The Best Cruise Destinations For Spotting Wildlife

Here are the top places you’re guaranteed to find incredible local species.
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Underwater photo of turtle swimming in Barbados

With so many destinations to visit during a Royal Caribbean cruise, anyone can find their perfect vacation, whether that means exploring little-known Caribbean islands or immersing yourself in cultural powerhouses. Even animal lovers won’t get left behind, as we have plenty of itineraries that take you to the perfect spots for seeing—and even holding—some of the planet’s most unique inhabitants.

Think you’re ready for these up-close encounters? Read on to learn more about the incredible creatures you’ll see, plus how to visit these can’t-miss locations.


The Last Frontier is known for its rich, diverse range of wildlife, from humpback whales to roaming moose. One of the most unique is the King Crab, an indigenous shellfish that can reach a leg span of six feet. Just like the fisherman on Deadliest Catch, you can sail through the Inside Passage on a fishing tour for a chance to get a close-up view as professionals haul in these sizeable crustaceans. Luckily, Alaskan cruises take place from late May to early September, when the weather is mild and calm, so you won’t face wintry conditions.

You also can expect whale sightings, ideally from your own balcony on board, or catch a floatplane ride from Ketchikan with an experienced bush pilot to spot black bears, or bald eagles fishing for spawning salmon in the Tongass National Forest. During a cruisetour (a vacation package that combines your sailing with a multi-night land tour) to Denali National Park, keep your eyes peeled for wolves, caribou and Dali sheep.

St. Thomas

When people think of the Caribbean, marine life likely comes to mind—and with good reason. In St. Thomas, guests can swim with sea lions at Coral World Ocean Park, or take a catamaran to nearby islets to scout the striking snouts of the hogfish and beaked parrotfish that congregate near the coral reefs.

Large iguanas are especially prominent roaming the island, and were believed to have first reached St. Thomas on floating debris that carried them across the Caribbean Sea. You’ll find these herbivores lounging on warm rocks by the shore and scaling trees to sun themselves.

St. Maarten

One way to get a unique taste of the flora and fauna of St. Maarten—arguably one of the island’s most visible draws—is a visit to Philipsburg’s Butterfly Farm. You’ll learn about the metamorphosis of these delicate beauties and get unprecedented access to observe them within their enclosure.

For wildlife near the beach, a short boat ride offers opportunities to interact with dolphins, whether you remain on the boat or grab a kayak or paddleboard. You’re also bound to see local seagulls hovering just 50 feet above the waves.


Barbados’ lush forests are famous for their green monkeys, and you can hop on a four-by-four safari shore excursion to see them. If you’re lucky, some scurrying Barbados green lizards will appear, too.

The most exciting attraction of the island, however, is its hallmark sea turtle. The majestic Leatherbacks, found in the nearby waters, date to the time of the dinosaurs and are the largest of all living turtle species; they can grow up to seven feet long and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. You can visit their underwater world on a snorkeling expedition in the aptly named Turtle Bay. These friendly creatures are likely to swim right by you while you snorkel above a shipwreck—so remember an underwater camera for this surreal experience.


The Land Down Under is packed with animals to see, perhaps most famously its kangaroos and wallabies. But a much slower-moving native marsupial, the koala (which is not actually a “bear”), is notable in its own right. You can see all three at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, which opened in 1927 and remains the world’s largest koala refuge.

Since other shore excursions include the jumping crocodile cruise in Adelaide, we recommend koalas as one of the Australian animals worth getting close to during your trip. In this sanctuary surrounded by eucalyptus plantations—which supply the koalas’ diet—you’ll get the chance to hold one of the 130 furry inhabitants and likely snag some memorable shots as you do.

No matter which adventure strikes your fancy, you can find your perfect cruise to see exotic creatures up close here.