From European Hotel Barges to Adventure Cruises to Ocean Yachting, Discover the World of Small Ship Cruising
In a world where social distancing has become our new normal, small ship cruising is an emerging niche perfect for travelers looking to explore domestic and international destinations by boat. With a focus on destination-driven routes and culturally immersive itineraries, these boutique vessels deliver the moments and memories uniquely suited to the world of small ship cruising.
“Small vessel cruising is the future of upscale travel. Whether it be river, canal, lake, or even ocean navigation, the small ship experience creates a sentiment of privilege, facilitating the ability to cater to personal wishes.”
While there is no set standard in the cruise industry as to what defines a “small ship” cruise, we are focusing on vessels carrying two to 300 passengers. From European hotel barges to Caribbean sailing yachts, we breakdown the details and highlights of each itinerary, what to expect during the cruise, and what type of traveler is best suited for each boat. Indulge your wanderlust for the water and join the Barge Ladies as we delve into the wonderfully unique and varied world of small ship cruises.
EUROPEAN HOTEL BARGE CRUISES
BARGE LADY CRUISES
Capacity: two – 20 guests (most hotel barges carry 12 guests or less)
Waterways: Antique canals and petite rivers in France, modern concentric canals in Holland, the River Thames in Great Britain, Shannon Waterway in Ireland, the Caledonian Canal in Scotland, the Mosel River in Germany, and the Venetian Lagoon/Canal Bianco/River Po in Italy.
European hotel barge cruises provide a unique and private way to discover the Continent’s inland waterways and idyllic landscapes. Offering a more boutique experience compared to larger vessels sailing the rivers, barging focuses a cruise region in depth through exclusive experiences, gourmet cuisine, and regional wines, augmented by onboard luxuries, inviting accommodations, and attentive service.
Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady, has traveled to European barging destinations more than fifty times to enjoy cruising on the idyllic canals and inland waterways. Ellen says: “I sample the cuisine and wine, meet the crew, check out the excursions, and never tire of relaxing on deck as the passing scenery floats by. I have been in the barge industry since its infancy and now believe that barging is more relevant and desirable than ever. A charter on one of our four to 12 passenger vessels provides a totally private experience for a family or group of friends who want to avoid crowded cities or the larger cruise ships with their long lines. We take pride in matching our guests to the ‘perfect barge cruise’, suiting their interests, budgets, and travel dreams, as we have been doing for decades.”
Serving as shipping vessels in their former lives, modern day barges have been lovingly converted into elegant, comfortable floating hotels with luxurious accommodations, contemporary amenities, and a dedicated English-speaking crew. Canal yacht may be a more fitting moniker!
A barge cruise is the ultimate form of slow travel, plying the canals at a pace of four to six miles per hour. Barge guests spend three to four hours per day cruising, either in the morning or afternoon. The other half of the day is spent enjoying a daily guided excursion to a regional highlight near to the cruise route. Think wine tasting at family-owned vineyards, private tours of preserved chateaux, shopping with Chef at local markets, and window shopping in charming cobblestoned towns. Back on board, guests are welcome to relax on the deck, laze in the hot tub, or chat with the Captain in his wheelhouse. Active passengers can stroll or cycle along the canal’s manicured towpath, further immersing into Europe’s expansive natural beauty.
The gourmet experience is a major highlight of barge cruising. The barge’s private onboard Chef sources market-fresh ingredients and seasonal produce to craft delicious multi-course meals from scratch, spotlighting the cruise region’s signature fare. Wines are hand-selected to complement lunches and dinners, ranging from local varietals to signature vintages from France’s most iconic vineyards (think Montrachet and Saint Emilion). Indulgent cheese boards and decadent desserts round out the daily gastronomic affair. As barge guests taste over 20 different wines and cheeses over the course of a cruise week, every cruise is a gastronomy cruise.
