This is how I describe my first adventure cruise: “Summer camp for adults with gourmet food and alcohol.”

Adventure cruising was pure fun and pleasure in an intimate setting. I felt like a National Geographic explorer the entire time. My ship was aptly named the Wilderness Explorer, because we explored the coves and inlets of the inside passage of Alaska where the big ships can’t go.

If you loved summer camp, you’re perfect for an adventure cruise. And if you didn’t go to camp, here are some tips to help you decide if this uniquely beautiful experience is for you.

 
 

Small Ships

Adventure cruises tend to be nature-oriented small ships so that they can go to wilderness areas. Mine had 66 passengers and 28 crew.

Whilst there is a set itinerary, the captain is free to change the route due to weather or animal siting conditions. Flexibility and spontaneity are de rigueur. Early one morning, the captain stopped our ship so we could spend a few hours watching a pod of whales flipping and spouting.

There is another reason why adventure cruises are small ships: there needs to be enough sports equipment to go around. After all, you can’t have a ship with 600 kayaks on board.

Our cruise director scheduled us in different time slots for adventures off board so that there would always be kayaks, skiffs and wetsuits for everyone.

Believe the Packing List

An adventure cruise is not about glamour; it’s about warmth and comfort. We lived in fleece, sweaters, slacks, scarves, jogging shoes – even at dinner. Friends who have gone on summer adventure cruises lived in swimsuits, shorts and sun hats.

I received a detailed packing list from the cruise company, and am I ever glad I outfitted myself as requested. Rain jacket, rain pants, fleece pants, thermal layers, etc. The right clothes helped me to participate comfortably and concentrate on the fun, not on the cold or wet.

Get into Ship Shape

Before I set sail, I spent some time getting into better physical shape and conditioning. I’m not talking cross fit or anything extreme. I went walking, a bit of hiking and I swam. You don’t have to be an athlete as there are activities for every level of fitness.

There were easy ‘poke’ walks along a beach as well as a strenuous hike up a mountain. I had never kayaked before, and my first outing was a pleasant two-hour long which I enjoyed and didn’t suffer in the least. The marvelous crew taught me everything I needed to know.

Passion

An adventure cruise is about passion for nature and the great outdoors, whether it’s in the tropics or the frozen north. It was a super friendly experience because my fellow passengers were kindred souls.

We shared interests in nature, geology, botany, zoology, not to mention snorkeling, kayaking, hiking and skiff rides. A sense of camaraderie developed since we were all doing activities together. At the end of the cruise, the ship organized an email list so we could keep in touch.

Super Comfortable but Not “Luxurious”

The accommodations were comfortable but not luxurious. The cabins were small, but entirely livable and functional with good storage space and personal toilet, shower and sink.

An intercom broadcast messages from the captain or crew and there was a flat screen TV for watching DVDs from the ship’s library.

There was no internet, and that turned out to be a blessing. First, we were truly in the middle of nowhere! Secondly, no one had their face buried in their phones or computers. We spoke to each other, read books and gazed at indescribably beautiful Alaska as we sailed by.

There were binoculars placed all over the ship for those who didn’t bring any and a reading and DVD library in the lounge.

Small Spaces

A small ship is… small! There was my cozy cabin, the dining hall, the lounge, the fore deck and the aft deck. So, if you prefer a large ship which has many sitting rooms, tea lounges, library, solarium, movie theatre, pool, beauty salon, gym, spa, climbing wall, casino… an adventure cruise is not for you.

Life on a Schedule

Life on a small ship adventure cruise runs on a schedule. Meals are served at set times to leave room for the activities and to clear the small kitchen for the next meal.

Early breakfast was served at 6 a.m., regular breakfast at 7:30 a.m., and lunch was at 12:30. Both breakfast and lunch were buffet style.

Dinner at 6:30 was a served meal. The bar in the lounge was open from 11 a.m. to midnight with a jolly bartender who had his special cocktail of the day, and could mix up anything you could possibly desire.

Snacks were always available in the lounge for people who missed a meal. I’ll put it this way: no one went hungry.

My Typical Day

My typical day began with a delicious breakfast – my favorite meal! – and continued with a morning activity. Then it was time for a pre-lunch drink.

Lunch was followed by an afternoon activity and some downtime to relax. Next came happy hour with appetizers. During cocktail time, the cruise director described the next area we would cruise to, and the available activities for the next day.

After dinner there was a talk in the lounge on a particular topic such as bears or glaciers. People socialized and then went to bed. If a week of this kind of fun and spiritual nature watching appeals to you, then look into adventure cruising.

Have you ever been on an adventure cruise? Would you like to? Do you have any questions to ask? We’re all eager to hear from you, so please join the conversation!

Liza DunkelElizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who has lived in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico for 25 years. She is the Creative Director of Camp Liza www.campliza.com, a personal blog about stylish and creative living. “A thoughtful life is a luxe life.” Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. She discovered a second career as a CELTA certified teacher of ESL and is Merida’s first, only and best college coach www.superenglishmerida.com.

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