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Small-Ship Cruises Restart including Coral Discoverer

Small-Ship Cruises Restart Down Under

By Anne Kalosh.

Two small ships are venturing out in Australia and New Zealand.

Coral Expeditions resumed weeklong Great Barrier Reef cruises from Cairns, Australia. This first service since the COVID-19 lockdown came after months of preparations, including the development of SailSAFE protocols in conjunction with health emergency specialist Respond Global.

Coral Expeditions' SailSAFE protocols

Coral Expeditions’ SailSAFE protocols include these categories.

Coral Expeditions’ Australian-flag status, small Australian passenger count and an Australian crew were critical to getting the green light, Seatrade Cruise News reports.

“We hope that our successful return to operations gives confidence to travelers and authorities that small-ship expedition cruising with a local operator is a logical and prudent point of a restart for the marine expedition industry,” said Mark Fifield, group general manager, Coral Expeditions.

Small-Ship Cruises Restart including Coral Discoverer

Coral Discoverer on the Great Barrier Reef. * Photo: Coral Expeditions

Kiwi Cruising for Kiwis

Meanwhile, New Zealand cruises are getting going in a similar small-ship, domestic fashion. The family-run, New Zealand-owned Heritage Expeditions has been authorized to sail its 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby, carrying only Kiwis for now.

The first voyage is planned to embark at the port of Bluff in southern New Zealand on Nov. 24 and will visit Stewart Island and explore Fiordland, according to Seatrade Cruise News.

Small Ship cruising restarting down under includes Spirit of Enderby by Heritage Expeditions

The 50-passenger Spirit of Enderby. * Photo: Heritage Expeditions

AmaWaterways Suspends Balance of 2020 Cruises

AmaWaterways suspended its remaining 2020 river cruise season, including all regularly scheduled departures in Europe, Asia and Africa. This suspension does not apply to the Rhine charter program on AmaKristina that has been operating since July, carrying mostly Germans.

AmaKristina is still operating for Germans

AmaKristina was the only AmaWaterways vessel that operated through the summer, on the Rhine. Next year, it’s redeploying to the Rhône. * Photo: AmaWaterways

Impacted travelers will receive a 115 percent future cruise credit that can be used through 2022.

AmaWaterways President and Co-Founder Rudi Schreiner characterized the situation in Europe as “a little chaotic,” with COVID-19 cases “increasing heavily” and countries adopting a patchwork of travel regulations. Cases were up in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, and Hungary is closed — allowing river vessels to transit but not to disembark, Schreiner said. Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague all had new restrictions.

Strong 2021 bookings

In 2021, AmaWaterways will introduce two new vessels to the Rhine and five new itineraries and land programs throughout Europe. After an absence of some years, the line returns to Egypt with a new Nile boat, AmaDahlia.

France is in demand so AmaKristina will shift to the Rhône, joining AmaCello on the Saône as AmaDante moves to the Seine.

Booking trends are strong for 2021, starting in the summer, and Christmas markets cruises are especially popular, according to Schreiner. Also in demand: Portugal’s Douro River and Ama’s new Egypt program.

No Christmas markets cruises for AmaWaterways

No Christmas markets cruises for AmaWaterways this year, but bookings are strong for Christmas 2021. Here, Cologne, Germany. * Photo: AwaWaterways

Seabourn Venture’s Winter Norway Debut

Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship, Seabourn Venture, is scheduled to debut in December 2021 on an unusual winter Norway program.

The ship will sail a series of 10- to 14-day voyages through April 2022, giving travelers the opportunity to explore the snow-draped landscape, learn about Viking history and culture and search for the northern lights.

Included and optional expedition activities include skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and dog and reindeer sledding. There will be dedicated excursions in search of the northern lights, including overnight camping at optimal viewing locations.

All sailings will offer a complimentary Seabourn Signature Evening Event: a concert in the Northern Lights Cathedral at Alta.

Seabourn Venture delayed

The 264-pax Seabourn Venture is Seabourn’s first purpose-built expedition ship. * Rendering: Seabourn

The 264-passenger Seabourn Venture will carry two six-seat custom submarines, expedition kayaks and 24 Zodiacs. All travelers will receive custom-designed gear by Norwegian outdoor apparel company Helly Hansen and a waterproof WaterShield backpack.

The inaugural 12-day voyage from Greenwich, England, to Tromsø, Norway, on Dec. 11, 2021, is sold out.

Following that, on Dec. 23, is a 14-day holiday sailing from Tromsø to Copenhagen, Denmark.

A series of 12-day voyages between Tromsø and Copenhagen will call at destinations like the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund, the fishing village of Svolvær in the towering Lofoten Islands and Narvik, with its War Museum and Sami reindeer herder culture. Alta is a prime place to view the northern lights, and Honningsvåg serves as the gateway to the North Cape.

The season ends with a 10-day Norwegian spring cruise round-trip Tromsø on April 24.

Seabourn Venture in Norway

Seabourn Venture’s winter Norway program affords opportunities to see the northern lights, * Photo: Alex Conu:Visit Norway

Star Clipper to Leave Asia in 2022

Star Clippers’ namesake vessel, Star Clipper, will return to the Mediterranean for the 2022 season, joining Royal Clipper and Star Flyer. This will mark the first time since 2016 that all three tall ships sail together in the Mediterranean.

Star Clipper, currently based in Southeast Asia, will complete the 2021/22 season in Thailand before heading out.

James Bond Island Thailand

James Bond Island Thailand. * Photo: by Heidi Sarna

En route back to Europe, it will depart Safaga, Egypt, in April 2022, sailing though the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean.

Once there, Star Clipper will offer a variety of itineraries from May through October, including “Yachtman’s Paradise,” a seven-night sailing between Istanbul and Piraeus (Athens) along with round-trips from Civitavecchia (Rome) and Cannes, France.

Star Clippers tall ships

After its 2021:22 season in Thailand, Star Clipper will redeploy to the Mediterranean. * Photo: Star Clippers

RELATED: This Cruise Rocks, Star Clippers in Thailand.  by Heidi Sarna

Caribbean Sale

Before then, Star Clippers’ 2021/22 Caribbean season will consist of 32 weeklong sailings from Barbados and St. Maarten on Royal Clipper and Star Flyer.

Star Clippers in the Caribbean

Sailing the Caribbean with Star Clippers. * Photo: Star Clippers

Rates for the U.S. market start at $1,310 per person, single occupancy, and Americans who book by Oct. 31 this year will get a one-cabin upgrade and prepaid gratuities.

Star Clippers charts its routes to sail under wind power as much as possible — up to 80 percent of the time in the Caribbean.

Star Clippers tall ships

Star Clippers vessels provide an authentic sailing adventure. * Photo: Star Clippers

The 170-passenger Star Clipper and Star Flyer are traditional clipper ships with modern amenities, and the 227-passenger Royal Clipper holds the Guinness World Record as the largest and only five-masted, full-rigged sailing ship in service today.

Travelers interested in learning their way around a tall ship can assist the crew with hoisting and setting sail, bracing, folding and knot tying. They may also climb the mast to the crow’s nest, some 100 feet above the water, for a spine-tingling view.

All three vessels have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, piano lounges and convivial open-deck tropical bars. Water sports activities abound.

star clippers water sports marina

Plenty of fun from Royal Clipper’s water sports platform. * Photo: Star Clippers

American Melody Emerges

American Melody, the fourth new vessel in American Cruise Lines’ modern riverboat series, is progressing at Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, Maryland.

The forward section emerged from the hull fabrication building at the yard and was moved atop a heavy-lift system to the launch ways where it will be joined to the aft section and launched into the Wicomico River.

American Cruise Lines said American Melody is on schedule to start Mississippi River service next year.

Just two months ago, the company took delivery of modern riverboat American Jazz, also for the Mississippi. It’s positioned in New Orleans, ready to begin sailing when public health officials give the OK.

American Melody

American Melody noses out of the fabrication hall. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

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American Empress wave season offers

Wave Season Deals.

By Anne Kalosh.

Now is a terrific time to plan a small-ship cruise. Wave season, January to March, is the annual peak booking period for the cruise lines, when they typically tout their best deals. Travelers can save on a range of quirky ocean, coastal, river and sailing vessels.

Here are some examples.

Wave Season Deals: Scenic

Scenic Discovery Yacht

Starting at the top, the sumptuous new six-star 228-passenger discovery yacht Scenic Eclipse, which debuted in 2019, is far from a bargain. Yet when Scenic says “all-inclusive,” that means the price covers everything. (Well, almost. Helicopter and submarine rides and spa treatments cost extra.)

