The walking adventures that will change your mind about cruise holiday

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From Michelin-starred restaurants to Cirque du Soleil performances and epic water slides to cooking demonstrations with celebrity chefs, cruise companies are constantly reinventing life on board, coming up with bigger and better ways to eat, drink and fill the time drifting from port to port.

But it’s not just the ship amenities that are being enhanced. The onshore offerings are also undergoing an overhaul as companies strive to find new ways for their guests to connect with the landscape and locals of each new destination.

Shore excursions are no longer about spending the day hopping on and off a coach, but increasingly aim to help guests really get under the skin of a destination.

And after a few days cooped up on board, there’s really no better way to do so than by stretching your legs and allowing your feet to take you to places that you’ve never been before.

Whether that involves clambering along a path that clings to a vertical cliff, stepping into the rainforest to hear the sound of exotic bird call or even climbing a volcano to cool off in the crater’s lake, many cruise companies are now offering walks in the company of expert guides who pepper the experience with insider knowledge and point out hidden treasures along the way.

 

There are also plenty of experts on hand to point you in the right direction if you’d prefer to be going it alone instead.

Below are some of the best walks on offer from cruise ports around the world. Some are accompanied, while some are perfect for those that prefer to breathe it all in in solitude. So what are you waiting for? Lace up your boots and put your best foot forward. The world’s great day hikes are only a cruise away.

Be serenaded by the world’s smallest primate

The spectral tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world, and one of the most romantic, so walkers in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi, may be lucky to hear the male and female “sing” a duet – one of many highlights while exploring the Malay Archipelago with Ponant on their new ship Le Lapérouse.

In partnership with National Geographic, this expedition sailing is led by a team of naturalists to explore the Kei islands, Triton Bay’s Karst islands, the Maluku islands in the Banda Sea and the historic island of Rhun, which the British traded for Manhattan in 1677.

15 nights from £5,373 per person departing Darwin, Australia. Departs Sept 8, 2020 (0800 980 4027; ponant.com).

The Call of the wild

Nobody would want to get lost in the 16.7 million-acre Tongass National Forest, the largest in the US, so a four-mile guided hike from cruise ship Ovation of the Seas safely showcases Alaska’s magnificent natural beauty. There’s also a chance to encounter native wildlife such as bald-headed eagles, bears, deer, moose and mountain goats during the walk across boardwalks, stairways and moss-covered forest trails that wind between towering hemlock, spruce and cedar trees. On board, guests can keep up their walking regime around the 348-metre-long ship during scenic cruising past mountains and glaciers.

Seven nights from £917 per person. Departs Vancouver, British Columbia on Aug 16, 2020 (0844 493 4005; royalcaribbean.co.uk)

A wee dram of whisky

Walkers exploring remote landscapes in the Western Isles of Scotland from MV Hebridean Princess are rewarded with picnics including a wee dram of the ship’s own blend of Scotch whisky.

Tours cater for most walking abilities and the Footloose Through the Inner Sound tour, alongside the magnificent Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, is led by guides who have an intimate knowledge of the terrain. Surrounded by the Black Cuillin mountains, 36 dramatic peaks of ancient volcanic landscape, guests are welcomed back to the jetty with a Pimm’s or coffee laced with Hebridean whisky, of course.

Seven nights from £3,895 per person. Departs Oban on April 28, 2020 (01756 704704; hebridean.co.uk).

Going underground in Okinawa

Hidden from the world until 1967, Gyokusendo Cave in Okinawa reveals its beauty to visitors on a two-mile walk through 300,000 year-old stalagmites and stalactites.

Passengers on Westerdam’s Taiwan, Japan & China Explorer cruise can follow a steel walkway that twists and turns over turquoise pools and a river filled with cave fish as trickling water echoes throughout the caverns. It’s a comfortable walk in the year-round temperature of 21C (69F) and at the end there’s an escalator back up to ground level. Guides are on hand in the Explorations Central lounge to assist guests with information while locals are invited aboard to give talks on their favourite haunts and offer useful phrases and insider tips.

14 nights from £2,199 per person, cruise only. Departs Hong Kong on Feb 1, 2020 (0344 338 8608; hollandamerica.com).

Safer, but just as spectacular

Malaga’s Caminito del Rey was one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, with missing sections of pathway and sheer cliffside drops, but the path has been repaired and new bridges, handrails and stairs added to create a spectacular, safe walking experience along the steep gorge in El Chorro. Guests on Saga’s boutique ship Spirit of Discovery can experience the exhilarating 4.7 mile-long (7.7km) trail on a four-hour tour during its Chic Mediterranean cruise. This also features a call to the Spanish naval port of Ferrol for a walk along part of the spiritual route to Santiago de Compostela, known as the Way of St James.