• Gastronomy and wine – taste over 20 wines and cheeses
• Small guest count with high crew to guest ratio
• Immersive experiences with an emphasis on local culture
• Exclusive excursions not available to larger tour groups
Travelers who will enjoy barge cruising
- Groups of couples, friends, and families interested in chartering a private cruise
- Foodies/gourmands/oenophiles who enjoy culinary activities and cooking demonstrations
- Travelers wishing to authentically immerse in one region’s hyperlocal lifestyles
Cruise length: 6 nights/ 7 days
Where: France, England, Ireland, Scotland, Holland/Belgium, Italy, and Germany
When: Barges cruise April – October
Price: Cruises start at $4,000 per person double occupancy
How to book: www.bargeladycruises.com
SELF-DRIVE HOUSEBOAT CRUISES
Capacity: two to eight guests
Waterways: Antique canals and petite rivers in France, Italy, Holland, Great Britain, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, Ireland; and the Rideau Canal in Canada
Self-drive houseboat cruises, sometimes referred to as “floating cottages,” are perfect for independent travelers who do not mind piloting the boat and organizing all of the dining and activities themselves. While there are many operators offering self-drive vessels, we have chosen to highlight Le Boat, a company with a 50-year history, a sales office located in the U.S., and a large and varied inventory to provide easy, one-stop shopping.
Le Boat’s site features over 100 vessels. Travelers can choose from three categories featuring differing levels of amenities and price tags: Premier, Comfort/Comfort Plus, and Budget. In the Premier and Comfort Plus categories, guests will enjoy ensuite bathrooms, air-conditioning, and spacious decks. The base price covers the boat rental and services of Le Boat personnel as needed, including instruction on navigation at the start of the cruise. Everything else incurs additional fees and must be prepaid before departure, such as Collision Damage Waiver, travel insurance, fuel, bicycles, and end-of-cruise boat cleaning.
“For over 50 years, Le Boat has been the leader in European and Canadian self-drive boating holidays along some of the world’s most beautiful waterways. Our international fleet of 950 vessels are designed with the first-time boater in mind, no previous boating experience or boat license is required! Easy to drive, simple to dock, and stocked with everything for a fantastic holiday, Le Boat is an attractive small ship option for independent travelers.”
– Lisa Mclean, Le Boat, Marketing Manager, USA, Canada & Latin America
Self-drive cruises are a great option for couples and families with children who want to stay clear of crowded city destinations. Days are spent floating through idyllic countryside and past canalside villages. The pace is relaxed, free from itineraries or time constraints. Self-drive boaters can stay an extra night in an enchanting village, stop for an impromptu wine tasting, or join locals shopping for fresh produce, pastries, and cheeses in an outdoor market. “Foodies” especially like the freedom to either cook meals onboard or dine ashore, choosing a passing café or renowned gourmet restaurant. Guests can be as active or relaxed as they want to be, with bicycling, hiking, swimming, and sightseeing available in most destinations.
Le Boat entered the North American market three years ago, offering self-drive houseboat rentals on the scenic Rideau Canal in Ontario, Canada. Whether in Europe or Canada, self-drive cruising is a way to experience a destination both authentically and adventurously.
- Your own personal space far away from the crowds to enjoy with friends and family
- Immersive experiences into the local culture along the canals and petite rivers
- Create your own adventure, your own schedule, indulge your whims
Travelers Who Will Enjoy A Self-Drive Houseboat Cruise
- Independent travelers who like to find their own way and see “ups and downs” as part of the adventure
- Boaters who can easily adapt their skills to cruising on foreign waterways
- “Foodies” who will enjoy shopping and cooking themselves
Cruise Length: 3 to 14 nights
Where: France, Italy, Holland, Great Britain, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, and Canada
When: April through October, although there may be slightly different operating dates in individual regions
Price: 3-night cruises starting at $389. For cruises of 7 nights or longer, Le Boat will supply price. Extra fees will apply for fuel, Collision Damage Waiver, and additional services and amenities
How to Book: www.leboat.com
EUROPEAN RIVER CRUISES
Capacity: Nine ships carrying between 84 to 130 guests
Waterways: The Rhine transiting Amsterdam to Basel, the Danube from Budapest to Regensburg, the Douro in the heart of Portugal, and in France, both the Seine in Normandy and the Rhone in Provence.
River cruising provides a unique vantage point from which to experience the best of Europe by water. Guests encounter a new on-shore destination each day and enjoy hours of cruising through riverside vistas of villages, vineyards, and hilltop castles. In the larger cities, such as Vienna, museums and concerts can be enjoyed, while in the smaller towns, guests can wander the pedestrian avenues and join the locals at the nearest café or beer garden. Specialty cruises, featuring family activities, Christmas Markets, wine appreciation, and classical music are available for interested travelers.
