Among the 80 or so trips, plus almost annual visits to Maui and New York that Gabriele and I have taken, we were surprised to find that 17 of those trips have been what you might call cruises. They were all on water, but not all were what you normally think of as cruises.
If you had asked me if we’ve done a lot of cruising, I would have said “No, not really. We prefer land tours.” I guess we’ve done more than I realized.
Although they’re a great value for the money in many ways, the big hotel ships of 2,000 to 4,000 people never seemed appealing to us. We looked for small ships and different destinations.
Here’s a list of the on-water boat trips we’ve taken and how I rate them:
- A&K Barge Trip (5 stars) on a canal near Dijon, France – 20 passengers and the smallest cabin you’ll ever find. Wonderful food, local produce, cheeses and wines.
- Cruise West (out of business) to Alaska (4 stars) , Panama and Costa Rica (3-1/2 stars) and Japan (3 stars) – 90 passengers.
- Oceania Riviera (4 stars for the boat, 2 stars for the Caribbean) – 1,250 passengers. Great choice of dining options.
- Holland America to Alaska (3 stars) – 1,250 passengers.
- National Geographic to Alaska (5 stars) – 84 passengers. Lots of outdoor activities.
- Quark to Antarctica (4 stars) – 96 passengers. Russian boat, Russian food, and at 4pm the most delicious cakes and sweets. Amazing sights.
- Regent from Dubai to India (3 stars) – 450 passengers. To be fair, this is a highly rated cruise line, but this was a maiden voyage in this area. The excursions were poor and the food was mediocre.
- Sea Dream (5 stars), West Coast of Italy, Sardinia to Amalfi and Dubrovnik to Athens – 100 passengers. Terrific.
- Travel Dynamics (5 stars), West Coast of Africa and inland to Mali and Timbuktu and across the Great Lakes – 100 passengers. Terrible, confused office. Great cruises.
- Seabourn (2 stars), Venice down the Adriatic – 200 passengers. Highly rated, but stupid rules, poor selection of ports.
- River Trips – Tauck (4 stars) on the Rhine and Mosselle – 150 passengers. Viking (3-1/2 stars), Moscow to St. Petersburg – 160 passengers. Russian food.
- VBT Barge/Bike Trip (4 stars), Amsterdam to Brugge – 22 passengers. And if you want to stretch the list a little further, we also did two days rafting on the Kern River (5 stars)
They were all a great cross section of what’s available in small ship cruising. The small ships especially attract a younger, more active passenger group. As you noticed, we avoided the large popular cruise ships who offer a lot of entertainment at attractive prices. The floating city cruises didn’t appeal to us but it’s still great for a lot of folks and especially for families.
There are some passengers on ships who are called “cruisers.” They are people who just want to stay on the ship. They don’t care much about the ports or excursions. They come just to relax and enjoy the ship’s services. They paid the fare. They can do what they want.
Future cruise desinations we’re considering
- Oceania – Fall 2014 (10 days) – Lisbon – Tangers – Valencia – Barcelona – Marselle – St. Tropez – Florence – Rome.
- National Geographic – Fall 2015 (9 days) – Columbia and Snake Rivers, tracing the Lewis and Clark expedition.
- Travel Dynamics – Montreal to New Brunswick – Prince Edward Island – Halifax – Bar Harbor – Boston.
- National Geographic (10 days) – Upper Amazon – Peru.
- AMA Waterways (7 days) – Paris to Normandy.
- Travel Dynamics (11 days) – New Orleans – Natchez – Memphis.
- Tauck River Boat (12 days) – The Blue Danube – Prague, Budapest, Vienna.
- Other Cruise Destinations – Iceland, Papua New Guinea.
There are cruises available with ships of all sizes and shapes, and some are great bargain vacations. You need to investigate to find the ones that fit your desires.