LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall 2016 | The Cruise industry has certainly experienced a number of setbacks over the years, but it continues to persevere every season. The cruise lines are always thinking outside of the box to expand their offerings while developing travel experiences for cruise-goers of all budgets, ages and desires.
As with any travel planning, be sure to familiarize yourself with the cruise lines and their individual ships/itineraries; but we recommend go a step further. Travelers should study the ports (arrival time, length of time at the port and accessibility from the ship to the port) and the actual ships (size of the ship, stateroom layouts, diversity of dining options and the age of the ship). For example, smaller ships are often ideal for arriving and disembarking quickly at ports, but depending on the location and time of the year, it could be a very rough ride getting there. In short, do your homework!
Working with Heidi Allison-Shane and her team at CruiseCompete, we have put together a collection of popular cruise choices for those trying to make an educated decision on which ship is best fitted for their next getaway. Heidi has provided her own personal notes and experiences for many of these cruise options, which are found below – a priceless tool for planning your next cruise. Learn more: cruisecompete.com
After over 40 years of experiencing the industry from every angle, I can truly say that I love the cruise industry. My son William tells me that I was born for this business, and it is probably true. Life’s experiences are like sampling ice cream – sometimes you are in the mood for different flavors and, like a gourmet ice cream shop, the cruise lines offer you a taste of everything. Having been in the cruise industry since the mid 1980s, I can honestly say that each and every cruise line truly cares about making every voyage on their line an experience to remember.
The cruise lines consistently work to raise the bar on everything they have to offer, down to the smallest detail. The ultra-luxury lines have your cabin stocked with your favorite liquors as you arrive, and small gifts to make you feel welcome. Personal butlers hasten to grant your every wish. Private tours of the off limit parts of the ship are quickly and courteously arranged. From cutting-edge technology onboard to the latest sporting adventures and equipment, and from the private islands and over the top experiences you may never have anywhere else to making the pre-boarding and departure process palatable; the opportunities with cruising are infinite.
With the amazing assortment of value-added features – specialty restaurants, incomparable wine lists, private nannies, comprehensive children’s programs, and once-in-a-lifetime shore excursions, the cruise lines are unfailingly looking for ways to create memories for a lifetime, and to send you home revitalized and rejuvenated. The ultra-luxury lines take this attitude to uncharted heights. You will of course pay more, however the adage of “you get what you pay for” correctly applies in this instance.
— Heidi Allison-Shane | President, CruiseCompete
Start Planning Your Next Cruise…
RIVER CRUISE LINES
AmaWaterways | amawaterways.com
Award-winning AmaWaterways was an industry leader when creating ocean-cruise-style amenities and design elements for its riverboats. These included spacious staterooms with French balconies (sliding doors with railings) or Twin balconies, glass elevators, plush robes and luxury bedding, marble bathrooms, complimentary Internet, Wi-Fi access and Infotainment Systems; the newer vessels have heated swimming pools with swim-up bars. The boats, which are among the newest in the world’s rivers, sail itineraries in Europe, Russia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Africa.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This is truly a family owned and operated river cruise line. Do not be surprised if you run into one or both of the owners onboard, Rudi or Kristin. They operate this river line with a keen eye to detail, and their mission is to inspire the entire staff to peak performance for all of the guests. You really cannot imagine the wonder and beauty of seeing medieval towns and castles up close and personal. AmaWaterways also has a very unusual river cruise & safari that visits Africa and, unlike the other river itineraries, the focus is on the exotic wildlife of the region and visits to small villages.
