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Getaway

Small-Ship Cruises for Big Fun

Photo credit Aqua Expedition

By Robyn Fadden

The typical cruise might conjure images of massive white ocean liners, on-board Vegas-style entertainment, and thousands of roving guests, but a new-and-improved cruise trend offers an alternative sea-faring experience: the small-ship cruise is custom-made for adventurous lovers of luxury and relaxation.

Much like boutique hotels, with their unique design touches and attention to detail, small-ship cruises, run by companies such as Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn, Windstar, and Compagnie du Ponant, offer numerous advantages over their bigger siblings and can be found around the world.

Perhaps the most appealing asset of the small ship is its limited passenger capacity – some ships top out at 300 passengers, others at a mere 20. With fewer people on board, the passenger experience instantly becomes more personalized, from cabin quality to shore excursions.

If peace and quiet tops your list of must-haves on a cruise, then look into the many small-ship cruises that resemble floating spas, with saunas, pools, and onboard massage therapists. If a nightly multi-course French dinner strikes your fancy, pick a cruise featuring a top gourmet chef. Or if you’d like to get your hands dirty, some sailing-ship cruises will literally show you the ropes and let you be part of the crew.

The high seas aren’t for everyone, so small-ship cruises often navigate less-travelled destinations, exploring tucked-away tropical islands, the most-famed rivers in Europe, and beyond. And with shorter wait times for docking – some ships even dock mere steps from town – it’s faster and easier to make your way off the boat to explore the shore, go shopping, eat at the local restaurants, and take in the sights by foot or, if you’re so inclined, by bike or kayak provided by the ship.

And for those concerned about their environmental footprint, several small-ship cruise lines alleviate those worries by operating with the environment in mind, using energy-efficient engines, wind power, solar panels, grey-water recycling, and even maintaining deck gardens. If you’ve always wanted to travel by boat but big commercial cruises hold no appeal, the small-ship cruise proves itself different and delightful on all levels.