Norway-based Hurtigruten gained its sea legs in the country’s famed fjords. The line, established in 1893, still operates 11 vessels there at any time but has extended its expertise in cold weather climes to polar cruises. In June and July, its 318-passenger MS Fram, the newest ship to sail the Arctic, offers unique departures to Greenland, an island nation so remote — it is 81 percent ice covered — and lightly inhabited that there are no roads between coastal towns. Nine- and 12-day itineraries feature rugged hikes, glacier visits, and iceberg viewing in the company of staff biologists, geologists, and historians.

From July through September, the Fram and the 105-passenger MV Polar Star chart 23 departures to and around the Arctic island of Spitsbergen, halfway to the North Pole from Norway and home to dramatic fjords, historic settlements, and — the safari quarry of the launches — polar bears.

In the Northern winter (the Southern Hemisphere summer), the Fram repositions to offer cruises to Antarctica from Ushuaia, Argentina. Twelve- to 20-day itineraries visit colonies of Chinstrap, Gentoo, and Adelie penguins; land on the Antarctic mainland at Neko Harbor favored by feeding minke whales; and cruise by bergs one mile in length.

American Safari Cruises
American Safari Cruises’ 22-passenger Safari Quest
Image courtesy: American Safari Cruises
When actors Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson wanted to see Alaska together with their families, they went with American Safari Cruises. Among the myriad ways to explore the 49th state by sea, American Safari Cruises corners the luxury market with three yachts featuring capacities of 12, 22, and 36 guests, each with heated-tile bathroom floors, balconies, anda two-to-one guest-to-crew ratio.

Creature comforts covered, American Safari uses these small ships — loaded with kayaks for guest use — to poke into channels that even 100-passenger ships can’t. During the summertime in Alaska, the fleet spends days in Glacier Bay National Park, offering hikes up to the glaciers. In Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, December through April, the 22-passenger Safari Quest calls at remote snorkeling coves, drops guests for hikes on deserted islands, and plies the mating grounds of blue and sperm whales.

Exploring Alaska’s coast with kayaks stored on the cruise line’s ships
Image courtesy: American Safari Cruises
Next October, American Safari will launch in Hawaii, where the 36-passenger yacht Safari Explorer will stow paddle boards, snorkeling gear, wet suits, sailboats, kneeboards, surfboards, and a rope swing for diversions at and between Maui, Lanai, Molokai, and the Big Island.