American Cruise Lines | americancruiselines.com
American Cruise Lines specializes in a unique style of small ship cruising along the inland waterways and rivers of the United States. Thirteen fascinating itineraries include the Pacific Northwest, Maine, New England Islands, Hudson River, Chesapeake Bay, the Historic South & Golden Isles, Florida, Alaska and the Mississippi River aboard the brand new paddle wheeler Queen of the Mississippi. With no more than 150 guests on board, passengers experience each port of call, up close and personal, all while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow travelers and the exemplary service that is the hallmark of American Cruise Lines.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This line has been one of the most popular requested on CruiseCompete. Why? It’s the perfect way to see some of America’s beauty and history. From the Mississippi to the Columbia and Snake rivers, to the inside passage of Alaska, cruising with them gives you truly the comforts of your own home.
American Queen Steamboat Company | americanqueensteamboatcompany.com
Stroll through charming towns and vibrant river cities. Explore historic ports of call like New Orleans, Natchez, Mark Twain’s Hannibal, Chattanooga and Pittsburgh, just to name a few. Along the way, you will learn about the great events and people that have contributed to America’s history and culture. Your steam boating voyage of discovery awaits you.
Heidi Allison-Shane: There’s no more unique way to experience the history, heritage and culture of America’s heartland than a voyage aboard a genuine steamboat – paddlewheel and all.
Amras Cruises | amrascruises.com.au
Amras Cruises is uniquely situated to provide the North American market with maximum value and flexibility, along with first-class service. Operations are based in Europe, close to the design and delivery of Amras’ exclusive products and superior onboard experience. The philosophy is to include as much as possible into the cruise and land price, so the Amras traveler can travel worry free. No need to think about gratuities, or which shore excursion to buy, or whether or not to have that afternoon Viennese coffee. It is all included.
Avalon Waterways | avalonwaterways.com
Avalon Waterways is a relatively young (2004) line. The boats that sail Europe’s waterways are the industry’s youngest, with staterooms among the largest. Avalon’s greatest concentration is in Europe.
Crystal River | crystalcruises.com
Crystal Cruises’ river yachts sail the rivers of Europe and combine the luxury offered by Crystal Cruises with the intimacy of river travel. The ships are all suite, butler-serviced accommodations and have the highest staff to guest ratio in all of European river cruising. Multiple open seating dining venues are available onboard. You will also find fitness centers and dedicated yoga areas on these ships.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Crystal is just breaking into the river cruise market and you can expect their usual high degree of personal attention and luxury. Expect its ships to be a “cut above” the others. This is based on the ultra-luxury market currently served by Crystal Cruises.
Emerald Waterways | emeraldwaterways.com
Emerald Waterways, sister to Scenic Tours (but with a lower price point), is new since 2014, the first new company to sail Europe’s rivers in six years. The line’s ships are new builds, each carrying 182 passengers, with accommodations ranging from solo cabins and staterooms to balcony suites and owners’ suites. The Emerald Panorama Balcony suite features floor-to-ceiling windows, which, at the touch of a button, drop down, to create an actual open-air deck area. Cabins have picture windows, spacious closets, high-end coffee machines, complimentary mini-bars, iPad/iPod docking stations with speakers. Passengers have use of a complimentary iPad during the cruise.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Although these ships are at a very reasonable price point, the ships are new and gorgeous. Very modern and I believe they all have a swimming pool, which is unusual in the river cruise market.
Imperial River Cruises | imperialrivercruises.com
Small older ships (some have had major refurbishments) designed for inland waterways cruising with outside cabins. The atmosphere is warm and homey. Meals – continental, Russian, Ukrainian, as well as cuisine of regions visited – are served in the ships’ dining rooms. Some ships have beauty parlors, bars, music salons and small shops; laundry service is available. This is destination immersion for those seeking knowledge.
