Six Unique Small-Ship Cruises

Some of us like to go on cruises in those big, big ships that move around the Caribbean or up to Alaska. But, some of us crave something different. A unique experience. Maybe even an adventure. If you are one of those people, then take a look at these small ship cruises for a new experience.  

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Flavors of Burgundy & Provence Cruise

If you’ve been to Europe, you have probably noticed the smaller flat ships that move leisurely up and down some of the rivers. On this particular cruise you’ll spend 11 days moving along the Saone and Rhone rivers through France. You’ll begin your cruise in the enchanting city of Paris. After breakfast on board the ship each morning you’ll dock in various villages including Beaune, Tournus, Macon, Lyon, Avignon, and Nice. In each of these cities you’ll have time to wander the streets or a guide will take you on a sightseeing walk.

In Beaune you’ll enjoy a tasting of delicious Burgundy wines. Your vessel, named the Avalon Scenery, holds just 138 passengers and is one of the smallest ships in Avalon Waterways fleet. The ship may be small, but details have not been overlooked. The staterooms are generously sized, with individual climate control, large closets, private baths and beds that are covered with luxurious cotton sheets and European duvets. You’ll enjoy fine foods and wines from the region you are sailing through. This is an easy, leisurely way to visit some special cities of France.

Prices for the 12-day trips start around US$2,200 per person.

>>book a flight to Paris and also read about the Free Things to do in Paris

Vietnam Explorer Cruise

On this small ship cruise you’ll sail out of Ho Chi Minh to explore Vietnam and the area around it for 11 sensational days. You’ll have a team of experts on board with you explaining everything from botany to marine biology and history. You can listen to their talks in the theatre or lounge, and you may even find them accompanying you on some of the sightseeing excursions.

In Vietnam, your ship will stop in Da Nang, Nha Trang and Vung Tau, before sailing on to Cambodia, Thailand and finally Singapore. Your ship, the Orion, has 53 staterooms and suites and is a 5-star luxury ship. Just because you’re looking for adventure doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the good life. There is a crew of 75 people to take care of all your needs. You’ll enjoy meals that reflect the flavors of the areas you are visiting. You’ll discover the other passengers on board, like you, are not just tourists but curious about the places you are visiting. While you relax, you’ll enjoy discussions of the countries you’ll sail past, and the fertile, green scenery of the coastline.

This kind of luxury never comes cheap. The 11-night cruises start at around US$6,000 per person.

>>look for flights to Vietnam and also read about the things to do in Vietnam

Maine Sailboat Cruise

What a great adventure this would be! You can sail on the Schooner Timberwind on your choice of a 3, 4 or 6-day cruise. Sail out of Rockport Harbor through Penobscot Bay with the winds rustling the sails and the fresh smell of salt water soothing your senses. The Timberwind specializes in family vacations and you can take children as young as 5 on this adventure. On this all-inclusive vacation, you’ll enjoy large, delicious meals cooked on the wood-burning stove, including scrumptious chowders and a traditional Maine lobster bake. Perfect, since you’ll be hungry after breathing in all of that fresh sea air.

The schooner is family owned and operated, making it a pleasant, safe, comfortable adventure. The owners are eager to share the splendid sights of nature and the history of the area and their boat with you. The schooner has 2 triple cabins and 7 double cabins on board, all with plenty of space to store your belongings and large opening windows. Bring along a pair of binoculars to watch the sea birds and other sights as you sail by.  There are many types of trips available for you to choose from, including specialty trips like the Schooner Gam, which kicks off the summer season with the entire fleet; the Marine Windjammer Parade in July; or a Perfect Health Cruise. You can choose the trip that best fits your personal desires.

The 3-day trips on this 20-passenger vessel start at $495.

