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Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

Happy Holidays from the QuirkyCruise Tribe

by Heidi & Ted.

QuirkyCruise.com wouldn’t be what it is today with our tribe of excellent contributing writers. They’re a well-traveled and experienced group with impressive pedigrees, a flair for writing and many years plying the world’s rivers, lakes, coastal areas and oceans on small-ship cruises under 300 passengers.

A big big thank you to all of them wherever they cruising this holiday season!

Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

Happy Holidays from Quirky Cruise

And as a gift to you…
Our experts share their favorite small-ship cruises.
Enjoy! And Happy Traveling in 2020!
Happy Holidays from Anne

Anne Kalosh

Anne Kalosh

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small ships because they’re able to go to the most interesting places without impacting the environment and they attract the most interesting passengers — people traveling with a purpose.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

I like them all! 

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

  • Climbing the mast on Star Clipper. I was scared to death, but a handsome officer came along to help.
  • Crunching through the ice in the otherworldly atmosphere of Antarctica aboard A&K’s Explorer (now gone).
  • Nudged against a riverbank in Cambodia where kids jumped rope beneath my AmaDara balcony.
  • Stepping back centuries from Kristina Regina at the Solovetsky Monastery in the White Sea.
  • Dazzled by the colored lights and glinting gold of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on Aegean Odyssey.
  • Hiking amid puffins on Fair Isle from Clipper Adventurer.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I love sharing my enthusiasm for small ships and am thrilled to be among thoughtful and inspiring writers like Heidi, Ted, Peter Knego, Ben Lyons and so many others.

Tell us about YOU!

I’m a long-time editor for Seatrade-Cruise.com and I freelance for many others.

Anne’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Mekong River Cruise Adventure with AmaWaterways

Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators Voluntarily Ban Heavy Fuel Oil

More of Anne’s articles here …

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John Roberts at the Holidays

John Roberts

John Roberts

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I really enjoy the intimacy and flexibility. You are more likely to meet like-minded travelers who are seeking immersive experiences and regard the vessel as merely a way to get there. The atmosphere is more conducive to meeting people and creating new friendships.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • My favorite experiences have been with UnCruise Adventures (I have taken five expeditions with them) because the guides and crew are so passionate about wildlife and conservation, and the program offers so many thrilling activities that adventure-seekers would love.
  • Avalon Waterways is an amazing line, with especially outstanding sailings on their small ships in Southeast Asia.
  • AmaWaterways is my top river line for exploring historic European waterways like the Danube and Rhine. They offer a great wellness program and wonderful cuisine and service onboard.

My favorite small-ship cruise memory is …

I sailed on Avalon Myanmar along the Irawaddy River. This 36-passenger ship offered an amazing experience visiting such a remote and exotic place. The people are so warm and inviting and the children just precious, curious and an overall delight.

We had a similarly outstanding experience on Avalon Siem Reap sailing the Mekong from Cambodia to Vietnam. We can’t wait to return. We learned so much about the culture and history on these voyages.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QuirkyCruise.com has been a great outlet for me to tell the stories of my travels and adventures in fun ways using my voice. Plus, the story designs encourage the use of a lot of photos and videos, so readers get a lot of information and can get a true feel of what the experience on a voyage will be like for them.

Tell us about YOU!

I write for Porthole magazine, Cruise Travel magazine, Cruise Passenger magazine in Australia, Travel Age West, Cruise Fever, Cruise Addicts and my site In The Loop Travel, among others. I also have a fun YouTube channel that features a lot of trip highlights and ship tours. Follow me on TWITTER @ InTheLoopTravel & INSTAGRAM @ LoopTravelPics.

John’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Active European River Cruises

Sporty New Zealand Cruise

More of John’s articles here …

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Happy Holidays from Gene Sloan

Gene Sloan

Gene Sloan

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

To me, the travel experience is always richer and deeper when you’re in a small group. Small ships are more intimate, and they can get you more off-the-beaten-path.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

  • I’m a big fan of UnCruise’s super-small vessels in Alaska, which can get you deep into the wilderness of the region far from the tourist hordes in Juneau and Ketchikan. They carry Zodiacs and kayaks for exploring. They’re not the newest or snazziest ships, but that’s not what matters in a destination like that.”
  • I also love Windstar. They’ve got this wonderful collection of small vessels that go to both mainstream and off-the-beaten-path places all over the world. Former Seabourn executive John Delaney has done a great job with that line since he took over in 2016. He’s really expanded the itinerary offerings, and he’s also overseeing a major update of the ships, which all are around 30 years old. For the record, these mostly are vessels in the 150 to 200 passenger range. What John has done in keeping these small ships alive is great news for the small-ship lover.
  • I also will give a shout-out to tiny Adventure Canada, which offers expedition-style cruises in the Canadian Arctic each summer. The ship they charter for the trips isn’t fancy. It’s the old Ocean Endeavour, which dates to the early 1980s and is about as no-frills as it gets. But the breadth and depth of the team of onboard experts and guides that they put together for the sailings is stunning. They really know Arctic Canada — including the fabled Northwest Passage — like no other company. 

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Bumping through the ice in the Arctic Sea above Russia on a small but rugged Hapag-Lloyd Cruises expedition ship. You feel like you’re a million miles away from the world.

Also, sailing through the Caribbean on a Star Clippers sailing ship. I love the feeling of being under sail, experiencing the awesome power of the wind. Star Clippers ships also visit some wonderfully out-of-the-way places in the Caribbean that are off limits to bigger ships.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QuirkyCruise focuses on small vessels that often are overlooked by the mainstream travel media but shouldn’t be. I truly love the opportunity to bring attention to some of these lesser-known cruise offerings, which often are wonderful experiences. QuirkyCruise also gives its writers a lot of freedom in their writing.

Tell us about YOU!

I’ve written about cruising for more than 25 years and for many years oversaw USA TODAY’s award-winning cruise site, USA TODAY Cruises. These days I mostly write for The Points Guy, the fast-growing travel site that points-and-miles expert Brian Kelly started about a decade ago as a blog (it now has an editorial staff of over 40 people and 7 million unique visitors a month). I’m also writing quite a bit for Afar Magazine, both print and online. On social, you can follow my cruise travels on my Twitter page and Facebook page.

I’ve sailed on nearly 150 ships and have served as a cruise expert for The Travel Channel. I’ve written travel guides for Frommer’s and my work has appeared in more than 70 outlets. I’m the proud winner of a Lowell Thomas Award (Society of American Travel Writers) and a Gold Prize Award (North American Travel Journalists Association).

Gene’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Sailing to the Canary Islands with Sea Cloud

Viking River Cruise in the Ukraine

More of Gene’s articles here …

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Holiday Greetings from Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons

Ben Lyons

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small ship cruising because (often) it is all about using the ships as platforms to reach areas that are otherwise inaccessible. There also develops  a wonderful sense of community on smaller ships — an element that I think many first-time small-ship cruisers overlook or don’t expect.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • A “footloose” hiking cruise through Scotland on the Hebridean Princess is absolutely one of my favorite cruise experiences. I love the charm of the ship, and it fits perfectly into the destination.
  • I love what Windstar is doing on many levels. Sailing on the Wind Star around Tahiti with the sails up… a spectacular combination.
  • I’ve always had a soft spot for the ships of SeaDream dating back to when they were the Sea Goddesses. They were trailblazers in the small-ship industry and the ships have actually gotten better as they get older.

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Undoubtedly my first trip to Antarctica has to stand out — I can still clearly remember my first ice berg, my first King Penguin, etc. My highlight from that trip: spending 4 hours just cruising through thick ice south of the Antarctic Circle. It was for me — as a ship’s officer used to larger ships — a real eye opening moment in what was possible.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

I enjoy helping to bring attention to many of  these smaller operators. I love the diversity in the cruise industry and want there to be more and more of these smaller ships and operators, so anything I can do to help bring attention to them, the better.

Tell us about YOU!

I was thrilled to make the Seatrade 20 under 40 list!

Ben’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Barge Cruising in France

An UnCruise Adventure to Alaska

More of Ben’s articles here …

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Seasons Greetings from Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

There is no better way to see the world than by water and small ships are the ideal way to do it.  As much as I’m impressed with the technology and engineering, I’m not fond of the crowds, amusement parks, casinos and the whole over-the-top aspects of modern mega ship cruising.

Smaller ships enable travelers to mingle with and get to know like-minded people in an intimate setting and not overwhelm the places they visit.  They also can get into more remote ports that are not yet spoiled by tourism.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

Hard to limit to just two! A few years ago on the former Hapag-Lloyd ship HANSEATIC, I enjoyed a rather thrilling zodiac ride only a few feet away from the prow of the moving ship. The first officer was driving the zodiac at exactly the same speed as the HANSEATIC while the ship entered Alaska’s magical Misty Fjords on a brilliantly sunny morning — we were literally in the shadow of the moving bow, bone in teeth lurking within arm’s reach!

Another favorite experience was a nighttime stingray encounter with UnCruises’ SAFARI EXPLORER off Hilo. We gathered in a circle at the surface as the massive rays swam up from the depths to feed, gently brushing against us in the process.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I started writing blogs over 20 years ago, so it is nice to be able to do so again with QuirkyCruise.com. Perhaps fittingly, my writing style is a bit quirky, so it’s nice to be able to inject a little personality into my experiences when I contribute to Quirky, something that is not always possible when writing for industry trades or more nuts and bolts consumer markets. And, as a cruise fan, I’m so happy there is a site exclusively dedicated to smaller ship cruising.

Tell us about YOU!

My other outlets are USA Today Travel, Cruise Travel Magazine, TravelAgeWest, Ocean and Cruise News, Porthole, Ships Monthly and MaritimeMatters.com.

I own MidShipCentury.com, which is a website and e-commerce site dedicated to the classic cruise ships and ocean liners broken up at Alang, India in the past two decades, featuring artworks, furniture and fittings that I have rescued.

In 2014, I was the recipient of the Samuel Ward Stanton Lifetime Achievement Award from the Steamship Historical Society of America for my contributions to the world of ocean liners and cruise ships.

Peter’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Great Lakes Cruising Aboard Victory I

Lindblad Adventure in Baja California

More of Peter’s articles here …. 

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Happiest Holidays from Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

Because they are not big!! I enjoy getting to know the other passengers and the crew, the casual style for meals, and the opportunity to see and learn about our close encounters in places many larger ships might not be able to visit.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are …

Spending Christmas and New Years aboard the Pandaw Kalaw in Myanmar with only 18 guests including some friends and my family. Partying with the crew and captain into the wee hours under the stars along the Irrawaddy was just magical.

Many memorable moments on UnCruise in Alaska when the captain turned the boat for a pod of Orcas. Breathtaking moments approaching the glaciers and watching global warming in action (sadly) as massive sheets of ice and snow collapsed into the water around our skiff.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

QC is a treasure chest of interesting and current information on small-ship cruises. Writing for Heidi has allowed me to connect with like-minded small-ship cruise lovers and share my first hand off-the beaten-path experiences.

Tell us about YOU!

My website is TravelingJudi.com and I also write for AllThingsCruise.com, Food Wine Travel Magazine and Travel World International Magazine. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @TravelingJudi.

Judi’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Brahmaputra River in India

Antarctica on a Russian Research Vessel

More of Judi’s articles here …

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Sarah says Happy Holidays

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Sarah GreavesGabbadon

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

Because it combines the convenience and many of the amenities of modern cruising with the intimacy and romance of sailing. And when a small ship enters a port with a couple of hundred passengers or fewer, I believe you get a more authentic experience of the destination. Because when 3,000+ people disembark in any given place, there’s no way it can remain unchanged!

What are your favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax)?

My favorite small-ship cruise memory is ….

My circumnavigation of Iceland on Windstar last summer was unforgettable. I was awed by the beauty of the landscape and discovered that I’m a natural-born hiker!

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

I appreciate that the site is run by editors who truly care about the subject and spreading the word about small-ship cruising.

Tell us about YOU!

You can follow my globetrotting, fitness and shopping adventures on my website and on my @JetSetSarah social media channels. I’m kind of a big deal on Instagram! 😉

Sarah’s articles & videos for QuirkyCruise.com

Iceland Circumnavigation with Windstar (article)

Iceland Cruise Excursions (video)

Iceland Cruise ABCs (video)

JetSet Sarah Takes the Polar Plunge (video)

_______

Randy Mink

Randy Mink

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

I love small-ship cruising because, as in real life, I can’t deal with big complicated things.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • Scenic (Europe rivers)
  • Iceland ProCruises
  • Latin Trails (Galapagos)

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

I loved sharing a Galapagos cruise with my veterinarian daughter. There were only 16 people onboard Latin Trails’ yacht-like Sea Star Journey, and three were dad-daughter groups, including two Australians with their 83-year-old dad.

On my circumnavigation of Iceland, I treasured the free time I had to poke around the little port towns — peeking into backyard gardens, talking to Icelandic ponies on the other side of the fence and just getting a sense of how people live in this isolated country at the top of the world.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

I like writing for QuirkyCruises.com because I feel I’m part of a community.

Tell us about YOU!

In everyday life, I am editor of Cruise Travel Magazine, which has been published since 1979.

Randy’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Galapagos Islands Cruise

Circumnavigating Iceland with Iceland ProCruises

More of Randy’s articles here …

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Seldon Ink says Happy Holidays

Lynn & Cele Seldon

Lynn & Cele Seldon

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

We prefer the intimacy of a smaller group of like-minded travelers. And the ease of everything from embarkation to excursions to less choice. We also love the shared experience with the other passengers. And we love getting to know the staff and crew. It usually adds to the experience.

My 3 favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are ….

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are …

We loved exploring the nooks and crannies of Cuba while circumnavigating the island with International Expeditions. It was the perfect way to immerse ourselves in the culture, from visiting a local school house to exploring the prison where Fidel and Raul Castro were held. One of our favorite memories was going to the Tropicana in Havana on New Year’s Eve and celebrating with the incredible music, costumes, dancing, and, oh yes, the Cuba Libres!

Kayaking amongst the crystal-blue glaciers of Fords Terror in Alaska with Alaskan Dream Cruises is also a memory we will not soon forget.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise?

We love sharing our experiences and spreading the gospel of small-ship cruising with others.

Tell us about YOU!

We also write for Cruise Travel magazine; Porthole; AAA Carolinas GO Magazine; AAA Carolinas Traveler; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and FoodNetwork.com. Follow us on Instagram @SeldonInk and on our site: www.seldonink.com.

Lynn & Cele’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Alaska with Alaskan Dream Cruises

Cuba with International Expeditions

More of Lynn & Cele Seldon’s articles …

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Happy Hols from Elise

Elise Lentz

Elise Lentz

Why do you love small-ship cruising?