All-suite accommodations, butler service, 10 dining experiences and an almost 1:1 staff to guest ratio are hallmarks of the head-turning Scenic Eclipse.

Wave Season Deals on Scenic Eclipse

Everything is included in the Scenic Eclipse pricing, apart from a few extras like helicopter rides. * Photo: Scenic

But if you’re splashing out on a six-star super-yacht, why not save on the flights? Discounts on business-class airfare and free economy-class air are available for bookings made now.

Select departures throughout 2020 and 2021 include reduced business-class fares of $995 and $1,995 and free economy air, or up to $2,500 savings in lieu of the flights.

For a 20-day Antarctica trip in late 2020, free business-class air saves $3,000 per person for the flight to Buenos Aires. Scenic Eclipse’s Nov 20 and Dec 8 sailings explore Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

Early bird fare savings of up to $6,950 per person, double occupancy, are also available on some departures.

RELATED: Peter Knego’s Scenic Eclipse Review.

SUBSCRIBE to QuirkyCruise.com for updates and special offers!

Scenic Wave Season Deals

The Scenic Eclipse in Antarctica. * Photo: Scenic

Scenic Space-Ships

On the rivers, Scenic’s Space Ships — so named because of their spaciousness — have wave deals including free air or $1,000 per person savings on eight- to 10-day itineraries. Sailings of at least 11 days come with free premium economy air or $1,800 per person savings or $1,995 business-class airfares on select departures.

Standard balcony on Scenic Gem

Spacious standard balcony suite on the Scenic Gem. * Photo: Scenic

Door-to-door airport transfers are included for travelers booking cabins on the highest deck (Diamond) for sailings of at least 11 days. Those booking any cabin on a 15-day Jewels of Europe itinerary departing between July and October will receive free premium economy airfare and door-to-door airport transfers.

Going solo? Scenic is shaving 50 percent off the single supplement rate on quite a few 2020 departures.

Scenic’s website for booking details.

RELATED: 15 Reasons to do the Mekong River with Scenic … by Heidi Sarna.

Scenic Gem offers wave season deals

The spacious Scenic Gem. * Photo: Scenic

Wave Season Deals: AQSC & Victory

Rollin’ on the American Rivers

American Queen Steamboat Co.’s (AQSC) 245-passenger American Countess paddle-wheeler is set to debut on the Mississippi River in April. This fourth vessel in the AQSC fleet has four decks, including a sun deck, and 123 staterooms in four categories. Modern-design cabins, gourmet dining, included shore excursions and Broadway-caliber entertainment are hallmarks.

During wave season, travelers can save up to $2,500 per stateroom ($1,250 per person) on select 2020 voyages.

American Empress wave season offers

The pretty American Empress. * Photo: American Queen Steamboat Co

AQSC is adding new theme cruises in 2020, ranging from Pacific Northwest Wine Cruises aboard American Empress to the American River BBQ Challenge on American Countess, American Queen and American Duchess along the lower Mississippi. Special performances highlight the American Music Festival cruise on American Duchess, while exclusive bourbon tastings and lectures feature on the Bourbon to Blues cruises aboard American Countess and American Duchess.

Bookings made during wave season offer savings up to $2,500 per stateroom ($1,250 per person) on select 2020 voyages.

American Queen Steamboat Company’s website for booking details.

RELATED:Bill Forsstrum Talks about the Steamboat American Queen.

wave season offers for American Countess

The new American Countess’ modern cabins. * Rendering: American Queen Steamboat Co.

Victory is Yours

AQSC’s sister company, Victory Cruise Lines, fields a pair of twin coastal ships and, new in spring 2021, the Ocean Victory expedition vessel will debut in Alaska and British Columbia.

During 2020, the 202-passenger ships Victory I and Victory II will introduce new southern sailings to Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and the Southeastern United States. These are in addition to their northern sailings in the Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes and New England.

During wave season, travelers can save up to $3,000 per stateroom ($1,500 per person) on select 2020 voyages.

Victory Cruise Lines website.

RELATED: Great Lakes Cruising Aboard a Replica Coastal Steamer … by Peter Knego

RELATED: American Queen Acquires Victory Cruise Lines … by Anne Kalosh

Victory I wave season deals

The traditional-style Victory I. * Photo: Victory Cruise Lines

Wave Season Deals: UnCruise Adventures

Travelers planning an active trip have until Feb. 28 to save with UnCruise Adventures, whose small ships focus on nature and wildlife. Kayaking, hiking, beachcombing, paddle boarding, snorkeling, skiff excursions and wildlife searches are part of every UnCruise.

The line is offering up to $1,000 per couple on voyages to Alaska, Mexico, Costa Rica & Panama, Belize & Guatemala, Colombia & Panama, and Hawaii. A suite deal gives groups savings on larger suites.

In Southeast Alaska, travelers can save up to $1,000 per couple on weeklong adventures aboard the 84-passenger Safari Endeavour and the 86-passenger Legacy when booking a commander cabin or higher category. Safari Endeavour sails from Juneau and Sitka and Legacy sails from Juneau and Ketchikan.

Savings up to $500 per couple on weeklong Alaska adventure cruises aboard the 76-passenger Wilderness Discoverer and 74-passenger Wilderness Explorer are available when booking a trailblazer cabin or higher category. Both ships sail from Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan.

wave deals for Wilderness Explorer in Alaska

Wilderness Explorer in Alaska. * Photo: UnCruise Adventures

RELATED: Alaska Cruise Adventures with UnCruise … by Judi Cohen.

RELATED:  Rivers of Adventure on the Columbia & Snake Rivers … by John Roberts

RELATED: The Pacific Northwest with UnCruise … by Ted Scull.

Hawaiian Islands & Latin America

Celebrating its first year of full-calendar Hawaii sailings, UnCruise is giving a discount of $700 per couple on weeklong cruises departing between March 7 and Sept. 5. The 36-passenger Safari Explorer yacht visits Hawai’i, Molokai, Lanai and Maui with included activities exploring land and sea. Cultural heritage is a key component in the islands; a full day is spent with locals on Molokai.

Safari Explorer is on sale during wave season

The Safari Explorer now sails Hawaii year-round. * Photo: UnCruise

The 66-passenger Safari Voyager sails adventure cruises in Latin America. Belize and Colombia itineraries are new in fall 2020. Travelers can save $800 per couple on seven-night Costa Rica & Panama, Belize & Guatemala, and Colombia & Panama cruises departing between April 20 and Dec. 5.

Savings of $1,000 per couple are offered on 10-night Costa Rica & Panama cruises embarking through March 29.

In Mexico’s wildlife-rich Sea of Cortés, travelers can save $700 per couple for sailings departing through April 4 when booking a commander cabin or higher category. The 84-passenger Safari Endeavour explores the marine-life rich waters of this UNESCO World Heritage Site on weeklong adventures round-trip from San Jose del Cabo. Activities include snorkeling with sea lions, desert hikes and remote beach explorations, a mule ride with local rancheros, and close-up encounters with gray whales and calves at Magdalena Bay during calving season.

Suite Deal

Families and other groups booking four or more cabins aboard the Legacy, Safari Voyager or Safari Endeavour on select 2020 Latin America or Alaska adventure cruises can save 50 percent on a larger suite as the fourth cabin. Suites provide a private gathering and party space for small groups. Travelers can save 50 percent on the 600-square-foot owner’s suite aboard Legacy and Safari Voyager or a commodore suite on Safari Endeavour.

UnCruise Adventures website for booking info.

Safari Voyager deals

Kayaking is a big part of the UnCruise experience. * Photo: UnCruise

Wave Season Deals: Star Clippers

Here’s your chance to save on a tall-ship adventure with Star Clippers. The line’s “Choose Your Wave” offers apply to 2020 and 2021 sailings in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia.

Star Clippers operates three of the world’s largest and tallest sailing vessels. Star Clipper and Star Flyer are traditional clipper ships with modern amenities. Each carries 170 passengers. The 227-passenger Royal Clipper holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest and only five-mast, full-rigged sailing ship in service today.

All three vessels have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining and convivial tropical bars on deck.

wave season deals on Royal Clipper

The lovely Royal Clipper off the coast of Sromboli, Italy. * Photo: Star Clippers

The “Choose Your Wave” special lets travelers pick the deal that bests suits them. The choices are a $200 on-board credit per person, a one-cabin category upgrade or a complimentary massage and bottle of champagne in cabin plus prepaid gratuities.

