If you’re one of the nearly 90 million people who has taken a cruise in the past 20 years, you know the joys of a vacation on the water.  You’ve smelled that sea air, felt the openness of the night sky over the ocean, and enjoyed the ability to move from port to port, sampling what the world has to offer.

But if you feel as if you’ve been there, done that, when it comes to cruising, you probably haven’t explored the world of specialty cruises, and the exciting new travel opportunities that they offer.

So we thought we’d give you a different take on the cruise vacation, and offer up some new horizons to explore.

See the World on Barges, Freighters, Tall Ships

River or Barge Cruises: The open ocean has its charms, but most civilizations grew up on the banks of great rivers. River or barge cruises travel down the waterways that have shaped history.  Drift down the Rhine River past medieval castles, or sail up the Nile by ancient temples.  The pace is relaxed, the barges are small, and you can explore historic sites that are deep inland. Sometimes, the barge drifts so slowly, you can ride your bike along the river, and catch up with your cruise in the next town.

Tall Ship or Sailboat Cruises: Experience the romance of the high seas by booking a cruise on a sailboat or tall ship.  Charter a sailboat for a small group, or go bigger on a tall ship that carries up to 300 people.  It’s a less formal approach to cruising, offering you the chance to experience the ocean up close, with easy access to snorkelling, sailing and fishing.

Theme Cruises: Many cruise lines offer theme or special interest cruises that may appeal to you.  It may be an entire ship dedicated to a common theme, such as a Disney Cruise, or Holland America’s annual Jazz Cruise, or there may be a cruise where people who share a particular interest have blocked a number of staterooms and arranged for special guests.  There are scrapbooking cruises, baseball-themed cruises, and stargazing cruises, to name just a few.

Freighter Cruising: It doesn’t get more exotic than seeing the world on a freighter or cargo ship. No crowds, plenty of time to read.  A number of companies book cruises on freighter ships hauling cargo around the world.  They can run from a few weeks to as long as months, for as little as $90 to $150 a day, meals included.  Many have amenities such as swimming pools and exercise rooms, but leave your suits and cocktail dresses at home and see the world like a real sailor.

School at Sea: A number of programs offer the chance for teens, college students or even adults to take a semester at sea.  Programs such as Semester At Sea and Class Afloat are actual onboard schools where students study, and take part in working the ship.  They’re not luxurious, but they are an incredible chance to see the world for school credit.

Around the World: If you really want to go all out, cruise around the entire world.  Spend months on board, stopping in ports on almost every continent. These cruises typically leave in January and sail for more than a hundred days, stopping in such exotic ports of call as New Zealand, Hong Kong and Dubai.

With the cruise industry continuing to grow, and more ports around the world becoming accessible, there is no doubt that the variety of cruise options will also continue to expand.  You could be finding different ways to travel on the world’s waterways for years to come.

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