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5 Not-to-Be-Missed Cruise Excursions and Onboard Experiences

With ramped up land tours and onboard amenities, cruise lines are luring cruisers of all kinds.

U.S. News & World Report

5 Not-to-Be-Missed Cruise Excursions and Onboard Experiences

Caucasian couple admiring view from boat deck

Whether you want adventure or relaxation, with a raft of innovative excursions and experiences to pick from, there's a cruise for you.(Getty Images)

There are a myriad of cruises out there to choose from, ranging from massive ocean liners to intimate riverboat cruises and everything in between. And there's no better way to discover the joy of vacationing at sea like immersive activities in vibrant destinations. Whether you want to absorb the local culture and landscape with scenic bike rides, explore a private island or even trek a glacier, there are many experiences to pique your interest. Here are five standout excursions and onboard cruise ship experiences that are not to be missed.

Cycling and Hiking Tours
AmaWaterways River Cruises

AmaWaterways encourages guests to stay active as they explore different ports with complimentary bicycles (and helmets) on board its European ships. Along with free bikes, the river cruising company also offer complimentary bike tours, bringing cruisers from the sea to the shore with shoreside forays that can include anything from a picturesque tour through wooded hills and beaches along the scenic shores of the Inn River in Passau, Germany, or cycling along the Sava River and through Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade, Serbia. And in 2016, AmaWaterways will be introducing guided hiking tours. The best part? The guided biking and biking tours are included in the price of your cruise.

Hiking up a Glacier
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

The Europa 2 is a luxury liner that takes up to 500 passengers to some of the most picturesque and remote places in Norway. The line's Nordic by nature itinerary brings tourists dramatic mountain peaks, fjords and striking waterfalls and gives cruisers numerous opportunities to hike Briksdal Glacier or take a helicopter flight over the numerous fjords and massive glaciers in Olden, Norway. Additionally, the company offers Zodiac trips, which take passengers out on easily maneuverable inflatable boats to hard-to-reach areas. Experienced experts guide cruisers to hidden gems and allow them to get close to off-the-beaten-track areas.

Exploring a Private Island
Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean offers cruisers unique excursions on their very own private island. CocoCay is a 140-acre island located in the Berry Island chain in the Bahamas between Freeport and Nassau that's exclusively available to Royal Caribbean guests. Picture yourself exploring the island through guided nature walks, kayaking, snorkeling through the calm waters or bouncing around the island's water park. And if you're craving a little more adventure, take in the views of the white sandy beaches as you parasail 400 feet above land or visit a one-of-a-kind sunken replica of Blackbeard's flagship "Queen Anne's Revenge." The island is also a serene place to catch up on some rest and relaxation with three untouched beaches. What's more, there are also numerous natural splendors to explore, from impressive coral reefs to coconut palm trees.

Swimming with Stingrays
Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival offers an exhilarating excursion to Stingray City in the Cayman Islands on many of its Caribbean itineraries. Picture yourself on a sandbar surrounded by crystal clear water and numerous stingrays and tropical fish. With snorkeling equipment, it's easy to get up close and personal with the aquatic creatures. At any moment, you may find yourself surrounded by more than two dozen gentle stingrays who swim freely in only 3 feet of water.

James Beard Foundation Culinary Experiences
Windstar Cruises

Windstar Cruises, in partnership with the James Beard Foundation offers "The James Beard Foundation Culinary Collection" sailings that are designed for cruising food and wine aficionados who want to get closer to the cuisine culture of each destination on their itinerary by allowing them to experience top-notch regionally inspired gastronomy in each port of call. These sailings include a James Beard honored chef, who serves as the onboard culinary ambassador. On these select itineraries, guests can expect intimate cooking demonstrations with a master chef and savor a gourmet dish each evening.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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