Scenic Cruises | scenicusa.com
Australia-based Scenic operates luxury river cruises specializing in Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia with a fleet of “Space Ships,” so named because they are longer than standard European river boats and have a higher-than-normal space ratio.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Scenic has just broken into the luxury river cruise market and they are known for being truly all-inclusive. Virtually everything is included, except personal expenses. It even has its own personal audio system that narrates as the ship moves along the rivers. The food is superb.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection | uniworld.com
The Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is a fleet of lavishly appointed boutique-style riverboats with an average capacity of 130 passengers. Their cruise itineraries are thoughtfully planned and feature custom shore excursions, exceptional cuisine (acknowledged by Zagat for “top dining”), and outstanding service from an all-English speaking staff. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offers over 500 departures on 40 itineraries; they sail on 13 rivers in over 20 countries in Europe, Russia, Egypt, China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Uniworld has been one of the most prominent river cruise companies, known for exceptional staff, ships and itineraries. Their cuisine is excellent. Last year they opted to include alcoholic beverages in their pricing. You cannot go wrong with this line.
Viking River Cruises | vikingrivercruises.com
Viking River Cruises offers cruises that are destination focused and carefully crafted with a mix of cosmopolitan and smaller ports of interest. Always a favorite option due to the level of service.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Viking has the most river ships afloat and uses them interchangeably. It has an excellent pricing point for the value delivered. For many, Viking is their first river cruise experience – possibly due to the line’s extensive advertising.
Vantage Deluxe World Travel | vantagetravel.com
They have been creating and delivering memorable journeys–river cruises, small ship Cruisetours and escorted land tours–since its inception in 1983.
CONTEMPORARY CRUISE LINES
Carnival Cruise Lines | carnival.com
This line’s combination of quality, value and fun has made Carnival Cruise Lines an extremely popular cruise line; they carry more passengers than any other cruise line. Carnival Cruise Lines guests experience a considerable variety of on-board dining, entertainment and activity options; the line is constantly upgrading its ships and adding new attractions. The ships have also become increasingly popular with young families, carrying more than 700,000 youngsters every year, which is more than half of all children who travel on a cruise.
Heidi Allison-Shane: New cruisers typically start on this line. Though it has been years since I have personally been on a Carnival ship, the early experiences were always a good product at a good price.
Costa Cruise Lines | costacruise.com
Costa Cruise Lines is the largest cruise line in Europe and, as it builds new ships regularly (like its parent company, Carnival), it has one of the most modern fleets, particularly in the Mediterranean. And like Carnival, Costa Cruise Lines does regular upgrades.
Photo Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
UPSCALE CONTEMPORARY CRUISE LINES
MSC | msccruisesusa.com
Budget-conscious couples and families with children (kids under 17 sharing a cabin with two adults sail free on all MSC sailings) and travelers who desire a traditional cruise experience on a large resort-style ship with an Italian flair will appreciate MSC Cruises.
Heidi Allison-Shane: My friends who have cruised on MSC tell me that the ships are beyond gorgeous. Similar to a Ritz Carlton experience, all of the faculties, dining and entertainment are 5-star, with 3-star pricing. MSC is also a family owned and operated line. I ran into one of the owners at a trade show and I would say the family personally cares about every detail.
Norwegian Cruise Line | ncl.com
Norwegian Cruise Line revolutionized the industry in 2000 when it introduced “Freestyle Cruising,” which allowed passengers greater freedom to dine when they like, with extended restaurant hours; where they like, with a number of alternative venues; with whom they like, with open seating; freedom to dress as they please, with a “resort casual” dress code at night – and other relaxations of the usual cruise ship procedures. One of the most appealing freestyle elements is Norwegian’s disembarkation procedure, which is far more relaxed and pleasant than on many large vessels.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Having sailed on several of their inaugural cruises, this line is perfect for families, and for those looking for a great experience. My family loved the various restaurants, and they make you feel like you are at a resort with the “dine anytime” plan. Excellent buffets that our family liked very much.
