Whether for yourself or to charter for a group of colleagues and friends who like adventure, here are 10 incredible small ship cruises in the world you should put on your want-to list.
1) Alaska. In small ships you are in the middle of the “real” Alaska, spending evenings docked at fishing villages or close to wildlife. Example: American Safari Cruises with three luxury yachts from which passengers explore coves, kayak, hike, fish, whale-watch and more. The yachts are at anchor or stay dockside every night to maximize daylight viewing of scenery and wildlife and to enjoy the silence of remote areas.
2) Antarctica. Christmas and New Year holidays are the most popular times to visit Antarctica. But also consider November and early December which is the season for penguins and seabird courtship rituals, as well as a time of lower rates. Example: Lindblad Expeditions. Their ship National Geographic Endeavor has voyages to Antarctica some of which can be extended to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
3) Baja, Mexico. From mid-January to mid-March in Baja’s Sea of Cortes, passengers can get up close and personal with the gray whales at Bahia Magdalena in small open boats, close enough to feel the whale spray. Example: Cruise West ship, the Spirit of Endeavor, accommodates 102 passengers for scuba diving, whales, and other wildlife.
4) Amazon River. (International Expeditions): Several ships go up the Amazon from the mouth on the Brazil coast to Manaus or further to Iquitos, Peru. To reach more remote areas, you can fly into Iquitos and go upriver to smaller tributaries with International Expeditions. Example: International Expeditions. They begin in Iquitos, and travel along the Amazon’s tributaries, going deep into the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve — the largest wetland reserve in the world. You see monkeys, birds, sloths and other mammals, pink and gray dolphins and perhaps may even see the endangered giant river otter or the rare harpy eagle.
5) Papua New Guinea. Several ships go to this unspoiled island to visit native tribes and view their cermonies. Example: The 42-passenger motor vessel Discoverer that operates cruises along the Sepik River and to nearby islands. It carries zodiacs for exploration, and on some cruises has a helicopter to access otherwise inaccessible areas. Routing is flexible according to local events such as the traditional “sing sing”.
6) Norway. The 1.200 mile fjord-filled west coast is spectacular. Example: Norwegian Coastal Voyage. NCV’s ships go between Bergen and Kirkenes, above the Arctic Circle, and visit towns along the way. Many of the areas have no roads and the villagers use the ships for transportation so in ports the ship picks up or unloads cars and fish and local people as well as carrying tourists.
7) Seychelles Islands. The scenery and wildlife are worth going to the remote islands. Example: A 12-passenger catamaran, Illusions, that offers scuba diving, and also has land excursions that include the Valle de Maie, home of the huge Coco de Mer trees, and a visit to La Digue, where there are no cars, only oxcarts or bicycles, and a visit to breeding areas for land and sea turtles where you can watch turtles come to nest. Sometimes you have the opportunity to visit a lemur preserve at dawn to feed them bananas as they leap out of the trees. During August and November whale sharks can be seen by scuba or snorkel.
8) Galapagos Islands. If you enjoy wildlife you will love the Galapagos. Ships there are all small, having no more than 200 passengers. The 90-passengr Galapagos Legend has six naturalist guides who each speak at least four languages. This ship, as do all Galapagos cruises, goes to a series of islands where you can interact with brightly colored Sally Lightfoot crabs, blue-footed boobies, hundreds of sea lions and giant land tortoises, and visit the Darwin Research Station. If you primarily want to dive, you may wish to choose one of the smaller Galapagos yachts that carry 12 to 40 passengers and have onboard scuba equipment and courses.
9) French Polynesia. Families looking for adventure can board the 320-passenger ship Paul Gauguin with a retractable water sports platform, kayaking and water-skiing. Lectures feature naturalists, artists and experts on Polynesia. You can visit the bridge at any time, swim in a blue lagoon, feed swarms of fish while snorkeling over coral reefs, wander around villages and old native ruins, take a helicopter tour, go scuba diving, or go on jeep safaris into mountains.
10) Caribbean lesser known islands. Try them on the Royal Clipper. This tall ship, with 112 cabins, is an adventure in itself. It offers 7 and 14-day cruises in the Caribbean from Barbados to the Grenadines and Windward Islands, or in the Mediterranean. It is designed after the Preussen, the fastest clipper ship in the world that carried cargo between Chile and Germany in the early 1900s. The ship has five masts and 42 sails, most of them square-rigged. When the ship is at anchor, a dock hinges out from the stern and a swimming float is tethered 50 feet behind. Passengers who wish are allowed, in safety harness, to climb up to a yardarm and handle sails. Lectures are given by oceanographers and experts on the history of old sailing ships.
Shirley Linde is editor of http://www.SmallShipCruises.com , the popular website on small ships, and writes Shirley Linde's Cruise Letter. She is author of three cruise guides and many medical books. She has a Medical Information Center at ShirleyLinde.com with links to information on various medical conditions.