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Roughest 8 Cruising Regions

By Ted Scull.

For small ship cruising, it is not always fair winds and calm seas. Some parts of the world see more chop than others, and to be in the know before booking, here below are the regions that have a bit of a reputation.

Now let’s begin with the good news. Advance weather forecasts give ship captains ample warning to steer clear of a hurricane’s track by altering course. A diversion may result in skipping a port or two and substituting others, and while you might still feel the swell from the storm, it is unlikely that the ship’s movement will be more than a gentle rise and fall.

Roughest 8 Cruising Regions

Some major white water in the Atlantic, off Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Stabilizers help reduce side-to-side rolling, but not the up and down pitching motions into oncoming swells. The smaller the small ship, the less likely it will have the stabilizing fins. Large cruise ships’ massive blunt bows tend to slam into head seas, and to lessen the unpleasant sensation, the captain may drastically reduce his speed to lessen the impact.

The bodies of water below have the potential for the being the choppiest in world; in no particular order:

1)  Caribbean

The Caribbean’s hurricane season (roughly June to October) tops the list in terms of the number of passengers potentially affected because of the large number of ships cruising here. However, with so many alternative routes and ports of call, in most instances, ships can avoid the storm’s fury and still provide a satisfying cruise.

2)  North Atlantic

The North Atlantic is notorious for its storms at almost any time of the year, and the further north the track the more likely it is to encounter some rough seas along the multi-islands’ passage between the North of Scotland, Shetland/Orkney, Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, Newfoundland and the Canadian maritime provinces and/or the U.S. East Coast. It is positive thinking to note that all islands have a lee side.

The ships that reposition seasonally via the Atlantic between the Mediterranean/Iberia and the Caribbean/Florida are much less likely to encounter storms. However, ships that sail between Northern European ports, Iberia and the Mediterranean pass through the Bay of Biscay. This body of water, west of France and north of Spain, has a long anecdotal history especially with Brits.

In my experience — 16 passages — only one (Santander to Portsmouth) was truly tempestuous and that was quite enough for everybody on board, including me who likes a bit of chop.

3)  Mediterranean

Speaking of the Mediterranean, the Mistral that roars down the Rhone Valley in France and then across the Western Med can stir up heavy seas in winter and spring as does the Meltemi in summer in the Greek Islands. I was aboard the ROYAL CLIPPER during a powerful Mistral and the sail-laden ship reached its maximum hull speed. It was exhilarating and more than a bit dramatic.

4)  Drake Passage

The dreaded Drake Passage between Ushuaia, Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula has a well-deserved reputation, and happily any storm that does occur rarely lasts more than 12 to 24 hours. If you are susceptible to mal de mer, be prepared to deal with any eventuality because the expedition is well worth it.

Longer itineraries that include the Falklands and South Georgia expand the chances for stormy weather.

Cowabunga dude!! That's some wave action on the Drake Passage. * Photo: Ted Scull

Cowabunga dude!! That’s some wave action on the Drake Passage. * Photo: Ted Scull

5)  Gulf of Alaska

The Inside Passage to and from Alaska may be well protected apart from a few short-open sea stretches, while ships traversing the Gulf of Alaska to Seward, on the other hand, may encounter North Pacific storms or swells from a more distant storm.

6)  Southeast & East Asia

Typhoons are an occasional worry in Southeast and East Asia from the South China Sea north to Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan, but course alterations can minimize discomfort unless the ship must call at a disembarkation port, then arrivals may be delayed until the waters calm.

7)  Trans-Tasman Passage

The Trans-Tasman passage between Australia and New Zealand and the Bass Strait between Southeast Australia and the island of Tasmania can kick up a mighty storm, but few small ships venture into these southern waters.

8)  Point Judith

The only time I ever felt I might be seasick was standing at the bow of a small ship rounding Point Judith where Narragansett Bay meets Long Island Sound. The sea becomes confused here due to colliding waters, and by simply moving amidships, the unpleasant sensation eased.

Charles Darwin was seasick more than not during his three-year voyage on the Beagle, but back then there were few remedies, and today they are many. A truism is that everyone reacts differently, so there is no easy answer. Still, for the small percentage that do experience mal de mer, it is no picnic. Get professional advice before you go.

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small ship cruises to the Greek Isles

Windstar Cruises.