Royal Caribbean International | royalcaribbean.com
Royal Caribbean boasts a fleet of the world’s largest ships. Royal’s ships are resort cities at sea, offering the best variety of over the top experiences for the entire family. Whether you seek an adrenaline rush or total tranquility, their ships have it all. Try rock climbing, ice skating, or surfing 200 feet above the waves. Melt away land-based stress with a spa massage, build a scrapbook of memories or simply relax poolside. Royal offers the ultimate in dining experiences and ambiance, variety and the flexibility to decide when and what you savor. From casual to sophisticated, cupcakes to canapes, sample an array of options – many of them included in the price of your cruise. From Internet service to dry cleaning to accessibility features, Royal Caribbean ships are equipped with helpful amenities to enhance your vacation –and it’s all delivered with friendly service.
Heidi Allison-Shane: My children and I have enjoyed Royal Caribbean, and found the staff and activities to be family focused when traveling with children. Food is delicious and the WOW factor of Royal’s onboard, over-the-top offerings – like the FlowRider® where guests can catch a perfect wave high above the sea – cannot be beat! Although my husband and I prefer the ultra-luxury lines, when traveling with children this is perhaps the best option. We choose a suite and everyone is able to have activities they enjoy.
Viking Ocean | vikingcruises.com/oceans
Whether on river or ocean cruises, Viking Cruises offers cruises that are destination focused and carefully crafted with a mix of cosmopolitan and smaller ports of interest. With three sister ocean-going ships, Viking developed its ocean cruises by leveraging extensive feedback and input from Viking River Cruises® passengers, and with experienced travelers in mind. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local nightlife or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and “collector ports,” and appeal to those with an interest in history, art and culture. In addition, Viking Inclusive Cruising provides unparalleled value—with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry and 24-hour room service—a value of more than $2,400 per couple for an average cruise.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Viking’s president, Torstein Hagen, is extremely knowledgeable, and it could be said that he is instrumental in the growth of the river cruise market. Many times this line has been touted as having the best river cruise bathrooms.
PREMIUM CRUISE LINES
Celebrity Cruises | celebritycruises.com
There is no shortage of onboard activities and entertainment when sailing with Celebrity. During the day, passengers can choose culinary classes/events, language classes, yoga classes, cultural enrichment by distinguished lecturers – or lighter fare, like dance classes, games and competitions. At night, expect Vegas-style revues, comedians, talent shows, etc. The stylish ships of Celebrity Cruises feature high-end decor, modern technology, excellent enrichment programs, superior dining options and outstanding spas.
Heidi Allison-Shane: When sailing with Celebrity, know that you are going to experience a clean and sleek experience. Celebrity is an upscale line that offers some of the small luxuries (like welcome champagne and mimosas) associated with the luxury lines. The ships have elegant public areas featuring high-end artwork, sophisticated modern decor, spacious staterooms and multiple dining choices.
Disney Cruise Line | disneycruise.disney.go.com
While the focus is on the young (and young at heart), Disney has wisely created adults-only areas (pools, restaurants, spas and nightclubs) on all its ships and on the line’s private island, Castaway Cay. The Disney Dream, for example, has a section called The District, which encompasses several lounges and nightclubs and caters to adults in the evening. Perfect for family reunions and multigenerational families who understand and appreciate the Disney product.
Heidi Allison-Shane: We loved all of the shows and entertainment options…we went to movies, saw live shows, watched a cooking demonstration, and went to an Alice in Wonderland tea party. The food was phenomenal and the servers immediately figured out what my kids liked and catered to them at every meal. We went to dinner and brunch at the Palo restaurant (for adults only, must reserve a time) and it exceptional. Brunch was especially wonderful, with eggs Benedict, crackers and cheese, salmon and lox, pastries and more. The line also includes many special touches, like cute towel animals on the beds every day…we had a monkey towel hanging from the bunk beds!