This offer is good for any 2020 or 2021 sailing in the Caribbean and select 2021 Mediterranean cruises. Travelers booking any 2020 or 2021 Southeast Asia sailing can choose two of the wave options. Travel must be booked by Feb. 29.

RELATED: Star Clippers Thailand Cruise Rocks … by Heidi Sarna

RELATED: Royal Clipper Med Cruise with a Newbie … by Christina Colon

Star Clippers website for booking info.

Star Clippers deals

Climbing the masts is part of the fun on a Star Clippers cruise. * Photo: Star Clippers

Wave Season Deals: Drifting along the Danube

The Danube River winds through 10 countries, carving a historic path that unites fairytale villages, capital cities, castles and forested slopes for picture-perfect landscapes as far as the eye can see.

Given the exceptional diversity in food, architecture, culture and history, it’s no surprise that nearly 50 percent of Avalon Waterways travelers chose the Danube for their European vacation in 2019.

Avalon provides nearly 30 Danube itineraries that range from four to 27 days, one of the biggest varieties of any line. Another distinction: “Short and Suite” getaways of four and six days. These are priced starting at $874 and provide time-starved travelers and first-time river cruisers the chance to test river cruise waters.

For a limited time, travelers can extend select Danube vacations in Budapest or Prague for free, a value of up to $759. Bookings must be made by March 9 for travel through Dec. 30.

Avalon Waterways website for booking info.

Avalon waterways wave season discounts

Avalon offers nearly 30 Danube itineraries of different combinations. * Photo: Avalon Waterways

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Quark Expeditions' Ultramarine new ship for 2020

New Ships of 2020

By Anne Kalosh.

For small-ship lovers, a bevy of oceangoing new builds are set to enter service this year. Of the 23 vessels joining the global ocean cruise fleet, a hefty 11 are small enough to be QuirkyCruise size (carrying up to 300 passengers).

In addition to these 11 will be many new river vessels and a few new coastal ships — so plenty of choices for travelers seeking the latest and greatest but not the biggest!

New Ships of 2020: Ritz-Carlton

One of the year’s most-anticipated ships is the first to be associated with a luxury hotel brand. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection was due to introduce the luxurious, 298-passenger Evrima early this year. However, it has been delayed to mid-June because of issues at the shipyard, Spain’s Hijos de J. Barreras.

Designed as a yacht inside and out, Evrima promises to be a beauty when completed, with its cascade of open decks aft, a marina and spacious suites and lounges. Dining experiences will include Southeast Asian small plates, an alfresco seafood bar/steak grill, a marina spot and a restaurant by three-star Michelin chef Sven Elverfeld of Aqua at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg.

Evrima is one of 2020's new builds

Evrima has a cascade of open decks aft, ending in a marina. * Rendering: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Evirmas' indoor-outdoor Marina Lounge

Evirma’s indoor-outdoor Marina Lounge. * Rendering: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Pool deck on Evirma, one of the new ships for 2020

Evrima’s main pool deck, aft. * Rendering: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

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New Ships of 2020: Expedition Ships

The expedition cruising boom continues, with nine new ships that are Quirky-sized coming in 2020. Among them are the first blue-water expedition newbuilds for several owners: Lindblad ExpeditionsNational Geographic Endurance, Crystal Expedition CruisesCrystal Endeavor, Quark Expeditions Ultramarine and Silversea Cruises’ Silver Origin for the Galápagos.

RELATED: Lindblad goes carbon neutral.

Named in honor of Ernest Shackleton, Endurance sports the patented X-BOW design with its distinctive inverted bow, for better seakeeping. Expanded fuel and water tanks allow for long-range operations, while a Polar Class 5 rating enables exploration in icy areas.

The 126-passenger ship has Scandinavian-style interiors and lots of glass for great views. Each of the 13 extra-large balcony suites is named for a polar explorer.

National Geographic Endurance's X-bow

National Geographic Endurance has an inverted X-BOW design for better seakeeping. * Rendering: Lindblad Expeditions

National Geographic Endurance large suite

Each of the 13 extra-large balcony suites is named for a polar explorer. * Rendering: Lindblad Expeditions

The all-suite Crystal Endeavor will emulate luxury brand Crystal’s hallmarks, including butler service, the Palm Court and specialty restaurants Prego for Italian fare and Umi Uma for sushi and dishes from master chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Additionally, the two-story Solarium pool deck will house the Asian-inspired Silk Kitchen & Bar during the evenings.

Below the Crystal Endeavour is “rolled out” of the covered building dock December 21. 

The 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor has a Polar Class 6 rating and will carry two helicopters and a pair of seven-person submarines.

Crystal Endeavor is one of the new ships for 2020

Crystal Endeavor will sail to the world’s far reaches, including the polar areas. * Rendering: Crystal Expedition Cruises

One of 2020 news builds is Crystal Endeavor

Crystal Endeavor’s versatile Solarium transforms into a dinner venue by night. * Rendering: Crystal Expedition Cruises

Ultramarine is designed for polar operations, Quark’s specialty. It will have an exceptional 70-day operational range and equipment for heli-hiking and heli-skiing, along with kayaks, paddle boards and Zodiacs. The 200-passenger Ultramarine will come with six suites for solo travelers.

Quark Expeditions' Ultramarine new ship for 2020

Ultramarine is Quark Expeditions’ first owned new build. * Rendering: Quark Expeditions

Silver Origin is purpose-built for the Galápagos, with an Explorer Lounge for expedition briefings and Basecamp, an elegant space with a large, interactive digital wall that connects with the Zodiac embarkation area.

This 100-passenger ship has lavish all-suite accommodations, some with sea-view bathtubs and showers, a new feature for Silversea. (Peek-a-boo, boobies!)

new ship Silver Origin

Silver Origin is built for the Galápagos. * Rendering: Silversea Cruises

New Ships of 2020: Continuing Series

French line Ponant continues its Explorers series with Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier, distinguished by their sleek, superyacht profiles and a marina platform with three positions, for use as a sun deck, as a launch pad for water sports and as the Zodiac embarkation point.

Each 184-passenger ship also contains the distinctive underwater lounge Blue Eye.

RELATED: Ponant & Backroads adventure in New Zealand

Ponant's new ships for 2020

Le Bellot and Le Jacques Cartier will sport Ponant’s distinctive Blue Eye underwater lounge. * Photo @L.Patricot

Portugal’s Mystic Cruises adds its second 200-passenger new build, World Voyager, which has features like an Observation Lounge topped by a glass dome for stargazing and a lighted glass well that looks down into the sea. Heated seats on the bow add a Mercedes-like touch and comfort for travelers spending extended time outdoors in the cold to view wildlife.

World Voyager is a new ship in 2020 for Mystic Cruises

World Voyager is second in a series of a planned 10 ships. * Rendering: Mystic Cruises

World Voyager is a new ship for 2020

World Voyager has an Observation Lounge with a glass dome to the sky and a glass well looking down into the sea. * Photo: Mystic Cruises

SunStone Ships continues building in China with expedition ship Ocean Victory. It will be chartered by Denmark’s Albatros Expeditions for the Antarctica season and by Victory Cruise Lines for Alaska as this U.S. brand branches into expedition sailings for the first time.

Ocean Victory has capacity for 186 passengers. It uses the X-BOW design and is built to Polar Class 6 standard.

Ocean Victory is a new ship in 2020 for Victory Cruise Lines

Ocean Victory’s lounges include a spacious library. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

The new ship Ocean Victory

Ocean Victory’s elegant dining room. * Rendering: Victory Cruise Lines

Australia’s Coral Expeditions follows up 2019’s Coral Adventurer with a near twin, Coral Geographer. The 120-passenger ship will provide four more bridge deck suites (six total) featuring bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and an infinity bathtub with sky views.

Though Coral Geographer is scheduled for delivery in late 2020, it actually begins sailing the Indian Ocean in early 2021.

the new ship Coral Geographer

Coral Geographer will debut with sailings to remote islands of the Indian Ocean. * Rendering: Coral Expeditions

The new ship Coral Geographer is a stunner

Coral Geographer has six of these roomy bridge deck balcony suites. * Rendering: Coral Expeditions

New Ships of 2020: Classic Sailing Vessel

One of the year’s more unusual small ships is a classic sailing yacht. The three-masted Sea Cloud Spirit of Sea Cloud Cruises will turn heads with its 4,100 square meters/44,100 square feet of sails.

Of the 69 ocean-view cabins, 25 have their own balconies. An elevator will connect the five decks. A fine dining restaurant and a casual dining experience on the lido deck are planned. Sea Cloud Spirit will have a wellness/spa venue, too.