While there are many well-known companies offering river cruises, we have chosen to feature Tauck. A family-owned company for 95 years, Tauck enjoyed an impeccable reputation for land tours and repeat clientele before launching their brand of European river cruises. Upscale travelers wishing to experience multiple European destinations without packing and unpacking, and with every detail taken care of, will be well-served by Tauck. Inclusive of the cruise fare are all excursions including authentic onshore experiences exclusive to Tauck, gourmet meals onboard, open premium bar, gratuities, and airport transfers. Led by a Tauck Cruise Director, an experienced and accommodating crew ensures that everything runs seamlessly. Tauck Tour Directors accompany cruise guests onshore, arranging VIP access to local events and cultural excursions, along with a few surprise treats and special introductions.
“My Danube River cruise with Tauck featured such exclusive experiences as a pipe organ concert in the Baroque cathedral in Passau, an elegant Gala at the Palais Pallavicini in Vienna complete with live opera and ballet performances; and an afternoon in the delightful cobblestoned Old Town of Cesky Krumlov, where we window-shopped, sampled the local gingerbread cakes, and enjoyed a tour of the famed Castle. As we cruised, delightful villages lined the shore, framed against gorgeous scenery. It was a Six Star experience all the way!” – Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady
Tauck’s vessels look warm, rich, and contemporary, with the use of such decorative elements as marble, etched glass, dark woods, brass, and crystal. Accommodations are larger than those on competing cruise lines, most notably the popular Tauck Suites at 300 square feet. Cabin beds are fitted with 400-thread satin bed linen, mako cotton pillows, and thick pillow-top mattresses, while bathrooms are spacious and modern. Public areas include two restaurants, the more formal Compass Rose and the informal Arthur’s, as well as comfortable lounges and decks.
- Experience several countries or enjoy an in-depth immersion into just one destination, all without packing and unpacking
- Sightseeing is historic and grand — think preserved churches, Medieval towns, and enchanting villages
- Immersive experiences in local culture, gastronomy, and winetasting
- Full service and elegant onboard ambiance
Travelers who will enjoy a European River Cruise
- Travelers who want the logistics taken care of, leaving them free to enjoy the travel experience
- Europhiles who want to sample a variety of sightseeing and different cultures
- Travelers who enjoy getting to know their fellow guests
- Those who require American-style accommodations, amenities, and service while exploring old-world Europe
Cruise length: 7 to 15 days
Where: On the European rivers
When: April through October plus holiday cruises in December
Price: Cruises start at $3,890 per person double occupancy
How to book: www.tauck.com
Capacity: Up to 36 guests
Waterways: Turkish Riviera (aka Turquoise Coast), Agean Sea (Greek Islands), Adriatic Sea (Croatia and Montenegro), and Mediterranean Sea (Amalfi Coast and Sardinia)
Quintessentially Turkish in form and function, gulets (goo-LAY) are handmade wooden vessels with origins dating back from antiquity through the Ottoman Empire. Small ships with a big history, gulet sailings are often referred to as “The Blue Cruise”, nodding to the region’s turquoise waters and azure-tinted landscapes. With itineraries offering yoga, swimming, and trekking, all-inclusive gulet cruises appeal to groups of travelers for whom outdoor adventures, beachfront activities, and Western Asiatic attractions are of major interest.
While onboard accommodations vary by vessel, every gulet delivers the contemporary amenities and cultural authenticity expected on small ship cruises. Dining areas are designed for pampered guests to enjoy gourmet meals, and spacious public areas encourage sun-drenched socializing on the deck. Water toys including kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling gear provide active travelers access to coves, caves, and coastlines.
“On a gulet cruise holiday you spend most of your time in the outdoors, surrounded by calm seas and relaxing in the sun,” says Ahmet Guler, Director of Gulet Escapes. Guler, who opened his holiday booking business after his own life-changing gulet cruise in 2010, adds, “You can spend your days and nights in secluded coves, disembark to explore hidden beaches…you can even sleep on deck under the stars!”