If you’re reading this post, chances are, you are an avid fan of quirky cruises, and a member of the small-ship cruising community thus sharing a like-minded approach to travel. We tend to thrive on the ways small cruising gives us the ability to more easily interact with and get to know our fellow cruisers. I love being able to access unique and remote ports of call that only small-ship cruising can offer.

My favorite small-ship lines (under 300 pax) are …

  • Tauck’s River Cruises are great for chartered groups. The tour operator staffs the riverboats with their own tour leaders and cruise director, and packages the excursions and programs specific for group travel. The food gets great reviews and the ability to easily venture off the boat for independent exploration is a definite plus.
  • Ponant ships offer chic accommodations and smooth sailing. The line is continuing to expand their fleet so some of the ships are “hot off the presses.” This line offers a cruising clientele with an International flare and the ships present themselves with a sleek/modern design.

My favorite small-ship cruise memories are ….

When I was first introduced to the QuirkyCruise family, I remember seeing a post from Ted Scull about a Panamanian indigenous group, the Embera. When I reflect on one of my favorite small-ship cruise memories, my numerous visits to this beautiful and amazing group of people, always rises as #1.

My voyages to the Darien were onboard the Le Levant (also previously known as the Tere Moana). The Darien is so remote; there are only a small number of cruise/tour operators that are able to arrange these visits.

Why do you like writing for QuirkyCruise.com?

Writing for QuirkyCruise has allowed me to share some of my behind-the-scenes’ drama that happens while working in the travel industry. I absolutely love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world. So, thanks to you, the loyal fans and readers of QuirkyCruise, for your continued support of QuirkyCruise and its contributing writers.

Tell us about YOU!

Want to hear what others have to say about us?  Visit our website at Global Tour Management. Tim and I also teach for the International Guide Academy (IGA); check out their website if you have an interest in becoming a tour leader.

Elise’s articles for QuirkyCruise.com (some of them!)

Packing Tips: Some Like it Hard

Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 12)

More of Elise’s articles …. 

 

Reader Review bird

 

 

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Avalon Impression

Avalon Waterways

Avalon entered the fast-growing river cruise market in 2004 and is owned by the Swiss-based Globus family of brands that also includes Cosmos. The line aims for the upper end of the river cruise market and is adding new ships with suite features that are unique to the line. Avalon operates a large number of riverboats on a vast range of European itineraries (nearly three dozen) as well as relatively new programs in the Galapagos and along the Peruvian Amazon, the Mekong, the Irrawaddy (not 2019),  Ganges (began 2019) and the Nile (2020).

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Visionary on the Danube. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

European Rivers
Ships, Years Delivered & Passengers

AVALON IMAGERY II (built 2016 & 128 passengers); AVALON PASSION (b. 2016 & 166p); AVALON TAPESTRY II & AVALON TRANQUILITY II (b. 2015 & 128 p); AVALON IMPRESSION (b. 2014 & 166p); AVALON POETRY II (b. 2014 & 128 p); AVALON ARTISTRY II (b. 2013 & 128 p); AVALON VISTA (b. 2012 & 166p); AVALON VISIONARY (b. 2012 & 128 p); AVALON LUMINARY & AVALON FELICITY (b. 2010 & 138 p); AVALON PANORAMA (b. 2011 & 166p); AVALON AFFINITY (b. 2009 & 138p); AVALON CREATIVITY( b. 2009 & 128p) and AVALON SCENERY (b. 2008 & 216 p). An addition to the fleet in 2019 will be AVALON ENVISION (b. 2019 & 166 passengers).

Avalon Waterways

Avalon Artistry II on the Rhine. * Photo: Avalon

Passenger Profile

Most, age 50 and above, hail from the U.S., Canada, Britain and Australia with some younger passengers on the shorter itineraries.

Passenger Decks

All riverboats have four decks, and an elevator connects the two main cabin and public room decks.

Price

$$  Expensive

Included Features

Most shore excursions, WiFi (including in cabins), minibar with bottled water, regional wines and beers with dinner, sparkling wine at breakfast, coffees, teas and hot chocolate throughout the day, cabin TV with English-speaking channels and 100 movie options.

Itineraries

The huge variety offers cruise tours lasting from 5 to 22 nights, generally adding a land portion at one or both ends of the river cruise. Land travel may be by high-speed train such as TGV, Thalys, and Eurostar or coach.

Springtime tulip bulb season cruises along the intricate waterways of Belgium and Holland; French rivers include the Seine, Rhone and Soane; the Rhine with or without the Moselle; combine the Rhine and Rhone between Amsterdam and Cote D’Azur; the Upper and/or Lower Danube, the latter including, on some cruises, sailing all the way to the Danube Delta just in from the Black Sea.

Longer itineraries may cover, for instance, the Upper Rhine and then via the Main, Main-Danube Canal and the Danube all the way to Vienna; with the granddaddy of all from the North Sea to the Black Sea (22 nights).

Avalon Waterways

The Avalon Expression on the Danube. * Photo: Avalon

Why Go?

River cruising conveniently takes you in one conveyance to a vast array of cultural, historic and scenic sites with so many of Europe’s major capitals (Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade) and most picturesque towns growing up along the banks.

When to Go?

Most cruises operate from April through October, while some begin in March and end in November. Christmas markets cruises have increasing appeal.

Cabins

All riverboats, except the five built between 2008 and 2010, are designated Avalon Suite Ships and come with larger cabins and substantially different configuration – for example the 200 sq. ft. Panorama Suites and 300 sq. ft. Royal Suites in which the beds face a large 11-foot glass expanse that slides open to the outside railing, rather than arranging the beds, as most do, parallel to the windows. The sensation gives your entire cabin a feeling of a cozy, protected balcony with a clear view to the outside. The remaining five boats offer four 258 sq. ft. Royal Suites with a similar layout but where the TV interrupts the continuous glass window, and 172 sq. ft. Avalon Deluxe Suites. All Indigo Deck (lowest) deck cabins have small rectangular windows set high in the wall as they are located just above the waterline.

A 200 square-foot Panorama Suite. * Avalon Waterways

Public Rooms

All riverboats share a forward Observation Lounge, forward Panorama Lounge and bar, aft facing Club Lounge, and main dining room. The Sky Deck is laid out stem to stern with open and covered deck space for lounge chairs, whirlpool, Sky Bistro for light meals and navigation bridge.

Dining

The pattern for meals is pretty much the same throughout the fleet of European riverboats, though the boats built in the last few years have more sophisticated alternative meal set ups. The food is geared for those who would like to branch out and taste regional offerings or stick with what one likes to eat at home.

Breakfast has an open window of times to cater to early risers or those who want to sleep in. Breakfast and lunch are buffet with the latter available at the top deck Sky Bistro (a grill), inside the Panorama Lounge (light fare) or in the big-windowed main dining room.

Dinner is served here as well, while those wanting something lighter than a served three-course, can frequent the Panorama Lounge’s more informal setting.

An Avalon meal on a southeast Asia river cruise. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

Activities & Entertainment

Excursions ashore may be on foot when the dock is convenient to the destination or otherwise via bus. On board entertainment will showcase local musicians and singers after dinner and special interest talks while underway. All vessels have a top deck whirlpool and small fitness centers on the lowest decks. Newish are Active Discovery cruises on the Danube that offer hiking, biking and canoeing and opportunities to explore an ice cave or salt mine and take archery lessons.

Avalon Waterways

Entertainment in the Panorama Lounge of the Avalon Artistry II. * Photo: Avalon

Special Notes

While this high-quality fleet is of basically a similar design, and the itinerary likely the deciding factor, having a bed configuration that allows you to wake up and linger between the sheets while watching the river scene pass above your toes just may dictate an Avalon Suite Ship.

Along the Same Lines

Many other European river cruise lines.

 

Avalon’s cruise tour programs to South America, Asia and Eqypt are briefly outlined below.

GALAPAGOS & AMAZON

Avalon Waterways charters the TREASURE OF GALAPAGOS, a catamaran with accommodations for 18 (b. 2009 and refurbished 2017) for a 4-night Galapagos cruise that adds up to a 8-day cruise-tour with the inclusion of sights in and around Quito, Ecuador. It also does a 12-day cruise tour that adds a 3-night Amazon River lodge stay; a 15-day cruise tour that combines the 4-night Galapagos cruise with a land tour to Cusco and Machu Picchu (Peru) and Quito (Ecuador); and a 20-day cruise tour with the addition of the Amazon River lodge including day cruises on the river.

Treasure of Galapagos, Avalonn Waterways

Avalon Waterways, Treasure of Galapagos

Another option includes a 3-night Amazon River cruise aboard the 44-passenger DELFIN III (formerly AMAZON DISCOVERY; b.2015), which Avalon charters. The ship’s cabins are all outside and consists of staterooms measuring 237 sq. ft. , corner staterooms 253 sq. ft. and the owner’s at 537 sq. ft. Departures are January to July and September to November.

There are also 3-night cruises of the Peruvian Amazon from Iquitos, to look for wildlife in the river and the surrounding rain forest landscapes plus village visits both combined with 11- and 13-day land tours that include Lima, the capital of Peru, Cusco and Machu Picchu and the longest, the Nazca Lines.

Avalon Waterways

The Delfin III, seen here when still called Amazon Discovery. * Photo: Steve Cukrov for Globlus/Avalon.

A selection of 18- and 20-day cruise tours combine the Amazon River cruise with the land destinations in Peru and Ecuador plus a Galapagos cruise. The river boat’s 237- and 253-sq. ft. cabins with huge floor-to-ceiling picture windows are spread over two of the three decks. Beds may be configured as twins or king-size. In addition, there is one single and a 597-sq. ft. suite that faces forward. Public spaces are an indoor and covered outdoor lounge, aft dining room with large view windows, a spa, small gym and plunge pool. A 24-hour medic is aboard. Departures are January-June and September to November.

Avalon Waterways

The silt-laden waters of the Upper Amazon. * Photo: Ted Scull

EGYPT
The Nile

(Note: Nile cruises begin in 2020).

Avalon Waterways

A camel watches over its territory, the site of the pyramids at Giza. * Photo: Ted Scull

10-day Egyptian cruise tours, operating year-round, include hotel stays in Cairo for the museum and the Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis and more that bracket a 4-night Nile cruise to Luxor, Karnak, Aswan, Edfu and Kom Ombo. The MS FARAH, built in 2011, provides the cruise. 58 cabins and two suites provide large picture windows, Internet and bathrooms have bathtubs.

INDIA

Ganges River

Avalon Cruise began Ganges River cruises in 2019, operating the 56-passenger GANGES VOYAGER in the cooler months of January and February and September to November. The shortest 13-day cruise-tour begins in New Delhi or Kolkata and includes a 6-night cruise plus hotel stays in Agra for the Taj Mahal and Jaipur. 16-day cruise tours add Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, and 18-days add Mumbai and Kochi (Cochin) but not Kathmandu. The riverboat decorated in colonial-era style has cabins measuring 260, 280, 360, and 400 square feet, offer Indian and western menus and includes beer, wine and soft drinks with meals.

GANGES VOYAGER, Avalonn Cruises

GANGES VOYAGER, Heritage Suite Avalon Cruises

 

SOUTHEAST ASIA & CHINA
Mekong River

The mighty Mekong rises in China and passes through three Southeast Asian countries. * Photo: Ted Scull

Avalon Waterways operates the 2015-built, 36-passenger AVALON SIEM REAP and 2018-built sistership AVALON SAIGON cruising on 7-night voyages between Ho Chi Minh City’s waterfront, Vietnam and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The riverboats’ 245 sq. ft. cabins, located in two decks, all open to the outside with 14-foot sliding glass doors and windows. A forward-facing covered lounge give a 180-degree and connects to an interior air-conditioned panorama lounge with bar. The aft dining room seats all at once for buffet breakfasts and lunches and served dinners. The menus offer both Asian and western dishes.

The monumental archaeological site at Angkor Wat, Cambodia is often the first stop on a SoutheastAsia/ Mekong River itinerary.* Ted Scull

The monumental archaeological site at Angkor Wat, Cambodia is often the first stop on a SoutheastAsia/ Mekong River itinerary.* Ted Scull

The wide-ranging itineraries, in time and places visited, combine a 7-night cruise with a hotel stay and sightseeing at both ends that can add up to 13- to 21-day cruise tours to include — your choice of  extensions — Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Halong Bay in Vietnam; Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia, Luang Prabang in Laos; and Bangkok, Thailand. Departures are January to April and July to December.

Myanmar and the Irrawaddy River – N.B. THIS CRUISE IS NOT OPERATING IN 2020.

Avalon operates its own riverboat some 1,300 miles along the Upper Irrawaddy River between Yangon and Bhamo (northern limit if navigation) with a hotel stay in Yangon, Myanmar’s capital adding up to 14 days and an extension to Bangkok that creates a 17-day cruise tour.

The 36-passenger AVALON MYANMAR was completed in 2015 and takes up to 36 passengers. Sights visited along the river are pagodas, Buddhist monasteries, and riverside villages where the local activities produce candy made from palm trees, pottery, and food from adjacent farms. Note: These itineraries operated September-December in 2018, and none are scheduled for 2019.

The well-fitted out riverboat offers 245-sq.ft. Avalon Suites spread over two decks where the twin or king-size beds face a 14-foot-wide wall of glass that opens to a railing and the world outside, similar in layout to many of the line’s European riverboat fleet. A forward open-air covered lounge shares the Mandalay Deck with an adjacent enclosed lounge and an aft dining room. The Sky Deck’s lounge is covered and next to the spa treatment room and gym.

China and the Yangtze River: N.B. THESE CRUISES ARE IS NOT OPERATING IN 2020.

Avalon takes space for up 20 passengers on two Yangtze River vessels that combine a 3- or 4-night, 650-mile cruise between Yichang and Chongqing into 11- and up to 17-day cruise tours that include major sights in China such as Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, and Hong Kong on the longer cruise tours. The 7-deck riverboat CENTURY LEGEND, completed in 2013, handles up to 392 passengers (oops, higher than QC’s 300-pax max!).

To personalize the cruise portion, all meals, apart from the farewell banquet, take place in the Sun Deck VIP restaurant. Meals feature Chinese buffets and a la carte Western dishes. Wine, beer, and soda are complimentary at dinner. Cabins (266 sq. ft.) are all outside with balconies and separate bathtubs and 24-hour access to an Executive Lounge. The boat’s amenities include an indoor swimming pool (unusual feature), library, game room, cinema, and gym.

All land tours are private to Avalon and land extensions do not exceed 20. Itineraries extend from April to October, though some specific tours do not include the searingly hot months of mid-June to mid-August.

Contact

Avalon Waterways, P.O. Box 3219, Highland Park, MI 48203;  Avalonwaterways.com; 877-380-1540

TWS

 

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Captain Cook Cruises

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji

Captain Cook Cruises is an Australian-owned line that got its start in 1970 when Captain Trevor Haworth began operating cruises and excursions in the Sydney Harbor region, then up north in Queensland along the Great Barrier Reef and in the south on the Murray River. The present Fiji Islands operation includes year-round cruises of 3, 4, and 7 days to Yasawa Islands, 3, 4 and 7 days to the remote northern isles, and the occasional 11-nighter to the out islands.

