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Originally published Saturday, March 26, 2011 at 7:00 PM

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Cruise lines head to more remote destinations

Cruise lines are piloting trips to more remote destinations both at home and abroad. They are also staying in port longer and designating theme cruises that are far from singles mingles.

The New York Times

If your mental image of a cruise conjures a party boat island-hopping in the Caribbean, think again.

Although the Caribbean remains the busiest destination for cruise ships, cruise lines are piloting trips to more remote destinations both at home and abroad. They are also staying in port longer and designating theme cruises that are far from singles mingles.

Here's a look at some interesting new sailings.

Hawaii by yacht

Although Hawaii seems a natural for cruising, few lines operate regular cruises — an exception is Norwegian's Pride of America with weekly interisland cruises from Honolulu. In October, it will be joined by American Safari Cruises, a Seattle-based company that will station the 36-passenger Safari Explorer in the Hawaiian Islands into May 2012.

Eight-day tours will travel from Maui to the Big Island via Lanai and Molokai, and will include rides on Lanai and mule-riding descents into the Kalaupapa Peninsula on Molokai. Eleven-day trips follow the reverse course at a more leisurely pace. The mega-yacht will carry surfboards, paddle boards and snorkeling gear for guest use en route. Fares from $4,995 a person, double occupancy, all-inclusive.

www.americansafaricruises.com.

Small-ship Alaska cruises

Culture cruise: The new Alaskan Dream Cruises emphasize culture along with adventure in its cruises into Glacier Bay National Park with an onboard park ranger and a First Nations native guide. Other attractions include a performance by a tribal theater group in Icy Strait Point; kayak outings; and sea otter and whale watching.

Launching May 14, they will be the first overnight cruises from Sitka-based Allen Marine Tours. Its 78-passenger Admiralty Dream and 42-passenger Alaskan Dream will offer regularly scheduled seven-night departures from Sitka. The ships feature native Alaskan Tlingit artwork in the cabins and Alaska-raised food when possible. Fares start at $1,895 a person, double occupancy, on the larger ship, including excursions.

www.alaskandreamcruises.com.

Wild things: InnerSea Discoveries launches in May with two 49-passenger ships, the Wilderness Discoverer and Wilderness Adventurer, exploring southeast Alaska with emphasis not on ports but on the wilderness. Seven-night trips through September run between Ketchikan and Juneau, surveying channels that larger ships can't reach. Guests may hike in the Tongass National Forest, as well as kayak, paddle board and fish.

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Both ships include a stop in a native Tlingit village to learn about totem-pole carving. Life onboard features comforts like a sauna, yoga classes, and DVD players and iPod docks in the staterooms. In addition to its adventure orientation, InnerSea Discoveries (a sister brand to Seattle's American Safari Cruises) distinguishes itself with relatively affordable rates, starting at $1,795 a person, double occupancy.

www.innerseadiscoveries.com.

River cruises

Some river-based cruise lines offer routes in faraway inland places:

Southeast Asia: AmaWaterways launched its Mekong River cruises in 2009 with the 92-passenger La Marguerite. Responding to surging interest in Asia, this U.S.-based river specialist is expanding its offerings there, with a launch of the larger, 124-guest AmaLotus coming on Sept. 5. Onboard amenities include a Vietnamese hot-pot dining room and a spacious sun deck with a fitness room and swimming pool. But it's the stops that distinguish this trip.

The AmaLotus will offer seven-night sailings between Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In Cambodia the ship overnights in Phnom Penh after visits to rural pagodas and a Buddhist monastery. Vietnam highlights include a floating market, the town of Sa Dec, and Xeo Quyt, a canal-laced jungle that once served as a base for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Fares from $1,799 a person, double occupancy. www.amawaterways.com.

West Africa: The abundant wildlife found along the Gambia River, the main artery of Gambia, is the focus of a new Rivers of West Africa trip from the Greece-based company Variety Cruises.

The eight-day cruise departs from Dakar, Senegal, and travels down the Atlantic coast to the Gambia River, where ports of call and excursions include trips to Kiang West National Park, which has more than 250 species of birds; the Bao Bolong Wetland Reserve, home to Nile crocodiles and West African manatees; and River Gambia National Park, a refuge for hippos. Passengers also will be able to visit Joal Fadiouth, a Senegalese fishing village partly set on a shell-covered island, and the Gambia National Museum in Banjul, the capital. Fares start at $2,240 a person, double occupancy, aboard the 49-passenger yacht Pegasus, from December through March 2012.

www.varietycruises.com.

Themed trips

Themed cruises appeal to travelers interested in everything from climate change to art. Among them:

.

Climate-change cruise: Few regions are as illustrative of global warming as the Arctic, with its retreating glaciers. Those attracted to snowcapped landscapes and drifting icebergs, with an interest in the forces that create — or imperil — them, are the target of the eight-day Climate Pilgrimage offered by the Norway-based company Hurtigruten. The line has offered a scientifically oriented departure for the past two years; the July 21 cruise covers some new ground in the Svalbard Archipelago, the Norwegian island chain that stretches roughly halfway from mainland Norway to the North Pole.

The ship will visit scientific-research stations on Spitsbergen Island and make its first call ever at Jan Mayen, an isolated Arctic island that is home to one of Norway's radio and meteorological stations. Zodiacs shuttle between the 318-passenger Fram and the shore, offering opportunities to meet with scientists as well as to explore the remote Arctic region on foot. Natural attractions include glaciers, icebergs and possible sightings of walruses and polar bears during the long days of Arctic summer. Fares start at $3,763 a person, double occupancy. www.hurtigruten.com.

Impressionism cruise: Claude Monet's home and gardens in Giverny have long been a popular stop on Seine River cruises in France. This November, Avalon Waterways aims to boost its appeal to art fans with an Impressionism-themed cruise.

The eight-day trip, departing Oct. 31, starts with a visit to the Impressionist-rich Musee d'Orsay in Paris, followed by a walking tour of Montmartre, where many painters resided. From Paris, the 140-passenger Avalon Creativity cruises north on the Seine with an art historian who will lecture on Impressionism. In addition to stopping at Giverny, the ship stops at Rouen, whose cathedral was a frequent subject of Monet's, and Le Havre, home to the Musee d'Art Moderne Andre Malraux, which houses an important collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Prices start at $2,349 a person, double occupancy. www.avalonwaterways.com.

Chinese medicine cruise: Rather than trumpeting abundant buffets, the London-based Sanctuary Retreats is offering cruises along the Yangtze River that focus on wellness and Chinese medicine. Operating between Chongqing and Yichang through the scenic Three Gorges region, the 124-passenger Sanctuary Yangzi Explorer will host on-board lectures on Chinese healing, treatments in acupuncture, a tea tasting and tai chi sessions on the outdoor deck.

In addition to viewing the gorge and the Three Gorges Dam, guests can take an excursion in a river longboat poled by traditional boatmen. Fares start at $1,200 a person, double occupancy, for the three- or four-night departures in June. www.sanctuaryretreats.com.

Kristin Jackson of The Seattle Times travel staff contributed to this report.

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