You like cruising; we like cruising. It’s a decidedly comfortable and convenient way to see exciting new destinations and to revisit our favorite places. Perhaps it’s the draw of stepping ashore on a half-dozen islands of the Mediterranean or far out in the South Pacific; sailing into impossibly deep Norwegian fjords or one that dead-ends at a majestic Alaskan glacier. What about cruising down a lazy river and looking up at vineyards that produce Austrian, French or Washington wines — that may just appear on the dinner table, then several hours later landing at Vienna, Bordeaux or at the beginning of Hells Canyon in Idaho.
At the very bottom of a spinning globe, the white continent of Antarctica beckons, and at the top, the intriguing possibility of island hopping from the Faroes to Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland to Manhattan. Most of the world’s great cities are dotted along the coasts of the Baltic, the Eastern and Western Mediterranean; East and Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, down South America way — and closer to home, from Eastern Canada down to Florida and Mexico south to Central America.
When we mention cruising to friends and acquaintances, often the first reaction is do you really take to those floating apartment blocks and sharing your travel plans with hundreds, often thousands of other people?
Yes, it’s indeed the megaships that drive and define what cruising seems to be about, offering all the amenities of a major resort within a thousand feet of your cabin door and overnight delivering you to another popular port.
We have experienced the allure of the newest and latest giants of the seven seas — then for a long period of time we began to narrow our interests to what we really like about cruising — heading to parts of the world we want to see and sharing it with family, friends and new friends who like a small ship atmosphere. We like the intimacy of being close to the water, taking but a few steps and we are out on deck, visiting both well known and off the beaten track ports, and the ease of getting on and off the ship and taking in the expert interpretation of the historians and naturalists who travel with us.
The cruise industry tends to define small ships as those with capacities up to about 800 passengers, mid-size ships to roughly 1,800 and the large on up to over 6,000, not including an additional 2,000 more as crew. For purposes of QuirkyCruise, we cap the passenger count at 300, with a few exceptional exceptions, and the majority will be half that number. We present a varied lot of ships — oceangoing; coastal; river and canal; expedition and soft adventure; sailing and motor sailing ships; and yachts where you book as a group or as individuals. To give you a rough idea of cost, in each ship/line review we use a dollar sign system: $ = Moderate (up to $300 per person per day); $$ = Expensive ($300 – $600 per person per day); and $$$ = Very Pricey ($600+ per person per day).
Most of these smaller vessels get lost in the shuffle when it comes to getting their names out to potential passengers as the published cruise guides, print media and web sites emphasize the big ones. The small fry don’t have large advertizing budgets.
We don’t expect small ship aficionados to like all types of small-ship cruising, but we intend to present what we feel is most attractive about what they offer, where they go and who else might be aboard, from adventure seekers to those who yearn to know more about our ever-changing world, multi-generational families or the happily retired and semi-retired with time and disposable income.
Hop on board QuirkyCruise.com to find out more.
Heidi M. Sarna
So far, I’ve explored 78 countries around the world by boat, road, plane, foot, bicycle and camel. My first big journey was a six-month trip around the world back in the days when Pan Am sold a 16-leg flight package for a song. My future husband and I hit 20 countries on six continents with memorable adventures including a three-day “cruise” down the Amazon aboard a rickety fishing boat held together with a combination of luck and rust. Not too surprisingly, after this trip and armed with a Master’s degree in American and English Lit, I landed a job at a cruise magazine. A few years later, I left to become a freelance writer and as fate would have it, have spent most of my career penning articles and guidebooks about cruises. Click here for my CV.
My credits include co-authoring Frommer’s Cruises and Ports of Call for a decade, plus several editions of Frommer’s European Cruises and Cruise Vacations for Dummies. A stack of newspaper, magazine and web credits includes everything from Conde Nast Traveler, CNN.com and ForbesTraveler.com to the Star Ledger, International Herald Tribune and Singapore’s Straits Times. Throw in many hundreds of stories for Frommers.com, along with Porthole, Travel Weekly and Singapore’s Expat Living, and you should get the picture: I’ve written a lot about cruises and travel, based on my experiences globetrotting aboard more than 110 ships large and small, and it’s those small ones that have always been my favorites.
Up-close and personal Alaska cruises on the small Cruise West ships and crazy Caribbean adventures aboard Windjammer Barefoot Cruises pirate-y schooners got me hooked on small ships many moons ago, and though both those lines are now, sadly, defunct, their legacy lives on in QuirkyCruise.
I met Ted Scull in the early 1990s while living in New York, and we became colleagues and fast friends. Since 2006 I’ve been based in Singapore with my husband and twin sons, loving the awesome travel ops and even the heat and those dramatic tropical downpours. Spending my entire adult life in two of the world’s busiest ports has been a quirky coincidence professionally, but collaborating on this site with one of the world’s most respected ship authorities and travel writers seems to be my destiny — and an absolute honor. Thank you Ted!!
— Heidi Sarna
Singapore, October 2015
Theodore W. Scull
I am happiest near water, over water or better still on a conveyance moving through water. When my brother Sandy and I were deemed old enough, mother took us to Europe by ship. Foreign travel soon became a cherished part of my life and living abroad in Paris and London only added to the opportunities.
Over these many decades, I have spent more than five years of my life on overnight vessels of all types — ocean liners, cruise ships, riverboats, night boats, coastal vessels, expedition ships, sailing ships and even a couple of freighters, while traveling to over 120 countries on seven continents.
After working for Holland America Line, my first full-time job, and a decade of teaching with the summers to travel, I took up travel writing with an emphasis on the cruise industry, initially for newspapers and the travel industry, then shifting to magazines, websites, and lecturing. I also wrote a cruise guide —“One Hundred Best Cruise Vacations” — that ran to four editions, covering the waterfront with the best of every type of ship available.
Having traveled a lot, and I mean real travel, by land and especially by train and over the road, I began to gravitate more to smaller ships, ones that kept in touch with their cultural and geographic surroundings. People I met started asking me where to find more information on smaller ones.
A half-dozen years ago, I went to publishers with the idea of writing such a guide and got turned down. The money was in writing about the big ships where far more people had an interest. However, now with the Internet, small-ship alternatives suddenly became doable. Then in late 2014, Heidi Sarna who I first met 25 years ago in a cruise magazine office in the Lincoln Building across from Grand Central, had the same idea to develop a website resource along these same lines; she had already chosen a name — QuirkyCruise – A Guide to Small Ships. It took me seconds to say “Yes, let’s collaborate.”
Here are the initial results of our endeavors, a labor of love that will be expanded, improved and updated — thanks to the Internet.
We hope you will find your ship, and many more after that.
— Ted Scull
New York, NY, October 2015
Photographers/journalists Laurel and Charles Doherty were bitten by the travel bug while on sabbatical in India after completing college. Since then, they’ve sailed all seven seas and explored all seven continents, facilitated by Charles’s decades at the helm of Cruise Travel, “The Worldwide Cruise Vacation Magazine.”
Anne Kalosh has written about cruises for decades and her favorites involve small ships. She writes a cruise column for Afar.com, is the U.S. editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and Seatrade Cruise Review, and has contributed to a bazillion pubs, including The Miami Herald, Cruise Travel, USA Today and Cruise Week.
Peter Knego is a sought-after cruise journalist, as well as a historian and collector of ocean liner fittings and art (see his www.midshipcentury.
Randy Mink has taken 40 cruises during his many years as a professional travel writer. He has served as associate editor of Cruise Travel Magazine since 1991 and in 2017 takes over as editor. Randy also is managing editor of Leisure Group Travel and other travel trade magazines published by Premier Travel Media.