The focus is on Fiji’s scenic beauty, island exploration, water sports, local island culture and visits to traditional villages. The experience is about as tropical outdoorsy as any small ship cruise could be. The parent company, Sealink Travel Group, also operates an overnight sternwheeler on the Murray River as well as numerous ferry routes throughout Australia. The line also books pre- and post- cruise holiday resort stays, and as Fiji is a hugely popular resort destination there is a large inventory at all price points.

Captain Cook Cruises

Fiji’s out islands are remote and drop dead gorgeous. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

REEF ENDEAVOUR (built 1996 & 130 passengers).

Passenger Profile

Because of proximity to New Zealand and Australia, the largest numbers originate there, including families (children age five & above) during holiday periods; beyond it’s English speakers from Europe and North Americans, the latter who tend to stopover for several days en route to/from New Zealand or Australia. With a lot of shared activities and experiences, and open seating, meeting others comes naturally. If you prefer a cruise without many other children aboard, be sure to check the Australian and New Zealand school holiday periods. Most of the crew is Fijian.

Passenger Decks

The ship has five decks and an elevator.

Price

$$ to $$$ Moderate to Expensive. Children’s fares apply to ages 5 to 17 when they occupy cabin with adults.

Itineraries

The emphasis is on outdoor activities, both active and sedentary, and normally calling at two islands a day, morning and afternoon, among the 300 available in the Fiji island group.

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji

Yasawa Island. * Map: Captain Cook Cruises Fiji

  • 3- and 4-night Yasawa Island cruises may be combined into a 7-night cruise, all leaving from Nadi (pronounced as if Nandi), also the locale for the international airport.
  • 7-night Remote North Cruises sail further afield to the world heritage colonial town of Levuka, a time capsule of architecture facing a waterfront promenade. Visit markets, hot springs, a garden island, a waterfall lagoon and an extinct volcano. Activities include snorkeling, scuba diving and glass bottom boat sightseeing, plus standing astride the 180th Meridian that marks today and tomorrow.
  • 7-Night 4 Cultures Discovery Cruises circumnavigate Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second’s largest island and explore the islands, rivers and rainforests of the remote north. Visit four distinct cultures: the Ellice Islanders and Banabas, Indian (South Asian) and Fijian people. Snorkel along the world’s third longest barrier reef, sail by tender up the Labasa River to Vanua Levu’s largest town and natural produce market. A lovo feast (cooking on hot rocks in an earthen pit), school visit, choral church service, meke (Fiji-style dancing) and island night are aspects of the cruise to the remote north.
  • The occasional 11-night Lau and Kadavu Discovery Cruise heads to Fiji’s remote north where a lucky few arrive to visit the unspoiled beauty.  Next sailings are November 5, 2019 and March 3, 2020.
Captain Cook Cruises

Meet the locals at the shellmarket. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Included features

Shore excursions and tours to villages and schools outlined in the day-to-day itineraries, festive meals shore, kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding, on board kids’ club ages 5-9 at specified hours, and post-cruise transfers to Nadi hotels. (Note: A small passenger contribution goes to the school). WiFi is available at most but not all anchorages. The speed will vary considerably.

Why Go?

To enjoy the attractions of South Pacific Islands and delightful tropical weather conditions with outdoor activities on board, ashore, and at beaches and meeting the Fijians. Special interest activities are available for adults and children in marine biology, ecology and environmental issues.

Bula! (Hello) from down under the South Pacific ocean. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Bula! (Hello) from down under the South Pacific ocean. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

When to Go?

The cruises operate year-round and the busy season coincides with the Southern Hemisphere’s school holidays as Fiji is just four hours from Australia’s East Coast and a bit less from North Island, New Zealand. December to February are hot and humid with afternoon downpours, but being near and on the water softens the heat factor. The driest months are June to August.

Cabins

The largest accommodations are the 4 suites with separate lounges; most standard cabins measure approximately 150 square feet; 6 are interconnected family cabins with twin/double beds that open onto the deck; 49 twins/doubles have two windows and face to a side passage; 11 have portholes, open to an interior corridor and have twin/double beds, plus one or two upper bunks (for families).

A quad cabin, ideal for family cruising. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

A quad cabin, ideal for family cruising. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Public Rooms

Forward facing panorama lounge and the second Yasawa Lounge looks aft and opens to the outdoor pool with a bar. Sun Deck has outdoor seating, twin spa pools, sauna, gym, bar and BBQ.

Dining

Reserved seating prevails the first night then it’s open sitting for all meals with buffet breakfast and lunch offering both hot and cold dishes that appeal to an international passenger list and feature a lot of island produce. Root plants and coconut are used in cooking. Alfresco barbecue meals occur on the Sun Deck twice on a 7-night cruise. Pineapple, paw paw, papaya and watermelon are main stay fruits; lunches include grilled fish, sausages, chicken, beef, curries and lots of salad fixings. Three-course served dinners feature baked fish, prawns, pork, beef, lamb, and vegetarian main courses. Desserts are fresh fruits, cheese plates, and sweet dishes such as butterscotch pudding with caramel sauce and chocolate pavlova (meringue with fruit and cream). Two themed dinners are Asian (Indian) and Fiji island.

Suite and repeat passengers will have a chance to dine with the captain or chief engineer. Wines from Australia, New Zealand and Washington State that are served at meals are extra with the average bottle from $US25 to $US35; beer $US6. Extra treats are a self-service afternoon tea with cakes and cookies and varied canapés before dinner in the Yasawa Lounge. The Fijian crew is a delight — friendly and helpful. They speak English and Fijian.

Activities & Entertainment

Onboard activities take place in a small gym, sauna, spa and fresh-water pool. For going ashore, a glass-bottom boat is available to view marine life such as the giant manta ray, also snorkeling gear, swimming in the Pacific and in lagoons, and guided islands tours to meet the locals, attend cultural events and visit schools. PADI 5 star scuba diving is extra and a boat is carried. Crew shows are popular and local talent comes aboard.

Snorkeling in the clear waters surrounding Fiji. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Snorkeling in the clear waters surrounding Fiji. * Photo: Captain Cook Cruises

Special Notes

Children (age 5+) are always welcome, and the outdoor, activity-based itineraries make the REEF ENDEAVOUR a most attractive family vacation.

Along the Same Lines

Blue Lagoon Cruises also operates in Fiji, while other firms cruise French Polynesia.

Contact

Captain Cook Cruises Fiji, PO Box 349, Milsons Point, NSW 1565, Australia; captaincook.com.au; + 61 2 9206 1111. Representatives: USA 866-202-2371; UK +44 (0) 1787 211 668; NZ +64 21 631474

— TWS

PollyOrange1a copy

 

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G Adventures

For more than 30 years, G Adventures has been offering affordable adventure travel around the world including small-ship cruises (about 10-15% of their total annual business) on private yachts, catamarans and oceangoing expedition-style ships, with more recent offerings on riverboats. They also sell travel by rail, road and air. Their MO is providing small groups with authentic cultural experiences, through local guides, cuisine, and transport and uncontrived excursions. The target skews younger — 20s to 50s — than most other travel companies; though any age will be comfortable if they’ve got a young-at-heart attitude and a decent level of fitness.

A trained, local CEO, or Chief Experience Officer, guides all trips and acts as the point person to make sure things run smoothly. (On the G EXPEDITION ship, there are additional expert guides in various disciplines). The emphasis is on active exploring, using bicycles for example, and on supporting local businesses and communities (i.e. through visits to schools and charity-supported restaurants in Cambodia).

To keep rates reasonable on the various sailing trips, meals are not included, instead the skipper collects a modest amount of money from passengers who want to share a simple breakfast and lunch on board (skipper goes grocery shopping for the basics); for dinner, it’s expected that passengers will want to eat dinner in port on the islands (who wouldn’t want to!). A BYOB policy (bring your own booze) is in effect on board most of the Europe-based sailing and river cruises. The line matches same sex passengers to avoid single fares.

With 700 itineraries in more than 90 countries (including the new series of in-depth riverboat tours called National Geographic Journeys), G Adventures excels in offering trips geared to various ages, styles and interests — from families with young children to budget-minded “yolo’s” (the 18- to 39-year-old set).  Adventures is dynamic, cutting-edge, socially minded and hip (cue the great photos and video on their website), and definitely thinks outside of the typical travel company box. Quirky cruise anyone?

The line owns the G EXPEDITION ship for trips to the Arctic and Antarctica, and does full-ship charters for its many other small-ship offerings (hence ships may vary from year to year, and listings below reflect a portion of their current fleet). Consult their 150-page encyclopedia!

G Adventures

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

XAVIER III (built 1996, refurbished 2004; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

MONSERRAT (built 2005, refurbished 2016; 20 passengers) – Galapagos

QUEEN OF THE GALAPAGOS (built 2007; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

YOLITA (built 2007, refurbished 2016; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (built 1990, refurbished 2014; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

REINA SILVIA VOYAGER  (built 2020; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

EDEN  (built 2000, refurbished 2012; 16 passengers) – Galapagos

G EXPEDITION (built 1972, refurbished 2008; 134 passengers) – Arctic/Antarctica, designed to Ice Class 1B specifications

DANIELE (built 2015; 22 passengers) – Burgundy, France

TOUM TIOU II (built 2008; 28 passengers) – Mekong

VARUNA (built 2006; 24 passengers) — Ganges

AMATISTA (built 1994; 30 passengers) – Amazon

SAILING VESSELS in Europe, the Caribbean and Asia may change from year to year, but those chartered generally carry about 8 to 16 passengers.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A catamaran cruise in the waters of Thailand. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passenger Profile

Adventurous couples, singles, and families of all ages (though especially the under 40 set) mostly from North America, and a handful from the UK, Europe and other places. The ocean expedition cruises tend to attract largely couples, average age mid-50s, while the sailing tours draw mostly 30s singles.

Passenger Decks

2-3; no elevators.

Price

$ to $$, Moderate to Expensive

Included Features

Generally meals are included across the board except on the small sailing yachts. For Galapagos and South America coastal cruises, snorkeling gear is part of the package, while bicycles are carried on French rivers and on the Mekong. On some itineraries guided shore excursions are also included.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Passengers on an excursion in the Galapagos. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Itineraries
  • Galapagos: There are mostly 7, 10 and up to 17-day cruises either round-trip from Baltra or San Cristobal islands, packaged with a 1- or 2-night hotel stay in mainland Quito, Ecuador with the longest more elaborate stays in Ecuador. Itineraries focus mostly on the Central (including Santa Cruz Santiago), Western (Isabela and Fernandina) and Southern (Floreana and Espanola) island groups, to get up close and personal with the amazing wildlife and diverse landscape. (Note: airfare between Quito and the islands is not included in the rates as it often is with other lines).
G Adventures

Estrella Del Mar in the Galapagos. * Photo- © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Europe Rivers: 6-night cruises round-trip from Dijon through France’s Burgundy region visit small villages and wineries, with excursions on foot and by bicycle.
  • India Rivers: 15-night cruises from Patna to Kolkata (Calcutta) on the Ganges River visit ancient temples, ornate palaces and sixth-century rock carvings. South, east and north coast catamaran sailing in Sri Lanka.
  • Southeast Asia Rivers: 7-night cruises (plus 2 hotel nights) on classic-style riverboats between Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap go to wet and floating markets, temples (including a sunrise visit to the legendary Angkor Wat on the longer itins), stilt villages, and Vietnam war sites (such as the Cu Chi tunnels and Reunification Palace, associated with the Fall of Saigon in 1975).
  • Turkey & Croatia: 9-night super casual catamaran cruises travel between Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia, and between Bodrum and Fethiye, Turkey.
  • Greek Isles: 7-night super casual yacht cruises sail between Santorini and Mykonos with stops at untouristy offbeat islands in the Cyclades; maybe including Folegandros, Sifnos, Ios, Antiparos, Paros and/or Naxos.
  • Cuba: 6-night super casual catamaran cruises sail round-trip out of Havana and visit points on the Canarreos Archipelago with a focus on snorkeling, swimming and beach-bumming.
  • British Virgin Islands: 6-night catamaran cruises are round-trip from Tortola and hit all the best offbeat swimming, snorkeling and beach sites.
  • Maldives: 6-night cruises aboard a traditional dhoni (a dhow-like fishing boat) spend a week snorkeling and diving in the gorgeous waters of the Maldives islands, and its lagoons and atolls.
  • Thailand: Choose from 6 nighters round-trip from Phuket and 3-night cruises between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. Indonesia Interisland catamaran cruising from Bali to nearby islands and Lombok.
Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amarista on the Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

  • Amazon River: 7-night cruises on the Amazon depart from Iquitos, Peru; with optional pre- or post land trips to Machu Picchu.
  • Antarctica: 10- to 22-night cruises round-trip from Ushuaia, Argentina visit points throughout the South Shetland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula. Longest cruises add the Falklands and South Georgia..
  • Arctic/Norwegian Fjords: 10- to 14-night cruises between Reykjavik, Iceland, and Longyearbyen, Norway, visit ports along the coasts of Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard.
  • South America: 4- to 5-week-long cruises along the west coast of South America (Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia) are offered as the G EXPEDITION repositions between Antarctica and the Arctic region, with excursions to fjords, glaciers, national parks and rain forests, plus a 3-day overland trip to Machu Picchu.
No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

No shortage of South Georgia Penguins in the Antarctica. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

When to Go?

Galapagos is year-round, Antarctica late October through mid-March; Arctic late May through mid-September, SE Asia July-April, Maldives year-round, Thailand October-April, and Europe April-October.

Cabins

G EXPEDITION (Polar) is G Adventures’ owned ship for polar travel; it has five different cabin categories that range in size and layout. All have private bathrooms with showers, and a porthole or window. The two lowest categories are quads and triples with upper and lower bunk beds. All other categories have two lower beds, except for four larger suites that have a queen bed.

QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS (Galapagos) the most high-end of the company’s five Galapagos ships, has 9 luxury cabins all with windows, private bathroom and air conditioning, TV and DVD players — 7 have queen or twin beds, and 1 is a suite with a sitting area.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A light-filled twin cabin on the Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

YOLITA’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins have queen or twin beds, large windows, and TVs with DVD players. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

XAVIER III’s (Galapagos) 8 cabins are all double-occupancy with twin beds; 4 on the upper deck cabins with windows, and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All come with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

A twin cabin on Xavier III. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

MONSERRAT’s (Galapagos) 10 cabins comprise 6 double-occupancy upper deck cabins with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All are equipped with private bathrooms and air conditioning.