RELATED: Sea Cloud II Cruise to the Canary Islands & Morocco 

Sea Cloud Spirit

Sea Cloud Spirit — a classic yacht style and tons of sails. * Rendering: Sea Cloud Cruises

Sea Cloud Spirit rendering

Shaded deck space on sailing ship Sea Cloud Spirit. * Rendering: SeaCloud Cruises

Fellow sailing ship specialist Star Clippers had been set to introduce Flying Clipper, a replica of the largest square-rigged tall ship ever built, in 2019. The vessel was completed and ready for handing over, according to Croatia’s Brodosplit yard. However, a dispute with Star Clippers drags on in arbitration, leaving Flying Clipper in limbo.

RELATED: Star Clippers in Thailand, This Cruise Rocks

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Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

Check out these special small-ship cruise offers on itineraries around the world 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.

Cruises below are available to Australian passengers only.

Happy small-ship cruising!

 

Cruise Traveller

 

 

Around-the-World on Small Ships

An Australian Adventure in 2019 – Free Upgrade offer

Cruise Package: 10-night Australian east coast cruise from Cairns to Sydney plus 3 hotel nights in Port Douglas; departs 13 December 2019.

Ship: 184-passenger Ponant’s Le Laperouse; built in 2018.

Offer Includes:

  • One-way economy air from Sydney to Cairns with transfer to Port Douglas.
  • 3-night Port Douglas resort stay with breakfast and transfers.
  • FREE full-day tour to Kuranda from Port Douglas.
  • 10-night cruise aboard Le Laperouse from Cairns to Sydney including all shipboard meals, open bar and port taxes.

➢➢Fares for Twin Deluxe Balcony from $7,995 AUD per person; Twin Prestige Balcony on Deck 4 from $7,995 AUD per person (free upgrade offer); and Single Prestige Balcony on Deck 4 from $11,995 AUD per person.

Expires: 13 April 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

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

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

 Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

 

Christmas Markets in Style in 2019

Cruise Package: 7-night luxury Rhine River Christmas Markets cruise from Basel to Amsterdam, plus 2 hotel nights (one Basel and one Amsterdam); departs 9 Dec 2019.

Ship: 106-passenger Crystal Bach; built 2017.

Offer Includes:

  • FREE round-trip economy-class airfares from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth to Basel and back from Amsterdam on return.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Basel with breakfast with transfers.
  • 7-night Christmas Markets river cruise aboard the Crystal Bach from Basel to Amsterdam including all shipboard meals, beverages, tips and port taxes.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Amsterdam with transfers.

➢➢Fares for Twin S4 Petite Suite from $7,960 AUD per person (was $10,735); and Twin S2 Deluxe Suite from $9,150 AUD per person (was $11,920).

Expires: 30 April 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

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

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

ruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

Rhine River Christmas market cruise! * Photo: Crystal Cruises

 

Wild India in 2020

Cruise Package: 7-night Brahmaputra India river cruise plus 12-night hotel/safari nights, from Delhi to Kolkata; departs 13 January 2020.

Ship: 46-passenger MV Mahabaahu; built in 2011.

Offer Includes:

  • Return economy class airfares from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne to Delhi and ex Kolkata on return.
  • 1-night hotel stay in Delhi, India with transfers/breakfast.
  • 9-nights at safari lodges in India (3 each at Bandhavgarh NP, Kanha NP & Pench NP) with all meals and game drives each day.
  • 2-night hotel stay in Kolkata, India with transfers/breakfast & sightseeing.
  • Airfares within India Kolkata to Jorhat (with transfer to Neamati Ghat) and Guwahati to Kolkata.
  • 7-night Brahmaputra River cruise aboard the MV Mahabaahu from Neamati Ghat to Guwahati including all shipboard meals, some beverages, all shore excursions and port taxes.

➢➢Fares for Twin Superior Riverview from $12,565 AUD per person (was $13,015); Twin Superior Balcony from $13,095 AUD per person (was $13,620); and Single Superior Riverview from $22,655 AUD (was $23,505).

Expires: 30 Jun 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

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

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

Mahabahuu.

 

An Antarctic Expedition – Plus Iguazu Falls in South America in 2020

Cruise Package: 10-night Antarctic expedition cruise plus 6-night hotel stay from Buenos Aires return; departs 27 Nov 2020.

Ship: 264-passenger L’Austral, built in 2011.

Offer Includes:

  • Return economy class airfares from Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • 2-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires (one pre and one post cruise) with transfers/breakfast.
  • Round-trip charter flights between Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.
  • 10-night Antarctica expedition cruise aboard L’Austral round-trip from Ushuaia including all shipboard meals, open bar, all shore excursions/zodiac trips and port taxes.
  • Round-trip airfare between Buenos Aires and Iguazu.
  • 2-night hotel stay at Iguazu Falls with breakfast/transfer and tour to Argentine side of the falls.
  • 2-night hotel stay in Buenos Aires post Iguazu with FREE dinner and tango show on final night plus breakfast/transfers.

➢➢Fares for Twin Deluxe Balcony from $19,795 AUD per person (was $25,160); Twin Prestige Balcony on Deck 4 from $21,145 AUD per person (was $27,070); and Single Deluxe Balcony from $24,995 AUD (was $44,755).

Expires: 31 Jul 2019 (or until sold out/withdrawn).

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

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

L’Austral

 

Thailand Under Sail in 2019 & 2020

Cruise Package: 7-night tall ship sailing cruise plus 3-night hotel stay from Phuket, Thailand return; departures Oct 19, 2019 to March 20, 2020.

Ship: 170-passenger Star Clipper; built in 1993.

Offer Includes:

  • FREE 3-night hotel stay in Phuket, Thailand.
  • FREE transfer from hotel to port on embarkation day.
  • 7-night Northern or Southern Thailand cruise aboard Star Clipper round-trip from Phuket, Thailand including all shipboard meals and port taxes.

➢➢Fares for Twin Interior Cat 6 cabin from $2,735 AUD per person; Twin Ocean View Cat 4 cabin from $3,175 AUD per person; and Single Cat 6 interior from $3,925 AUD.

Expires: Until sold out/withdrawn.

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

* Offer available to Australian guests only.

Cruise Traveller Around-the-World Offers

Exotic Thailand itinerary.

 

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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Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays in Cannes & Rome

By Christina Colon.

Few other destinations can conjure a sense of vacation opulence and romantic anticipation quite like the French Riviera. Upon learning that the port of embarkation for our Star Clippers cruise was Cannes, we decided it would be foolish and downright wrong not to arrive a few days early and take in some of the Euro charm and subdued elegance of the French Riviera. We also booked several nights in a hotel after the cruise in magical Rome, near the port of Civitavecchia where the cruise ended. We spent our days exploring nearby villas, galleries and small museums, which ran us about €15 (Euro) each per visit, including audio tour headphones.

Click here for Christina’s Royal Clipper article!

The French Riviera

From New York’s JFK airport, we flew non-stop to Paris’ Charles De Gaul airport on American Airlines, then onward to Nice, before taking a taxi the 16 km to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The road hugged the coast before winding through narrow streets and up steep roads to our hotel, the posh Royal Riviera.

We booked in to their smallest room for two nights, at about €500 per night. Nestled on the seaside with a pool and private beach, this sleek hotel evoked the image of the nearby villas built at the turn of the 20th century during the Belle Époque period (1871-1914).

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Hotel Royal Riviera in Saint-Jean Cap-Ferrat. * Photo: Peter Barnes

The breezy lobby had large glass doors that opened onto a green lawn and tall hedges hiding a rectangular pool and open-air casual restaurant serving cocktails and Thai themed lunch fare. Like everything else in this hotel, it was all about the views of the coastline and the cool ocean breezes.

While the lunch fare was passable (if you’ve never been to Thailand) the primary restaurant back in the main hotel was far superior. The indoor seating was empty thanks to an expansive balcony which could accommodate the diners who all opted to dine under the stars.

A live jazz quartet made their rounds taking requests in French and English, serenading each table in succession. While proximity to the sea and beaches was clearly important to us, there was also a desire to stay within walking distance of two renowned villas which were high on our wish list.

Villa Ephrussi was top of our must-see list. This Gatsby-esque villa built in the early 1900s felt more like a bonafide palace and was the pet project of the eccentric and very wealthy Rothschild heiress. The façade was a strange composite of bay windows, gables and stone arches from old churches that were literally attached onto the front of the building.