This fleet of six combines Windstar’s three original sailing yachts, groundbreaking at the time for their large size and computer-controlled sails, with Seabourn’s former trio of small cruise ships also groundbreaking back in the day because of their luxurious all-suite accommodation and exquisite cuisine. All were built between 1986 and 1992, making them senior citizens in cruise ship speak, but thanks to repeated upgrades, the oldies remain in remarkably fine shape, and details are now available about the trio’s major reconstruction program.

N.B. The STAR PRIDE, STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND will undergo lengthening and the addition of 50 suites, all new bathrooms, two additional dining venues, and more fuel efficient new engines. The deck pool area and spa will be redesigned. The complete project will last from October 2019 to November 2020 with staggered withdrawals from service. The passenger capacities will increase to 312 but never fear, the trio will continue to be covered by QuirkyCruise. STAR BREEZE is currently undergoing its $85 million refit.

The collective aim is to provide a casually elegant no-jackets-required small-ship experience with alfresco dining, sail-away parties on deck, and generally lots of time spent outdoors soaking up the sun and sea. The MO is sophistication without stuffiness on cruises that are not crazy expensive. Windstar Cruises runs frequent promotions, from waiving the single supplement fees to discounts on fares, and free shipboard credits, shore excursions and WiFi.

N.B. WIND SPIRIT will further delay return to service from Tahiti to October 15, 2020 due to Centers for Disease Control “No Sail” date of September 20. 2020. The other five ships are scheduled for late 2020 and onto July 2021. In the interim, major HVAC updates will take place.

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

WIND STAR (built 1986, 148 passengers), WIND SPIRIT (b. 1988, 148 p), WIND SURF (b. 1990, 310 p), STAR PRIDE (b. 1988, 212 p), STAR BREEZE (b. 1989, 312 p I 2020), and STAR LEGEND (b.1992, 212 p).

small ship cruises to the Greek Isles

Gorgeous WInd Star under full sail. * Photo: Windstar Cruises

Passenger Profile

The majority are North American couples in their 40s to 70s, with a fair number of British and European passengers in the mix.. Older children, 12 and up, might enjoy the sailing ships, especially on warm weather itineraries when there are oodles of opportunities to use the watersports equipment.

Passenger Decks

WIND SPIRIT/WIND STAR have 4 decks and no elevators; WIND SURF and STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND have 6 decks and elevators between them all.

Price

$ – $$  Moderate/Expensive

Included Features

All non-alcoholic drinks, bottled water, sodas and specialty coffees.

Itineraries

The Windstar Cruises’ fleet spends a lot of time in the Caribbean and Mediterranean on 7-night sailings, plus hits many other regions of the world as well. For the 2020 European program, Windstar will operate 116 departures and 80 itineraries with returns after several years absence to Ashdod and Haifa for Israel; Alexandria and Port Said for Egypt including Cairo and the Pyramids; and Istanbul with an overnight stay.

  • Three or four of the six ships spend winters in the Caribbean doing mostly 7-night sailings out of Puerto Rico, Barbados and St. Martin.
  • Two ships spend the winter doing 7-night Costa Rica cruises with a Panama Canal transit. Mexico is another destination.
  • In late 2017, the line returned to Asia for the winter with the STAR LEGEND doing mostly 10- to 14-night sailings in the region.
  • WIND SPIRIT resides in French Polynesia year-round doing mostly 7-night sailings round-trip from Papeete, and a handful of longer sailings that also include calls to the dreamy lagoons at Takapoto and Tiputa, Rangiroa.
  • Summers, five of the six ships undertake 7- to 11-night sailings in the Greek Isles, along the Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese coasts, and in northern Europe to Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland and the Baltic countries. Alaska again is part of the summer program along with New England and Canada. The newly overhauled STAR BREEZE will offer 22 Alaska itineraries beginning in 2020 that include Prince William Sound with a call at Valdez and a cruise into College Fjord where five tidewater glaciers are found as well as Hubbard Glacier on the slopes of the St. Elias Mountains.
  • Note: Six new itineraries in 2020-2021 lasting 12-15 days aboard the newly refitted STAR BREEZE will explore Australia and New Zealand such as Cairns to Melbourne and Auckland at the top of the North Island and along he coast of the South Island.
When to Go?

