A growing number of cruises enable amateur holidaymakers to help with important research — so-called ‘citizen science’ schemes that are fun and easy to contribute to.
Here are five options that combine research and relaxation for some real R&R…
Aid aurora knowledge in Norway
Scientists accompany every Hurtigruten cruise, and often require help. One such opportunity comes in Norway, where you can combine seeing the Northern Lights with boosting boffins’ understanding of the beautiful phenomenon via website: Aurorasaurus.
Every time any form of green, red or lilac swirls appear in the night sky, passengers are shown how to send on their observations.
Should no sightings materialise, Hurtigruten will compensate you with a gratis six or seven-night sailing — effectively a second chance.
Try your luck first on its Northern Lights & Charter Flights package, which follows Norway’s fjord-ridden coast from Bergen.
11 nights from £1,849pp, including all flights, departures until March 14, Hurtigruten
Help whale sharks in the Maldives
While many cruise lines encourage the support of whale-tracking apps, a Maldivian adventure goes further. Roaming the typically idyllic South Male and Ari Atolls courtesy of a local-style gulet sailboat, you’ll undertake two whale-shark safaris with a coordinator of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Program.
This includes helping to take the beasts’ measurements underwater. Other days see you visit a coral nursery, learn about sea turtle conservation efforts and join beach cleans. In between comes plenty of time for snorkelling and sunbathing on empty sandbank islands.
Seven nights from £1,550pp, full board, including all activities, next departs December 3 and February 4, Responsible Travel.
Count penguins in Antarctica
Polar Latitudes was one of the pioneers of citizen science efforts in Antarctica back in 2010 — something now offered by almost every liner visiting the White Continent.
This year has heralded a new scheme with Oceanites Penguin Count. During daily shore excursions from the pool-equipped, 139-person MS Seaventure, guests are encouraged to tot up the flightless birds they see before reporting to on-board scientists from the non-profit research programme. Population counts help Oceanites assess the state of surrounding eco-systems.
You can get involved on a trip departing from Ushuaia on February 29 hoping to cross the Antarctic Circle.
14 nights from £7,225pp, full board, including transfers, pre and post-cruise accommodation and wi-fi, Polar Latitudes.
No Barrier to progress
Focused on Australia’s wondrous but vulnerable Great Barrier Reef, Coral Expedition Cruises has partnered with the Australian Geographic Society for an ongoing series of citizen science cruises where you’ll have special access to marine research stations and wildlife rehabilitation centres.
Setting sail from Brisbane on March 19, the third visits far-flung atolls in focusing on turtles and rays, but also sees you monitoring mangroves, coral and other reef-based species. It’s open to just 70 guests on the small, sleek Coral Discoverer.
Ten nights from £5,225pp, full board, including tips, entry fees and excursions, Coral Expeditions.