It felt suspiciously like the inspiration for more than one American robber baron villa somewhere in Florida or perhaps Newport Rhode Island.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. * Photo: Peter Barnes

The main entrance hall decorated with marble columns formed an open square meticulously designed to echo the vaulted ceilings of a church and open courtyard of a cloister. The lavish rooms were overfilled with clocks, mantles, tapestries Royal French 17th-century furniture and priceless art, all bought at auction from cash-strapped European royals.

The only thing more lavish than the house were the outrageous gardens with dancing fountains, reflecting pools, secret paths below dripping trellises, geometric rose gardens, stone pergolas and an impressive assortment of cacti and arid plants.

Villa Kerylos was a far a more modest yet still amazing full reconstruction of a Greek villa, complete with elaborate baths, Grecian style furniture, and fanciful custom woven fabrics, all still intact to this day. The “patron archaeologist” owner created this in part to house his private collection of Greek antiquities which were on display in behind glass in floor to ceiling built in cases in the main library.

On display during our visit was a collection of fanciful turn-of-the-century clothing inspired by Greek garb and displayed in each room on mannequins. Below the house in what used to be a workshop was a collection of 19th-century reproductions of ancient Greek statues.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Chrissy with the statutes at Villa Kerylos. * Photo: Peter Barnes

 

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Fun with statues in Villa Kerylos. * Photo: Christina Colon

Both villas were a pleasant stroll from our hotel up steep roads that pass by elegant private homes and overlook the sea. They were each a dazzling way to fritter away an afternoon while taking in the breathtaking landscape, rocky coastline and serene seascape below.

Nearly every street in town was pleasant to walk along and offered views of the nearby coastline. A series of small parks in town supported diverse vegetation ranging from fig trees to cacti while cafes and shops offered refuge from the beating sun. After two days we were ready to make our way to the nearby train station continue our journey. It was short ride to Cannes (under 10 euros each) on a clean and efficient rail line.

Civitavecchia … When in Rome

While difficult to pronounce, this port city of Rome is relatively easy to navigate. Many cruises start out or wind up here so its port runs like a well-oiled machine. Upon arriving at the port and collecting our luggage, we boarded a free shuttle bus that whisked us out of the port where we breezed past a scrum of eager tour guides and taxi drivers.

We then boarded a city bus to the train station. After side stepping yet another tour bus ticket scalper and opting instead to use a ticket vending machine, we caught a high-speed train directly into the heart of Rome.

A short taxi ride down a small side street brought us to a set of large wooden doors set into a non-descript yet elegant building next to a small park. The demure Spalletti Trivelli Via Piacenza Hotel is located near the presidential Palace, also known as Palazzo Quirinale, and cost us about €500 per night.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

In elegant interior of the Spalletti Trivelli Via Piacenza Hotel. * Photo: Peter Barnes

Until recently it was a private home and retained that feel as we were welcomed by the concierge into a vestibule that opened onto several sizeable rooms. One was an oak library, another was a dining room so large it required two complete sofa sets, and a third was  small dining room where complimentary breakfast was served.

Our room had high ceilings and was dominated by a window bigger than most doors. The large bathroom had double sinks and an inviting marble tub. We didn’t have time to linger, however, as we were on a very tight sightseeing schedule.

Roman Holiday

No trip to Rome is complete without the obligatory romp through the main tourist attractions including the 2,ooo-year-old Colosseum, Roman Forum, Victory Monument and of course the 18th-century Baroque Trevi Fountain.

Because this was not our first trip to the Eternal City, we opted to avoid the Vatican, which requires a minimum of several days to thoroughly explore. If time is limited, a wander through or at least above the Forum is an amazing trip through literally thousands of years of history all in one place.

Remnants of palaces, monuments, basilicas, temples and cloisters are preserved so well that in the cases of the Temple of Romulus, the bronze doors not only remain on their hinges, but the locks on the doors still work.  On the first Sunday of every month, admission to many of Rome’s monuments and museums is free. While a boon for the bargain hunter, it can make for big crowds and long lines.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

A section of the Roman Forum. * Photo: Peter Barnes

If ruins, crowds and long lines are not your thing, you are in luck as there are a nearly endless assortment of villas, museums and galleries throughout Rome. They house some of the world’s finest art and antiquities, some of which rival pieces and works found in the Vatican.

In fact, many of these palatial villas are former homes of popes and their descendants who came into great wealth and notoriety by virtue of being related to the Pope. In fact this is where the term nepotism comes from, as the nephew (nepote) of the Pope was given an honorary title and great power to boot.

Galleria Colonna

One such collection can be found in a building whose garden was originally constructed on the site of an ancient Roman temple and adjacent to the current residence of the Prime Minister. It towers above the street level with a modest entrance up a cheery but obscure alley.

Once inside, this palatial Baroque abode reveals its riches in a series of rooms with intricate ceiling frescoes and spectacular intricate marble floor designs, one from an ancient Roman house.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Stunning artwork in Galleria Colonna. * Photo: Peter Barnes

Built in the 17th century by descendants of Pope Martin the 5th, works of art adorn the walls and ancient statues dot the rooms interspersed with modern furnishings lamps and framed family photos, revealing a lived-in aspect. On the other side of the family courtyard lies the magnificent great hall, built to impress, dazzle and intimidate all who enter.

As such it bears a similarity to the great hall of mirrors in Versailles. Paintings, frescoes and statues create such a visual overload you easily could miss the cannonball lodged into the steps, a reminder of an historic episode where the French attacked Rome. Perhaps the most famous aspect of this hall is that it was the setting for the final scene in the film Roman Holiday where Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck say their last farewells.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

The statue garden in Galleria Colonna. * Photo: Peter Barnes

Galleria Borghese

Requiring timed tickets booked in advanced with a rigid two-hour visitation, this palazzo contains some of the greatest marble masterpieces by artists such as Canova. Stepping into this building is like climbing into a gilded jewelry box packed with royal treasures, jewels and gems.

The crown jewels are the world-class marble sculptures including Daphne and Apollo by the great 17th-century sculptor by Bernini and the scandalously sensuous Canova nude reclining sculpture of Pauline, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte.  A well narrated audio guide makes these works of art come to life not only through descriptions of their finer points, but by placing them into an historic and cultural context.

The large Baroque marble sculpture Rape of Proserpina by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese. * Photo: Christina Colon

Palazzo Dora Pamphilj

This privately-run gallery has a wonderful audio-guide narrated by the current owner and descendant of Pope Innocent the 10th. Walking through the rooms, the narrator imparted a personal narrative about roller-skating on the newly polished tile floors as a child.

The walls were covered with paintings from floor to ceiling with almost no room between frames. The apartments have been recently opened to the public and are separated from the gallery by a small gift shop. Most notable in this impressive collection is a portrait of Pope Innocent by Velasquez along with several works by the great Caravaggio.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

Galleria Doria Pamphilj. * Photo: Peter Barnes

Capitaline Museum

This large museum houses many of the antiquities unearthed in the nearby Roman Forum and displays them in several buildings situated around a plaza. It also contains remains of an ancient Roman temple which are now enclosed within the building. An encyclopedic audio guide contains narration on most of the seemingly endless works.

Most notable is the original bronze statue from antiquity of Emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback which is remarkably well preserved considering it was first erected in 175 AD. Until recently it stood outside in the plaza but was wisely moved indoors and replaced with a full-size replica.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius statue in the Capitaline Museum. * Photo: Peter Barnes

And More ….

The best and worst thing about Rome is there is far too much to do and see in one trip. One could spend a lifetime exploring this city and just when you think you’ve seen it all, there’s more. You find out there have been more archaeological discoveries unearthed or yet another ancient papal villa restored, or forfeit by the family (who are not allowed to sell off the treasures) and opened to the public for the people of Rome and all the world to appreciate.

In addition, there are over 900 churches that also contain some of the world’s greatest works of art, all in a continual rotation of renovations and restorations. For example, a visit to the Jesuit Church rewarded us with jaw dropping frescoes and sculptures on the ceiling, that just 10 years ago were obscured by soot and nearly invisible.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

The riches of the Jesuit Church. * Photo: Peter Barnes

We also noticed several parks in disrepair and others closed to the public, all in desperate need of renovation, and even the botanic garden was mysteriously closed due to “fumigation.” When we return, we hope to explore these and many other outdoor treasures that we sadly missed this time.

Luckily, we both threw a coin in Trevi Fountain, so if the legend proves correct, we will return for more explorations through history in the Eternal City.

