If you think that the vast majority of cruises only involve the Caribbean, think again. Today’s cruises feature more varied, unique and exciting itineraries than ever before. While fun in the sun cruises continue to be the mainstay of most of the major cruise lines, the majority of those cruise lines also boast a handful of itineraries to more exotic – and unique – locales. Whether you’re looking for a bit of adventure off the beaten path, want to see a far-flung part of the world in an exciting and different way – or if you just want to learn something new that you otherwise never would – consider one of the following unique itineraries when planning your next cruise.

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The Galapagos Islands

Explore the part of the world that Darwin made famous – and where some of the most amazing examples of the diversity of nature are constantly on hand – by cruising around the Galapagos Islands. With approximately 60 islands, the Galapagos presents a wide array of options when it comes to enjoying a state of the art cruise. Celebrity’s Xpedition offers excellent Galapagos Island itineraries; you’ll never forget your visit to this compelling part of the world.

Photo Credit: Mariusz Kluzniak

Russia and Scandinavia

Get a sense of how the Vikings must have felt all those years ago as they sailed around remote parts of Scandinavia by booking a cruise through this cold, fascinating part of the world. Many Scandinavian itineraries also include jaunts into parts of Russia, making these trips exceptionally eye-opening and impressive. Stop in at St. Petersburg along the way to get your fix of big city life. Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea is one great option for Scandinavian cruises.

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Who doesn’t want to get to know Hawaii in an up close and personal kind of way? These tropical islands offer a bit of something for everyone, and itineraries in Hawaii are resplendent with frequent stops at impossibly gorgeous ports of call. One moment, you’re gazing at a majestic volcano; the next, you’re pondering the vast, blue sea. Norwegian’s Pride of Hawaii is one example of a ship that boasts such itineraries on a regular basis.

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New England

You don’t even have to leave the United States to experience an unforgettable cruise. Rediscover New England by cruising along its major waterways and coastlines. The Carnival Victory regularly offers itineraries around New England, especially when fall colors are in full “bloom.” Regardless of when you do it, though, this is bound to be a trip that you won’t soon forget.

Photo Credit: Mariusz Kluzniak

South Africa

A cruise itinerary based around South Africa allows you to combine the pleasure of being at sea with the thrill of spotting wild game animals in their natural environment. Indeed, a cruise around the southern part of this massive, wild – and largely ignored – continent can be a wonderful way to expand your horizons on many different levels. Some South African itineraries include loops around Madagascar, where scuba diving and topnotch beaches await. Orient Lines offers plenty of unique South African itineraries.

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Napa Valley

Wine connoisseurs take note: several small cruise companies regularly feature itineraries around California’s Napa Valley. In terms of being unique, this has to be one of the best options around. American Safari Cruises and Cruise West sail their ships round trip from San Francisco, allowing passengers to experience the Napa Valley in a whole new way. Learn something new – and try some phenomenal wine – by booking a Napa Valley cruise today.

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What could be more exotic and unique than Tahiti? This far flung group of islands has captured the imaginations of people around the globe. Several especially unique itineraries include stops at the Marquesas, where you can see a whole other side of island life. Majestic peaks, green vistas and tropical lagoons await those who take cruises in this corner of the world. The Regent Seven Seas’ Paul Gauguin offers one of the best Tahitian options.

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Australia and New Zealand

In a single cruise to the land “down under,” you can take in fjords, glaciers and other wild natural sights – along with amazing examples of man made wonders like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Indeed, Australia and New Zealand itineraries offer passengers a delightful way to experience modern marvels along with some of the most stunning natural sights on the planet. The Regent Seven Seas’ Mariner is one great way to experience it.

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As vast as it is, trying to get a real feel for the majesty of Alaska is nearly impossible when traveling by land. Cruising around its rugged coastlines, though, is a whole other story. Unique Alaskan itineraries often combine helicopter tours, fishing and other outdoor pursuits with more “common” cruise amenities and services. Most of the major cruise lines offer itineraries to Alaska, so you can take your pick from among several.

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East Asia

More and more cruise ships are offering itineraries to East Asia, which isn’t surprising considering what this part of the world has to offer. By booking a cruise on Oceania’s Nautica, for instance, you can check out ports of call as varied as Vietnam, Hong Kong and even the Great Wall of China. Cruising East Asia is one of the best ways to see a huge cross section of this culturally and historically compelling part of the planet.