Holland America Line | hollandamerica.com
Adults, families and multigenerational groups who want a classic cruise vacation with modern amenities on mid-size ships will enjoy Holland America Line. For those who want a deluxe experience, the high-end HAL suites provide concierge service and other luxuries associated with more expensive cruise lines. HAL has a broad appeal and offers programs and activities for all ages, from high-tech computer sessions to conventional Vegas-style entertainment.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This line is perfect in many ways. The dining room and the food are very, very good. The private island is my perfect day and it totally gives you an escape from reality. Our visit to Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island in the Bahamas, offered air-conditioned, open-air beach cabanas, just steps from warm, blue, pristine waters. Private butlers magically appeared (for a small fee) from nowhere to fill our beverage glasses, while others prepared hot and chilled appetizers and cool cucumbers to soothe our eyes from the tropical sun. You may not be a millionaire, but you most certainly can live like one for a day on this private island.
Princess Cruises | princess.com
The mid-size and big ships are best for couples, families, multi-generational groups and singles who enjoy an active environment, and want many itinerary choices. For mature travelers who want a small-ship experience with few children, longer itineraries and off-the-beaten path ports, the Pacific Princess is a good choice.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Since I worked for this line for several years, what can I say? Of course, I love Princess Cruises. With a team of people here in the US devoted to making a cruise vacation the best ever, Princess excels in all areas for this category. One of my favorite places on the ships is the Sanctuary, where you are able to just relax for the day and watch the ocean go by. You are assigned a serenity stewardess who is there to make your day incredible. Massages, food and drinks and just peace and quiet. If only the days could be a little longer in the sanctuary. I think I could take an entire cruise at sea with Princess Cruises. No ports necessary.
Photo Courtesy Celebrity Cruises
ULTRA-PREMIUM CRUISE LINES
Azamara Club Cruises | azamaraclubcruises.com
Azamara is unique among cruise lines in that it was created to offer luxury and destination-rich itineraries at a price point lower than those of competitors (as well as the significant benefit of access to less-traveled ports). The line’s ports of call are carefully selected to include culturally rich cities and exceptional natural wonders.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Azamara ships are small and while their cabins do not offer as many balconies as other vessels, this is offset by cruise itineraries that are extremely intensive. Often the ships stay overnight in port, offering more cultural immersion opportunities for the passengers.
Cunard Line | cunard.com
With a tradition of luxury and service that began in 1840, the line maintains that heritage – though a Cunard Line Caribbean cruise today is significantly different in tone and atmosphere from the ocean crossings of yesteryear.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Only the ships of Cunard Line evoke the nostalgia of the Golden Age of ocean travel. These are not cruise ships; these are ocean liners. Cunard offers three classes of service: The Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia Grill, all of which I have experienced and will discuss here. The Queens Grill has the largest suite and private deck assortment along with a dedicated restaurant & private lounge. Queens Grill was formal and the food exquisite. My husband especially enjoyed the caviar, which he had with every meal (the Queen’s Grill will serve virtually any food upon request). We would then venture to the Princess Grill, slightly less formal, where my husband enjoyed the foie gras and other delicacies from around the world. We concluded our food tour at the Britannia Dining Room, which we cheerfully categorized as full of laughter and life. Any one of these three choices would make for an exceptional cruise for even the most seasoned traveler. If you want luxury you may have it delivered on a silver plate and if you wish for casual, it is all there for your vacation.
Oceania Cruises | oceaniacruises.com
Oceania guests expect (and have) a destination-rich boutique hotel experience with superior food and service. The ships are luxurious (and traditional) in appearance, with rich dark wood, and fine art work and soft goods; the atmosphere throughout is country club casual. Many cabins have balconies.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Oceania is just a notch below top-of-the line Regent, Silversea and Seabourn. Its pricing makes it affordable to more passengers. It has a country club type of atmosphere.
Windstar Cruises | windstarcruises.com
Luxury Cruising in Private Yacht Style. Welcome to the casually elegant small ship world of Windstar Cruises. Leave the crowds behind on a luxury yacht carrying fewer than 300 privileged guests. No lines. No waiting. Just a warm and intimate ambiance you will not find on larger cruise ships.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Although I have not had the pleasure of sailing on Windstar, my friends tell me once you sail with Windstar you will want to sail with them again, and again.
