When you hear the word ‘cruise’, what springs to mind? Ships the size of small countries? Cabaret shows? Aquaparks? Feeding of the 5,000? For an alternative cruise experience – one that keeps you away from the crowds, seeing and doing something entirely different – TravelLocal has some unusual cruises for adventurous travellers looking for a high level of comfort and service, minus the hackneyed, and minus the hullabaloo.

Here are TravelLocal’s top five alternative cruises. Each itinerary can be tailored in any way to suit different interests and budgets:

INDIA: Shiva temples and tea plantations

Kaziranga National Park
Kaziranga National Park

Discover the highlights of India’s rural north-eastern states on this 13-day river cruise, including stays in Calcutta and Dibrugarh as well as a one-week river cruise on board the charming 24-berth ABN Charaidew. Spot wild elephants and the endangered Indian one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, explore Shiva temples, cruise alongside the Ganges’ River Dolphin and visit the fascinating river island of Majuli (a centre for handicrafts). River Cruising in Assam costs from £4,920 pp (two sharing), including a seven-night full-board cruise.*

VIETNAM: luxe life and basket boating
From Halong Bay to Hanoi, this is a new and unique way to cruise Vietnam’s enthralling network of rivers in splendour, staying in cabins furnished in brass and teak. See extraordinary karst rock formations, dating back 20 million years; explore caves in basket boats rowed by fishermen; sail along the Black River and wander through rice terraces. The 11-day Cruising Northern Vietnam trip costs from £2,930 pp, including full-board accommodation.*

SENEGAL: Sailing up the river, Senegal on one side, Mauritania on the other

Touba Mosque Senegal

One aspect of this tranquil, six-night cruise is seeing the stark contrast between Senegal and Mauritania. Travelling by water enables you to reach remote destinations, to visit traditional Senegalese villages and to meet the local nomads. The cruise boat has 27 individual cabins, a restaurant, two bars, a swimming pool and an outdoor terrace (great for spotting river wildlife such as flamingos, waterbuck and aardvark). There’s time to explore Dakar, too, and there’s a night spent camping under the stars in the Lompoul desert. The ten-day Senegal River Cruise costs from £1,870 pp, including full-board accommodation.*

INDONESIA: Lavish live-aboard archipelago exploration

Painemo Raja Ampat West Papua
Painemo Raja Ampat West Papua

Step aboard Katharina, a luxury yacht for just 14 passengers attended to by a crew of 12. Communal areas include a large air-conditioned lounge space with a television and music, equipment includes sea canoes, and there’s a dedicated chef who cooks local delicacies. Discover two of Indonesia’s most unexplored archipelagos, the Spice Islands and Raja Ampat. Learn about Dutch colonial history, hike to the summit of Fire Mountain, and kayak through Timolol Cave’s hidden lagoon. The ten-day Cruising West Papua and the Spice Islands trip costs from £4,900 pp, including full-board accommodation.*

GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS: dual-purpose boat for divers and naturalists
This two-week tour is split between the city of Quito, a beautiful lodge deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and an eight-day cruise through the Galápagos islands, enjoy seeing white beaches, turquoise waters, saltwater lagoons, sea lions, iguanas, and incredible marine and bird life. The Galápagos Aqua is a rather special boat: it offers a unique combination of both live-aboard diving safaris as well as naturalist-guided cruises to understand what makes the islands themselves so otherworldly. The 14-day Ecuadorian Andes & Galapagos Cruise costs from £4,420 pp, including accommodation and most meals.*

For more information, or to plan a tailor-made trip to suit your personal interests and to match your budget, call TravelLocal on +44 (0)117 325 7898 or visit www.travellocal.com. *Prices are based on two sharing. TravelLocal trips include B&B accommodation, transfers, excursions and the services of a local guide. Travel to the destination is not included, giving more flexibility and allowing customers to book their flights via points schemes if preferred.