Mediterranean Cruise Pre & Post Stays

The famous Trevi Fountain. * Photo: Peter Barnes

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Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

By Christina P. Colon.

To cruise or not to cruise? Long ago I took the plunge and have enjoyed endless ports of call and midnight buffets ever since. But when I suggested we try a small-ship cruise on Star Clippers’ 227-passenger Royal Clipper, I wondered if my landlubber boyfriend would be “onboard” with the idea. This would be his very first cruise.

The 7-night itinerary sure was tempting. Embarking in Cannes, France, and ending in Civitavecchia (near Rome), Italy, we’d cruise the islands of Corsica, Elba and Sardinia, each packed with old-world towns, seductive coastlines, and excellent food.

The ship was sufficiently intimate and elegant to feel exclusive, with a casual vibe that sidestepped the clichéd shows and flashy casinos. It took little persuading to whet his appetite for a sailing cruise on the Royal Clipper.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The 227-passenger Royal Clipper. * Photo: Star Clippers

Anchored in the harbor like a tiara, the Royal Clipper towered above the sleek monochrome mega yachts of Cannes. After a forgettable lunch and some people watching on a touristy pedestrian strip, we made our way to the ship. Check in was painless although tendering to the ship in a high chop was a soggy proposition for both passengers and luggage. Oh well.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The appealing itinerary.

Impressive Inside & Out

The Royal Clipper is as impressive up close as she is from afar. Polished wood railings, teak decks and massive white sails above deck are in juxtaposition to the luxurious satin fabrics in the piano lounge, winding staircases, wrought iron balconies and opulent dining room below.

Our snug cabin decorated with nautical blue fabrics and hardwood furniture was very comfortable. In addition to a sizable closet, storage nooks were to be found under the desk, under the bed, above the bed, and behind the mirror.

A standard cabin with portholes. * Photo: Star Clippers

Given the bathroom shower was cramped, we preferred to shower instead in the spa after enjoying the spacious marble and mosaicked sauna complete with frigidarium (a cool dipping pool) kept brisk via a brass slot dispensing cubes into the shin deep water.

Underused, open all day and complimentary, the spa became one of my secret haunts.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

Royal Clipper’s spa was Chrissy’s favorite place. * Photo: Star Clippers

Another favorite spot was the expansive piano lounge, flanked by low couches and dotted with drink tables and barstools all surrounding the atrium below. Round-the-clock complimentary coffee and tea made this a cozy retreat away from the overpopulated deck chairs surrounding the pair of shallow pools and two outdoor bars, where smokers gathered at one end of each bar.

The library was another hideout, with comfortable seating, a cozy faux fireplace and daily news briefings in multiple languages. Its sparse collection of books and maps related to our ports of call, however, was a disappointment. The few guidebooks at the shore excursion desk were woefully out of date and far too general to be of much use.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The elegant library. * Photo: Star Clippers

Activities & Entertainment Onboard

The daily sail-away was attended by a cohort of diehard ship lovers, who reveled (and sometimes participated) in hoisting the sails with the crew, and in watching the daring speedboat arrival/departure of the pilot. Watching the ship glide out of the harbor past striking landscapes all set to a quasi-Soviet theme song was moving.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

Deck hands keeping the ship ship-shape. * Photo: Christina Colon

Mast Climbing

Another time-tested ritual was the climbing of the mast and scrambling into the bowsprit netting.

The author Chrissy on the ropes. * Photo: Peter Barnes

When not in motion, the sports deck offered kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, wind surfing and swimming right off the back of the ship. Lifejackets and towels were provided and close supervision ensured everyone’s safety.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The convenient watersports marina. * Photo: Star Clippers

Morning on-deck calisthenics with Kyrylo and calming yoga with Paige were enjoyable alternatives to a workout in the below-deck gym with its low ceilings and limited space.

Yoga on deck aboard Royal Clipper. * Photo: Christina Colon

Spa Time

An assortment of spa treatments was on offer in Captain Nemo’s spa and my 30-minute back and neck massage was well worth the 40 euros.

Other Pursuits

Knot tying, napkin folding, towel origami and mixology demonstrations were regularly offered by the friendly crew, while bridge tours were on available upon request.

When the skies were clear, nautical astronomy with the knowledgeable Second Officer Vivek was a great way to get in some stargazing. And story time with Captain Sergey always drew a packed house.

Dima played standard tunes in the piano bar before dinner and later out on deck to lure passengers to the bar and the dance floor. On the last night, an old movie of life aboard the tall ship Pommern was played in the lounge.

Activities were punctuated with afternoon nibbles, midnight snacks and daily cocktail specials.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

A waffle buffet one afternoon. * Photo: Christina Colon

Home Grown Fun

If paying for your own drinks is not your thing, there were fun ways to snag a freebie by participating in the nightly after-dinner entertainment. The first involved a call for models willing to parade the Sloop Shop’s tony togs around the deck. A 20% discount off all purchases sweetened the deal.

Free drinks were also on offer for winners of each night’s entertainment, included bilingual (English and German) Name That Tune, pirate Olympics, and a hilarious guest and crew talent show.

Pirate night fun! * Photo: Peter Barnes

Going Ashore

Daily port briefings were given in the spacious forward lounge around 5pm each day, sometimes before the last tender arrived back from shore with passengers. Oh well. These talks described the shore excursions and offered basic logistics on times and locations of arrival and departure.

The new and inexperienced Cruise Director Camila was unfamiliar with the destinations, but offered a Xeroxed page with a brief intro and history of the next day’s port.

With this one-page handout and with limited and expensive onboard Wi-Fi, it sure wasn’t easy to plan our time ashore.

Some folks who booked the line’s shore excursions told us they found the tour write-ups had not always accurately described the actual tour.

We definitely recommend you do some port research and planning before the cruise.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

Elba’s Fort Falcone. * Photo: Christina Colon

Good thing, we aren’t the group tour types anyway. We were happy to avoid costly, time consuming bus rides to modest ruins and small vineyards, and go it alone. Our daily mission was foregoing lunch onboard and seeking local eats ashore (not to mention a good wifi connection!), thanks to my foodie and wine loving boyfriend!

We enjoyed the relaxed cadence, local specialities and hospitality of each town on our own terms.

🍝🥗🍤 Watch this space for an upcoming taste of Chrissy & Peter’s lunch adventures! 🍝🥗🍤

Tourism kiosks at the ports provided useful maps of highlights within walking distance and most had a helpful English-speaking rep. With at least one port each day, we covered a lot of ground, some more interesting than others.

Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy

With a noon arrival, we were among a small cohort on the first tender, with most others opting to eat aboard ship. Waving hello to the statues of Christopher Columbus and King Victor Emmanuel, we made a beeline past the larger waterfront restaurants, opting for a small restaurant on a side street patronized by boisterous locals.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

Chrissy in front of the Columbus fountain in Santa Margharita-Ligure, Italy. * Photo: Peter Barnes

While bread and water are not free, prices were surprisingly reasonable, the seafood remarkably fresh, and the local house wines all excellent. Desserts were underwhelming and no competition with the ubiquitous and unmatched gelato on offer nearly everywhere.

Walking off lunchtime calories was easy given the steep terrain and streets that morph into cobbled staircases at nearly every turn. The famed town of Portofino was a tempting short ferry ride away, but we opted to walk up to the picturesque Villa Durazzo, its Pompei-red stucco façade visible next to a shining white church.

Unfortunately, it was closed for a private function, but we enjoyed walking the grounds, visiting the church and meandering back down to the ship, showing off in the harbor below.

L’Ile Rousse, Corsica

Appropriately named for the red bits of porphyry, a type of volcanic rock that gives the sand a charming rosy tint, this seaside town was clearly all about the beaches and waterfront. Following the tourist map, we walked around the tiny harbor, up to a picturesque lighthouse and ancient Genoese tower perched atop spectacular cliffs.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The Genoese Tower on L’lle Rousse, with the Royal Clipper anchored in the background. * Photo: Christina Colon

A modern commuter train and a dinky tourist tram provided alternatives to those less inclined toward steep hikes in the noon heat. On our way down we passed small paths off the paved road that led to pocket beaches below.

However, we opted instead to hit the main beach in town where Star Clippers’ watersport staff provided wind surfing and paddle boards for our use. Unfortunately, they had not brought towels and could only offer basic windsurf instructions, when I would have preferred more in-depth guidance.

L’lle Rousse Beach in Corsica. * Photo: Christina Colon

An endless parade of adorable beachside restaurants offered views of the water and casual local cuisine. Our Corsican salad overflowed with local meat, cheese, honey, nuts and greens, and the grilled whole fish was so fresh it was definitely caught that day.