ULTRA-LUXURY CRUISE LINES
Crystal Cruises | crystalcruises.com/cruises
Crystal Cruises consistently ranks among the top luxury cruise lines in the world, and has won an unprecedented number of major awards. All ExclusiveTM is an entirely new standard of travel, and provides travel experiences that go far beyond all inclusive luxury to offer the most elegant journeys by ocean, river and private air.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Crystal has carved out a distinct niche for itself by managing to provide true luxury treatment on its slightly larger ships. The line has a devoted following – and for good reason. I have met the President of Crystal Cruises on several occasions and she is a lady of discerning taste and an appreciation for luxury, something that has translated to all of the ships in the Crystal fleet.
Paul Gauguin Cruises | pgcruises.com
Luxury comes in many forms aboard the Paul Gauguin, which was built to sail the shallow waters of French Polynesia, and can access ports unavailable to larger vessels. It is the only cruise ship that sails year-round itineraries in the Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas islands.
Heidi Allison-Shane: The true premise of cruising has been perfected on this line. You stay aboard the ship and you visit multiple ports without unpacking. And the line offers a remarkable, unique program on select sailings – the Ambassadors of the Environment Family Program. It is designed especially for families, and lets parents and children pick and choose from a series of “onboard activities” and daily excursions that reveal the natural wonders and rich culture of Polynesia by land and sea.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises | rssc.com
A truly upscale all-inclusive experience in spacious suites will be yours (on Mariner and Voyager, all have private balconies). A new concierge-level category of accommodation is available. The cruise price includes shore excursions, hotel stays, pre- and post-cruise tours, beverages (high quality wines at meals, free cocktails throughout the ship), specialty restaurants and gratuities. Service is impeccable and the dining venues – including Italian, French and a steak house – serve the same level of food found at fine land-based restaurants.
Heidi Allison-Shane: A true favorite of mine – my husband and I love this cruise line! Everything about the onboard experience is just what we would wish for on a cruise vacation. In fact, on one occasion we never dined in the restaurants but had cabin service for 7 nights. Our cabin number (on the Regent Seven Seas Mariner) was 1082 and we had a balcony / deck that was extremely spacious with an unparalleled view from the rear of the vessel. Room service consisted of a full tablecloth service with flowers – a lovely experience. You can become intoxicated merely from the spa scents and other beautiful flowers sprinkled through the ships.
SeaDream Yacht Club | seadream.com
SeaDream Yacht Club’s slogan is: “It’s yachting, not cruising,” which accurately describes the experience on SeaDream I and SeaDream II, the company’s award-winning mega-yachts. With a maximum of 112 guests (56 staterooms) and a 95-person crew, there is a choice of whether to mix and mingle and make new friends – or to dine and hang out alone with a spouse or friend.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This small-ship line is extremely casual, and a favorite of those who want luxury treatment and fine food… while never being required to take off his/her bathing suit. It is favored by young professionals and offers shorter itineraries designed to appeal to their tastes. This is also a favorite for many LGBT travelers.
Seabourn | seabourn.com
Seabourn’s smaller, all-suite ships offer ultra-luxury cruise vacations to many memorable ports, including those not accessible to big ships. These ships are intimate with no more than 300 suites, and a very close guest-to-staff ratio, providing an incomparable level of personalized service. A Seabourn ship is like a private club, where members share expansive open decks, inviting social spaces, and the personalized attention of an exceptional crew.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Definitely a personal favorite. How can one not appreciate it when the entire crew knows your name (and your favorite drink) within hours of boarding? Seabourn has earned (and maintains) its reputation as one of the best small cruise lines in the world. Simply put, they do everything exceptionally well.