EDEN (Galapagos) takes 16 passengers and a two wraparound decks to easily access all directions. 4 cabins are twin lowers, a double bed cabin, and  3 twin-share bunk cabins, all with private facilities and A/C.

ESTRELLA DEL MAR (Galapagos) has 8 double-occupancy cabins with bunk beds, 4 on the upper deck with windows and 4 on the deck below with portholes. All have private bathrooms and air conditioning.

DANIELE (France) is a canal barge with 12 lower deck cabins all with windows and private bathrooms, TV, radio, and air-conditioning.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong) has 6 upper deck cabins and 8 lower deck cabins, all with windows and en-suite bathrooms.

AMATISTA (Amazon) has 15 cabins — 7 upper deck and 8 lower deck, all with windows and private bathrooms.

VARUNA (Ganges) has 12 air-conditioned cabins, all with en suite bathrooms.

CATAMARANS/SAILING YACHTS (Cuba, BVIs, Greece, Croatia, Thailand, Maldives), the vessels may vary from year to year, but generally have 4 to 8 double cabins often (but not always) with private bathrooms.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Dining room on Galapagos Queen. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Public Rooms & Dining

All Galapagos vessels and the polar ship G EXPEDITION have an indoor observation lounge for talks by the naturalists, plus a bar, small library, outdoor observation deck with chairs for relaxing, and indoor dining area for casual and relaxed meals. The menus where possible incorporate local ingredients, such as fish.

TOUM TIOU II (Mekong River) has a main lounge with a large-screen TV for watching a limited selection of DVDs, a library, bar, and open-air dining area and indoor/outdoor lounges. DANIELE (France) has a lounge with bar, dining area, sun deck with loungers and parasols, and a hot tub.

The small catamarans and yachts in the Caribbean, Europe, Thailand and the Maldives, and the riverboat on the Amazon, all have a combination lounge and dining area indoors, plus outdoor seating for sunbathing and hanging out.

Some vessels have reliable Wi-Fi, including G EXPEDITION, but on many, connectivity is spotty.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Amatista on Amazon. * Photo: © G Adventures, Inc.

Activities & Entertainment

In general, the entertainment is the destination and interaction with fellow passengers, sharing conversation and drinks on deck. Activities happen in port or in the water while snorkeling, diving, kayaking or zipping around in zodiacs or small skiffs. The Galapagos boats carry 2 zodiacs for expeditions and snorkeling equipment for passengers’ use (wet suits are free of charge on QUEEN OF GALAPAGOS and YOLITA only). DANIELE (France) has a hot tub, and it and the Mekong riverboat carry a handful of bicycles.

Along the Same Lines

QuarkOne Ocean, Poseidon Adventures in the polar regions.

Contact

G Adventures, 19 Charlotte Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H5; 416-260-0999. US office: 179 South Street, 1st floor, Boston, MA 0211, 877 390 9050. Additionally in USA & Canada 1-888-8000-4100; UK 0344 272 2060; Australia 1300 853 325; New Zealand 0800 333 415. Consult the website for additional international telephone numbers.

— HMS

 

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Silversea Expeditions

Silversea Expeditions was launched in 2008 as high-end Silversea Cruises’ adventure arm, offering its loyal well-healed clients a chance to explore some really remote corners of the globe at a level of luxury close to what they had been enjoying on Silversea’s 5 ritzy 296- to 382-passenger ships.

Silversea Expeditions started out with the SILVER EXPLORER (the former PRINCE ALBERT II), and then in 2012 added the SILVER GALAPAGOS (formerly GALAPAGOS EXPLORER), and in 2014, the SILVER DISCOVERER (the former CLIPPER ODYSSEY — since sold to CroisiEurope). All of the ships were refurbished before joining Silversea Expeditions, with SILVER EXPLORER being the most elegant.

Note, most officers and crew aboard SILVER GALAPAGOS are Ecuadorian as required by the government, and the crews on the other two ships are international.

Another note: In August 2017, Silversea Cruises’ SILVER CLOUD was refurbished and converted into an ice-class ship and then joined Silversea Expeditions at the end of 2017 to offer a similar experience as her fleetmates. After the overhaul, SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION carries 254 passengers and sails in polar and non-polar regions; when sailing Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, the number of passengers booked on those cruises will be restricted to 200. Sistership SILVER WIND will receive the same modifications to ice class and have its passenger capacity drop from 294 to 254, again 200 when in Antarctica. The work is expected to be completed in November 2020, and expedition equipment such as kayaks and Zodiacs will be added.

In July 2020, SILVER ORIGIN (100 passengers) will join the fleet cruising the Galapagos bringing a new standard to the island chain with prices to match, and her passenger/crew ratio approaches one to one.

RELATED: Reader Reviewer Sue B on her Antarctica Silver Cloud cruise

Ship, Year Delivered & Passengers

SILVER EXPLORER (b. 1989 & 142 p); SILVER GALAPAGOS (b. 1990 & 100 p); SILVER CLOUD “EXPEDITIONS” (b. 1993 & 254 p; rebuilt 2017); SILVER ORIGIN (2020, & 200 passengers).

Previously a sister ship, SILVER WIND (b.1995 & 296 p) remains with the main cruise ship fleet, while all her running mates exceed our 300 passenger limit. They comprise SILVER SHADOW and SILVER WHISPER (382 p), SILVER SPIRIT (608 p), and SILVER MOON and SILVER MUSE (596 p).

SILVER ORIGIN will appear in July 2020 taking only 100 passengers and 90 crew on mostly 7-day Galapagos circuits, plus two December and January holiday cruises at 10 and 11 days.

Silverseas Expeditions

SILVER ORIGIN cruises the Galapagos. * Rendering: Silversea Expeditions

Passengers

Well-to-do couples 40s on up from North America, and others from the UK, Europe and Australia. Many have previously cruised on Silversea’s posh cruise ships. Galapagos cruises will draw families during the school holidays.

Passenger Decks

5 with an elevator connecting all of them. 7 decks on SILVER CLOUD and elevators connect all but the highest deck with the jogging track and deck chairs overlooking the pool below. 6 decks with elevators serving 5, the exception being the highest Stargazing Deck.

Price

$$$

Included Features

All excursions, wine, spirits and all non-alcoholic drinks throughout cruise, plus gratuities. Also, a snappy-looking bright red expedition parka embossed with SILVERSEA EXPEDITIONS.

Itineraries

Cruises span the globe with the expedition fleet. Only SILVER GALAPAGOS stays put in the Galapagos with week-long, year-round cruises amongst the Galapagos Islands between Cristobal and Baltra, plus two nights in Quito, Ecuador.

In late 2019, the line announced the First Expedition World Cruise, the longest ever undertaken, when the SILVER CLOUD departs January 2021 for an 167-day odyssey calling in at 107 ports spanning the globe and including both polar regions.

What follows is a more normal sampling:

  • 12-day summer cruises with SILVER CLOUD either embarking in Norway or Svalbard for a Norwegian coastal and fjord experience and a circumnavigation of Svalbard and 16 days exploring Greenland’s west coast and Arctic Canada.
  • SILVER EXPLORER winters in the Antarctica on 10-day expeditions while 18-day itineraries add the Falklands and South Georgia  Following the Antarctica season, the ship cruises the Chilean fjords, then sails westward to Easter Island, interisland loops in the South Pacific, northward to Japan and South Korea, the Russian Far East (many islands plus the Aleutians), South-central and Southeast Alaska and return to the Russian Far East. The EXPLORER then undertakes the first ever Silversea’s Northeast Passage above Siberia/Russia. Following that the remainder of the summer is voyaging to Spitsbergen, Iceland, Greenland and Arctic Canada. Then prior to the winter in Antarctica, cruises resume via the Panama Canal and along the West Coast of South America to Ushuaia. N.B. This ship only, beginning in December 2021, will inaugurate the so-called Antarctic Bridge allowing passengers to fly the Drake Passage to meet the ship, the flight taking under two hours and avoiding possible rough weather and saving nearly four days travel time. The flight operates between Punta Arenas, Chile to King George Island, South Shetlands.
Silver Explorer in the icy poles. * Photo: Richard Sidey

Silver Explorer in the icy poles. * Photo: Richard Sidey

When to Go?

The vessels cruise in different regions of the world at the best time to visit: Galapagos is year-round, Antarctica between November and February, Northern Europe, Arctic Canada Alaska, Russian Far East and Japan in the summer, Southeast, East Asia, Indian Ocean and East Africa in the cooler months and the Pacific regions in the summer (winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

Cabins

Aboard the three, all rooms and suites have twin beds convertible to queens, sitting area and writing desk (some also have vanity tables), and marble bathroom with shower or tub; SILVER EXPLORER and SILVER CLOUD have the choice of Ferragamo, Bulgari or hypoallergenic bath amenities.

SILVER GALAPAGOS offers a local brand from Ecuador). Enjoy butler service, plush robe, slippers, choice of pillows, fine Pratesi bed linens (that Elizabeth Taylor apparently swore by), and a stocked mini-fridge.

All accommodations come with expedition binoculars, hair dryer, personal safe, flat screen TVs, on-demand movies, direct-dial telephone, and Wifi access. All ships offer cellular service based on availability.  Complimentary parkas are offered on Antarctica and Arctic voyages as well as other select sailings.

Of SILVER EXPLORER’s 66 all ocean-view suites, 24 of them measure 230 sq. ft. with windows. Another 8 at that size also have French balconies (sliding doors with narrow ledge for standing); 14 rooms are 154 to 192 sq. ft.. There are two Owner’s suites at 626 sq. ft. and a pair of 675-sq.-ft. Grand Suites, all with balconies. Another 16 large suites measure 351 to 460 sq. ft..

SILVER GALAPAGOS has 50 all ocean-view suites, with 24 of them measuring 210 to 250 sq. ft.; a dozen are 268 sq. ft. including balconies. There are four 361-sq.-ft. Silver Suites and 8 Deluxe Veranda Suites measuring 303 sq. ft., both with balconies.

SILVER CLOUD has 130 all ocean-view suites, with 24 of them with windows and measuring 240 sq. ft.; 32 are 295 sq. ft. including balconies; (1) 541 sq. ft. suite includes balcony; (2) 736 sq. ft 1-bedroom Royal Suites; (2) 736 sq. ft 1-bedroom Grand Suites on the deck above; and (1) 587 sq. ft 1-bedroom Owners Suite (the later four categories can be combined with neighbouring suites to become even larger). All have walk-in closets.

SILVER ORIGIN (Delivery 2020) has all suites located on two of its six decks. Five pairs are interconnected, and half can accommodate a third passenger. The lowest four cabin categories measure 325, 335 and 355 sq. ft.. then it on up to 536, 897, 1,025 and 1,722 sq. ft. All have sitting area,writing deck, walk-in wardrobes and floor to ceiling sliding glass doors out to the veranda.

Public Rooms

Aboard SILVER DISCOVERER the largest space is the 120-seat Explorer Lounge with wraparound windows for scenery views; this is the ship’s hub and place where lectures are held and where passengers cluster to read and chat. It has a bar at one end and a station for coffee and tea all day long. There’s an outdoor bar on the Sun Deck and a pool as well as plenty of seating. Below decks is a small gym, massage room and beauty salon.

SILVER EXPLORER has two windowed lounges for scenery viewing — the smaller Observation Lounge forward on Deck 6 and one deck below the larger Panorama Lounge at the stern, which is also the best place for pre- and post-dinner cocktails. A pianist provides background music. Adjacent to the Panorama Lounge is the cozy Connoisseur’s Corner for cigars and cognac. The comfortable 110-seat Theatre is where lectures and slide shows take place. The ship has a small library/Internet Café, boutique, small gym, and a spa with one massage room, a sauna/steam room and a beauty salon. There are two hot tubs at the stern of Deck 6.

SILVER GALAPAGOS has a small ocean-view gym, massage room, beauty salon, and a combo boutique/library. The 100-seat Explorer Lounge is the hub of the ship and the place were lectures and briefings happen. It has a high-tech AV system and a photo station with an iMac where you can download and edit your photos. The Piano Bar, with a resident pianist on hand, is the spot for pre- and post-dinner drinks, as well as afternoon tea.

SILVER WIND, the largest of the expedition vessels, offers the Explorer Lounge for lectures by the expedition staff, an aft Panorama Lounge and on the same deck, a forward Observation Lounge. A Connoisseur’s Lounge is for cigar smoking and cognac. Additionally, there is a library, beauty salon, spa , and a top deck jogging track. A changing room on the lowest deck prepares the passengers for exploring in Zodiacs and hiking ashore.

SILVER ORIGIN, the newest in the fleet has a forward observation lounge located on the second highest deck, the Explorer Lounge for presentations and leading out to an after outdoor lounge, basecamp, the staging area for boating the boats via the stern marina, and an outdoor lounge area on the highest deck.

Silver Galapagos gets this close to shore. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Silver Galapagos gets this close to shore. * Photo: Silversea Cruises

Dining

On all four ships, continental and regional specialties — Galapagos Lobster à la Galapaguera anyone? — are served in the open-seating no-jackets required dining venues; the food level and scope aboard  SILVER EXPLORER and SILVER CLOUD are essentially the same as the rest of the fleet (SILVER GALAPAGOS, on the other hand, is bound by Ecuadorian laws and restrictions regarding food sourcing, so the menus can’t quite compete). In the main restaurants, it’s fine dining all the way on candle-lit tables set with crisp white linens and china. Each also has a more casual al fresco Grille restaurant that turns into a popular dinnertime spot for grilled fish and steaks and other goodies prepared tableside on a heated volcanic-rock plate; reservations are suggested. The larger SILVER CLOUD also has a Relais & Châteaux® restaurant and La Terrazza.

There are two restaurants on SILVER EXPLORER, the main one serves buffet-style breakfast and lunch, and a la carte dinners, while the smaller more casual Outdoor Grille seats up to 34 passengers for breakfast, lunch and bar service.

SILVER GALAPAGOS has two dining venues, the larger main Restaurant and the al-fresco Grille at the stern of Deck 6, which serves buffet-style breakfast and lunch. At dinner at the Grille, you can grill your own steaks and seafood or choose homemade pizza or lite fare.

SILVER CLOUD EXPEDITION has four dining venues: the larger more formal main restaurant; the al-fresco Grille on deck; a Relais & Châteaux® restaurant (for $40 extra per person); and La Terrazza, on the stern with wake-facing seating.

SILVER ORIGIN  provides The Restaurant for all three meals and The Grill high up on Deck 7 aft of the Observation Lounge.

Activities & Entertainment

The destinations are the main event, with naturalist-led excursions at least once and often several times a day; about 10 expedition team members sail on every voyage. On board there are lectures and slide shows about the destination, and otherwise passengers read, chat with new friends and gaze out at the stunning landscapes. Evenings before and after dinner, it’s drinks and conversation.

