Ketchikan, Alaska, is a quiet town full of fishermen, forested hills, and the occasional totem pole, but on some afternoons, leather-clad gangs roar through town on their Harleys.
Havoc-wreaking Easy Riders? Not exactly. They’re Holland America cruise ship passengers on a group shore excursion, one of the increasing number of unique, adventurous—outrageous, even—options that cruise lines are offering to their customers.
“The lines have been ramping up ships with amenities like rock climbing walls and ziplines to draw a younger, more active crowd,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of Cruisecritic.com. “It makes sense that they’re doing the same for shore excursions.”
Furthermore, while a traditional cruiser may be content with motor coach tours, onboard casinos, and multiple trips to the buffet, this new generation of thrill seekers wants “more to ‘do, rather than view,’” says Lee Lennon, Yachts of Seabourn’s director of Destination Services. “And they want to go back and make their friends say, ‘Wow!’”
Some of these wow factors involve vehicles—fast ones that spin, swoop, skid, or screech. For instance, go sailing with Crystal Cruises from St. Petersburg, Russia, on its summertime Baltic cruises, and you could end up flying a Soviet MiG.
At the Sormovo Air Base, on the outskirts of the historic Nizhny Novgorod, participants undergo a physical exam and flight instruction before strapping on a helmet for a dizzying journey up over the Russian countryside at speeds of up to 1,536 mph—that’s twice the speed of sound. The cost for this two-day extension: a whopping $46,000.
Less pricey—but just as adrenaline-fueled—is a cage dive off the coast of South Africa, into waters infested with great white sharks. While not known to be man-eaters (though their reputation says otherwise), the torpedo-shaped creatures—which can grow up to 20 feet in length—swim up menacingly close to the five-man steel cage, close enough for glimpses of their razor-sharp teeth. Crystal Cruises also offers this outing, on its 19-day cruise from Mumbai to Cape Town, for under $500.
Cruise lines’ growing list of extreme shore excursions is so wide-ranging that you’re guaranteed to find something that floats your boat.