The fleet cruises different regions of the world in the optimum months.

The cabins on WInd Star, Spirit & Surf are compact but offer everything you'll need. * Photo: Roger Paperno

The cabins on WInd Star, Spirit & Surf are compact but offer everything you’ll need. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Cabins

WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF’s standard cabins are 188 square feet with a nautical flair, while the all-suite STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND standard suites are 277 square feet with an elegant posh-hotel feel, thanks to a walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa, desk and marble bathroom with double sinks and both a shower and tub.

Cabins on all six Windstar Cruises’ ships come stocked with L’Occitane bath amenities, bathrobes, slippers, fresh fruit, flat screen TVs with DVD players, wifi access, room service and mini-bars. Suites have additional amenities, and the largest living space on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND is the 575-square-foot owner’s suite with a separate dining and living room area; the WIND SURF’S 495-square-foot Bridge Suite is it’s top accommodation. None have inside cabins.

About one-third of the suites on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND have French balconies (sliding glass doors opening up to a small ledge) and no cabins have balconies on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF.

Marble-clad bathrooms on Star Pride. * Photo: Chrissy Colon

Marble-clad bathrooms on Star Pride. * Photo: Chrissy Colon

Public Rooms

The STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND are mini cruise ships and much of their public space is indoors, while life on the WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF is focused more on the expansive outdoor teak deck space with its inviting bar, pool and hot tub, and lots of seating. The outside decks on the STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND trio also sport a nice bar with great sea views. Otherwise due to the annoying configuration of the wide smoke stacks in the middle of things, the pool is in the shade much of the time and there isn’t the feel of wide open outdoor space like there is on Windstar’s sailing ships.

The interiors on STAR PRIDE/STAR SPIRIT/STAR LEGEND, on the other hand, feel spacious. There are two lounges, two bars and two restaurants (one with indoor and outdoor seating), plus a small casino, library, boutique, spa, and gym, plus a three-level atrium in the middle of it all.

The WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT/WIND SURF also have multiple restaurants, an indoor lounge and bar, tiny boutique and library, slip of a casino, plus a gym and spa (both of which are larger on WIND SURF).

Dining

Mealtime is a big part of the Windstar Cruises experience, with each of the ships having two, three or four dining venues, including at least one with outdoor seating so diners can soak up the sun or starry nights. The WIND SURF has four restaurants, including a formal venue serving continental, a modern French bistro, a poolside grill for steaks and grilled skewers, and a casual buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch.

The WIND STAR and WIND SPIRIT and STAR PRIDE/STAR BREEZE/STAR LEGEND have a main formal restaurant (though jackets aren’t required, passengers dress smartly and some men wear jackets anyway) for multi-course fine dining with a continental menu and the more casual indoor/outdoor buffet venue called The Veranda at the stern that’s transformed into the a la carte Candles restaurant for dinner. Dining out on the deck facing the ship’s wake is a lovely experience.

Elegant Amphora Restaurant, this one on Wind Star. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Elegant Amphora Restaurant, this one on Wind Star. * Photo: Roger Paperno

Activities & Entertainment

On some cruises, usually longer itineraries with multiple sea days and cruises with a notable feature (i.e., the Panama Canal), an expert lecturer talks about the destinations. On occasion, a movie is screened in the lounge (STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND have a dedicated movie room). The fleet has an open bridge policy, so weather-permitting you are free to wander in and have a chat with the officer on duty, and perhaps the captain.

All six have gyms (and they’re small on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT) and spas (one room on WIND STAR/WIND SPIRIT), plus outdoor pools and one or two hot tubs. Sea days on the Windstar sailing yachts are meant to be spent sunbathing and relaxing on deck while taking in the majestic beauty of the masted ships. If anchored in calm seas, all six have watersports platforms for easy access to swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing and other water fun right from the ship and all free of charge.

Before and after dinner, passengers enjoy drinks and the company of their shipmates, plus live music from a pianist or singing duo in one of the lounges. Usually once per cruise local performers come on board for a few hours to entertain guests with folkloric dance or other cultural traditional entertainment. In port once per cruise, there is a complimentary special experience, the likes of a wine tasting and traditional lunch in Sicily or in Ephesus, a private dinner under the stars at the stunning ruins of the Celsus Library.