They all carry inflatable zodiac landing craft (SILVER EXPLORER has 8; SILVER GALAPAGOS 5; and SILVER CLOUD 18).

Along the Same Lines

Closest would be the Celebrity XPEDITION and Ponant’s LE BOREAL/L’AUSTRAL/LE SOLEAL/LE LYRIAL.

Contact

Silverseas Expeditions, 110 East Broward Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301; www.silversea.com, 800-722-9955

— HMS

 

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Ponant icebreaker

Ponant Icebreaker Named after French Polar Explorer

By Anne Kalosh.

Ponant is going to call its luxury icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot, in honor of the French explorer Capt. Jean-Baptiste Charcot, who was known as “the gentleman of the poles.”

The 220-passenger, 30,000-gross-ton ship is scheduled to enter service in 2021. Le Commandant Charcot will give adventurous travelers the chance to discover the geographic North Pole (latitude 90 degrees North) and parts of Antarctica, such as the Ross Sea, Charcot Island and Peter Island. The intrepid types who book these voyages won’t experience typical cruises but rather polar odysseys.

In addition, Le Commandant Charcot will be fitted with a laboratory for oceanographic missions and research.

Ponant icebreaker

Ponant’s icebreaker will be called Le Commandant Charcot. * Rendering: Ponant

World’s first hybrid electric icebreaker

This world-first hybrid electric icebreaker, under construction at Fincantieri’s Vard shipyards, will be powered by liquefied natural gas, and there will be zero exhaust emissions when it operates in hybrid electric mode. This means Le Commandant Charcot will significantly reduce sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and carbon dioxide emissions.

Use of the latest batteries will make it possible to sail without using the engines for two to three hours at a stretch.

Plus, Le Commandant Charcot will be equipped with an advanced wastewater treatment system so its effluent will be pure as drinking water.

The vessel’s namesake was an emblematic figure of French polar expeditions starting in the early 1900s.

Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1867, Charcot ventured to the Arctic for the first time in 1902. From 1903 to 1905, aboard Le Français and from 1908 to 1910 aboard Le Pourquoi-Pas, he reached the Antarctic regions. In 1909, Charcot located Graham Land on navigation charts, dropped anchor near Alexandra Land, and discovered the island that would bear his name. From 1920 to 1936, his scientific voyages led him from the Hebrides to Greenland’s east coast.

Pre-booking for Le Commandant Charcot at early bird prices is open now. Full-fare bookings will open April 11, 2019.

 

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Vela in the Caribbean Reviewed by Tim B.

REVIEWER

Tim B. from the USA.

CRUISE LINE

Island Windjammers.

SHIP

Vela.

DESTINATION

The Caribbean from St. Lucia to Grenada.

# OF NIGHTS

6.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

Aug 2018, from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.

OVERALL RATING

5 out of 5 stars (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5

-Cabin Rating: 5

-Service/Crew Rating: 5

-Itinerary Rating: 5

HOW MANY SMALL-SHIP CRUISES HAVE YOU BEEN ON?

1.

REVIEW

It has been a many-decades long dream of mine to sail the Caribbean. I never quite got around to it when I was young enough to captain my own sailboat. As we are all aware, such fantasies are rarely matched by the reality of the eventual trip.

So as a 70 year old, reasonably fit traveler, off I went, and I can report that this trip, in all ways, exceeded my long held tropical sail dream.

Some opinions on a few important general items:

—This is not a cruise ship, and will likely not appeal to those who love the big cruise ship experience. The crowds and lines and glitz and glimmer of large ships have never appealed to me, so this was really my cup of tea (or glass of rum).

—This is a sailing vessel. There is considerable rocking and rolling during transit. The weather and seas were fairly tame as open-water sailing goes. Four of the 16 guests  developed mild seasickness early in the voyage. None had to miss any meals or activities. Do bring sea sickness meds that you have tried out before the trip if you think you might be prone, and plan on exercising some caution as you walk about the ship during transit, especially for the first day or two.  The captain always anchors the ship in protected harbors or leeward locations, so most of the time things are pretty calm and stable.

—As an older somewhat overweight guy with 2 knee replacements, I had no difficulties with any of the activities. You do need a degree of flexibility and fitness to navigate the fairly steep stairway down to your cabin, to get on and off the dingy (excellent assistance from the crew with this maneuver), and to enjoy the hikes and snorkeling.

—I loved the activities on this trip, but other reviewers seem to have expected more of a cruise ship experience. Expect time on gorgeous beaches, time swimming and snorkeling in amazingly clear and warm water, lounging on deck, and visiting small towns at your various island anchorages. The only “optional tour” on our passage was an island tour of Bequia, where we rode in the covered back bed of a small truck and visited small local attractions (model ship builder, turtle sanctuary, whaling museum. Our driver and guide was one of the last members of an extant whaling family, and his whaling history talk was fascinating). At $30, this was a great experience and a great value.  The other notable activity was the optional after dinner dingy rides ashore to visit local bars.  These trips were as much about the local culture as about drinking, and quite a rich experience.  Just don’t expect casinos, floor shows, spas, and tour busses.

As others have noted, you will likely become good friends with your fellow passengers, and the crowd that chooses this kind of vacation tends to be a pretty unique and interesting group. That being said, we had a couple of passengers who preferred to spend more alone time, and there was plenty of space and support for that experience also.

Some reviewers have mentioned the small cabins. Having sailed before on a smaller boat, I found my solo cabin to be quite adequate and comfortable. It was actually charming and cozy.  The bathroom with combined sink/toilet/shower was very functional. Pack everything in a soft-sided carry-on and you will be fine.

As others have mentioned, the food is remarkable for such a small ship.  Portion sizes are just right, and you are always offered seconds.  In addition to the three meals, excellent appetizers and rum punch were served every afternoon during “cocktail hour.” The vinophiles on our trip described the house wine as fairly decent, and there were opportunities to buy premium wines along the route of sail. I’m a beer snob, and found the local lager (Piton), stocked on the ship, to be excellent. On one occasion, the crew prepared and delivered an excellent “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” feast to the beach where we were spending the day. When anchored, dinner on deck was a real treat.

One of the keys to this cruise being so outstanding is the crew. We had 16 passengers and 10 crew. Each crew member was always busy tending to their duties, which often centered around the comfort and enjoyment of the passengers. They were personable, fun, yet professional. Our activities director was great, and gave us full briefings of the day’s activities.  She also accompanied us on most of our onshore adventures.

I have never done a mega-cruise, and have only heard of the hassles on embarkation and disembarkation days. Getting on and off Vela was quick, simple, and well organized.

Oh, and did I mention that this truly is a barefoot cruise? Except for the one island tour, I did not wear shoes from the time I boarded Vela until the time I got ready to leave for the airport.

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Zegrahm Expeditions

Zegrahm Expeditions got its start in 1990 by a group of men who knew adventure travel with first-hand experience. In fact the company name is derived from their initials. The programs are worldwide and ever changing, and the firm has a very high loyalty factor with many return clients. Some field leaders have their own following amongst past passengers and biographies appear on the website.

While Zegrahm offers land programs in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia, it is the unusually comprehensive expedition cruise programs that are the focus here. Most have one annual departure, while the Galapagos has two, so while we aim to update the changing expeditions and vessels chartered, use the itineraries listed below as a guide of both present and past itineraries.

Nearly every cruise has a land extension. Zegrahm has partnered with the Nature Conservancy to give participants a better understanding of the value of nature. They receive a year’s membership while a percentage of the cost of the cruise goes to the organization.

Zegraham Island Sky

Zegraham’s Island Sky * Photo: Ted Scull

Ships & Years Delivered

As there are many itineraries and multiple ships involved, every destination and the ship used will be treated together as a pair. Zegrahm does not own ships but takes on complete charters of a half-dozen vessels taking from 38 to 110 passengers.

Passengers

Mostly American, active, 50 and up, well-heeled, curious about the world and enjoying sharing the experience with others. Singles are welcome and rates are often favorable, more so than on land itineraries. Children are welcome and families are especially catered for on selected Antarctic and Galapagos itineraries.

Price

$$$ Very Pricey, yet with much included – see below.

Included Features

Zegrahm includes a lot in their pricing, so often there is little else to budget for other than air fare and land extensions, if any. All trips ashore and special events, entrance fees, kayaking, snorkeling and diving (when offered), all gratuities aboard and ashore, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

Itineraries (ship reviews following below)

Note: Many itineraries are one-of-a-kind and often not repeated from year to year, so the specific destinations and rotation of ports will change. Here, we aim to show you the numerous and ever-changing possibilities for world-wide small ship travel that Zegrahm has offered, does offer and made offer again. Also, all ships are chartered for a specific cruise or a finite period of time, and other ships may take over. The standards will be high throughout the chartered fleet.  

1) Antarctica: The 22-day comprehensive itinerary embarks and disembarks at Ushuaia, Argentina located at the tip of South America and visits the Falklands, makes five landings in South Georgia, then several islands off the Antarctic Peninsula and as many landings on the peninsula as time and weather permit. Highlights are the huge variety of birds, whales, seals and penguins, former whaling stations, places associated with the explorer Ernest Shackleton and his party, often a research station, icebergs, stunning land and ice formations, and some of the clearest atmosphere your will ever experience.

During the time spent aboard, the expedition staff gives talks, share experiences and show films and recently prepared videos. A second 14-day itinerary concentrates on the Antarctic Peninsula plus a foray south across the Antarctic Circle. N.B. For those who have traveled to Antarctica, Zegrahm offers an itinerary that includes the Falklands and South Georgia without Antarctica.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

Antarctica: Chinstrap penguins are having a noisy discussion over the children. * Photo: Ted Scull

Antarctica: Chinstrap penguins are having a noisy discussion over the children. * Photo: Ted Scull

2) The Philippines: Very few ships visit the Philippines, let along multiple calls, and here is a 17-day interisland itinerary that combines visiting tribal as well as mainstream Filipino communities, beautiful landscapes, a volcano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, orangutan rehabilitation center, coral reefs and marine life seen from boats and snorkeling activities. The main island of Mindanao and Manila, the capital, are not in the plans.

Ship: CALEDONIAN SKY

3) Japan: A 17-day cruise spring cruise features a voyage through the Sea of Japan and up the island country’s West Coast to visit Honshu Island’s fabulous gardens, landscapes, architectural wonders, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, medieval castles, and a sail across to South Korea’s World Heritage Site at Gyeongiu.

ShipCALEDONIAN SKY

4) Australia’s Kimberley: A 15-day coastal cruise embarks in Broome, a port in Western Australia, famous for its pearl industry, transports you to some of the country’s most remote parts (The Outback) reached by sea. Small-boats take you out to reefs, into river gorges, whirlpools, mangrove swamps and under cliff faces to search out some of the world’s most unusual sea, land and birdlife in the world.

Visit several waterfalls, some tidal and reversible, thousands of years old aboriginal paintings tucked away in cliff caves and an aboriginal village at a island port just off Darwin, the disembarkation port and the Northern Territory’s capital city. There are times that you feel you are stepping on shores that have seen very little human activity. The May 2018 Kimberley coastal cruise embarks in Darwin and disembarks in Broome.

Aboriginal cave paintings Kimberley Coast, Australia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Aboriginal cave paintings Kimberley Coast, Australia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: CORAL DISCOVERER 

4A) Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: An in-depth 15-day exploration embarking in Cairns (Queensland) and sailing northward to much less visited Ribbon Reef #3, 9 & 10, Rachel Carson Reef, Cod Hole (giant potato cod), and Lizard Island with focus on seabirds, monitor lizards, and minke whales including close contacts by diving and snorkeling. N.B. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from global warming.

Ship: CORAL EXPEDITIONS II

5) Melanesia: A 17-day interisland cruise embarking in major South Pacific city of Port Moresby, New Guinea and sailing through the Melanesian islands to Port Vila, Vanuatu. The emphasis is on the local Melanesia culture (customs, ceremonies, dress, art, music, boat building) in several very isolated communities and great variety of exotic sea and birdlife amongst the coral reefs. There will be many chances to snorkel and dive over around coral reefs looking for clownfish, damsels, Moorish idols, and butterflyfish. One dive visits the USS President Coolidge that sank in 1942. From the disembarkation port, fly to Brisbane, Australia.

5A) Micronesia: A truly off-beat 18-day cruise embarks in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea and island hops (with no less than 13 calls) to Palau for diving, snorkeling, meeting the locals, birding, and an archeological site.

ShipCALEDONIAN SKY (5&5A)

6) Patagonia: Two cruises back-to-back feature first an 18-day voyage beginning in the Falklands and exploring the dramatic narrow waterways from Cape Horn into Patagonia and north along the Chilean fjords to Puerto Montt, just south of Santiago, Chile. This portion is nature at its most beautiful and rugged. Leaving penguins sightings in the Falkands, visit one of the world’s great national parks – Torres del Paine – for its birdlife and incredible mountain scenery. Cruise for whales, seals and sail up to the base of South America’s longest glacier, then navigate the fjords northward to Puerto Montt.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. * Photo: Ted Scull

7) West Coast of South America: The second portion, is an 18-day cruise visiting coastal Chile, Peru and Ecuador to see historic architecture, some pre-Columbian, some Spanish, the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and the driest place on earth, settings of volcanoes and glacier lakes, and unusual South American birds and sealife, some via Zodiacs amongst off-shore islands. The voyage ends near Guayaquil, Ecuador.

ShipSEA ADVENTURER

8) Central America: This 15-day voyage begins in the Costa Rican port of Puerto Caldera via a flight to San José and sails south scouting out the huge variety of birds in Costa Rica via Zodiac cruises and hikes, visiting the Panamanian marine park on Isla Coibe, the Embera Indians of the Darien jungle and the Kuna of San Blas Islands. Linking the two coasts is a Panama Canal transit with views of the second canal under construction. On the Caribbean side, explore the Tortuguero Canals near Puerto Limon for monkeys, sloths, caimans, iguanas, lizards and crocodiles and finish off by visiting the coastal reefs of Honduras’ Bay Islands and Lighthouse Reef off Belize where the cruise ends (Belize City).

Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

Pedro Miguel Locks, Panama Canal. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: SEA ADVENTURER

9) Galapagos: 13 days amongst no less than ten islands may provide one of the most thorough explorations of the islands that Charles Darwin made so famous, as most cruises are three, four, or seven days. As well as the endemic sea and birdlife, there is time to study the land forms, the active and dormant volcanoes and the lava fields. See the section on the Galapagos for more details. In July/August 2018, the Wild Galapagos itinerary lasts 10 days (still longer than most).

