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Small Ship Cruises - Which One is Right for You?


As the COVID-19 crisis has grounded most cruise ships, a lot of travelers are considering smaller ships with smaller passenger counts. Even with no virus, some never cared for 1,000 seat dining rooms, all-night discos and Caribbean ports turned into duty free shopping malls. Enter the small ship cruise lines that feature a cozier atmosphere, personalized setting and service and destination-driven itineraries.


So what is considered a “small ship cruise line”? The definition is generally fewer than 500 passengers, but many of them have less than 250 passengers. To help you understand the options out there, they generally fall into one of four categories, one or more of which you will probably love:


River Cruises – What could be better than slowly watching the castles and countryside of Europe float by as you enjoy great wine and food without having to lift a finger? The dream is possible with a river cruise that has no lines to get on and off the ship and free bikes and tour guides are provided on many lines. What’s even better is that river cruises are gaining momentum outside continental Europe, as ships in Southeast Asia, on the Nile, along the Amazon and even in the USA are starting to catch on with in-the-know travelers. The most popular lines are Viking, Ama Waterways, Emerald and Uniworld.


Soft Adventure – Serving as more of a base camp for exploring the world’s waters, these cruises ply the smaller ports, bays and waterways for the utmost in freedom and flexibility. Kayaks or Zodiac boats make for easy shore landings. Topflight naturalists, historians, undersea specialists and expedition leaders typically accompany each trip. Itineraries can be found on all seven continents and often feature indigenous cultures along with activities like hiking, snorkeling and swimming from the boat. Most popular lines include Quark, Zegrahm, Hurtigruten and Lindblad/National Geographic.


Luxury Yachts – Combining over the top service, great food and amazing destinations, this category feels like traveling on the private yacht of the wealthy relative you wish you had! Though small in size, these ships offer huge guest suites, formal dining rooms, and spa treatments in between zodiac visits to tiny ports in Alaska, the Galapagos, Hawaii and even Antarctica. Top lines include SeaDream Yacht Club, Silversea, Ponant, Crystal and Celebrity.


Tall Ships – These ships sail the world with modern comforts and amenities in an atmosphere that evokes the splendor and glamour of a bygone era. The vibe is casual and watersports are a major component of each sailing with complimentary snorkeling, kayaking directly from the ship. The wonderful food and crew are only eclipsed by the amazing itineraries that typically visit lesser known ports in the Caribbean.


As you think about which category suits you best, allow me to help you narrow down the choices and find the line and itinerary that will provide you the best small ship experience. Because 2020 was a wash, 2021 itineraries will fill up quickly. Email me today at johnpaul@jpbrownlowtravel.com.


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