Small-ship cruises

There’s a grow­ing de­mand for smaller ships with fewer pas­sen­gers and a be­spoke vibe. Sally Macmil­lan dis­cov­ers six classic favourites.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

If you’re dream­ing about a sea voy­age on ships that of­fer tra­di­tional cruis­ing, you’re in luck. And you don’t have to go five-star lux­ury or hard­core ex­pe­di­tion if vast ocean lin­ers don’t float your boat. Sev­eral lines are spe­cial­is­ing in cruises that sail to des­ti­na­tions in­ac­ces­si­ble to mega­ships, spend more time in ports, and of­fer imag­i­na­tive cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties on­board and on­shore.

The at­trac­tions of cruis­ing on smaller ships in­clude a re­laxed, so­cia­ble at­mos­phere; no queues when you dis­em­bark or em­bark; small groups for ex­cur­sions; a knowl­edge­able crew or ex­pert speak­ers; and classic ac­cou­trements such as a prom­e­nade deck, li­brary, and wood and pol­ished brass fit­tings.

The ships we are look­ing at ac­com­mo­date a max­i­mum of 380 pas­sen­gers and are not new. They’re tried and tested favourites among the cruis­ing com­mu­nity, but there are lots more small and mid-size ves­sels to choose from. Have a look at Aza­mara Club Cruises and Ocea­nia Cruises’ 684-pas­sen­ger ships, Po­nant’s lux­ury ex­pe­di­tion fleet and Vik­ing Ocean Cruises’ four new 930-pas­sen­ger ships – and re­mem­ber, small ships fill up quickly!

APT He­bridean Sky

This smart lit­tle ship is as pop­u­lar with Antarc­tic voy­agers as cul­ture-lov­ing cruis­ers, in a de­light­fully un­stuffy way. Ev­ery­one is up and about first thing to take stim­u­lat­ing shore ex­cur­sions, in­cluded in the fares, and lec­tures in the main lounge are well at­tended. He­bridean Sky has been sail­ing for 26 years, but you wouldn’t guess from its ap­pear­ance, par­tic­u­larly since it had a facelift last year. Tra­di­tion­al­ists love the ship’s wood pan­elling and pol­ished brass, and its her­itage is cel­e­brated in stun­ning wildlife pho­to­graphs taken by the ex­pe­di­tion teams. Each deck is named af­ter a fa­mous po­lar ex­plorer and a new ob­ser­va­tion plat­form was added to the Shack­le­ton Deck in the re­fit. Meals are a real plea­sure, and a proper af­ter­noon tea is served every day. He­bridean Sky will be sail­ing in the Mediter­ranean, Nor­we­gian Fjords, the Bri­tish Isles and North­ern Europe this year.

See www.ap­tour­ing.co.nz.

Wind­star Cruises Star Pride

Avid cruis­ers al­ways en­joy the chance to visit the ship’s bridge and chat with the cap­tain, and one of the high­lights of Wind­star’s ships is their “open bridge” pol­icy. Star Pride is one of three for­mer Se­abourn ships that ac­com­mo­date up to 212 pas­sen­gers and sail to ex­otic, mostly warm-cli­mate des­ti­na­tions. Fel­low pas­sen­gers tend to be fit, ac­tive and aged be­tween 30 and 70. Pos­si­bly be­cause the fares aren’t as all-in­clu­sive as on other lines,

there are plenty of peo­ple in the 40 to 50 age bracket and the at­mos­phere is laid-back and con­vivial. The wa­ter­sports ma­rina is well pa­tro­n­ised and there are scuba-div­ing cour­ses avail­able for be­gin­ners as well as cer­ti­fied divers on se­lect cruises. Wind­star is def­i­nitely a line that is worth get­ting to know bet­ter.

Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Orion

Orion joined Lind­blad Ex­pe­di­tions’ fleet in 2014 and is much loved by sea­soned cruis­ers who got to know the ship when it be­longed to an Aus­tralian line. NG Orion is now the youngest in the Lind­blad fleet and more el­e­gant than its sis­ter ships. How­ever, it’s not just an at­trac­tive ves­sel – it was de­signed to nav­i­gate icy po­lar re­gions as well as the trop­ics, and sports state-of-the art ex­pe­di­tion equip­ment. In­side, the over­all look and feel is more con­tem­po­rary than tra­di­tional and the cui­sine is se­ri­ously good. If you’re look­ing for an ex­pe­di­tion-style cruise in the world’s re­motest des­ti­na­tions com­bined with lux­ury, NG Orion could be the one for you.

Voy­ages to An­tiq­uity Aegean Odyssey

Bri­tish cruise line Voy­ages to An­tiq­uity op­er­ates just one ship, the Aegean Odyssey. It dates back to 1972 and has been metic­u­lously re­fur­bished. Today it is a com­fort­able, far from

When you’re cruis­ing in warm cli­mates you can sleep on deck, in spe­cial Ba­li­nese beds. You can even get mono­grammed py­ja­mas.

flashy ship and re­peat cruis­ers talk about its re­laxed, so­cia­ble at­mos­phere. You’re likely to meet Bri­tish, Amer­i­can and An­tipodean cruis­ers who are well trav­elled, well ed­u­cated his­tory buffs – the itin­er­ar­ies are built around ex­plor­ing sites that have centuries of his­tory, in the Mediter­ranean, Aegean, Adri­atic and North­ern Europe. Each cruise has a lec­ture pro­gramme led by speak­ers who are ex­perts in fields such as his­tory, ar­chae­ol­ogy, art, cui­sine and cul­ture. Don’t ex­pect a quick cruise, though – the short­est are 12 days.

SeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream I and II

Sail­ing on these twins is like be­ing on­board your own pri­vate yacht. Each ship caters for a max­i­mum of 112 pas­sen­gers, looked af­ter by a 95-per­son crew – the bar­man at the Top of the Yacht Bar will know your favourite tip­ple by day two. Out­door liv­ing is big on SeaDream; meals are served in the open-air Top­side Res­tau­rant as well as the din­ing room, and when you’re cruis­ing in warm cli­mates you can sleep on deck, in spe­cial Ba­li­nese beds. You even get per­son­ally mono­grammed py­ja­mas. The crew act as guides on shore tours that in­volve bik­ing and hik­ing – the ships carry bi­cy­cles as well as hav­ing an on­board ma­rina stocked with wa­ter toys such as jet skis and Ho­bie cats.

Paul Gau­guin Cruises Paul Gau­guin

Paul Gau­guin has been sail­ing French Poly­ne­sia for 20 years and its own­ers and crew know the re­gion in­ti­mately. It at­tracts so­phis­ti­cated travellers of all ages who en­joy all the wa­ter­sports on of­fer but have a keen in­ter­est in marine bi­ol­ogy. This year the cruise line is in­tro­duc­ing an im­pres­sive line-up of lec­tur­ers, in con­junc­tion with the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety. Many crew mem­bers are Tahi­tians who sing, dance and tell sto­ries for pas­sen­gers, in be­tween their reg­u­lar jobs around the ship, and are among the friendli­est peo­ple you’ll ever meet. Din­ing is a ma­jor highlight – as soon as you board, book for din­ner at La Ve­randa, where you can in­dulge in fab­u­lous French cui­sine. Just the thing af­ter a hard day’s snorkelling with reef sharks and stingrays.

Visit your cruise spe­cial­ist to learn more about these small-ship jour­neys.

He­bridean Sky pas­sen­gers on a Shores of South­ern Europe cruise can visit Mont-Sain­tMichel in France.

He­bridean Sky

Staff on the Paul Gau­guin. Aegean Odyssey.

Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Orion.

SeaDream II in the Corinth Canal, Greece.

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