Ship: ISABELLA II or EVOLUTION

10) Circumnavigation of Cuba: THIS CUBAN ITINERARY IS NO LONGER OFFERED DUE TO US GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AGAINST TRAVEL BY SHIP TO CUBA . 14 days beginning with two hotel nights in Havana then joining the ship for nine ports calls, one sea day and return directly to Havana. Highlights are Old Havana, City of Bridges at Matanzas, exploring mangrove forest of Cayo Guillermo, snorkeling the reefs, nature reserve at Cayo Saetia to see water buffalo, wild boar and exotic birds, the World Heritage Site at Santiago de Cuba including the famous San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War (1898), the Spanish colonial town of Trinidad also a World Heritage Site, Cienfuegos for Zapata Wetlands and the Bay of Pigs where an unsuccessful American invasion took place in 1961, beaches at Cayo Largo, nature at its most diverse at Isla de la Juventud, and the biological diversity of Maria La Gorda. Note: this cruise is one of the most comprehensive offered by any cruise line.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

11) Canal to Cuba: THIS CUBAN ITINERARY IS NO LONGER OFFERED DUE TO US GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AGAINST TRAVEL BY SHIP TO CUBA. 16 days embarking in Panama City, Panama thence to the huge marine park at Isla Coiba, the Embera community in Darién Province, a daylight Canal Transit, San Blas Archipelago, Spanish fortifications at  Portobelo, Tortuguero Canals at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, the English-speaking island of Isla de Providencia, Colombia, then the Cuba ports (see above itinerary for descriptions) of Cienfuegos, Isla de la Juventud, Maria la Gorda and Havana with a hotel night.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

12) The Hidden Gems of the Caribbean: For the tropical island buff, this 14-day cruise of the Grenadines will show you all aspects of island life, their natural beauty, sea and bird life, coral reef diving and snorkeling, as well as the long histories of individual islands, their conquest by European powers and struggle for independence to today’s varied lifestyles.

Ship: LE PONANT

11) Coastal Europe: A lot of variety is packed into this 16-day voyage that starts out in Lisbon and works its way northeastward calling Spanish, French, English, Belgian and Dutch ports with just one day at sea. Destinations ashore include UNESCO sites at Santiago de Compostela, Mont St. Michel and the Frisian Islands; the wine county upriver from Bordeaux; World War II history on the French coast; three of the Channel Islands – Guernsey, Jersey and the tiny utterly charming Duchy of Sark; medieval Brugge and ending in Amsterdam. The 14-day itinerary has similar ports but does not call at Brugge or Amsterdam and ends in Portsmouth, England. Another all Spanish itinerary (apart from a call at Porto) begins in Barcelona and sails south, around through the Strait of Gibraltar up the west coast, and across the north coast as far as Bilbao.

The village, Isle of Sark, Channel Islands. * Photo: Ted Scull

The village, Isle of Sark, Channel Islands. * Photo: Ted Scull

Ship: SEA ADVENTURER

11A) Wild & Ancient Britain: A 14-day cruise nearly circumnavigates the British Isles leaving from Portsmouth, England and calls at Falmouth, Isles of Scilly, then islands off Ireland, islands off the West Coast and to the north of Scotland, ending in  Aberdeen. The highlights are seabirds galore, numerous Neolithic monuments, unusual natural features, and architectural treasures.

Ship: OCEAN ADVENTURER

12) The Baltic: A comprehensive 17-day itinerary departs London for ports in Germany, and a Kiel Canal Transit, then Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland and ending in Stockholm.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

13) The Adriatic, Sicily & Malta: The 13-day cruise begins at the Maltese port of Valetta, a World Heritage Site that survived heavy fighting in WWII: visits four Sicilian ports with roots in Greek and Roman times; even more cultural influences with a stop in Albania and another in Montenegro, then successive calls along the Croatian coast, including Dubrovnik and ending in Venice.

Ship: ISLAND SKY

14) Sicily: A more focused itinerary is a 13-day circumnavigation of Sicily calling at ten ports plus Malta and Lipari in the Aeolian Islands.

Ship: VARIETY VOYAGER

15) Black Sea Circumnavigation: A 15-day spin begins and ends in Istanbul and proceeds counterclockwise with three stops along the Turkish coast; a call at Batumi in Georgia, the spas at Sochi, then skipping the Crimea and stopping at the crossroads city of Odessa, two ports in Romania (including seldom-visited Histria, the country’s oldest settlement) and lastly Varna, with its Greek and Roman connections. 10 ports and cruising the Danube delta (home to 200 species of birds) makes this a thorough study of Black Sea history and communities today. All that is missing is Russia (Crimea).

Ship: ISLAND SKY

Livadia Palace, site of the Yalta Conference at the end of WWII. * Photo: Ted Scull

Livadia Palace, site of the Yalta Conference at the end of WWII. * Photo: Ted Scull

16) Iceland & Greenland: A 16-day voyage aims to combine searching in Zodiacs for sea life and birdlife, dramatic scenery that includes glaciers, fjords, icebergs, and vast expanses of tundra, Viking settlements and the colorful modern-day fishing villages and their cultural attributes. In June/July 2018, the 15-day expedition embarked in Narsarsuaq, Greenland by charter flight from Reykjavik and concentrates on Greenland’s south and east coast then crosses to northwest Iceland ending in Iceland’s capital.

ShipSEA ADVENTURER (2017) and HEBRIDEAN SKY (2018)

16A) Svalbard: A-14 day expedition uses flights to and from Oslo to join the ship at Longyearbyen, the island’s  principal port. The emphasis is on wildlife, especially polar bears, seals, walrus, whales and Arctic foxes; seabirds such as kittiwakes, guillemots, dovekies, puffins and ivory gulls, and the natural beauty of the lush tundra, fjords and glaciers. Touring off the ship is on foot, and in kayaks and Zodiacs.

Ship: HEBRIDEAN SKY

17) Indonesia: A 19-day linear voyage begins at the northern tip of Sulawesi and heads along the chain of Indonesian islands to Papua and Papua New Guinea, with a call at Australia’s Thursday Island. Activities are diving and snorkeling amongst the coral reefs, visits to Asmat’s warrior tribes and West Papua’s seafarers, and looking for birds of paradise, doves, parrots, cockatoos, friarbirds and flying foxes.

Ship: CALEDONIAN SKY

18) Vietnam: Zegrahm began trips to Vietnam 25 years ago shortly after travel was permitted. A 16-day coastal cruise begins in Hanoi with a transfer to Haiphong Harbor for embarkation. Eight calls are made en route to Ho Chi Minh City including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Chinese-style “Forbidden City” of Hue and a leisurely sail amongst the sculpted islands in Halong Bay. A special activity is discovering Vietnamese and French-influenced cuisine where passengers tour local markets and vegetable and herb gardens, sample treats at food stalls such as prawn cakes and grilled port patties with sticky noodles, and participate in cooking classes on board. In November/December 2018, a 19-day mostly land and air tour to Myanmar and Laos slotted in a two-day river cruise between Mandalay and Bagan and another two-day cruise on a less visited portion of the Mekong in Laos. Both use Pandaw river boats.

Ship: CORAL PRINCESS, now CORAL EXPEDITIONS I

19) Cuba: Travel to Cuba on a humanitarian project, a 17-day itinerary that includes a partial circumnavigation of the island and then onward land travel returning to Havana. The 56-passenger Le Ponant, a motor/sail vessel provides comfortable accommodations at sea and the nimbleness to get into small ports. Activities combine cultural, water sports and people-to-people encounters. In April 2018, there are two Cuban itineraries, the first one including Costa Rica, Colombia and Panama before sailing north to Cuba for three days, and the second, a 14-night cruise that completely circumnavigates the island calling at 9 ports and with flights to and from Havana.

Ship: LE PONANT or HEBRIDEAN SKY

The Ships

OCEAN ADVENTURER, formerly SEA ADVENTURER: Renewed in 2017, this traditional 120-passenger vessel was built in 1975 for the Russians to operate rugged sea routes especially in the Arctic has been refitted several times to offer a steady, stabilized oceangoing experience, including strengthening for ice. It has two lounges, including a lovely library, and an aft-located dining room with wraparound glass windows. Cabins are of small to moderate size and all are outside. Zodiacs carried.

CALEDONIAN SKY: Built in 1992 as one of the original six small Renaissance ships, she carries 100 passengers in roomy one-room suites with sitting areas, including eight cabins with balconies, many positioned in the forward half of the ship. One lounge is located above the bridge for glass-protected viewing and the other, with a bar, seats all passengers at once for lectures and socializing. In addition, there is a small library and gym. The dining room is aft on the lowest deck with portholes. A lido deck serves informal outdoor meals in good weather. Zodiacs and scuba diving gear are carried.

ISLAND SKY: Built in 1992, she is also one of the original Renaissance ships (100 passengers) though while her roomy one-room forward-located suites are similar (four with balconies), her layout is somewhat different with two aft lounges including a good-sized library, in place of a forward-viewing lounge. The dining room is on the lowest deck with portholes, and the aft-lido deck serves informal meals in good weather conditions.

HEBRIDEAN SKY: As with the two sisters above, the ship was first completed as one of the Renaissance ships in 1992 and most recently refitted in 2014 and 2016. Passenger capacity is 112 and roomy cabins with sitting areas measure 225, 266 and 325 square feet. The owner’s suite is even larger. The sofa bed will sleep a third person. An elevator serves all decks, and an observation platform is popular for spotting wildlife. Zodiacs are carried for exploring near land, edging up to glaciers and sailing into fjords.

LE PONANT: Completed in 1991, with French registry, as a sail-assisted motor ship, she has three masts and takes just 56 passengers in moderate-size outside cabins, most located on the lowest passenger deck and with portholes. Five others are clustered two decks higher amidships. The lounge is aft opening onto a deck at the stern. Dining is either in the forward restaurant, or in favorable weather, one deck above, aft and outside. Zodiacs, snorkeling and scuba diving gear are carried.

CORAL DISCOVERER, formerly Oceanic Discoverer: Built in 2005, this small Australian-registered ship carries 65 passengers in all outside cabins, most with view windows. A lounge, seating all, faces aft to an open deck, and the dining room is on the lowest passenger deck with a long rectangular window on either side. The top deck has a Jacuzzi. The vessel carries Zodiacs, a glass-bottom boat, and a tender taking all passengers ashore at one time.

ISABELA II: Completed in 1979, she was heavily refitted and last refurbished in 2012. Good-size cabins are all outside with two partial-view singles, to accommodate 39 passengers. The dining room, lounge and library are on the lowest passenger deck. The Sun Deck has a covered aft bar and lounge for informal dining. The vessel carries Zodiacs, sea kayaks and a glass-bottom boat.

CORAL EXPEDITIONS I, formerly Coral Princess: Completed in 1988 and refitted 2005, this 4-deck Australian-registered ship carries 65 passengers in all outside cabins. The lounge seats all for lectures, often illustrated on two large plasma TV screens. The open top deck has a Jacuzzi, and for sightseeing, there is a glass bottom boat, Zodiacs, and an excursion vessel that can take all passengers at one time.

CORAL EXPEDITIONS II, formerly Coral Princess II (Completed in 1985 and refitted in 2015, the three-deck ship carries 44 passengers in all outside cabins with the 4 D-Deck units having portholes rather than windows. A glass bottom boat is available for watching tropical fishes.

VARIETY VOYAGER: Built in 2012, this sleek-looking yacht handles 72 passengers in all outside cabins located on three of the four decks. Public areas include a lounge, single-seating dining, outdoor dining, library, gym, spa and top deck outdoor bar lounge.

Why Go?

If you long to visit off-beat places around the world, or popular expedition destinations, you will be in good company enjoying the experiences with other like-minded modern-day explorers. Many Zegrahm cruises offer longer itineraries than other operators giving you more in-depth connections but also increasingly the monetary outlay.

When to Go

All Zegrahm Expeditions are geared to the best season or seasons to travel to a particular region.

Activities & Entertainment

These cruises are designed for the active traveler with lots of destinations and as few sea days as possible. Time aboard, however, will be well spend with lectures and audio-visual presentations presented by the expedition staff who will bring their expertise to you on board and on excursions ashore. Excursions will be in vehicles, on foot and in kayaks and Zodiacs and some itineraries offer snorkeling and diving. Two vessels have glass-bottom boats — ISABELA II and OCEANIC DISCOVERER.

Along the Same Lines

Lindblad Expeditions.

Contact

Zegrahm Expeditions, 3131 Elliott Avenue, Ste 205, Seattle, WA 98121; www.zegrahm.com 855-276-8849 or 206-745-9364

TWS

 

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New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

By Judi Cohen (on Instagram @Travelingjudi)

Having lived on Lake Ontario for my entire life, it never crossed my mind that the Great Lakes could be a cruising destination. Until August, that is, when my sister-in-law Marla and I sailed aboard the newly overhauled 202-passenger Victory II for an inaugural 9-night sailing on the Great Lakes. This was a unique opportunity to experience both the challenges and the successes of a new launch, and a great deal of learning along the way.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi & Marla sailing away from Montreal!

We cruised through the St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes system, including passing through a total of 17 locks along the way, starting in French Canada’s Montreal and Quebec City, followed by Kingston, Toronto and Niagara Falls in Ontario, and ending in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan in the United States. The food, alcohol and shore excursions were all included, which contributed to a relaxed vibe.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

The itinerary, from Quebec City and ending in Detroit.

Most of the passengers aboard for this inaugural trip were from Canada and the United States. It was interesting how many of the Americans from Texas, North Carolina and Oklahoma had never been to Canada before, and had booked this cruise to satisfy their curiosity about the Great Lakes and the ports on the Canadian side of the border. Some also mentioned that they were attracted to this sailing because there was a low risk of getting seasick.

 

Victory II

TheVictory II is a small vessel, just under 300 feet in length, with a maximum capacity of 202 passengers and up to 74 crew members. She was built in 2001 in Jacksonville, Florida, sailing for a time as the Sea Discoverer, before being refurbished and re-christened Victory II. 

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

The Victory II. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Bruce Nierenberg, the chairman of Victory Cruise Lines, was aboard and said Victory’s cruises were ideal for “experienced travelers, over 55, looking for premium non-mass market vacations.” He explained that because Victory’s two small ships are intimate, guests can actually get to know one-another. In my opinion, Bruce really got that right.

The ship has a comfortable, traditional feel with lots of wood paneling and velvet upholstery. I felt almost as if I was sailing in my own living room. There were no line-ups for dining with flexible dining hours generally starting from 7 to 8:30pm in the dining room, and the option of booking the upstairs Lighthouse Grille for 7 or 7:30pm seatings. We could be very casual on the ship generally and in the dining rooms. We did get dolled up a little for the night that we were invited to the Captains Table!

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Captains Table in the Victory Dining Room. * Photo: Judi Cohen

It was convenient to move around from one deck to the next to access dining, lounges, observation decks, the gym, the spa and the pursers desk which were all located next to a central staircase and elevator. I never needed a deck plan or directions to find anything. It was simple and intuitive. A welcome change from some larger ships I have sailed on.