Plage Larinella and the town of Bastia, Corsica

The beach was a long, narrow, desolate strip accessible only by a bumpy Zodiac ride — by far the highlight of the experience! Its proximity to a partially dismantled almost abandoned vacation camp for municipal workers, added an eerie vibe.

The port of Bastia, Corsica. * Photo: Christina Colon

An hour delay in Royal Clippers’ arrival to Bastia meant we missed lunch ashore as the restaurants were closing. We parked ourselves outside a small café serving charcuterie, sandwiches and drinks amid a fog of cigarette smoke from a small army of chain-smoking locals. Forgetting to change money in our haste, and unable to use credit cards as no businesses seem to take them, we were politely directed to a nearby cash machine so we could pay our bill.

Portoferraio, Elba

Our prior day’s disappointment was quickly forgotten upon arrival at the rocky island where Napoleon Bonaparte was briefly exiled. This gorgeous confection of a town offered boundless natural charm and endless architectural intrigue amid a maze of hilltop fortresses zigzagging in every direction.

The Napoleon Museum was a short walk from the pier and a mere euro to enter. The modest residence was furnished with some lavish period pieces, some owned by the Emperor himself.

The old port of Porto Ferraio, Elba. * Photo: Christina Colon

Also on display was an emerald green velvet Empire waist train worn by his sister Pauline, a famed beauty throughout Europe. The small garden was spartanly filled with agaves and yuccas, and overlooked the glinting sea below.

After an indulgent lunch of shrimp scampi with gnocchi, grilled octopus, and swordfish, we meandered down to a hidden beach accessible only by a switchback paved trail. Smooth pebbles in every color made getting in and out of the water challenging, but were fun to gather up as souvenirs.

Pebbles on the beach in Elba. * Photo: Christina Colon

Porto Vecchio, Corsica

At the fortress town, the ship backed up to the pier allowing disembarkation via the sports deck. An awaiting minivan whisked us up to the citadel where we meandered through a labyrinth of pedestrian streets frequented by tourists and the occasional local mutt.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

A medieval church in Porto Vecchio, Corsica. * Photo: Christina Colon

A sleepy town square surrounded by relaxed Wi Fi cafes was dominated by a lilliputian merry-go-round, playing random song snippets with each ride. After lunch, we briefly perused the endless shops selling Corsican knives (Corsica has a long dagger- and knife-making tradition, going back to Roman times), and other touristy trinkets before running out of excuses to stay ashore.

Porto Cervo, Sardinia

The Aga Khan (a supremely wealthy religious leader) built this posh resort town in the 1960’s as a playground of kings and celebrities. It’s set along an emerald coastline dotted with a jumble of contrived round adobe chalets topped by terra cotta chimneys, an architectural mash-up resembling part Mediterranean villa and part Arizona pueblo with a Moorish flair.

Stepping ashore amid the sleek yachts, sports cars and high-end retail, the town feels like a Hollywood movie set.

Chrissy in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. * Photo: Peter Barnes

Shops resemble art galleries, and those selling consumables are stocked with impossibly priced buckets of caviar, truffles and Champagne. After some window gawking we boarded a free ferry to the nearby yacht club (presided over by the royal family) to do some boat gawking.

While the sleek racers were sexy, they really could not compete with the classic rigging and elegant profile of our Royal Clipper.

Peter in front of fancy yacht in Porto Cervo, Sardinia. * Photo: Christina Colon

Being that the cruise started and ended in two fabulous ports — sailing from Cannes, in France, to Civitavecchia (near Rome) in Italy — we of course just had to tack on a few days at either end. We booked several hotel nights and enjoyed the amazing historic and cultural sights each city had to offer.

➢➢Watch this space for an article highlighting our pre- and post-cruise adventures and itinerary!

Dining Aboard Ship

Open seating ensures that everyone eats when and with whom they like, even in a small quieter overflow room.

Royal Clipper Cruise to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia

The multi-tiered dining room. * Photo: Star Clippers

Despite our top notch-shore side lunches, we were more impressed with dinners aboard ship which included some of the best meals we’ve had on land or sea.

Each night’s offerings were displayed near the entrance to the dining room alongside the menu and small but excellent wine list. Seeing each dish plated makes it easy to see what to expect, and nearly impossible to decide which to select.

Among our favorite mains were a tender braised lamb shank, rich and hearty lobster thermidor, and generous and perfectly grilled lamb chops. The mushroom, carrot and spinach soups were sufficiently delicious and hearty to enjoy on their own while the lobster bisque was outstanding.

Lobster thermidor anyone? * Photo: Christina Colon

Desserts were less memorable with tiramisu and baked Alaska far out front.

The service was impressive, and the wine steward always knew exactly which bottles were ours, and who drank which.

With wines so affordably priced and such great options, it made sense to have a red and a white open at any given time.

Capping off each meal was an espresso, served only at the Tropical Bar, followed by a prosecco (€ 3.50) and a generous pour of top-shelf cognac (€ 6.50).

Time and again, we marveled at the great value of this cruise.

Farewell… For Now

On our final night, we were awed at how far we traveled, how many ports we had explored, how much we ate, and how quickly our time aboard the Royal Clipper had passed.

With our new Sloop Shop threads, mast climbing skills, pirate eye patches and nautical friends, and with the launch of a fourth Star Clipper ship (the Flying Clipper) on the horizon, we were glad to step ashore knowing we’d be back again one day.

Needlessly to say, my cruise-newbie boyfriend was hooked.

Peter the pirate. * Photo: Christina Colon

Fares for this itinerary for August 2019 start at € 2,085 per person (or about $2,360 USD per person).

For more info on this cruise and others, check out our Star Clippers line review.

QuirkyCruise Review

 

 

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Star Clippers Adding New Ports

Star Clippers Adding New Ports

By Anne Kalosh.

Tall ship fleet Star Clippers will explore unusual new destinations in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia on departures beginning in April 2020.

In the Mediterranean, new ports for the 227-passenger Royal Clipper include Stintino (Sardinia), Propriano (Corsica), and Vis, Korcula and Zadar (Croatia).

Brand-new Itineraries in Southeast Asia

Star Clippers will make its first visit to Cambodia and varied port calls on the Thai, Malay and Indonesian archipelagos.

The 170-passenger Star Clipper will stop at Cambodia during a newly launched 11-night round-trip from Ko Samui, Thailand. Cambodian ports include the island of Koh Rong, a wildlife paradise with dense forests and white sandy beaches, and Sihanoukville, a trendy coastal city known for uninterrupted beaches and fresh seafood. An optional, overnight excursion will be available for passengers wishing to visit the incredible ancient temple complex of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.

Many other new port calls in Southeast Asia will see Star Clipper dropping anchor alongside pristine beaches and idyllic islands throughout Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Star Clippers Adding New Ports

The twin Star Clipper & Star Flyer. * Photo: Star Clippers

Corsica & Sardinian Ports Added to the Med Mix

The flagship Royal Clipper will again be sailing in the Western Mediterranean during summer 2020, with cruises departing from Venice, Civitavecchia (Rome) and Cannes, calling at an array of new ports. The seven-night “Corsica, Sardinia & the Riviera” sailing, round-trip Cannes, will visit the charming town of Propriana, Corsica, with its vibrant harbor and luxury shopping, and Stintino, a small, traditional village with some of the best beaches in Sardinia.

Star Clippers Adding New Ports

Royal Clipper will explore new ports in the Western Mediterranean. * Photo: Star Clippers

In Croatia, the seven-night “Croatia & Montenegro” sailing from Venice will visit Zadar, where travelers can explore Roman ruins and Venetian architecture before experiencing the famed Sea Organ, which captures the movement of the waves and transforms it into music. Also on the list is Korcula, with its red tile roofed Old Town and surrounding cypress and pine forest.

For those wishing to take a deeper dive into Croatia, the 11-night “Italy, Montenegro & Croatia” cruise will now call at Vis island, known for its many stunning beaches as well as fascinating history. Vis was founded in 397 B.C. as a base for the Greek colonization of the Adriatic.

“Due to our ships’ relatively shallow drafts, we are able to drop anchor in ports and harbors inaccessible to large cruise ships, enabling us to continually vary our itineraries,” Star Clippers Owner and President Mikael Krafft said. He predicted the new destinations will sell out first.

The line’s newest vessel, Flying Clipper, is set to debut in summer 2019. It’s a replica of 1911’s France II, the largest square-rigged tall ship ever built.

 

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Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

By Anne Kalosh.