Along the Same Lines

SeaDream Yacht Club is a blend of Windstar’s sailing ships (where life is lived outdoors on deck) and ex-Seabourn ships (mini cruise ships without sails).

Contact

Windstar Cruises, 2101 4th Avenue Suite 210, Seattle, WA 98121; www.windstarcruises.com, 888-216-9373

— HMS

 

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quirky-cruise-victory-cruise-lines-deals-mexico-yucatan-chichen-itza-mayan-ruins

Visit multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites on a Victory Yucatán cruise, and even better, save $1,000 per person if booking before August 15, 2018! Not only can you take Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico’s Yucatán, you can also reap special offers for small-ship cruises on itineraries exploring the Great Lakes, French Canada, New England and Cuba.  Founded just two years ago with the 202-passenger VICTORY I, Victory Cruise Lines is a wonderfully quirky cruise line with some cool stuff in the pipeline. In July, the line is launching a second ship identical to the first, the 202-passenger VICTORY II, and also introducing itineraries to Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula. To learn more about Victory Cruise Lines, read a QuirkyCruise Q&A with CEO Hans Lagerweij and the Victory review on QuirkyCruise.com.

For more details or to book any of the following offers, click on the links to go directly to the Victory Cruise Lines website.  Note fares are in USD and include drinks (house wine, beer, soft drinks and non-premium alcohol) and shore excursions in every port.

 

Early Booking Savings

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula Cruise & Land Safari in 2018 & 2019.

Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

Cruise: 11 nights between Miami and Campeche, including 2-night hotel stay in colonial Compeche and an overnight in the gorgeous 1920s Mayaland Hotel, a historic hacienda with a Moorish and Spanish flair built within the grounds of Chichen Itza. Victory is the first line offering an overnight stay in Chichen Itza with a special early-morning visit to the ruins before the other tourists arrive.

Deal:

  • Book by August 15, 2018 and save $1,000 per person.
  • Fares after discount start at $3,499 per person for Jan 4, 12 & 23; March 25; April 5, 12, 23 & 30, 2019 sailings.
  • Fares after discount start at $3,999 per person for Jan 30; Feb 10, 17 & 28; March 7 & 18, 2019 sailings.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory I.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

 

Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

The gorgeous Mayaland Hotel in Chichen Itza was was once a refuge for archaeologists. * Photo: Mayaland Hotel

 

Chichen Itza is a large pre-Columbian city in the Yucatan State of Mexico that was built by the Maya more than 1,000 years ago. Many of the site’s stunning pyramids, temples and other structures have been restored and in 1988 Chichen Itza became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Victory Cruise Lines Deals

The Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins are a highlight of a Victory Yucatan cruise. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

 

2-For-1 Savings
Red hot Victory Cruise Line Deals

French Canada & the Great Lakes.

French Canada & the Great Lakes aboard the new VICTORY II in 2018.

Cruise: 9 nights between Montreal and Detroit.

Deal:  Two-for-one fares start at $3,100 per person double occupancy on the July 27, 2018 sailing.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory II.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

Château Frontenac in Quebec City in Fall. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines


2-For-1 Savings
 Red hot Victory Cruise Lines Deals

French Canadian Maritimes

French Canada & the Saint Lawrence Seaway aboard VICTORY II in 2018.

Cruise: 10 nights between Halifax and Detroit.

Deal: Two-for-one fares start at $3,445 per person double occupancy on Aug 5, 15 & 25, 2018 sailings.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory II.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

 

Victory Cruise Lines Deals

Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines


2-For-1 Savings
Red hot Victory Cruise Lines Deals

North Atlantic & Coastal New England

North Atlantic & Coastal New England aboard VICTORY II in 2018.

Cruise: 7 nights between Boston and Halifax.

Deal: Two-for-one fares start at $2,413 per person double occupancy on Sept 5, 12, 19 & 26; & Oct 3, 2018 sailings.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory II.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

 

Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

Category A cabin. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

  

Early Booking Savings
Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

Cuba

Cuba Circumnavigation Cruises in 2019.

Cruise: 14 nights round-trip from Miami.