Gulet holidays are typically booked on a private charter basis, and depart from a harbor town in either Turkey, Croatia, or the Greek Islands. As gulet cruises run anywhere from three days to two weeks depending on the sailing route, each itinerary includes ample time sailing along the region’s beautiful natural coastlines. Once moored, the ambiance ashore is festive and friendly, as the region’s locals are accustomed to welcoming small ship sailings. Guests might even enjoy a sweet treat from a floating “ice cream truck” docked in the most charming of ports!
Back on board, guests are looked after by a dedicated crew. A Captain expertly pilots your gulet through smatterings of ruin-strewn islands to lively local beachside quays. Attentive hosts/hostesses ensure the ensuite cabins are clean and inviting. Decadent Turkish breakfasts and freshly prepared Mediterranean dishes are crafted with market-fresh produce by an experienced Chef, perhaps served al fresco to enjoy the splendid weather.
• Discover the breathtaking beauty of the Turkish Coast
• Onboard amenities and daily activities are selected for maximum fun in the sun
• Ample public spaces and well-appointed cabins
Travelers who will enjoy a Gulet Escapes gulet cruise
• Multi-generational families interested in outdoor activities and energetic exploration
• Cruisers who crave relaxation and respite found in natural settings
• Travelers wishing to enjoy seaside culture and pescatarian cuisine
Gulet Cruise Details
Cruise length: 3 to 14 days depending on the itinerary
Where: Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, and Italy
When: Gulet Escape cruises run from April – October
Price: Cruises start at 735 Euros per person per week for cabin bookings to 4000 Euros per night for private charter bookings
How to book: www.guletescapes.com/
SAILING YACHT CRUISES
Capacity: six vessels, carrying 148 guests – 342 guests
Waterways: Sea and ocean-going destinations all over the world, including the Greek Islands and Turkey, the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, Alaskan routes, coastal Europe in the Mediterranean, and on the Atlantic Ocean
Windstar, the “easy breezy” cruise line, first entered the travel market in 1986 with its trio of motorized sailing ships — Wind Star, Wind Spirit, and Wind Surf. Known for their iconic embarking ritual in which the sails were unfurled to the dramatic song “Conquest of Paradise,” these ships immediately appealed to travelers looking for the romance of the seas, casual onboard ambiance, and access to smaller, more authentic ports of call. Three yachts – Star Pride, Star Breeze, and Star Legend – were added to the product line in 2015. These new vessels offered the same intimate and casual vibe as the sailing ships, enabling Windstar to open up new itineraries, including Alaskan adventure cruises scheduled for 2021.
While cruising, guests enjoy total relaxation instead of the regimented activity schedule found on larger and more commercial cruise lines. There is time to read by the pool, visit the captain on the bridge or the chef in the galley, get to know fellow guests, or partake of spa services. Convivial barbeques on deck and nightly entertainment in the lounge add to the festivities. Service on board is low-key yet personalized as Windstar crew immediately knows the names and preferences of each guest. Accommodations have been redesigned in the same style across the fleet, with leather headboards, fine Egyptian linens, and marble bathrooms. However, each vessel is slightly different with respect to cabin types, which range from cozy hideaways to owner’s suites, including four with private terraces on the Star Legend. Of interest to many potential Windstar travelers are Wind Surf’s 18 Ocean View cabins featuring “his and her” bathrooms.
“Windstar’s guests are sophisticated but relaxed, expecting superior destinations, attentive service, and fine dining, all without any pretense. They are drawn to small ship cruising because it affords a different type of luxury travel, one that is truly focused on the individual and the experience, away from the crowds. As each of our six small ships can enter ports that are inaccessible to larger cruise liners, we tend to visit moorings which are more ‘off-the-beaten-path’, such as Barbuda, Montserrat, Wrangell, and Vanuatu. As the Official Cruise Line of the James Beard Foundation, Windstar offers a variety of exclusive culinary programming, hands-on cooking classes, and signature recipes crafted by our award-winning guest chefs.” – Sarah Spaulding, media representative for Windstar
Perhaps Windstar’s greatest appeal is the ability of its small ships to access a sailing region’s relaxed and uncrowded destinations. This means experiencing small and offbeat islands including Nevis and Dominica in the Caribbean, while in the Greek Islands you will visit uninhabited Delos, with its many ruins, or the fifth-century fishing port of Osljak. On many itineraries, onboard professional naturalists preview each port and the surrounding region. Windstar excursions can be purchased on an a la carte basis, although many guests prefer to explore on their own or hire a private driver and guide. Windstar’s worldwide variety of itineraries, themed departures such as Gourmet or Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and the in-depth Star Collector cruises of 14 to 23 days, offer plenty of opportunity to experience easy, breezy Windstar again and again.
