Cruising

Forget images of bloated behemoths carrying thousands of passengers through overcrowded waters. The cruises I love all share a couple of characteristics: small groups and big adventure. For me, cruising is about exploring parts of the world that are best appreciated on the water, or can only be experienced by boat. Polar exploration is the perfect example. Being onboard in these far-off, end-of-the-world wilds is to be in a floating sanctuary on a sea of solitude, serenaded by glaciers calving bergs and surrounded by millennia-old ice. The elements surround you in the Arctic and Antarctic, life often reduced to its bare core. That wildlife not only exists here but is abundant and readily seen is an endless source of wonder. Moving through the waters by boat is a privilege, getting you close to the action: a whale bobtailing alongside us was a highlight, and the placid waters studded with countless bergs is a sight I’ll remember forever. The Galapagos contains its own fair share of wonders, a place where nature seems to have decided to have had some fun: swimming iguanas and comically playful sea lions; blue-footed boobies doing their mating dancing amidst a petrified lava flow; the striking ghost crab and the puffed-up throat pouch of the magnificent frigatebird. To truly appreciate the Galapagos a cruise is essential – you can’t get to some of the islands by any other way, and only on overnight voyages can you experience the archipelago’s most remote, most spectacular moments. From salt spray on the foredeck as you venture between the islands of the Galapagos to a slow passage on the Nile. Having hitherto limited my cruising experience to the high seas, Egypt was a revelation. A couple of days spent onboard a traditional felucca floating past spectacular ancient temples and lush riverbanks, the dust-dry desert stretching out beyond, and I didn’t need any convincing of the merits of river exploration. From Kerala’s sleepy inland mosaic of lagoons and rivers to the Yangtze’s stunning limestone landscapes, a cruise can take you into the heart of a country’s ancient way of life and timeless scenery. A glorious mixture of the peaceful and the adventurous, wherever you go, cruising opens up new windows on the world.