Credit: Scenic/Silversea

10 most thrilling ways to take a cruise excursion from submarine to helicopter

Author: Steve Newman

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Cruise excursions can truly make your holiday one to remember, but they're not just on foot or by coach! Here are some of the exciting ways to adventure ashore.

If you want something a bit more adventurous on your excursions from the ship, then forget about the coach and take a submarine!

Here are ten ways to add a bit more zest to your cruise when going off ship.


Helicopters carrying about four passengers are becoming more and more common on cruise ships especially in the adventure cruising/expedition sector.

They offer guests unparalleled access to some of nature's most beautiful and least visited destinations. You can also get flights on land as part of an excursion with machines that can hold larger numbers.

Scenic Cruises use them to visit the Emperor Penguin colony on Snow Hill Island which is only accessible by helicopter. Scenic Eclipse is one of the only ships able to facilitate this rare once in a lifetime moment for guests visiting this region of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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Submarines or to give them their correct term submersibles are now a regular part of the expedition cruise industry allowing you to see life and your ship under the waves.

Used by Seabourn each environmentally friendly, battery-powered sub carries just seven people — six guests, three each in two clear acrylic spheres — plus the highly trained pilot guiding the journey.

Consider it the ultimate luxury perk on the ultimate luxury expedition ships: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness the wonders of the ocean.

They are used on their 14-night “Legend of the Icelandic Sagas “cruise visiting the waterfalls, thermal lava fields and fjords of Iceland and Greenland.


Zodiacs are the most flexible watercraft to approach beach landing, regardless of conditions. The boats flex with the movement of the swell and waves. And they’re light, flexible and fairly easy to get out of. You sit on the sides and hang on to the rope so you can get quite wet in choppy water.

They are used by Silversea on Silver Origin for the Galapagos expedition cruises. Where you can watch bellowing elephant seal bulls challenge each other in a spectacular display, step over iguanas basking in the sun and see species found nowhere else in the world.

Submarines are now a regular part of the expedition cruise industry. Credit: Seabourn


The DIB (Demaree Inflatable Boat) is a rigid catamaran-like structure with seats running on either side of the hull. They can be quite bouncy in choppy water, but you are higher up and can see more than in a zodiac. Disembarking is from the front via metal boxes.

They are used by UnCruise in the Sea of Cortes Gulf of Baja cruise which explores this natural wonderland letting you snorkel with Californian Sea Lion pups, indulge in whale watching and visit the small trapped in time mission towns of the Baja Peninsula from the Spanish colonial era such as Laredo.


A RIB is a lightweight but high-performance rigid inflatable boat built with a rigid hull and inflatable sides. They can have between four to sixteen seats and are stable, light, fast, very seaworthy and to be honest, are virtually unsinkable.

Fred. Olsen’s RIBs have capacity for up to 12 guests and excursions last approximately one hour. Unfortunately, the company haven't been running their RIB tours due to social distancing.

RIB excursions are something they are very keen to return to, but at the time of writing no definitive date has been set as to when or on which cruises. So, keep an eye on their site.

A RIB is a lightweight but high-performance rigid inflatable boat. Credit: Fred. Olsen

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Polar Cirkle Boat

As the name implies the Polar Cirkle boat is designed specifically for ice work. They have high benches for you to sit on and are single-hulled ice-strengthened boats that can get where zodiacs can’t. They are accessed by a set of detached steps on the beach and from the centre of the ship.

Used by Hurtigruten for their polar cruises in Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and Antarctica their adaptability means they are also ideal for the company’s repositioning cruises between the Poles in places such as the Caribbean, Patagonia, and the Alaskan and New England coastlines.

Whale boat

The Whale Boat as the name implies is based on the old rowing boats of the 19th-century whaling ships and are usually driven by a very powerful engine. They are very sturdily built and quite often driven straight up on the beach at speed.

Variety Cruise uses them when landing on some of the uninhabited islands/nature reserves such as the internationally renowned Cousin in the Seychelles.

Their eight-day “Cruise Through the Garden of Eden” visits nine islands with Giant Tortoises, bustling local markets and some of the most incredible birdlife and pristine beaches anywhere on the planet all on offer.


The Tender is the most common method for excursions from the ship. Depending on where in the world you are they can be completely enclosed or open-sided with protection from the sun. They can take anything between 12 t0 40 people depending on the size of your ship and have strict safety precautions and routines in place.

Star Clippers for example use the latter and a good example is the landing on the pristine Tobago Cays nature reserve in the Caribbean on their 14th January 2023 -7 nights Grenadine Island cruise on Royal Clipper calling at Martinique, Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada.

The Polar Cirkle boat is designed specifically for ice work. Credit: Hurtigruten


The Sampan is a general catch-all term used for riverboats that operate mostly in the tropical and equatorial regions. They are open-sided with a canvas roof to protect you from the harsh sun. They are small private boats accommodating around 16 passengers with a shallow draft to get close to the shore to view the wildlife.

Croisieurope uses them on their tours combining cruises and safaris to discover four countries: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. These boats criss-cross the waters of the magnificent Lake Kariba, with its amazing, lush landscape and incredible wildlife.

River Launch

The fast river launch is also known as a skiff and operates low in the water with a high-powered engine astern. Their slim long shape means they can get into the narrow tributary rivers and streams deep inside the rain forests.

Mundy Cruising use them on the Amazon where they refer to them as 'Launch Boats' which are auxiliary aluminium boats with two rows of forward-facing seats.

The cruise onboard the luxurious 32 Guest houseboat “Amazon” explores the remote Pacaya Samiria Reserve with monkeys and three-toed sloths hiding in the rainforest canopy, plus hoatzin, toucans and macaws gliding past.

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