A CRUISE wasn’t on Annemarie Tilton’s mind when planning a mother-daughter trip last year, but an 8-day, small-ship excursion to the Galápagos on Quasar Expeditions caught her eye. “It was not at all what I think of as a cruise,” said the 39-year-old Park City, Utah, physician, who liked its “very focused structure” of daily excursions and nightly lectures from naturalists. The trip, which cost about $8,950 a person, attracted a like-minded contingent of travelers who had a “common curiosity and desire to learn,” said Tilton.

This seminar-on-the-sea formula has become as much a draw for cruise travelers as “onboard casinos and pseudo-Broadway shows,” said Todd Nielsen who, as director of Eos Study Tours , in Walpole, N.H., develops educational itineraries for adults. Folks pay big for these kinds of trips. Becky Robinson, a travel adviser for Departure Lounge , paid about $50,000 for a 23-day Arctic cruise with Lindblad Expeditions that she said was “perfect for science nerds.” Here, cruises designed for learning on the go.

For Science-Fair Champs

Scientific expeditions have long been the mainstay of the New York City-based nonprofit Explorers Club. Recently, the French luxury line Ponant launched a collaboration with the storied organization to host 12 expeditions a year to remote locales around the world, including Papua New Guinea, the North Pole and Antarctica, each involving the guidance of different specialists chosen for their expertise in the region or subject area.

On the two-week “Northeast Greenland’s Unexplored Sea Ice” expedition , for example, Ulyana Horodyskyj Peña, a geologist and climate-change researcher, provides an expert’s perspective on icy landscapes such as the vast network of fjords at Scoresby Sound, as well as the variety of wildlife that travelers encounter. Another itinerary, the “Treasures of the Indian Ocean” excursion , brings visitors to a colony of tortoises on the untrammeled Aldabra Atoll, far off the southeastern coast of Africa. Not exactly Margaritaville. From $25,780 for the Greenland itinerary and $9,220 for the Indian Ocean trip, Ponant.com

For Infrastructure Nerds

Encountering major feats of engineering such as the Panama Canal can be the major draw of a cruise route for some travelers, says Alyse Cori, owner of Sonoma, Calif.-based Travelwize , part of the Virtuoso network of travel advisers . An infrastructure junkie herself, Cori recalls the joy she felt on an Explora Journeys cruise when the ship stopped at the Panama Canal and an expert explained the nitty-gritty details of the locks and gates.

Several 2026 trips from Princess Cruises include a transit of the Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, as part of their lineup, including a 67-day trans-Atlantic crossing which showcases both canals. Seabourn’s “22-Day Panama Canal Passage” luxury cruise , scheduled for November 2025, hits the Dominican Republic, Curaçao and Colombia before traversing the Panama Canal. Crossing from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean by way of a series of massive locks will leave even those who don’t nerd out over engineering giddy. From $9,349, Seabourn.com

For Holiday Hounds

Tauck may be known for European classical-music cruises, which combine visits to famous opera houses and concert halls with interactive presentations by musical scholars. But just as sought-after are the company’s river cruises that double as immersions in the holiday traditions of Germany and Austria.

Those on the hunt for Glühwein mugs and one-of-a-kind Nativity tableaux will find them in abundance on the 8-day “Christmas Markets Along the Danube” cruise , which includes shore excursions in Vienna, Salzburg, Linz, Passau, Regensburg and Nuremberg. The winter cruise extends beyond the greatest hits list of markets, too: Day 3, for example, includes a tour of a Christmas market in the privately owned Palace of St. Emmeram in Regensburg, Germany. Book now for 2025, as this year’s cruises are mostly sold out. From $3,990, Tauck.com

For Civil War Buffs

Some stops on the “Civil War Battlefields” tour by American Cruise Lines, planned for June 2025, are predictable: Fort Sumter, Chickamauga, Gettysburg. But others delve into lesser known chapters of the conflict over the course of a 36-day, 12-state deep dive. Along the route, guests engage with historians on the kind of minutiae military-history nerds thrive on. Want to chat about why the Battle of Hampton Roads signaled a sea change in naval warfare? Experts will oblige.

As guests make their way across the country, presenters come and go, lecturing on military strategy and historical figures. Musicians from port towns like New Orleans make an appearance, too, showcasing tunes from the time. Over the course of the trip, guests take three different vessels: a paddle-wheeler, a riverboat and a coastal cruise ship. From $24,700, AmericanCruiseLines.com

For Amateur Archaeologists

“My husband Richard says I’ve never met a ruin I didn’t love,” said lawyer Georgia Raysman. In 2022, the couple, who divides their time between New York and Nantucket, joined an Archaeological Institute of America cruise touring the Turkish coast. They loved it so much they plan to join the 15-day “Petra to the Parthenon” itinerary offered by the same company, scheduled for fall 2025.

“The lecturers they book as well as the people you’re sitting with at dinner make a trip like this worth your dime,” said Georgia. “No one is a dud.” On their coming trip, the Raysmans will board the 59-cabin Island Sky, where archaeologist and scholar Jenifer Neils is tasked with bringing the Giza pyramids, the Sphinx, Crete’s Palace of Knossos and the Acropolis into sharp focus. From $12,490, AIATours.org