Cozy Cabins

Our beautiful cozy Ocean View Stateroom with twin beds and two large windows was located on Deck 1, the lowest deck for passenger accommodations. While it was relatively small (158 sq. ft.) compared to larger mainstream ships, it was very well designed with lots of drawers, closets shelves and a desk. Even with the two of us sharing (and considering that we each brought enough clothes and shoes for 6 months!), everything found a place without difficulty. I brought my own wire hangers to supplement those provided on the ship, impressing my sister-in-law with this travel trick I learned a long time ago.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi’s cabin with 2 twin beds. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The bathroom was quite generous with a large shelf below the sink that we found convenient for all of our toiletry items. I must say the shower was quite small with a clingy shower curtain, however the powerful water pressure more than compensated for that.

Our room and bathroom were kept immaculately clean with ample supplies of soap, shampoo, shower gel, fresh drinking water and soft fluffy towels, bathrobes and slippers. It was nice to have a hairdryer and a safe in the room as well. Our beds were very comfortable with crisp white linens and a choice of pillows. When I got into bed I had a better night’s sleep than I get at home in my own bed.

A category A cabin aboard Victory II. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

Pretty Public Rooms

The Great Lakes Lounge on Deck 2 is where the entertainment and presentations were held. With comfortable, plush velvety upholstered seating and small wood tables, we spent most of our leisure time in this inviting room. This is also where they served High Tea three times during our sailing.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi and Marla enjoying their High Tea!

The Whale of a Tail Tavern became very lively in the evenings when we were entertained with embarrassing Karaoke and dancing….and cocktails. We ended up in the bar every night to hear about everyone’s day and getting to know all the guests.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi in Whale of a Tail Tavern. * Photo: Marla Hertzman

I’m pretty sure that I spent time with every single guest either on the ship or on our excursions, something that would have been unthinkable on the larger ships that I’ve been on.

Lounge chairs and other seating were available on both of the observation decks, ideal for enjoying sail-aways and the starry night skies.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

A new ship being unveiled; peeling plastic from the observation lounge windows. Photo: Judi Cohen

Dining Delights

The Victory Dining Room, located on Deck 1, provided open seating at varying sized tables. Mornings featured a plentiful buffet breakfast with many healthy choices including fresh fruits, yogurts, muesli, nuts, cheeses, meats and breads, along with custom orders of eggs. I enjoyed medium-poached eggs on toast most mornings. For lunch, there were several menu items, served French style, including soups, salads, mains and desserts. Dinner was also served French style with choices of soups, salads, fish, meat and vegetarian mains, as well as dessert choices. My favorites were the poached salmon, lobster tails, Caesar salad, tenderloin and the fine cheeses from Quebec. The service was a little spotty initially as the staff was getting used to the new ship and the menu, as one would expect, but every team member went out of their way to make our meals enjoyable.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Lamb chops. * Photo: Judi Cohen

The Lighthouse Bar and Grille located on Deck 4 was a lovely room with glass all around for a panoramic view. It was particularly special to have breakfast there at sunrise or dinner at sunset, the later which we did, enjoying a mixed grill of lamb chops, steak and salmon, brought out raw on a hot lava stone. We cooked the meat and fish to our liking before removing them from the stone. Reservations were required here, but it was never a problem to find a table.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

The Lighthouse Grille. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

Onboard Activities

Dr. Gloria Auchey, a professor English and communications from George Washington University, was the sole lecturer on board, giving several PowerPoint presentations about memory, personality and brain power.

Dr. Gloria Auchey presenting in Lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

What we would have preferred were experts lecturing about the ports and the seaway lock system. I found myself in many conversations with other guests, not familiar with the Seaway and Great Lakes, and curious about French versus English Canada. Providing reading materials or inviting destination experts on board would help to make this cruise a more enriching learning experience for everyone. A spokesman for Victory Cruise Lines says there will indeed be expert destination lecturers on board all future cruises to give talks about the history and culture of the ports.

When not exploring in port, a visit to the spa and/or  gym was always an option; I enjoyed a relaxing facial treatment and even managed to hit the gym twice. There was also a galley tour, karaoke, a Name-That-Tune contest and other trivia games.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Drinks before our galley tour! * Photo: Judi Cohen

 

The Victory II Passengers

Most of the guests were well traveled and between ages 55 and 85; however there were many travel and cruise industry people from Canada and the United States who were much younger. The majority of the guests were retirees who have turned their focus to seeing the world, learn new things and enjoy wonderful food!

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Quebec City sail-away with other guests on the observation deck. * Photo: Marla Hertzman

Only three passengers had physical limitations including Jane Ann who has macular degeneration and was accompanied by her husband and her guide dog named Sarge. Jane Ann made a presentation on the first day about her limited vision and her close relationship with Sarge, a beautiful black English Lab. She requested that we not play with Sarge unless we let her know first and then she would make an adjustment to her grip on his collar which magically gave him permission to be just a regular playful puppy and signaled to Sarge that he was “off duty.” The crew even placed patches of sod outside of the doors on a lower deck for Sarge to do his thing! We all loved having Sarge along on our shore excursions, during our meals and in the lounge areas.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Sarge being introduced in the Lounge. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 

Ports & Excursions

The most interesting aspect of this cruise was visiting all the various port cities and experiencing the many locks we maneuvered through. Our routine was similar each day with shore excursions in the morning and afternoon, and lunch in between, served either on or off the ship. All excursions were included in the cruise fares.

Montreal, Quebec

On Day 1, we boarded the ship in one of North America’s oldest cities, Montreal, and had a full day to visit. Starting with a city tour, we saw the bustling Old City of Montreal with its galleries, boutiques and restaurants set in stone buildings. The highlight was visiting the majestic Notre Dame Basilica and the architectural gems outside in the square. My jaw dropped at the deep blues in the intricate stained-glass windows and dome at the Notre Dame. I could have sat for hours just staring up.

Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica. * Photo: Judi Cohen

But there was so much more to see including the views from our drive towards Mont Royal, the 20-storey high mural of poet and Canadian music legend Leonard Cohen, and the campus of McGill University. In a strange way, I felt as if I was carried back to Japan during our visit to the Botanical Gardens, with its pagodas and bonsai garden.

After lunch on the ship, we meandered through the streets of Old Montreal and along the vibrant carnival-like waterfront boardwalk before returning to the ship completely exhausted from the 95-degree heat. We gathered on the observation deck with cocktails in hand and sailed away, passing the site of Expo 67, with its few remaining structures, including architect Moshe Safdie’s cube houses and the United States Glass Sphere Pavilion, so that was a trip back down memory lane.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Montreal’s Botanical Gardens. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Quebec City, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario

I fully embraced our next two ports, Quebec City and Kingston, which tell the vibrant story of French and English Canada. Visiting the historical Plains of Abraham and a few stops in the only walled city in North America, followed by a walk across the top of the Montmorency Falls, provided a taste of this compact, hilly and cobblestoned city. Stopping at the castle-like Chateau Frontenac Hotel poised on top of the city provided a full panoramic view of the walled city and the waterfront.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Lovely Old Quebec. * Photo: Judi Cohen

By contrast, Kingston tells the tale of the British and Upper Canada. In addition to touring the early-19th-century Fort Henry, we were taken to the inner sanctum of the Royal Military Institute and allowed to walk on Parade Square before heading to the Kingston Penitentiary Museum. The storied maximum-security penitentiary once housed legendary prisoners like convicted mass murderers Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olsen. I can’t say I enjoyed seeing the old prison cells and the disciplinary equipment, but I left with a visceral sense of the harsh and lonely existence for prisoners languishing in their cells.

Visiting the Rideau Canal’s Kingston Mill Lock on a beautiful sunny day was a true highlight. It’s hard to believe that this UNESCO site, with its massive wooden gates, is still operated manually. As we watched the operation to let two small boats through the locks, one of the hundreds of the iconic Canadian Pacific trains thundered across the iron bridge directly over our heads. A truly Canadian experience.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Kingston’s Rideau Canal. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Toronto, Ontario

The largest Canadian city we visited was Toronto. A bus tour in the morning took us past the Bay Street skyscrapers in the bustling financial district and Yorkville’s chic shopping district, with a stop at City Hall followed by a walk from the newly installed “Doggy Fountain” to the historic St. Lawrence Market. Hearing all the comments from other guests made me very proud of my hometown.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi at Toronto’s Doggie Fountain. * Photo: Marla Hertzman

Some guests went back to the ship for lunch. I joined Sheila and Tom from Greenville, Texas, for lunch in Yorkville followed by a stroll along Toronto’s “mink mile” for a little shopping therapy. We then took an Uber to the Art Gallery of Ontario to rejoin the other cruise guests for a tour prior to returning to the ship through heavy traffic and sheer chaos in the downtown core. What a welcome to Toronto.

Welland Canal

As we retired for the evening after our stop in Toronto, we were told that the captain would be up all night with his crew to navigate through several locks on the Welland Canal. Built in 1829, this canal links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie (lakes teeming with freighters) and provides a detour around Niagara Falls. Not unlike the lock we visited along the Rideau Canal in Kingston, Ontario, these locks use gravity and water as the lock gates are opened and closed. Unfortunately, we passed through the locks during the night. All we could hear was the bumping and creaking noises as the ship entered and exited each lock.

During the crossing of the lakes, we watched the huge freighters pass as we had dinner. When two giant CSL freighters passed very close to our ship, I pointed out to my sister-in-law that Canada Steamship Lines (CSL) was bought by our former Prime Minister Paul Martin.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Ship inside one of the 17 locks. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Port Colborne – Niagara Falls, Ontario

In the morning, after our successful passage through the Welland Canal, we disembarked in Port Colborne and took a bus ride to Niagara Falls. I’ve been going there since I was a child, visiting dozens of times with friends and family. To be honest, Niagara Falls never gets old.

One of the older passengers told me that she specifically chose this Victory II cruise because she wanted to see Niagara Falls before she dies. I could feel the excitement and anticipation as we waited in line with our bright pink plastic rain ponchos to board the small boat, named the Hornblower, that would take us to the base of the US and Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

As the warm spray engulfed us, I heard squeals of sheer joy as we all tried to take pictures and videos without having our phones and cameras destroyed by the water. Nobody left the Falls disappointed.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

In Niagara-Falls, pink raincoats on the Hornblower boat. * Photo: Judi Cohen

We then drove to the Chateau Des Charmes Winery for a delicious lunch with paired wines, including Niagara Ice Wine. As if this wasn’t enough, we then carried on to the quaint city of Niagara-on-the-Lake for a nice walk along its main street that is just brimming with cafes, clothing boutiques, candy stores and ice cream shops, plus beautiful small hotels and B & B’s.

All in all, a spectacular day in the Niagara region, with its fruit trees, grape vines, wineries, theatres, shopping, fudge shops and small colorful restaurants. Two thumbs up.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Niagara on the Lake is bursting with flowers. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Cleveland, Ohio

Our first port in the U.S. was Cleveland. This city absolutely “rocked.” Not just because of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where I ambled for hours, enjoying musical flashbacks to my hippie days, but because of the rebirth that is evident in all of the city’s neighborhoods.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Our welcome at the Port of Cleveland. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Welcomed by a local choir, and people holding up “Welcome to Cleveland” signs, we boarded “Holly the Trolley” for an open-air tour of the city. The historical West Side Market, dating back to 1912, was buzzing with food vendors and shoppers. I stopped at every bakeshop to carefully study the cupcakes, candies, breads, cookies and assorted colorful delicacies. I experienced sensory overload and loved every second of it.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi and Marla in Holly the Trolley for our City Tour in Cleveland.

Cleveland has many old iron bridges from all eras crossing the Cuyahoga River (referred to as the crooked river), that allow ships to pass through the inland waterways that serviced the industrial factories and warehouses. The abandoned warehouses are slowly being converted into cool hipster loft housing, all part of the recent transformation of the city.

Who knew Cleveland had a theatre district that is allegedly second only to New York City and a fabulous Art Gallery currently hosting the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit. (So interesting, I didn’t know!)  I tried buying tickets to see the popular play Hamilton and the Kusama exhibit, but unfortunately both were sold out.

I wondered why we were being taken to the Lake View Cemetery. I have been to Pere Lachaise in Paris to see Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde’s graves and to La Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires to visit Evita Peron’s  grave, but I have never seen anything like the Wade Memorial Chapel in Lake View Cemetery.

Built in 1901, the centerpiece of the small chapel is a 9-by-7-foot stained-glass window called “Flight of Souls,” depicting the consummation of the Divine Promise, designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (of Tiffany and Co.). It showcases his signature “favrile” method of layering translucent and opalescent pieces of glass to create rich, deep colours. Prior to being installed in this chapel, the piece won first place at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris. Presidents and numerous celebrities are buried in this beautiful cemetery.

I could have easily spent another couple of days in Cleveland.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

The Tiffany stained-glass window “Flight of Souls” inside Cleveland’s Wade Chapel. * Photo: Judi Cohen

Detroit, Michigan

Our last port along the Detroit River was Detroit, often referred to as “Motor City” for its rich automobile history. This is the home of Ford Motor Company, and the shiny glass “Oz-like” General Motors Building sits prominently on the waterfront near the port. It is also the home of Barry Gordie Jr., the founder of Motown Music.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Judi made sure to visit the Motown Museum on her own. * Photo: Marla Hertzman

While Victory Cruise Lines did not have any planned shore excursions in Detroit, a few passengers that I spoke with had made arrangements for private tours of the city. I stayed overnight in Detroit before driving home to Toronto and visited the Motown Museum and had a famous Coney Hot Dog at Duleys Place, made famous by the late Anthony Bourdain.

Most other passengers took taxis to Detroit Airport and boarded flights home. I hope they will one day return to see the revitalized Detroit with its iconic buildings, music and food.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Sailing along the Detroit River at sunrise. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 

Until Next Time ….

Warning:  If you enjoy giant cruise ships with thousands of passengers and loads of onboard entertainment and shopping, this cruise is not for you. If you are looking for a small, comfortable, casual, hassle-free and intimate ship, Victory II is right up your alley.

What I loved about the Victory II was the absence of line-ups, the freedom and flexibility to dine when, where and with whom I wanted to, the family feeling among the passengers and with the staff, and the ease with which I could access all of the ship’s services from just one central staircase.

The unique St. Lawrence and Great Lakes itinerary took us to interesting cities characteristic of the regions on our route with ample time to explore both as part of the included excursions and independently. The food was outstanding with a nice variety of menu items and our room was cozy, clean and comfortable. I recognize that this was the inaugural sailing and, while yes, there were some hiccups that were irritants for some passengers — minor things like key cards not working and pictures to be hung — I expect these minor issues will be quickly corrected for future sailings. After all, this was the first opportunity to really unwrap this ship and unveil her beauty and services on the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, an area not often seen from a small cruise ship.