18 nights from £3,499. Departs Southampton on Oct 17, 2019 (0800 505030; saga.co.uk/ocean-cruises).

Caminito del Rey
Try a tour to Caminito del Rey CREDIT: GETTY

Meet the lighthouse family

Wind and sea conditions around Chile’s Cape Horn can be fierce so Ventus Australis passengers have no guarantee their ship can moor at the most southerly point of South America. Those who do manage to get ashore can walk to the lighthouse, where the lighthouse keeper and his family still welcome visitors. The ship continues to the calmer waters of Wulaia Bay, with flower-filled meadows and native trees, for a choice of three hikes of varying difficulty which all lead to a mountain peak with 360-degree views of the snowy Cordillera Darwin range.

Five days from £1,286 per person (cruise only). Departs Ushuaia, Argentina, and cruises to Punta Arenas, Chile with a choice of dates up until March 31, 2020 (0034 93 497 0484; australis.com).

Crouching dragons, sleeping volcano

Join local rangers on Rinca Island for a walk in search of Komodo dragons in their natural habitat on the refurbished MS Panorama II’s Indonesian Island cruise. Dragon-spotting is not staged on this off-the-beaten-track island and the carnivorous, three-metre lizards make a formidable sight. For a longer walk, head out across the rice fields in Bangsal and visit local sarong weavers for an insight into local rural life. The 25-cabin ship sails between island gems including Satonda Island, where passengers can swim in the salty lake of dormant volcano Mount Tambora, which last erupted in 1815.

Seven nights from £2,010 (cruise only). Departs Bali on May 23, 2020 (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com).

Step up to sweet sensations

Maple toffee on fresh snow is a favourite treat in Quebec and passengers on Queen Mary 2’s New England and Canada Transatlantic crossing can try the “candy” on a foodie walking tour of the old city. Learn how Quebec’s French heritage and modern North American influence has combined to create the city’s burgeoning food scene at eateries such as the Parisienne-style bistro Café du Monde, with its lively atmosphere and terrace views over the Saint Lawrence River, and La Petite Cabane, a little sugar shack filled with maple lollipops, maple syrup and maple herbal tea which make sweet gifts to take home.

14 nights from £1,899 per person. Departs Quebec for Southampton on Oct 16, 2020 (0344 338 8650; cunard.com).

The Path of Gods

Enjoy a walking workout while admiring views along the Amalfi Coast when Azamara Journey calls into Sorrento during her Intensive Italy cruise. From the hilltop village of Agerola trek 1,500 feet above sea level, following a guide along The Path of Gods through the countryside and hillside villages with Mount Pertuso looming on the horizon. After the three-hour hike unwind at a seaside café in the resort town of Positano where seafood is a king; try scialatielli ai frutti di mare, a dish made with seafood and fresh pasta or ricotta-filled ravioli sprinkled with grated lemon peel and mozzarella.

9 nights from £2,103 per person. Departs Venice to Civitavecchia (Rome) on August 11, 2020 (0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.com).

Search for giant water lilies

Awake at dawn to the sound of the Peruvian rainforest to look for river dolphins, giant otters and manatees from 28-passenger classic riverboat Amatista Amazon. Join daily ventures into the jungle where highlights include the Ucayali River hike to look for the Victoria Regia water lily, which has circular pads measuring up to three metres. Pacaya-Samiria Reserve is also on the itinerary and home to more 200 bird species and 10 primate species including the endangered Peruvian spider monkey (Ateles chamek) which lives in the tree canopy.

Seven days from £1,279 per person. Departs Lima on December 2, 2019 (020 7313 6944; gadventures.com).

Formula One by foot

The Monaco Grand Prix is the most famous ‘street circuit’ in the Formula One calendar and petrolheads on the 3,100-passenger P&O cruise ship Azura can walk part of the course where Lewis Hamilton and his rivals race for pole position. See the famous hairpin bends and corners, Casino Square and the entrance to the tunnel, as well as the mega-yachts in the marina, before the tour diverts for a viewing of Prince of Monaco’s Private Classic Car Collection of 105 vintage and veteran cars, including a 1929 Bugatti, a 1903 De Dion Bouton, a 1986 Lamborghini Countach, and a 1952 Rolls Royce.

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