Deal:

  • Book by August 15, 2018 and save $1,000 per person.
  • Fares after discount start at $6,999 per person for sailings departing Jan 29, Feb 15, March 1 & March 15, 2019.
  • Fares after discount start at $5,999 per person for sailings departing March 29 & April 15, 2019.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory I.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

 

Victory Cruise Lines to Mexico's Yucatán

Classic car parade, Havana, Cuba. * Photo: Seldon Ink.

 

No Single Supplement
Red hot Victory Cruise Lines Deals

The Great Lakes

Great Lakes Discovery Cruise in 2018.

Cruise: 9 nights between Toronto and Chicago.

Deal: No single supplement on the June 3, 2018, sailing; per person fares start at $6,199 per person.

Ship:  202-passenger Victory I.

Visit Victory Cruise Lines for more information or to book this offer.

 

Red hot Victory Cruise Lines Deals

Sunset on Lake Huron. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

Note

Deals are generated by, and the responsibility of, Victory Cruise Lines and are based on availability and are subject to change. Cruises are capacity-controlled and offers may be withdrawn at any time. All rates are per person and some fares may include shore excursions and some or all beverages.

 

Subscribe to QuirkyCruise HERE to receive weekly updates!  

 

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author. All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.

By Ted Scull.

The Caribbean hurricane season officially falls between June 1 to November 30, and this year’s predictions are slightly more hurricane activity expected than normal. While storms arise year-round and their frequency and intensity vary, most people associate the summer and early fall in the Caribbean as the epicenter of potential turbulence. That is true unless you live on the Eastern Seaboard, where winter nor’easters can be just as intense. However, the small ship cruise industry moves elsewhere by the late fall and does not start up again until the late spring.

Tropical storms form off West Africa and usually aim for the heart of the cruise industry’s most popular region — the Caribbean Islands. However, most depressions peter out before they arrive there, and if one continues to increase in intensity, it is closely monitored by weather forecasters. The cruise lines have access to this information 24/7, and if there is a chance that one of their ships is in the storm’s projected path, the captain reacts accordingly and alters course to stay a safe distance from the powerful winds and heavy seas. That may mean changing an itinerary, skipping a popular port and seeking shelter in the lee of the storm.

A Streaked and steely sea. * Photo: Ted Scull

When it comes to weather, small ships have one major advantage over the big cruise ships — many more places to ride out a storm.

In the Northeast, the big ships sail from Boston, New York, and occasional other ports to Bermuda, and they may be affected by some heavy seas crossing the Gulf Stream. However, a captain will not make the crossing if the forecast is for severe weather conditions. The same is true for big ships sailing from New York to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. In this case, sailings are year-round, so winter storms or nor’easters may crop up well outside of the normal hurricane period. While sailing in rough conditions is seldom dangerous, it can make passengers seasick, and if passengers elect to move about the ship during a storm, there may be injuries. If you feel at all uncertain of walking in rough conditions, don’t. Stay in your cabin. A rough sea can be very unpredictable, and you may not be able to see an unusually large wave coming.

Capturing the captivating sea. * Photo: Ted Scull

Small ships cruising the New England Islands and the coast of Maine have numerous safe harbors to wait out a storm, and with the exception of the stretch of open ocean along the New Jersey coast, most of the east coast route is in protected waters — Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and the Intracoastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida. While the seas may not kick up much on inland waters, wind can affect a small ship’s ability to navigate narrow channels. That may cause the ship to drop anchor and wait out the storm.

Having spent more than five years at sea, I have experienced every kind of weather, but the instances of encountering a significant storm have been low. Therefore, I would never avoid taking a small-ship cruise if the line has one I want to take.

Contemplation on a peaceful sea. * Photo: Ted Scull

In summation, the instances of a major storm are few and far between but when one hits, it can be a memorable experience — exciting for some, but agony for those who suffer from seasickness. A small percentage have low tolerance to even a gently rolling or pitching ship, so cruising, except in the most ideal circumstances, may not be a good idea for those folks.

Nearing sunset. * Photo: ted Scull

Be sure to get professional advice on how to minimize the effects, especially if it is one of the first times you have taken a cruise. There are lots of remedies and dietary suggestions, and the right one for you can lessen your chances of getting seasick.

Sunsets at sea don’t come any better. * Photo: Ted Scull

© This article is protected by copyright, no part may be reproduced by any process without written permission from the author.  All Rights Reserved. QuirkyCruise.com.