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Been there, done that? 5 unusual cruises to familiar destinations

Cruise Advice

Given that our world only has a finite amount of coastline, you might think that cruise lines would have run out of ideas for new itineraries by now, but fear not, there are always new ports of call to be explored and the best way to see them is by small ship cruise. These are the most unusual cruises to familiar destinations to book now.

Planning a cruise itinerary is a complex business; factors to consider include airlift to your embarkation and debarkation points, the local price of fuel, port taxes, shore excursion options and cabotage laws. Yet every year we find that the inventive itinerary planners at our favourite cruise lines surprise us with fresh ways to explore destinations both exotic and familiar.

Of course, the key to unlocking the dazzling diversity of travel by sea is to choose a smaller ship. This allows you to access those secret coves, idyllic islands and small ports that are off-limits to the big mainstream ships; indeed, it allows you to access places with no travel infrastructure at all. So if you're feeling jaded by the prospect of visiting the same old ports on the same old ships, let us show you some of the myriad ways that an unusual small ship cruise can provide a different perspective...

1. Ponant - Corsica

French cruise line Ponant are experts in crafting more unusual itineraries across their fleet of stylish yachts. In September 2025 Ponant's original vessel, the tiny 32-guest sailing yacht Le Ponant, offers a series of 7-night cruises around the island of Corsica, sailing round-trip from Nice. It's unusual to find a Mediterranean cruise focused on such a small area, and as a result you'll get a real feel for the island's strong sense of identity, regional traditions and spectacular natural beauty as you sail from north to south.

Le Ponant's small size means you will often find more unique itineraries on this vessel, including hidden gems in Croatia and unusual Greek Islands beyond the normal tourist trail.

Calvi Bay, Corsica

2. Oceania Cruises - Estonia, Finland, Poland & Sweden

If you've already been to the Baltic and you'd like to see more, take a look at Oceania's Northern Europe voyages for 2024 & 2025 which feature several unusual and lesser-travelled calls. Highlights include the charming Estonian island of Saaremaa; Finland's verdant island city of Kotka; buzzing Szczecin and Gdansk in Poland with their striking architecture; and the Naval Port and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Karlskrona, Sweden.

Oceania are known for their port-intensive itineraries so if its destination immersion you're looking for, then a voyage with Oceania offers a fantastic way to explore. Plus, their inclusive pricing often provides Shore Excursion credit so you can take advantage of a range of tours to suit your interests.


3. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises - The Great Lakes

Very few ocean-going cruise ships are able to navigate the Saint Lawrence Seaway and reach the Great Lakes of North America, so we always let our clients know when new cruises here go on sale. Hapag-Lloyd's 230-guest expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration offers two Great Lakes itineraries each Autumn in 2024, 2025 and 2026 visiting charming lakeside towns, vibrant cities and tranquil wilderness.

The voyages either include a transit of the St Lawrence River during which you will visit Québec and Montreal and sail through the waterway's locks, or they will be self-contained sailings within the lakes sailing through Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and to the northern shores of Lake Superior. Plus, sailing at this time of year means you will be in with a chance of experiencing the region's incredible autumn colours.

Mackinac Island, USA

4. SeaDream Yacht Club - The Bahamas

SeaDream's 112-guest yachts are one of our favourite ways to explore the islands of the Caribbean, offering a fantastic opportunity to discover some of the region's lesser-travelled isles. Our interest was piqued by a handful of more unusual itineraries in April 2025 & 2026 sailing out of West Palm Beach and focusing on the quieter corners of the Bahamas.

The beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters are as you would expect, but the swimming pigs and Pablo Escobar connections may not be! The relaxed yachts of SeaDream come into their own in this region, nimbly navigating hidden coves and serene bays, and this will truly feel like you're exploring on board your own private yacht.

Swimming pigs, Big Major Cay, Bahamas

5. Paul Gauguin Cruises - Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands

Lots of cruise lines make intermittent calls in the South Pacific, with the more common calls being Tahiti and Bora Bora, but the 330-guest Paul Gauguin has been operating here year round for over 20 years, sailing the Society Islands plus further afield during longer itineraries. Pick a 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands cruise to take in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Fakarava in the Tuamotu archipelago and the even more remote Marquesas to explore idyllic, unspoiled landcapes.

The best way to discover the treasures of these isolated outposts is by small-ship cruise, sailing from island to island whilst enjoying the Pacific hospitality on board the Paul Gauguin, plus you can also combine your cruise with a longer trip to visit family and friends in Australia or New Zealand.

Meet the author

Louise is Marketing Executive at Mundy Cruising, having worked with the company for nearly a year and in travel for over 8 years. Most recently she's cruised on Explora Journeys and has also sailed with Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Seabourn, Ponant and Uniworld. Her favourite destination is New Zealand however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Mediterranean, Pacific Islands, Norwegian Fjords, Indian Ocean and South Africa. When she’s not travelling she loves cooking and trying new restaurants.

More about Louise

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