PHOTO: AmaWaterways’ AmaKristina in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (photo by Jason Leppert)
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recognizes a growing interest in travel is going smaller. That is travelers are discovering the joys of choosing cruise ships with lower guest capacities and the trade association has outlined five reasons why that we explore and to which we add our two cents.
“The small ship sector is a vital and constantly evolving part of the overall cruise industry that excels at creating unmatched travel experiences, making it more popular than ever,” said Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO, CLIA, in a press release. “Small ship cruising allows for a unique and intimate cruise unlike any other.”
Small Ships Can Cruise the World
CLIA starts by pointing out that small ships are capable of global coverage, often navigating farther into tighter areas that are off-limits to larger vessels. River cruises can, of course, go inland and expedition cruises can head to remote destinations.
Examples include Avalon Waterways offering more than simply European river cruises but also regional beer discoveries and Tauck exploring far and wide in partnership with BBC Earth. In fact, Paul Gauguin Cruises will be the first ever to call on the port of Vairao in Tahiti Iti.
In many ways, small ships can serve as pilot programs for testing out the waters of new destinations that may become widely available to the industry in time—provided vessels are sized appropriately to navigate there.
Small Ship Cruising is Affordable for a Variety of Budgets
Intimately sized ships tend to be in the more luxurious categories, but CLIA cites the all-inclusive nature of, say, Regent Seven Seas Cruises as adding value or Oceania Cruises’ wide range of price points offering something for nearly everyone. Similarly, SeaDream Yacht Club presents reduced fares on shorter itineraries or transatlantic repositioning cruises.
Truth is, though, small ships do not benefit from the economy of scale that exists on mega-ships. That means the cost of operating each small ship must be shared by far fewer cabins that in turn will cost higher individually than dividing it out by thousands of staterooms and passengers. However, not all small ships are priced at luxury levels to begin with. There are less expensive alternatives that travel agents can point guests to.
Small Ships Offer Unique Experiences Onboard and On Shore
Despite size limitations, dedicated service and special activities can be exceptional onboard with more opportunities ashore than on larger ships. Scenic newly showcases its Scenic Culinaire cooking courses, Emerald Waterways sports a convertible pool and cinema venue and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection offers exclusive Kunsthistorisches Museum tours.
Plus, some of the most up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters to be had are available only thanks to expedition cruises which can take the time to stop when animals are nearby for viewing. Excursions are also limited to smaller participant counts for even more intimacy with nature once shoreside.
Small Ship Cruising is Flexible to Each Traveler
Personalization is a key element of small ship cruising. Consider that AmaWaterways carries bicycles onboard its riverboats for singular exploration and Silversea Cruises features an ace enrichment program for individual growth.
Some of the most introspective moments can be had far more easily on a quieter riverboat or expedition ship than a busier behemoth. For instance, there’s no greater place in the world to take in the stars than from the upper deck of a ship with little light pollution while at sea.
Small Ship Cruising Differs from Large Ship Cruising in Ways Big and Small
More often than not small translates into distinct experiences not accessible to passengers on larger vessels. A signature Seabourn event is the luxury line’s “Caviar in the Surf” beach barbecue where staff wade into the water to serve champagne and caviar.
Ultimately, even small ship cruises are about the destination. It just so happens that small ships can get to the more secluded varieties such as Bahia Drake, Puerto Jimenez, Parida and Bocas del Toro via Windstar Cruises, which makes them perfect for those seeking an alternative to the big boys.
This post first appeared on TravelPulse.