- The romance of the seas aboard Windstar’s sailing ships, the privacy, and intimacy on Windstar’s yachts
- Access to regional gems and eclectic destinations worldwide
- Unregimented onboard ambiance fosters total relaxation and the pleasure of getting to know your fellow travelers
- Service is lauded for being both personalized and professional
Travelers Who Will enjoy a Windstar Cruise
- Independent travelers who do not need a lot of formal onboard activities or like the choice to explore the ports on their own
- Casual travelers who prefer a relaxed dress code
- Groups who enjoy organized culinary activities as part of an active vacation
Cruise Length: 7 days to in-depth itineraries of 23 days
Where: Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia, Tahiti, the Americas, the Caribbean, Panama Canal
Price: 7-day cruises start at $1,999 per person. Not included in the cruise fare are excursions, bar drinks, and access to WiFi, although packages of these services can be purchased prior to departure.
How to book: www.windstarcruises.com
BOUTIQUE YACHT CRUISES
SeaDream yacht club
Capacity: Two vessels, Sea Dream I and Sea Dream II, both carrying 112 guests
Waterways: The Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas (May to November) and the Caribbean Sea (November to April)
SeaDream debuted in 2001 when a top Norwegian-based cruise executive purchased Sea Goddess I and Sea Goddess II and launched a cruise line modeled on the pleasures of private yachting…exclusive, laid back, and, above all, featuring unique onboard and onshore experiences. The yachting concept is a perfect fit for the active 40 and 50-something couples who make up the majority of SeaDream guests, many of whom return year after year. Both new and repeat cruisers can choose from a plethora of itineraries, visiting famed yachting ports and offbeat destinations, as well as enjoying the nightlife in such hot spots as St. Barths in the Caribbean and Positano in the Mediterranean.
After cruising the canals aboard European hotel barges, and loving the intimate, boutique cruise experience, Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady, went on to discover many more small ship experiences, including SeaDream in both the Caribbean and Mediterranean. She says: “Utterly memorable, even decadent, such as the signature Champagne and Caviar Splash, in which crew, fully dressed in uniform, wade into the sea, holding aloft bowls of caviar and champagne flutes. In the Mediterranean, days were spent exploring such fashionable ports as Capri, while in the Caribbean, we enjoyed evening barbeques on the beach. At night, we dined on deck as the moon rose, or sat poolside under the stars to watch a movie projected on a big screen.”
The 54 ocean-view cabins are well-designed and comfortable, featuring fine linens and Bulgari bath products, but are not the focal point of a SeaDream cruise, as these elegant vessels feature an array of amenities, activities, and experiences rivaling those associated with the larger cruise ships. Most intriguing are the eleven Balinese Dream Beds for sleeping under the stars, complete with monogrammed pajamas and a bottle of champagne. Guests also enjoy the mobile water sports marina, from which they can swim, snorkel, kayak, jet ski, or sail. Other amenities include a spa (known for its Thai massages), sauna, exercise room, hot tub, beauty salon, casino, golf simulator, mountain bikes, and Top of the Yacht Bar. Cuisine is cooked “a la minute,” and room service is available 24 hours a day. An impressive ratio of 95 crew to 112 guests ensures personalized and strategic service, whether a glass of champagne brought to you in the hot tub or an informal experience in port, led by the Captain or the Chef.
On SeaDream, shore excursions are referred to as Yachting Land Adventures and Activities, which reflect the emphasis on exploration and experience over historic sightseeing. Popular activities include cooking classes, olive oil tasting, wine tasting, nature walks, e-biking, and kayaking. Depending on the port, standard sightseeing might also be available. In the Mediterranean, the tour of Pompei should not be missed, while in the Caribbean, it is interesting to drive the sights of the various islands. Onshore activities can be booked onboard and charged to your account, and as they are not prepaid in the cruise fare, appeal to confident travelers who wish to explore on their own or privately hire a driver and guide.