New Victory II Great Lakes Adventure

Captain Waving as we approach the Port of Detroit. * Photo: Judi Cohen

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review

Grand Mariner in New England

REVIEWER

Liz Walker from the USA.

CRUISE LINE

Blount Small Ship Adventures.

SHIP

Grand Mariner.

DESTINATION

New England Island Cruise.

# OF NIGHTS

3.

DEPARTURE DATE & PORTS

July 2018, from Warren, Rhode Island.

OVERALL RATING

2 out of 5 stars (5=excellent, 4=very good, 3=good, 2=poor, 1=terrible)

-Food Rating: 5

-Cabin Rating: 4

-Service/Crew Rating: 3

-Itinerary Rating: 2

HOW MANY SMALL-SHIP CRUISES HAVE YOU BEEN ON?

1.

REVIEW

It’s always amusing to start off a review with saying, well at least the food was good. I wish I could say that our entire experience with Blount New England Island Cruises was as good, but sadly not. The food was good, the bed in our cabin was comfortable and my husband really enjoyed having conversations with the captain. The weather was not in our  favor, so I understand that we couldn’t venture out to the islands. That’s not my issue. My issue was how this change in itinerary was handled by the cruise directors. The main cruise director was leaving and passing the baton onto her replacement. Neither seemed to have much experience or training in customer service. It appeared to us that they could care less about trying to make the experience more pleasant for us passengers who paid good money to be there. Both could benefit from good training in marketing/customer service so that they could better respond to situations such as this. Hey, no one can control the weather, but Blount certainly can have a system in place that includes a plan b, c and even d, when bad weather prohibits the cruise from fulfilling the destinations on the itinerary. We felt abandoned by the cruise directors as if to say, “oh well, you’re stuck here, not our problem”. They provided very little information and communication was poor. Another reason for better training is so that the staff learns skills on how to defuse a situation when passengers become annoyed, which was our experience. It was day 2 and we hadn’t left the dock at Fort Adams in Newport and we couldn’t get to the main part of Newport because the water taxis were not running. Finally, the cruise directors made arrangements for taxis to take us to Newport Vineyards. At least it was something and got us off the ship. Day 3 we had to leave Newport because another Blount cruise was coming in, so we set off to Bristol, RI and remained there for our 3rd and final night. When I tried to have a discussion with the cruise director regarding what their plans were for us, her response was that they had no plans and that she had to “pull teeth” to get Blount to pay for the taxis to the vineyard. This is not the wisest thing to say to a passenger because it left a bad taste in my mouth for not only her, but the company. After more passengers complained, the cruise directors hired a bus to take us to the Providence zoo. When we arrived at the zoo, the cruise director told us that we only had 2 hours because they only rented the bus for a certain amount of time.  again, bad taste in my mouth. I think they got the message that we were displeased because when we returned to the ship, they had a wonderful spread of  HOR’DOURVES (did I mention the food was good?), open bar and entertainment. None of which was offered on the original itinerary, but certainly a welcomed and much appreciated addition, and helped defuse the situation. On our last day, the captain set off for Block Island very early in the morning and we were able to spend 4 hours before having to sail back to Warren, RI. Thankfully Blount provided a free taxi service for us while on Block because of the limited time we had on the island. I have other suggestions for things to do while on the cruise that passengers might find fun and interesting such as a tour of the ship that includes learning about the history of Blount, etc., trivia night for the passengers, karaoke, other group games,  etc., that would be organized by staff. I guess my only other comment regarding Blount Cruises is that these ships seem to be better made for rivers and not the ocean. Less opportunity for high swells on a river.  So the million dollar question, would my husband and I take another cruise with Blount? Although I appreciate the $500.00 credit we received in the mail from Blount, my answer would be, probably not.

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Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Check out these 5 special offers for Affordable River Cruising in Europe from the folks at Cruise Traveller, an Australia-based small-ship expert. For more details or to book, click on the links to go to the agency’s website.

Click here for more info about Cruise Traveller.

All rates are in Australian dollars and all are available to Australian passengers only.

 

Cruise Traveller

 

Happy small-ship cruising!

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Fabulous France

Cruise Package: 12-night cruise package departing 11 October, 2019, comprises a 7-night cruise including all excursions and meals, FREE drinks package, plus 5-night stay in Paris and more.

Ship:  140-passenger Lord Byron; built 2013.

Offer:  Enjoy return economy airfare from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Marseille (via Paris) and return from Lyon, 5-night Paris stay with transfers/breakfast; FREE 1-day big bus Paris pass; full day tour from Paris to Bruges; transfer from Marseille airport to Avignon port; 7-night river cruise from Avignon to Lyon aboard ms Lord Byron to Burgundy & Provence and including all shore activities/meals plus BONUS FREE drinks package onboard river cruise, air/port taxes and all transfers throughout. Fares for a Twin Lower Deck with windows start at AUD $7,995 per person, and for a Single Lower Deck with windows, from AUD $10,195 per person.

Expires:  30 September, 2018, or until sold out/withdrawn.

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Lord Byron

Danube Delights

Cruise Package: 12-night cruise package departing 22 October, 2019, comprises a 7-night cruise including all excursions and meals, FREE drinks package, plus 5-night stay in Budapest and more.

Ship:  169-passenger Robert Burns; brand new built 2018.

Offer:  Enjoy round-trip economy airfare from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Budapest including tax; 5-night Budapest hotel stay with breakfast/transfers; 48-hour hop-on hop-off bus pass for Budapest; full-day tour to Puszta horses with lunch; 7-night Blue Danube river cruise with the NEW ms Robert Burns round-trip from Budapest including all meals; plus a large range of included sightseeing and port taxes, port taxes. Fares for a single (French Balcony Middle Deck) cabin start at AUD $9,995 per person, and with a BONUS FREE onboard beverage package valued at AUD $199 per person.

Expires:  31 August, 2018, or until sold out/withdrawn.

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Beautiful Budapest


Swiss Stunner

Cruise Package: 12-night cruise package departing 30 April, 2019, comprises a 7-night cruise including all excursions and meals, FREE drinks package, plus 5 hotel nights and more.

Ship:  169-passenger Emily Bronte; new built 2017.

Offer:  Enjoy round-trip economy class airfare from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Cologne and from Zurich on return; 1-night Cologne hotel stay with transfers; 7-night Rhine cruise to Switzerland aboard Emily Bronte from Cologne to Basel; 3-night post-cruise hotel extension from Basel to Zurich including the famous Glacier Express train from Chur to Zermatt and transport; 1-night post tour hotel stay in Zurich; air/port taxes; plus BONUS FREE beverage package on cruise valued at $199 per person! Fares for a Twin Lower Deck with window start from AUD $7,695 per person and Single Middle Deck cabins with French balcony start at AUD $13,295 per person.

Expires:  30 October, 2018, or until sold out/withdrawn.

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Emily Bronte

 

Portugal Perfection

Cruise Package: 17-night cruise package departing 10 June, 2019, comprises a 7-night cruise including all excursions and meals and FREE drinks package, plus 10 hotel nights and more.

Ship:  126-passenger Douro Elegance; new built 2017.

Offer: Enjoy round-trip economy class from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Lisbon and from Porto on return; 1-night Lisbon stay with breakfast/transfer; 8-night small group “Discover Portugal” tour (18 guests max) from Lisbon to Porto with accommodation and some meals plus most touring and entrance fees; 1-night Porto stay with transfer to port; 7-night Douro River cruise aboard ms Douro Elegance round-trip from Porto with all meals and shore activities included; air/port taxes; plus free BONUS drinks package on board the river cruise. Fares for Twin Lower Deck cabins with window start at AUD $11,295 per person and Single Middle Deck cabins with full size window start at AUD $18,365 per person.

Expires:  30 November, 2018, or until sold out/withdrawn.

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Douro Elegance

The Eastern European Explorer

Cruise Package: 25-night cruise package departing 7 September, 2019, comprises a 14-night cruise including all excursions and meals and FREE drinks package, plus 11 hotel nights and more.

Ship:  169-passenger Thomas Hardy; new built 2017.

Offer: Enjoy round-trip economy class from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth and from Prague on return including taxes; 1-night Budapest hotel stay with transfers/breakfast; 14-night “Budapest to Black Sea” river cruise aboard Thomas Hardy round-trip from Budapest including most meals (1 lunch is not included on day 6) and many shore activities; BONUS shipboard drinks package (valued at $389 per person); 1-night Budapest hotel stay with breakfast/transfers; 8-night small group escorted tour from Budapest to Prague with accomodation, transport and some meals; 1-night Prague hotel stay with breakfast/transfers; and air/port taxes. Fares for Twin Lower Deck cabins with window start at AUD $14,795 per person and Single Middle Deck cabins with French balcony start at AUD $25,595 per person.

Expires:  30 November, 2018, or until sold out/withdrawn.

Visit the Cruise Traveller site for more info or to book this cruise.

Affordable River Cruising in Europe

Thomas Hardy

 

Note:Deals are generated by, and the responsibility of, Cruise Traveller, 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.

 

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Crazy Cruise Charters

Crazy Cruise Charters

by Elise Lentz.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work on cruise ships? Small cruise ships? For 15 years?

Elise & Tim Lentz have worked on ships big and small as cruise directors, shore excursion managers, tour directors and event managers for over 15 years. The married globetrotters are based in Florida when they’re not aboard ships, mostly small ones these days, running the small ship division for a US-based tour operator and now for their own new company Global Tour Management. Depending on specific assignment(s), they may be on the high seas for a few weeks to a month or more at a time. Their life has been anything but boring and each day offers a new adventure.  

Welcome to the eighth in a series of monthly installments from Elise, sharing their story behind the scenes.

Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea (Part 8)

In a previous post, I talked about some of the more interesting themed charters our ships hosted. I mentioned that the ship (in a nutshell) “caters” to the whims and desires of the charter client.  One such request came from the organizers of a gay charter to have the captain don a toga during their themed toga party. As reluctant as the captain was to strip himself of his formal uniform, he did comply and amazingly managed to find a way to attach his epaulets (stripes) to his makeshift toga. (I still wish I had a picture of that…)

Another captain faced a few “unique” requests during an Orthodox Jewish charter. When the rabbi wanted to have the dinnerware blessed in the seawater, all of the dishes and glasses were crated up and placed in a large cargo net. Using the onboard crane — the netting and crate were lifted over the side of the ship and “somewhat” gently dipped into the ocean.  Mission accomplished — all items were blessed in the ocean.  “Mission impossible” — not all of the dishes and glasses made it back onboard.  So the next time you are snorkeling around St.Thomas you may see a new coral reef consisting of china dinnerware and crystal glasses.

Not all charters are remembered for their parties and fun-loving guests. And as you know, just because someone may have a lot of money does not mean they have a lot of sense.  And this next story proved that wealth is not always a direct correlation to intelligence.

There was one charter that consisted of a family reunion, and this multi-generational family (and their friends) took over the entire ship. Some of the younger members, bored with “Uncle Joe’s” family stories, “Aunt Alice’s” card games and pulling grandpa’s finger, decided to turn their cabin into a circus act. Complete with music blaring from the room, one young man took on the role as ringmaster to attract the interest of the other younger cruisers. With an abundance of teenage hormones, two of the more “beefy” muscular boys decided to host a ringside act and show off their bravado and skills of strength to their friends. Without any grace or skill whatsoever, they proceeded to turn their cabin’s bathroom door into a trapeze. The young audience encouraged and cheered on the acrobatic performers until…. the trapeze broke. To the disbelief of the chief engineer, the final act of these circus clowns resulted in the steel framed bathroom door being bent beyond repair. Unfortunately for the chief engineer, that was not the worse of the nightmares he would face on this cruise.

The swimming pool onboard was very petite and passengers would refer to it as “an Olympic sized bird bath.” Late one night, after some of these same clowns grew tired of fornicating and smoking in the dark on the outside decks, they decided to host a “cannonball” diving competition in the pool. This resulted in a major crack in the bottom of the pool. Leaking water has to go somewhere — and it did — into the main lounge which was located on the deck below the pool.

You can’t make this shit up.

So how did grandma and grandpa “Warbucks” address these situations? History has proven that people with money often dig themselves out of “ugly situations” by throwing money at it, in this case, with a check to pay for the damages. The “Warbucks” couldn’t deny the damages their group wreaked on the ship and they paid up.

The “coup de grâce” for the captain that week was the day we were in Mykonos, Greece. For those of you who have been there, you know the winds can be unrelenting. The ship was docked and the family (and friends) disembarked for a day onshore. The daughter–in-chief, who was the mastermind behind the “Warbucks” clan, stayed onboard to plan the evenings’ events.  She approached the captain wanting him to reposition the ship and anchor off-shore, so the family could enjoy “the twinkling lights of Mykonos” that evening during dinner. The captain was very hesitant about this request and explained to Ms. “Twinkling Lights” why this was not a good idea due to the forecasted increase in wind speed. Wanting nothing to do with his answer and as any spoiled brat would do, she whined until he finally gave in. The captain contacted the port agent and advised him that he would give up his docking location to go to anchor. This also meant the ship would need to establish tender operations to get all the passengers, who were currently on shore, back to the ship.  The captain left the dock and attempted to anchor. The winds continued to grow and the captain advised that he did not think operating the tenders in these conditions was safe.  Ms. “Temper Tantrum” stomped her feet and pouted until the captain lowered a tender.  What I then witnessed was one of the scariest tender operations I would ever see.  The winds were so strong that the waves tossed the tender around like a cork bobbing in water. To make matters worse, the ship broke free from its anchorage and was now drifting. At this time, the captain told Ms. “Thang” to get off his bridge and he was going take the ship back to the dockage. Fortunately, the sailor was able to slowly maneuver the tender back to the dock and safely re-board the vessel once the ship re-docked.

Finally, the cruise ends and the poor crew has the daunting task to clean and repair, in four hours, what in essence was a weeklong frat party. To this day, whenever I hear people mention Mykonos, visions of “spoiled kids of privilege” dance in my head.

Crazy Cruise Charters

Elise in Mykonos, while the charter queen harassed the captain on board. * Photo: Tim Lentz

To quote a line from Forrest Gump: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” I can relate, in that there are times you are disappointed with or dislike the chocolate you received, but then there are those amazing chocolates that create a special, comforting memory. Each journey we are on is like receiving a wrapped box of chocolates full of surprises.  Next time I’ll share with you some of the most “special chocolate” treats that stick in my memory.

 

Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Hitting the Road  (Part 1)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — The Voyage Begins (Part 2)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Sleeping Around (Part 3)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Shook Me All Night Long (Part 4) 
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Say Cheese (Part 5)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Good Cruises Gone Bad (Part 6)
Read Elise & Tim Behind the Scenes at Sea — Whatever the Client Wants (Part 7)

 

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to QuirkyCruise.com for a monthly update of our best posts! 

 

© 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.