22 Mar 2020
Avatar photo by Silver Compass

When you think of cruising your mind may go straight to family holidays on large floating hotels, Hawaiian shirts and karaoke nights with the parents or more formal traditional liners popular with retirees, but in fact, there are countless alternative types of cruises. To find out all there is to know about alternative cruises, read on!

What is alternative cruising?

photographer cruise

Alternative cruising refers to a cruise holiday with a theme or purpose or on a ship that deviates from what’s considered to be the norm. The perception of the ‘norm’ or typical type of cruise holiday tends to be on ships that can hold several thousand passengers, with a wide array of amenities to keep holidayers relaxed, amused and entertained whilst they travel from port to port.

So to explain alternative cruising better, here’s an example:

A wildlife photographer who wants to explore the Galapagos Islands is likely to go on a photography or nature watching cruise. The photographer will be able to enjoy onboard luxuries and venture onto the island to get breath-taking snapshots of exotic wildlife. This person will hop aboard a smaller cruise ship that will be able to explore corners of the world where large cruise ships are unable to voyage. Small cruise ships will typically hold a few hundred passengers or less – which makes for a more intimate and adventurous holiday.

Types of alternative cruises

UnCruise Adventures

With the slogan ‘small ships, big adventures’, it comes as no surprise that UnCruise Adventures’ ships are small, holding between 26 and 86 passengers, and the experience they offer would certainly fit the description of an alternative cruise experience. Breaking away from the masses, these small-scale alternative cruises are perfect for travellers who are looking for a peaceful, destination-rich holiday where they can immerse themselves in nature, culture and new experiences. UnCruise Adventures take solo travellers, couples and groups to Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaiian Islands and more!

Quark Expeditions

arctic cruise

If you’ve always liked the idea of exploring some of the coldest places on earth then a Quark Expedition is for you. Specialising in cruises to the Antarctic and the Arctic, Quark takes passengers on small, well-equipped vessels and icebreakers where you can achieve unparalleled access to the most breathtaking of regions. On an alternative Polar cruise, you’re likely to encounter polar bears, penguins and will have the opportunity to kayak through icy realms.

U by Uniworld

For modern travellers U by Uniworld take you through Europe on a reimagined river cruise ship where you will stop off at ports to enjoy new cultures, cuisine and fun activities – a series of city breaks by water, if you like. With itineraries travelling to the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia, Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Serbia – you’re sure to find somewhere that ticks your boxes. This type of travelling is a cost-effective way to enjoy multiple places in just one trip and is particularly popular with those aged between 25-40.

Lindblad Expeditions

Authentic expeditions accompanied by travel experts who are there to provide insight into your explorations. All ships are fully equipped with tools such as snorkelling gear, ship cameras, video microscopes, hydrophones, standup paddleboards and more, to aid in-depth and close-up encounters for avid- adventurers.

Lindblad Expeditions cover countless destinations including North America, South America, Europe and the Mediterranean, South East Asia and the Pacific, Polar Regions, Africa and the Middle East.

Photography and wildlife cruise

wildlife photographer

Specialist photography cruises offer passionate photographers the opportunity to take high-quality photos in the polar regions of Svalbard and Antarctica. Wildlife cruises, on the other hand, give animal lovers the opportunity to enjoy conservation tours, treks and see tigers, bears, whales, unusual insects and more, depending on your destination. You might also want to look out for astronomy cruises, whilst you’re out at sea as you’ll find it’s the perfect place to observe and capture spectacular images of the night’s sky.

Unique cruise experiences

Concerts at Sea

Floating music festivals are incredibly popular with music fans, where you can enjoy rock, pop and more.

Freighter ship journey


A freighter ship may not seem like your typical holiday away but this unusual cruise experience is incredibly popular for those searching for an authentic journey onboard a cargo vessel. This journey is best suited to self-sufficient individuals who are wanting a casual time at sea and are happy to mingle with the ship’s captain and officers.

Scuba open sea cruises

Scuba open sea cruises take you to the underwater world where you can obtain a PADI Scuba diving certificate, which you will then be able to use elsewhere and dive in numerous exotic areas in the world. The best scuba open sea cruises are in Australia, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean. For committed diving enthusiasts, the option of liveaboard dive boats is another great possibility, for example in the Maldives or on the Great Barrier Reef.

Action-packed cruises

Flowrider surf simulators, climbing walls, water slides, golf cruises – the lot – on large floating hotels the adventure is as fun onboard as it is onshore!

Submarine cruise

Redefining cruise holidays and underwater exploration, a submarine cruise takes you 300 metres deep in the ocean, with a 280-degree view, six guest seats and an experienced pilot, you can be fully prepared for an intimate ocean excursion.

Pet cruises

alternative cruises - pets on a cruise

courtesy of cunard.com

Believe it or not, you can set sail with your furry friend. Pet cruises, although hard to come by, happen on Cunard QE2. These dog-friendly cruises take place on smaller ships and the cruise duration is much shorter than most but provides an exciting trip for you and your best pal when the kennels isn’t an option. Cunard offers great facilities for owners and their pets and are approved by the Pet Travel Scheme too.

On many other cruise lines service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in public areas of a cruise ship but for health and safety reasons, dogs are not to go around inside spa facilities or in the pool.

Quilting cruise


All aboard stitchin’ heaven! Quilting cruises combine a passion for crafts and cruise. Between ports, quilting fans will be able to meet the best quilters in the industry and learn new tips, tricks and new techniques along the way.

Dance cruise

Salsa, Zumba, ballroom – you name it – there’s dancing entertainment and opportunities for lessons on a dance cruise. With the chance to dress up and keep fit, a dance cruise is certainly an alternative cruise for those with a get-up- and-go spirit, and if you’re a Strictly Come Dancing fan there are opportunities to learn from the Strictly professionals.

Crossword cruises

A grid with horizontal and vertical boxes that you fill in with answers to clues, 6 down 7 letters. Another word for holidaying at sea, 12 across 5 letters. That’s right, for those with an extensive vocabulary who find relaxation 100 pages deep in a puzzle book, a crossword cruise provides puzzles every day, whilst you drift to your chosen destination.

Canal cruises

barge on marne

Whether you choose a small self drive boat, a luxury hotel barge with Michelin standard meals or something in between, this is definitely life in the slow lane and a great way to unwind and savour the delights of the region you’re travelling through.

Adventure Cruising

Small ships carrying between 30 and 50 like-minded travel mates, small enough to dock where the big ships can’t, a sustainable style of travel, and local leaders to guide you along the way. Hug the coastline, be an explorer, swim from the boat; immerse yourself in the destination and its culture.

Cruises under sail

alternative cruises - sailing vessel

Use the power of the wind instead of the engines, as far as possible; the romance of the sailing vessels and their connection to the oceans is hard to resist. Choose from a cabin charter on a small catamaran carrying just 8 guests in the Caribbean or a 5 masted Tall Ship around the Greek Islands. Perfect for a honeymoon, but also for anyone craving the peace and romance of life on the water, without engines whenever the weather allows.

Planning your holiday with Silver Compass

Whether you’re interested in a relaxing holiday, one of the alternative cruises mentioned above  or any other kind of adventure, speak with your cruise experts at Silver Compass. We have a personal interest in cruising as well as years of experience planning and organising seamless holidays for our valuable customers – so you can be sure that we’ve done the leg work to make your cruise unforgettable. For more information or to tailor your cruise holiday, contact Bath’s cruise specialists today.