Looking for a vacation that feeds the mind and soul? I love the experience of cruising on a small ship…the intimacy, the quiet relaxation, and the distinctive blend of personalities that makes each trip so unique…
Here are a number of truly great reasons to consider a cruise on a small expedition ship, river cruise ship or a hotel barge:
1. Smaller ships often put the focus on the environment, and offer programs to support green travel and the preservation of our natural habitat. Paul Gauguin Cruises offers a wonderful “Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Program” (for passengers aged 9-17) that encourages the exploration of our global oceans. This landmark program introduces young travelers to the extraordinary natural wonders of French Polynesia and gives them concrete experience and a practical knowledge of marine and island ecosystems. The overall goal is to motivate youth to act responsibly for their protection, and realize the ocean’s critical role in the survival of all life on our planet.
2. Shore excursions have a particularly intimate and specialized feel. SilverSea Cruises, for example, offers a “Conversations with a Sheikh” excursion in the port of Dubai, U.A.E. This excursion allows passengers to spend an evening in the company of royalty and with a tour and charity dinner at the palace of His Highness Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali bin Rashid Al-Nuaimi. During the outing, the knowledgeable and cultured Sheikh discusses issues and answers questions pertaining to the U.A.E., including politics, traditions, economy, family, and environment. What’s more, the proceeds of this dinner are donated to Al Ihsan Charity Centre, a non-profit organization committed to meeting the essential needs of children of mothers without spouses within the UAE.
Want that exclusivity to carry over into luxury and pampering meant just for you? Small ships can do that too! On each warm water cruise, Seabourn anchors at an idyllic island, such as Ko Kood in Thailand. Play water sports off the marina at the yacht’s aft end while the crew prepares a “Caviar in the Surf” beach barbecue with silver and linen service. The waiters serve chilled Champagne and iced caviar from a surfboard “bar” to guests who are waist-deep in the sea.
3. Small ships provide a unique blend of adventure and culture. Orion Expeditions Cruises informal motto is “Muddy by day, champagne by night.” From the Russian Far East to Borneo, and Antarctica to Papua, New Guinea, Orion travels to some of the most remote areas of the planet in an experience made complete by expert expedition leaders and speakers. It is the norm for marine biologists, naturalists, diplomats, artists, historians, explorers, chefs, ecologists and scientists to be aboard, and share their knowledge with guests, both in lectures and casual conversation. The perfect line for those who enjoy the “path less travelled.”
4. Small ships are not interested in being the biggest, just the best. They more effectively mirror the experience that made cruising popular in the first place — and have a sense of historical perspective. Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines has a 12-day April 2010 cruise commemorating the fateful journey of the RMS Titanic. Their ship, the Balmoral, will sail Titanic’s original itinerary, crossing the Atlantic and arriving at the site where the Titanic sank 100 years ago. At the site, a memorial service will be held to pay tribute to the brave passengers and crew who perished on that fateful night. The journey then continues to Nova Scotia for a visit to the cemetery where the Titanic victims were interred, and will sail to New York, the original destination of the Titanic.
5. Small ships allow access to smaller ports where larger vessels cannot dock; their visits can truly reflect the hidden beauties of region. Since they can visit more remote areas, many of these ships also have special excursion craft that allow passengers to get an up-close view of the area. For example, on Windstar Cruises Costa Rica itinerary, any ports of call are “wet landings.” A zodiac takes ship guests to the shore so they can enjoy the beaches and shore excursions. Hidden coves, narrow channels, and natural wonders can be explored to really take passengers further inside the cruising region.
Or, sail with Oceania Cruises and experience their Near Island Sea Kayak Adventure. In this memorable way to experience Kodiak’s natural beauty, passengers embark a sea kayak and circumnavigate Near Island and the surrounding islets. Passing by Kodiak’s small boat arbors, docks and canneries, guests will likely encounter bird species and sea life that likely will include endangered Steller sea lions, sea otters, puffins, cormorants, humpback whales, and salmon. With a light ecological footprint, take advantage of this unique opportunity to beach-comb, and do a bit of light hiking along the tidal pools.
6. Quite simply, small ships can provide experiences that are impossible to achieve on a larger ship. American Safari Cruises reports that their stop in Molokai, Hawaii, is a perfect example; they have spent extended amount of time on the island to create a unique experience there. It’s not a “buy it off the shelf” stop on your itinerary; big ships are not allowed to stop in Molokai at all, and there is no easy way for an independent traveler to get to the island. American Safari’s specific efforts in building trust in the community have resulted in a once in a lifetime exploration of this beautiful and culturally rich island.
7. Small ships attract a unique blend of fascinating people. Quite simply, you will meet, talk and explore with like-minded, exceptional people who desire a true adventure. The people who choose this type of voyage are not ordinary… they investigate the world through travel, culture, and adventure. Examine our incomparable world — its extraordinary characteristics, civilizations and creatures — with new friends who may rock your world of thought. Gain a new perspective on life through their exceptional eyes.