ireland

Irish culture is embedded into many parts of US culture, especially on the east coast in New York and Boston. It’s always fascinating to see the real thing for yourself and Ireland is not only a vibrant country but also a very beautiful one. 

There are also many Irish bars dotted around the world but having a tour of the most famous bars in Dublin will enable you to experience Irish culture in all its glory. It would certainly be an adventure trying to keep up with the locals with a pub crawl.

It can be an amazing experience in a small group and allow you to have a great time whilst you try the local delights of whiskey and Guinness. A Northern Europe cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line will allow you to sample the rich history and share the local adventure.

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8. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

A world away from the Irish bars is an entirely different island by the name of Grand Cayman. It is incredibly beautiful and romantic location, but it is also home to one of the most interesting adventure activities in the Caribbean.

Visiting Stingray City will be an experience that many people would be hesitant to do. It’s a shallow water bay where hundreds of rays congregate where they enjoy being petted and played with. There is no danger involved, even if a lot of people are apprehensive about getting in.

It’s a wonderful experience to be able to visit these islands on small ship cruises such as with Crystal Cruises who have many great cruises in the area. If you aren’t too scared about swimming with stingrays, this would be a great adventure for you.

7. Belize City, Belize

Belize is another country that has incredible spots of beauty and many amazing activities. Pack your snorkel gear, because one of the most unique spots is the ‘Great Blue Hole’ which is a marine sinkhole in the shallow waters off the coast of Belize. 

The spherical sinkhole is over 400 feet deep and the dark blue waters are a stark contrast to the turquoise waters around it. Closer to the shore though, you can also do cave tubing which is a thrilling adventure where you will be able to travel through the water world on your inflatable. 

If you want to have an adventurous cruise while enjoying a fun and relaxed ship atmosphere, then Carnival Cruise Lines have many great cruises that pass through Belize.

6. Alaska

Alaska is a stunning cruise destination for a wide variety of reasons. You are will be able to see incredible landscapes while also seeing plenty of wildlife too. Not only that but you’re also going to get the opportunity to see a glacier up close.

There are many places to hike but if you still want to be on the water, then there are canoe adventures where you are going to be able to get up close and personal nature in all its glory. Alaska is a fun destination that is going to give you some amazing memories. 

If you want a fun and action-packed cruise with the kids then there are many cruises from Disney Cruise Line that stop off in Alaska. If you’re looking for a more adult orientated adventure then Carnival also has many stops in the state.

A man canoeing on a lake in Alaska surrounded by mountains and trees.
Besides its stunning nature, Alaska offers a lot of adventurous activities for cruisers. | Author: Andrew Ridley

5. Antarctica

In terms of a cruise adventure, it doesn’t get much more extreme than expedition cruising to the Antarctic. Just being there is an adventure in itself considering it is almost all covered in ice and it is also the coldest and most sparsely populated place on the planet.

Whilst there you will be able to have a small expedition to the research center and see penguin colonies depending on the weather. What you will see often depends on the weather but there is an abundance of wildlife in this desolate land that will leave you feeling like an adventurer. 

For this journey you can let Princess Cruises be your expedition vessel, especially with their Expedition Landing Tour. Another similar option is to head off to Alaska, which also has many great adventure expeditions with some of them run by National Geographic.

4. Roatan, Honduras

Honduras is an interesting country for many reasons, partly due to the fact that it has the highest murder rate of anywhere in the world. Don’t worry though as we’re not talking about that kind of adventure, instead we are talking about a peaceful island off its coast.

Roatan is another place that is famed for its wonderful coral reefs where you are going to be able to see some incredible natural beauty and marine life. Instead of that though, you might prefer to have an ATV jungle tour as you ride through the island.

It’s one of those destinations that will take your breath away at every turn. It’s a beautiful part of the world and you might as well visit it on a beautiful cruise ship. Regent Seven Seas has many of them and will help to take you on your Honduran adventure.

3. Aruba, Caribbean

Aruba is a part of the Leeward Antilles islands that also includes Curacao and Bonaire, which are a part of the Netherlands. They are situated just off the coast of Venezuela which helps to explain the type of scenery and climate that you can expect. 

Behind the pristine beaches and palm trees lies a jungle which is a fascinating part of the country. Become a jungle safari explorer for a day, where you could well see some of the most exotic animals and fascinating foliage in the world. 

Celebrity Cruises often have Aruba as a port of call and you can disembark the ship to go and have an adventure where you will quickly feel as though you are in the middle of the Amazon. Thankfully you will have a guide who will be able to guide you back out. 

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2. Hawaii, USA

Hawaii is possibly the most dynamic cruise destination that there is, probably due to the number of fascinating islands that it has - each with its own unique personality. If you love hiking then you’re going to have many opportunities to climb the breathtaking volcanic mountains that it has. 

Above the sea, in Maui you will be able to have a parasailing experience which is sure to set your heart racing. Below the sea you would be able to see one of the many amazing coral reefs that it has or you could also be more adventurous and head off for a shark dive in Oahu.

Hawaii is great for an island hop as there are so many incredible things for you to do. If you want a ship that will help you to continue the fun then Norwegian Cruise Line is going to be able to help with that with their range of laidback and fun ships.

1. Cairns, Australia

At number one is the second Australian destination on the list and this is the perfect place for having an amazing cruise adventure. In Sydney we talked about how much of an adventure it would be to walk up to a great height but what about jumping from one?

A very short journey away from Cairns is a tower that stands at 162 feet where you can take a leap from. If you want an adventure that is a bit less scary then there is also an attraction that you can actually see at the top of that bungee tower, the Great Barrier Reef.

If that feels a little sedate, then you can stay in the rainforest and opt for a zip line that drops 150 feet in just 3.5 seconds, as you reach speeds of around 75 mph.  After all that adventure, you’ll surely want to relax and Silversea Cruises will allow you to do just that. 

A woman jumping with a bungee rope into a canyon of stones and a lake below.
For the crazy cruisers, Cairns full of adventure and adrenaline is just the right thing. | Author: Katika Bele

Cruise destinations for adventure

One of the beautiful aspects of cruising is that you are going to be able to have an incredible adventure one day and completely relax the next. You could be zip lining in the jungle in the afternoon and be having a massage a few hours later.

There are many great and different types of adventure that you can have. It’s always great to plan ahead and look at the destinations you are visiting, what excursions are available and the things to do in the area. That way you’re going to be able to get the maximum amount of adventure from your cruise.

Jump straight into your exciting vacation and simply have a look at the cruises going to the 5 best destinations for adventure: 

1. Best Australia Cruises

2. Best Hawaii Cruises

3. Best Caribbean Cruises

4. Best Atlantic Cruises

5. Best Alaska Cruises

Check out these articles for more top destinations: