So many of today’s cruise ships are of the mammoth variety carrying from 2,500 to over 5,000 passengers, however, more and more cruisers are looking at the smaller vessels that are available today. For me, I choose the smaller, club-like ships that offer fine service, cuisine and a lifestyle that is conducive for relaxation. Smaller ships offer an onboard ambiance that is hard to beat. Yes, you usually pay more money than you would for the giant ships, but isn’t a vacation at sea supposed to be the ultimate experience? We owe ourselves a good time! Today, we will discuss some of the possibilities available in the smaller cruise ship group.
Star Clippers, a tall ship company features relaxing 5-masted sailing vessels that are in fact mega yachts cruising to some of the world’s favorite locations. On these, you get an authentic sailing adventure with from 170 to 227 other guests onboard with you. You are offered many of the features cruise passengers normally enjoy such as good food, service and satisfactory cabins but in a more informal manner. You can watch on deck as crewmembers unfurl the sails in the wind and observe how the ship maneuvers with sail power. If there is a calm, then the vessel has engines to power you forward.
Traveling by sailing ship, you have the opportunity to cruise into off-the-beaten path ports of call. There are no crowds or long lines and you can experience a full range of water sports. You might even want to climb the mast to one of the passenger lookout crow’s-nests furnished with a comfortable settee, where you will have the grandest view of all.
The interior spaces are just as dazzling. You will find a three-deck atrium, three-level dining room featuring open-seating and fine food — and no tie is required. You have available a health club, lounge and bar with underwater portholes to view the sea life. The ships are 360 feet long giving you space to spread out.
On the teak deck outside will be comfortable chairs, lounges and nooks in which to hide away. There is an indoor/outdoor tropical bar and piano bar for your added enjoyment. The cabins are well laid out with all the amenities you may desire. There is actually an informal elegance on the Star Clippers that will satisfy your every vacation desire.
In port, after docking, you disembark at your own pace and can either take a taxi around some of the islands, or just stroll through the towns and later head for the beach for an afternoon. No fuss, no muss!
You sail to tropical islands in the Caribbean. You can swim with dolphins, get a good tan and read a couple of books. In the towns, there will be plenty of opportunities for shopping for gifts and perhaps something for you.
You can sail the tall ships to several locations on our planet: the Caribbean, Thailand’s Andaman Sea and Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago, sun-drenched Sicily, the Amalfi Coast, Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast.
Costa Rica becomes more popular as a tourist destination every year and you can “tall-ship” there to include Panama and Nicaragua if you choose.
Another company with tall ships is Windstar Sail Cruises offering about the same onboard experience as discussed. They sail the Caribbean and Mediterranean stopping at all the wonderful, exciting ports of call you don’t want to miss. These sailing ships offer an experience that is 180 degrees from the ordinary.
Another company you should look into is Tauck Small Ship Cruising, which charters various vessels for your enjoyment. It features some deluxe, French-owned ships and yachts with creative itineraries to European areas as well as Peru and the Galapagos Islands.
Le Boreal, new this year, is 10,700 gross tons, 466 feet long, carrying only 224 guests in deluxe comfort. It can cruise you to Venice and the Dalmatian Coast, Iceland and St. Petersburg and the Baltic Sea. Imagine enjoying French cuisine and complimentary wines with lunch and dinner every day while stopping in legendary ports of call. This is pure luxury! Tauck has its hands on several other ships, yachts and riverboats and the company is long established with a very fine reputation.
More and more travelers are choosing small yachts and boats to cruise the Greek Islands. One company doing this is Variety Cruises offering cruises for a few passengers to the Adriatic, the Red Sea and West Africa.
One itinerary from Athens sails to Poliegos or Kimolos, two small Greek Islands, Antiparos, Paros, Parikia, Delos, Mykonos, Syros, Kythnos and return to Athens. This company offers a fine selection of Greek Islands with all meals, adequate cabins with private facilities and good companionship.
You should also investigate the cruise lines with a little larger ships that feature interesting cruise itineraries to various parts of the world and also, in some cases, around the world adventure.
One line is The Yachts of Seabourn. This company has been in business for more than 10 years and is top rated for service, fantastic gourmet food and overall sea experience. Their ships are the Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend, which are 10,000 gross tons and 429 feet long. They carry only 208 guests in total luxury. This year the company added the larger Seabourn Odyssey and next year the Seabourn Sojourn will come into service, it will carry only 450 passengers in a ship of 32,000 gross tons. This is low density at its best! Room to move about and find a spot for yourself. You do pay more for this exclusivity however; it’s up to you and your budget. Another fine company in the same category is SilverSea Cruises. These two cruise lines offer cruises to many parts of the world including the more popular tourist destinations.
A new cruise line that began operation this year is Voyages to Antiquity. It purchased an older vessel, completely refurbished it with a new, lower density interior that features Greek officers and Asian crew. The owner once employed me and he specializes in deluxe ships with unusual and exciting itineraries. The ship is the Aegean Odyssey and is 11,563 gross tons, 461 feet in length, carrying 378 passengers. The food will be mostly Greek and Continental with fine service from the Asians. Again, this is a fairly low-density ship and you will have room to move about and relax. The interior will feel new.
On this ship you will cruise interesting ports of antiquity such as the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Holy Land, Egypt and the Red Sea. Places you may have read about in school and now possible to reach by a fine cruise ship.
One smaller ship I have had the pleasure to cruise aboard several times is the Discovery belonging to the British company, Voyages of Discovery. The ship was once the pride of Princess Cruises and was known as the Island Princess. It was the twin sister of the Pacific Princess, which was the famed Love Boat. Both ships were used in the filming of the popular TV show, which aired for 11 years.
In 2002 the ship was purchased by Voyages of Discovery, completely refurbished and placed in worldwide service offering travelers unique itineraries that may be combined into one, two and three months and more of cruising experience. During the times I have had the pleasure of cruising in Discovery many of the passengers were onboard for two and three months at a time. It becomes your home away from home with good food and great service.
The officers are British and crew is Filipino. The ship is older and feels more like a classic liner than the new, very modern ships placed in service in the last few years. Many of us old “sea dogs” really enjoy being in a ship with classic lines and interiors. The fares are more moderate than the vessels I have mentioned earlier in this article, but the overall experience is still good.
The Discovery is very friendly with many English passengers to visit with as well as passengers from other English-speaking countries. It is truly an international experience.
It features some of the best speakers giving interesting lectures while at sea. The subjects are always varied and the lectures are very fulfilling.
The remainder of this year the ship visits ports in the Mediterranean, North Africa, and then cruises south in the Atlantic to give a nice itinerary in the Caribbean before heading for an around South America experience this winter.
Next spring you can sail Discovery to the Baltic nations and Black Sea ports.
Discovery is larger at 20,160 gross tons and carries 650 passengers when full. She is 553 feet in length and rides very well through the seas.
I have many fond memories of the countries visited in this comfortable, classic ship.
We have covered a rather wide selection of ships and yachts that you may not have been familiar with and, believe me, there are many more.
Most travelers are familiar with the mass-market cruise lines of Royal Caribbean, Carnival and NCL, but there are many boutique lines you should investigate. Cruise the Web and you’ll be surprised.
Your experienced travel professional can also assist you with information and brochures.