Cruises are back, but don’t settle for behemoth ships and all-you-can-gorge buffets. Instead, float your boat aboard these smaller, adventure-bound alt-cruises. Say buh-bye, Love Boat. It’s adventure-vessel time.
1. Asian Water World
Ship: Bhaya Legend Location: Halong Bay, Vietnam
Emerald-green waters, towering limestone islands and secluded beaches make Vietnam’s expansive Halong Bay a ringer for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The best way to experience its surreal scenery is aboard a cruiser styled like the region’s traditional wooden junks. Typical three-day Bhaya Cruises excursions include kayaking to floating fishing villages and going ashore to explore karst caves. Premium-level ships have no more than seven cabins; amazingly, a one- to three-cabin Legend ship, complete with a chef, a butler and—oh, yes—a captain can be privately chartered for less than the cost of a new laptop.
From $375–$1,500, depending on ship size and tour duration.
2. Rain Forest Ranger
Ship: Dolphin I Location: Amazon Basin, Peru
At first glance as it glides into Peru’s flooded Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, the Delfin I looks like an eccentric, triple-decker houseboat—until you spy its quartet of spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and private terraces. And then there’s the stylish topside observation lounge, from which a max of eight passengers can spot tropical birds, caimans, manatees and fabled pink river dolphins while imbibing a pisco sour (or two). Disembark for activities such as paddleboarding to meet local ribereños who live along the banks, traversing a walkway through rain forest treetops and fishing for—zoinks!—piranha at sunset.