Silversea | silversea.com
Like any line in this category, the ships of Silversea deliver five-star cuisine, spacious staterooms and the kind of service where the crew quickly learns guests’ names and preferences. To take the service concept even further, every Silversea stateroom (not just the most expensive) comes with butler service. This means that your butler will make sure that guests have everything they need, from fresh fruit to clean laundry and freshly shined shoes. The butler also presents room service meals, as they would be presented at a fine dining restaurant – not all at once, but course by course.
Heidi Allison-Shane: Silversea is much like Seabourn, with a slightly European flavor that represents top-of-the-line. You will have a memorable cruise aboard these ships, all of which are relatively new.
Blount Small Ship Adventures | blountsmallshipadventures.com
Blount Small Ship Adventures operates a fleet of 2 innovative expedition-style small ships that offer up to 96 guests a unique experience along some of North America’s most scenic waterways. Navigating areas usually only accessible via a small private yacht, this destination-oriented travel experience allows guests to truly explore a destination. Enjoy a casual, un-crowded and friendly atmosphere where camaraderie and a common interest for discovery abound.
Heidi Allison-Shane: These small ships are extremely affordable and offer great ways to explore the waterways of the U.S. They attract an older crowd and are quite casual.
Swan Hellenic Cruises | swanhellenic.us
U.K.-based Swan Hellenic Cruises has perfected the art of “discovery” cruising aboard small ships; 2014 marked the line’s 60th birthday. A cruise aboard the MV Minerva will be a “journey of the mind,” with well-crafted itineraries to interesting ports of call, evenings and overnight port stays, high quality shore excursions and enrichment programs featuring distinguished speakers and entertainers.
Voyages to Antiquity | voyagestoantiquity.com
Voyages to Antiquity’s single mid-size ship, the Aegean Odyssey, offers cruise itineraries to the sites and archeological treasures that remain from some of the world’s greatest civilizations. The Odyssey is an older vessel that began life as a car ferry; it has been tastefully reconstructed to create a sophisticated but casual ambiance with upgraded staterooms and public areas. There is no onboard glitz whatsoever; the decor is meant to relax rather than to impress.
Heidi Allison-Shane: On board guest lecturers are from prestigious universities and museums from around the world and offer unique perspectives about the art, history and culture of the ancient civilizations explored during each itinerary. Passengers further benefit by the amount of access they have to the cadre of experts on each cruise. These interesting experts are available to discuss the sites of the day over coffee or cocktails on the ship.
Photo Courtesy Blount Small Ship Adventures
Un-Cruise Adventures | uncruise.com
Un-Cruise Adventures are unmatched, hands-on small boat explorations. With several styles to choose from: Active; Luxury; Heritage; and Charter Adventures – you have an inviting alternative to your typical cruise: Kayaks and whales, snorkels and totems, mountains and desert, service and wine. Uncover your adventure today-then pack your bags and venture into some of nature’s most exciting playgrounds and historic ports for exploration, eye-to-eye wildlife encounters and Living History.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This line has evolved over the years. It began as Alaska Yacht Safaris and then became American Safari Cruises. It is family-owned and is all about wearing your jeans and exploring.
Fathom | fathom.org
Pioneered by Fathom, impact travel is a whole new category of travel: it is travel with purpose. Impact travel with Fathom provides the opportunity to build community with like-minded travelers, become immersed in another culture and work alongside its people to create enduring social impact.
Star Clippers | starclippers.com
Star Clippers operates three of the world’s largest, tallest and fastest sailing vessels. The largest of these, the Royal Clipper, has the most spacious cabins, as well as the only balconies, and a higher level of services for the upper category cabins. The nautical-theme cabins, while compact and efficient in design, are comfortable. With the exception of dinner, meals are served buffet-style; typically, there are stations for egg preparation at breakfast and a variety of dishes for lunch.
Heidi Allison-Shane: This line is a personal favorite. I sailed with them during their inaugural season and many times since. Owned by Mikael Krafft, he is often on board. The atmosphere is casual and these ships really do sail. This is a really fun way to explore the Greek islands.