- Itineraries introduce both well-known ports and hidden destinations
- Exclusive SeaDream onboard experiences, such as overnighting under the stars in a Balinese Dream Bed
- Stay active at the water sports marina or relax in the hot tub, as there is always something available for your pleasure
- The intimacy of a chic yacht combined with the superior service and amenities of small ship cruising
Travelers Who Will Enjoy a SeaDream Yacht Cruise
- Well-traveled and active couples in their 40s and 50s who value experiences over accommodations
- Independent travelers who want everything taken care of onboard but prefer to explore the ports on their own
- Travelers who wish to see destinations from the perspective of the water
- Cruisers who have sailed on the big ships and found them too crowded and impersonal
Cruise Length: The majority of cruises are for 7 days, although longer and shorter cruises are also available
Where: The Caribbean in winter and the Mediterranean/Adriatic in summer
Price: From $1,299 per person for a 4-day Caribbean cruise, double occupancy. Port taxes, service charges, excursions, and Wi-Fi are additional.
How to book: www.seadream.com
DOMESTIC SMALL SHIP CRUISES
While small ship cruising can be enjoyed in many far-flung international destinations, there is also a wide choice of experiences available in the continental United States, as well as in Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Our next selection of small ship cruises connects domestic travelers with coastal culture, protected wildlife, and authentic ports of call. From 22 -passenger yachts in Alaska to full-service ships on the Great Lakes to private sailboats in the Caribbean, there is a small ship that meets your dreams, your budget, and your interest in cruising close to home.
NORTH AMERICAN GREAT LAKES CRUISES
Victory Cruise lines
Capacity: Two ships, Victory I and Victory II, each carrying 200 guests
Waterways: Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River
A Great Lakes cruise delivers the appeal of domestic travel with an approachable ambiance and eclectic excursions. Embarking on North American journeys from lively port cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Portland, Victory Great Lakes cruises include the chef-driven cuisine, cultural discovery, and attentive service expected from small ships. A pre-voyage hotel night included in the cruise rate, escorted shore excursions, and evening onboard entertainment augment the conviviality of the Victory cruise experience.
Offering a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the high-energy environment on larger vessels, the two small ships sailing the Great Lakes, Victory 1 and Victory 11, provide casual cruises for those who wish to comfortably explore North America’s rich maritime heritage. Purpose-built in Florida as pleasure vessels in 2000, since 2015 both boats have been traversing the coastlines of North America and southern Canada at a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. This refined ethos of modern shipbuilding and contemporary cruising shines through on the ships, their amenities, and itineraries.
“A leader in small ship cruising offering itineraries on the Great Lakes and North American coasts, cruising the Great Lakes with Victory provides an opportunity to see a special part of the country only requiring a short domestic flight or car trip,” – Halley Autry, Media Liason, Victory Cruise Lines
While on board a Victory Great Lakes cruise, guests enjoy a combination of all-day cruises, half-day cruises, and even night cruises, covering hundreds of miles in anywhere from 9 to 16 days. Days are pleasantly passed feasting on multi-course meals in one of two dining venues or socializing in the inviting lounges during the daily cocktail hour. Relax on the comfortable sun deck, enjoy an afternoon tea service, or visit the onboard spa for a mani-pedi or massage (spa services are not included in the cruise price). In the evenings, dance the night away on deck to live music with friends both old and new. Upon retiring for the evening, a selection of cozy ensuite staterooms and deluxe suites, ranging from 145 to 335 square feet, ensures everyone enjoys a cabin perfect for their style of travel.
Highlighting the diversity of the region’s waterside cultures, escorted excursions ashore are included with the cruise fare and easily accessible thanks to private transfers to and from the ship’s mooring. The charm of Michigan’s Mackinac Island is revealed during a horse-drawn carriage tour. Cleveland’s Museum of Art beckons with a collection of over 45,000 works. The lively pedestrian avenues of Ontario’s Distillery District tempt with strolling and shopping. Premium activities on land, such as a hosted wine tasting or a catamaran sailing escapade, incur additional fees.