>>book a cheap flight to Maine

Caribbean Classic Sailing Cruise

The Sea Cloud II will be your home away from home on this fantastic 8-day sailing cruise through the Caribbean. You’ll sail out of Barbados, stopping to port in several bays like Terre-de-Haut on Iles de Saintes and Port Elizabeth on Bequia, before returning back to Barbados. The beauty of sailing on a ship like this is that the itinerary, like the winds, can be flexible and you’ll find yourself exploring unexpected beaches that can only be reached by boat.

You’ll have time to visit historical sights, take walks along the white beaches and meander through quaint towns. While on board the Sea Cloud II, there will be a lot of opportunity to swim and snorkel in the pristine turquoise waters or sip champagne as the warm trade winds carry you to your next destination. Your magnificent sailing yacht holds only 86 people in beautifully adorned staterooms with private bathrooms, some with fireplaces. On board you’ll discover a library full of travel guides and art books where you can relax and enjoy the view through the large windows, a gym, a lounge and a dining room where you’ll savor fine wines and tempting meals all at unassigned tables. You’ll truly enjoy this informal, relaxed sailing experience.

This cruise isn’t cheap. Prices start at almost $11,000 for the 15-day trip, but at least they pay carbon offsets as part of that total.

>>look for flights to the Caribbean

The Dahabia Nile Cruise

You’ll feel like a pharaoh as you cruise down the Nile on this traditional Egyptian style boat, the Royal Cleopatra. Some of the sights you’ll see will include the markets of Esna, the Temple of Khnom, a horse drawn carriage ride to the Temple of Horus in Edfu, the ancient sandstone quarries at Gabal Elsisilah, Kom Ombo, Aswan and more.

Explore ancient ruins and tombs. Your private Egyptologist will be available to guide you and answer questions. During the day, as you are sailing to another port down this exalted river, you can relax in your swim suit and enjoy the warm, sunny, blue sky as you watch the scenery and all of the history roll past. Your boat accommodates up to 8 people in triple or double cabins with private baths. This is a casual cruise with a small crew to meet all of your needs – a tour guide, captain, sailor, cook and housekeeper. Many of your meals will be eaten on board, but you’ll also have the opportunity to dine in local restaurants, luxury hotels and have a barbeque on an island in the Nile. What a way to experience this magical country.

It’s always hard to lock down a price on a Nile cruise, but these are competitive and tend to be fairly cheap.

>>book a flight to Egypt

M/C Galapagos Journey I

The Galapagos Islands have been called “the last wildlife sanctuary.” You can enjoy a cruise through this incredible part of the world on a luxury class motor catamaran that sleeps 16 passengers. Sign up for a 4, 5 or 8-day cruise which will take you to some remote excursion sights, research centers and tortoise breeding projects. You’ll walk by nests of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds; see giant sea turtles; swim with penguins and snorkel close to sea lions and manta rays. Marine iguanas will wander past and flocks of seabirds will fly overhead.

On board you’ll find a 9-person crew to take care of all your needs, plus a bilingual nature guide who has gone through extensive training, and a cruise director. There are 8 air-conditioned cabins with private bath and picture windows. In the evenings, you will have the chance to learn more about the sights you are visiting at the evening nature lectures. Then dine with a choice of delicious meat, poultry and seafood, along with fresh salads and fruits and wonderful wines from around the world. If you are a vegetarian or have special dietary restrictions, your needs will be met. Your yacht comes equipped with snorkel gear, wetsuits and sea kayaks for your use and enjoyment. What a way to spend time in these spectacular islands.

There are many ways to travel and see the world. If you are looking for something new and exciting, with a hint of adventure, a small ship cruise may be just what you need.

The company doesn’t seem to like to quote prices on its site, but you’d have to expect this one to cost quite a bit, so it’s probably not an option for most backpackers.

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Photo credits: Boats in Paris , Vietnam Cruise , Maine Cruise , Caribbean Cruise , Nile Cruise , Galapagos Islands Cruise

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Older comments on Six Unique Small-Ship Cruises

Roger Wade
31 December 2008

These look very nice. I only wish I could afford a quick ferry ride, so most of these are out of my price range.