Four of the Best Cruise Destinations To See Penguins

Four of the Best Cruise Destinations To See Penguins

On a cruise, it’s all about indulging in your favourite pastimes and interests (even if that’s just unwinding on a sun lounger all day every day!). However, for the more adventurous cruisers out there, cruises can be a fantastic opportunity to see incredible wildlife up close, such as sociable and absolutely adorable penguins! 

These charming flightless birds can be found scattered across the Southern Hemisphere and are best seen in their natural habitats, conveniently via cruise. 

If you’re a mega-penguin fan (or just a keen animal enthusiast in general) and want to know where you can see colonies of playful penguins, read our blog below to discover our top four best cruise destinations to see penguins, details on what cruise lines travel to these unique locations and what kinds of itineraries to expect. 


One of the most secluded, far-flung, lonesome places on earth, Antarctica, is actually teeming with penguin colonies quietly living on the continent’s icy shores. The most common species of penguins in the Antarctic include King, Adelie, Macaroni, Chinstrap, Emperor, and Gentoo. 

To see a variety of species, you can head to South Georgia Island, east of the Falkland Islands, to experience the noisy community of the local penguin population, which includes swarms of King, Chinstrap, Macaroni and Gentoo Penguins. There’s an equally large abundance of penguins on Elephant Island, off the coast of Antarctica’s mainland, which despite its name is an ice-capped haven for these flightless creatures. 

You can see thousands more penguins on Deception Island, located in the South Shetland Islands, plus explore the area’s captivating volcanic terrain, derelict British base and frozen glaciers. 

A variety of major cruise lines, plus expedition-specific lines, sail to Antarctic destinations, including Silversea, Hurtigruten, Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Azamara, and Holland America Line. Itineraries can range from Antarctic-specific voyages, starting from the very southern tip of Argentina, World Cruises, or American cruises. 

New Zealand 

Magical New Zealand is an idyllic, must-visit destination for any curious traveller keen to see incredible sights – like huge colonies of penguins! On South Island in New Zealand, in the picture-perfect town of Akaroa, you can see the largest colony of Little penguins, also known as little blue penguins- or simply blue penguins. 

You can get an even closer look at these blue penguins at the Banks Peninsula, just outside of the nearby Christchurch.

Many major cruise lines actually sail to Akaroa itself, such as Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines itineraries, which include a variety of port calls at iconic Australian and New Zealand destinations. 

Further south on New Zealand’s Southern Island lies the popular penguin-spotting town of Oamaru, home to blue penguins and yellow-eyed penguins. Blue penguins are at the aptly named Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony tourist attraction, just outside of Oamaru itself. 

To potentially catch a glimpse of the more elusive yellow-eyed penguins, head to Bushy Beach Scenic Reserve in the late afternoon. Visitors aren’t permitted on the beach itself at specific times of the day, but if you have a good pair of binoculars packed you may be able to spot one of these waddling creatures from one of the nearby vantage points in the reserve. 

Oamaru is around a 90-minute drive from DunedIn cruise port, frequented by major cruise line Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Ponant Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, and Cunard on Australian and New Zealand-focused itineraries. 

South Africa 

Sunny South Africa is not only home to cascading landscapes and taste-bud-tingling wines but also hordes of African penguins! They inhabit several locations across South Africa’s coastline, including the famous Boulders Beach, approximately a 50-minute drive away from Cape Town. 

Here, you can get up close and personal with a huge colony of penguins, which swarm this outstanding location, part of Table Mountain National Park. The beach itself is sheltered in between granite boulders and is great for swimming too. 

You can also see African penguins nesting on the nearby Foxy Beach, just a short walk from Boulders Beach.

Both major family-friendly cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises, plus luxury and traditional lines, including Cunard, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Azamara and Celebrity Cruises, sail to Cape Town on South African intensive voyages and Indian Ocean itineraries too. 


Perhaps one of the most renowned locations in the world to see wildlife, the Galapagos is a distinctive archipelago off the coast of Ecuador home to endemic Galapagos penguins and Banded penguins. Galapagos penguins are a particularly special breed, as it is the only species of penguin that can be found north of the equator. 

Penguins can generally be seen all over the Galapagos Islands, but they are most commonly found living near the shores of Santiago Island, Fernandina Island and Isabela Island.

Hurtigruten, Silversea and Avalon Waterways regularly operate Galapagos Islands-specific cruises, as well as Celebrity Cruises, via their three expedition ships: Celebrity Flora, Celebrity Xpedition, and Celebrity Xploration. 

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