• Lakeside cities and coastal cultures come into vivid view
• A range of house wines and select spirits are included in the cruise fare
• Onboard amenities, such as a spa and fitness center, offer modern appeal
Travelers Who Will Enjoy a Victory Great Lakes Cruise
• Those interested in meeting like-minded North American travelers
• Americans wishing to explore domestic regions with rich maritime history
• Cruisers who enjoy the personalized ambiance found on boutique vessels
Cruise length: 9 to 16 days depending on the itinerary
Where: Great Lakes region and southern Canada
When: May – October
Price: Cruises start at $4,999 per person double occupancy, and do not include premium wines and spirits, taxes, port fees, and gratuities.
How to book: www.victorycruiselines.com
CATAMARAN YACHT CHARTER CRUISES
Capacity: Up to 10 guests on a crewed charter, 2-12 guests on a bareboat charter
Waterways: Caribbean Sea, Gulf Coast, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean, Far East, and South Pacific
Chartered sailing vacations offer travelers a unique way to explore the islands while experiencing the thrill of sailing. Options vary from bareboat self-piloting (both sailing and motor) for those who have sailed or boated previously, to chartering with a skipper to helm, to a luxury catered experience leaving the work to your crew.
The Moorings is among the most established yacht charter companies, having been in business for over 50 years. Starting with just six Pearson yachts in 1969, The Moorings now boasts a fleet of 400 + vessels, with charter bases located in the best sailing destinations around the world in which travelers can charter a catamaran yacht for a premier sailing vacation.
“The Caribbean Sea is a sailor’s paradise and the turquoise water is exhilarating! Trade winds guide your course on the open sea or perhaps you enjoy quietly island hopping from the privacy of your floating home. Easily explore one of thousands of beautiful cays –snorkel or dive and enjoy up close spotting’s of extraordinary marine life or dingy ashore, hike a rain forest or simply relax on a beach – you’re on island time!”
A combination of ideal weather and winds, stunning seas, plentiful anchoring opportunities, and itinerary flexibility make the British Virgin Islands a prime destination for chartering a catamaran cruise. A cruise in the BVIs allows for a perfect blend of sailing, sightseeing, relaxation, and laidback fun with both secluded and lively anchorage options. Sail to Anegada, where you can rent scooters to explore the island and enjoy a decadent lobster dinner on the beach; visit the Baths at Virgin Gorda, and then take in one of the breathtaking BVI sunsets, or anchor at Jost van Dyke and walk from the back of your boat through crystal clear waters to the beach for a painkiller at the famous Soggy Dollar beach bar…there are a plethora of choices.
- Explore hidden cays and small islands
- Swim, snorkel, paddleboard, kayak, or sunbathe
- Take your dinghy to shore to a lively beach bar
- Watch the sunset on an untouched beach
Travelers who will love catamaran sailing cruise
- Small groups including couples, friends, or families looking for a private cruise vacation
- Independent travelers who prefer to set their pace and itinerary…love a particular anchorage? Stay another night or two!
- Adventurous travelers looking to travel off the beaten path
Cruise length: 5 -14 nights
Where: British Virgin Islands, Exumas (Bahamas), Belize, Florida Gulf Coast, Caribbean, Paraty (Brazil), Mediterranean, Thailand, Tonga, Seychelles
When: Year-round, with the prime Caribbean season running November – June
Price: From $5700 for a 5-night bareboat catamaran charter of 6 guests. Prices vary depending on level of service, vessel, and length of cruise. Contact The Moorings for a custom quote.
How to book: www.moorings.com/
ADVENTURE & EXPEDITION CRUISES
Capacity: A 10-boat fleet of expedition vessels and boutique yachts, carrying 22 – 84 guests. Every vessel has a shallow draft that gives access to remote wilderness areas where larger ships cannot typically go. Waterways and Destinations: Inside Passage of Alaska, Galapagos Islands, Sea of Cortez in Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Columbia and Snake Rivers, Pacific Northwest, and Latin America/Panama Canal
A new breed of travelers desiring to experience remote locations known for rugged nature and thriving wildlife and is well-served by the emerging adventure/expedition cruise category. We have chosen to feature UnCruise, which began in 1996 with yachting adventures in Alaska, and over the years adding itineraries worldwide. The very name, UnCruise Adventures, reflects its mission of shunning the crowded ships, rigid schedules, and high-traffic ports of traditional cruise travel in order to delve deeply into the natural beauty and cultural richness of its destinations.
The design and capabilities of the UnCruise fleet are central to the adventure cruise experience. These agile vessels can immediately change course, or stop cruising altogether, allowing guests to experience spontaneous wildlife sightings, such as whales breaching, or the beautiful sunsets and starry heavens seen only from the water. As befitting for a cruise that emphasizes outdoor activities, accommodations tend to be comfortable, but not luxurious. While onboard amenities, such as hot tubs and turndown service, differ across the fleet, every UnCruise vessel offers delicious meals, attentive service, and immersive itineraries for which the small ship experience is known.
“I have enjoyed many small ship cruises, but none as memorable as experiencing authentic Alaska on the 22-passenger yacht Safari Quest. While the large ships cruise from port to port, overcrowded with thousands of tourists and the same souvenir shops, the yachts of UnCruise quietly introduce the authentic beauty and culture of this amazing destination. Itineraries are designed with the flexibility to stop for spontaneous wildlife sightings, the most magical of which is whale watching, as well as mooring in quiet bays and remote towns. I enjoyed taking the skiff up close to gorgeous glaciers and meeting the fisherman who delivered seafood to the yacht. This is THE way to see the real Alaska!” –Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady
Adventurous exploration and wildlife sightings are offered every day. Guests in Alaska can choose from kayaking, skiff tours, hiking, and sailing up close to glaciers. In the Sea of Cortez, a UNESCO World Heritage site called the “aquarium of the world” by marine biologist Jacques Cousteau, there is snorkeling with sea lions. Cruises in the Galapagos Islands offer up-close discovery of unique birds, marine life, and land animals first studied by Darwin. Local personalities bring the destinations to life: In Alaska, a U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger kayaks right up to the vessel and hops aboard to talk about natural history, and in Hawaii, a respected elder teaches you to make poi.
A friendly and knowledgeable crew is fundamental to such a highly personalized voyage, and every captain and crew member of UnCruise are well-educated, trained, life-long learners who are passionate about a life at sea and adventures in all corners of the world. Cuisine emphasizes fresh and local ingredients and homemade baked goods; the larger vessels carry a dedicated pastry chef. UnCruise attracts many repeat guests, as the welcoming ambiance and in-depth immersion into nature and culture can be enjoyed by single travelers, couples, families, and increasingly, to groups who charter an entire vessel.
- Explore the deep wilderness in many destinations, while enjoying recreational activities and cultural visits
- Stop for spontaneous wildlife sightings and natural scenes of beauty
- Share experiences and get to know your fellow travelers, facilitated by the intimacy of the voyage
- Meet local personalities who bring the destination to life
Travelers who will enjoy an UnCruise Adventure or Expedition Cruise
- Travelers preferring flexible itineraries to the rigid port to port schedules of the larger cruise lines
- Those who value experiences over luxury amenities, and prefer to bring home knowledge of a destination rather than souvenirs
- Nature lovers who want to observe wildlife and experience geographical wonders up close
- Active travelers who like the opportunity to kayak, hike, and snorkel
Cruise Length: 5 days, 7 days, and 14 days
Where: Inside Passage of Alaska, Galapagos Islands, Sea of Cortez in Mexico, Hawaiian Islands, Columbia and Snake Rivers, Pacific Northwest, and Latin America/Panama Canal
When: Year-round, each destination on a different calendar
Price: From $2,695 per person, double occupancy, for a 5-day cruise. Includes all meals, open bar, and excursions/adventures. Does not include crew gratuity. Internet access is available only in the Galapagos.
How to book: www.uncruise.com
From luxury European hotel barges plying the placid canals of Europe to the adventure yachts exploring the wildest waterways of Alaska, small ship cruises offer travelers a variety of vessels, destinations, and itineraries. Additionally, these special sailings allow a unique opportunity to privately charter an entire boat with family and friends for an unforgettable cruise vacation.
Happily, our industry peers and media partners are equally enthusiastic about the small ship experience.
“I love the intimacy of small ship cruising in all its permutations. From getting to know the crew and other passengers, to seeing the preserved ramparts of a medieval castle close-up, these boutique boats offer travel experiences for folks who favor the road less traveled to the major highway. They like getting up close and personal, making real connections to a destination and to the others they’re traveling with.”
The Barge Ladies encourage you to keep dreaming of the dynamic culture, delicious cuisine, and beautiful cruising found aboard the world’s best small ship cruises! Which small ship cruise most appeals to you?