Small-ship fans are in luck. 2019’s crop of oceangoing new builds offers a huge selection, ranging from a sail-powered tall ship and a luxurious yacht to expedition vessels of varied designs and features.

Of the 25 oceangoing ships sailing into service for the global cruise industry this year, an astonishing 13 are small enough to be Quirky Cruise size (carrying up to 300 passengers).

They include the highly anticipated Azora, the first vessel of The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, with all-balcony suites, a specialty restaurant by a three-star Michelin chef and a wide range of warm-weather destinations.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s Azora. * Photo: The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

Sailing specialist Star Clippers Flying Clipper, meanwhile, is a replica of the largest square-rigged tall ship ever built.

The rest of the Quirky-sized new builds are expedition ships.

Of those, French line Ponant continues its impressive 184-passenger series with Le Bougainville and Le Dumont d’Urville, chic and sleek and with a unique feature: Blue Eye, an underwater, multi-sensory lounge. There, hydrophones pipe in the sounds of the sea and “body listening” sofas softly vibrate.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

A diver swims up to the Blue Eye lounge, a unique feature of Ponant’s new builds. * Photo: L.Patricot:Ponant

German operator Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration will have terraced observation decks, a marina platform that drops down for paddleboarding and snorkeling, and electric-powered Zodiacs. A pair of glass-bottom balconies extend over the side of each ship.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

Hanseatic Nature is one of two new expedition ships this year for Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. * Photo: Hapag-Lloyd Cruises

Scenic Eclipse will be the first of two planned “six-star discovery yachts” from Australia-based tour operator Scenic. All veranda suites, 10 dining options, two helicopters and a six-person submarine are some of the features of the sleek new build.

The Scenic Eclipse nearing completion in the shipyard. * Photo: Scenic

Australia’s Coral Expeditions will introduce the 120-passenger Coral Adventurer to the world in April 2019 in Singapore, before heading off towards Australia for her first cruise, an 18-night “In the Trail of Tasman” voyage. It will then expand the company’s itineraries in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Representing Coral Expeditions’ 34 years of experience building and operating expedition ships, Coral Adventurer will boast the latest advances in marine and environmental technology. For instance, its lightweight dual Xplorer expedition tenders, a trademark feature of all Coral Expeditions vessels, will allow fast trips to shore and deeper exploration into rivers and beaches.

The soon-to-debut Coral Adventurer. * Photo: Coral Expeditions

Another Australian company, Aurora Expeditions, will introduce Greg Mortimer, with its novel X-BOW (pronounced “crossbow”) design. This inverted bow cuts through the waves more efficiently and gives a smoother ride in rough seas.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer has a novel X-BOW design. * Rendering: SunStone Ships

Celebrity Flora is designed specifically for the Galápagos Islands, where it will sail year-round. With huge suites, a star-gazing platform and four top-deck cabanas for glamping, this Celebrity Cruises ship will bring new style to one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

Celebrity Flora for the Galapagos Islands. * Photo: Celebrity Cruises

Magellan Explorer will be positioned on the White Continent for Antarctica21’s fly and cruise program, where travelers fly from Puntarenas, Chile, to join the ship, avoiding the often stormy Drake Passage. After their cruise, they fly back to Puntarenas.

Small Oceangoing New Builds of 2019

Magellan Explorer is specially built for long stints in Antarctica. * Rendering: Antarctica21

Polar specialist Oceanwide Expeditions is debuting its first new build, Hondius, designed for Antarctica and the Arctic.

Portugal’s Mystic Cruises is building World Explorer, which will be chartered seasonally to another polar veteran, Quark Expeditions, for austral summers in Antarctica and sail for Germany’s Nicko Cruises or Mystic itself the rest of the year.

Better late than never!

Flying Clipper, World Explorer and Scenic Eclipse had been scheduled to debut in 2018, but all were delayed. That’s not unusual when it comes to a particularly novel design or a shipyard new to the game.

Star Clippers’ Flying Clipper, for example, a replica of 1911’s France II, will be rigged with 35 sails spanning a total area of 6,350 square meters/68,351 square feet. It’s slated to debut in early summer 2019.

World Explorer is the first of what’s envisioned as a series of 10 new builds for Mystic Cruises, whose parent company is a seasoned Douro River operator now branching into ocean cruising.

And, having built up river fleets under the Scenic and Emerald Waterways brands, Scenic is dipping into ocean cruising with Scenic Eclipse, whose delay is related to financial troubles at the shipyard, Uljanik in Croatia.

➢➢ Read about the 25 new expedition ships in the pipeline (under 300 passengers) over the next three years — 2019-2022 — including more details of the ships highlighted in this post.

 

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QuirkyCruise Review QuirkyCruise Review of Star Clippers

Star Clippers offers the perfect marriage of adventure, romance and comfort, not to mention the thrill of sailing on a gorgeous replica of a 19th-century Clipper Ship. The company’s trio of swashbucklers feels like they belong in the Caribbean,  Mediterranean and Far East, bucking through the surf and wind like ships are meant to. Watching sunsets melt behind the rigging or a port come into focus from a front row perch at the rails, a Star Clippers cruise is best spent on deck — that is whenever you’re not relaxing in the cozy nautical cabins or having a tasty meal in the dining room.

Owner and company founder Mikael Krafft, a Swedish-born industrialist and real estate developer, spared no detail or expense to design and build his fleet of three square-rigged clippers in the likeness of their speedy predecessors — Krafft and his team referred to the original drawings and specifications of Scottish-born Donald McKay, a leading naval architect of 19th-century clipper-ship technology.

The newest and largest of the three (until the new 300-passenger FLYING CLIPPER launches), the 227-passenger five-masted ROYAL CLIPPER, was modeled on the famed Preussen, a 1902-built German clipper. She is the largest square-rigged in service with 5,202 square meters of sail, hence she holds the honorary title Queen of the Seas. All three sport towering masts, sails, rigging, wooden decks and chunky ventilators. Facing forward on the top deck, if you didn’t hear the murmur of the engines much of the time (and could ignore the small pool and all those people in 21st century clothes), it’s not a leap to imagine being a crew member cranking winches on a three-month run to England with a cargo of tea and opium from China.

The Star Clippers’ ships typically rely on sails alone about 25% to 50% of the time; otherwise, the sails are used with the engines to maintain speeds of about 9 to 14 knots for the comfort of passengers — though occasionally in strong winds they clock speeds in the neighborhood of 15 knots. Hold on!

Sunset through the sails

Sunset through the sails. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Of course the beauty of a Star Clippers cruise is you feel like you’re on a real working ship without having to doing any work. While you can help pull in the sails a few times throughout the week or climb the masts (with a harness) at designated times, most passengers choose to be voyeurs, gazing out at the sea and distant landscape through the lens of the ships’ masts and lines. Sunrise and sunset through the sails, lines and masts are magical.

Fans were thrilled to learn that Star Clippers would be building a fourth ship, the FLYING CLIPPER, a much anticipated and complex construction project that has been an ongoing saga due to two years of shipyard delays. Now completed there is a dispute between Star Clippers and the shipyard, and it is unclear what will transpire. The FLYING CLIPPER’s details are 300 passengers and measures 8,770 tons. It is powered by more than 6,350 square meters of sails.  Technically a five-masted, square-rigged barque, it’s a near-replica of the FRANCE II, commissioned in 1911 and the largest square rigger ever built.

Just as the original FRANCE II eclipsed PREUSSEN (which the line’s ROYAL CLIPPER is modeled on) more than a century ago as the world’s largest square rigger, the newbuild will replace the ROYAL CLIPPER, as the largest ship of its kind afloat today. The vessel has have generous deck space, three pools, and a watersports platform in the stern. One restaurant will accommodate all guests and cabin choices include 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. Like those of the Star Clippers’ fleet, there will also be a library and an al fresco Tropical Bar. The ship will likely start out sailing in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Stayed tuned to when all this begins to happen!

Ship, Year Delivered & Passenger Count 

STAR FLYER (built 1991 & 172 passengers); STAR CLIPPER (b. 1992 & 172 p); ROYAL CLIPPER (b. 2000 & 227 p); and FLYING CLIPPER (2019 & 300p)

Star Clippers Passenger Profile

A mix of mostly Europeans, British and Americans in their 50s on up, plus a fair number of families with children aboard in summer and holiday weeks. In our opinion, it’s best for children to be at least 10 years old. Many passengers own their boats and just love to sail, with a huge number of repeat passengers who keep coming back for more. Repeaters get a 3% discount, not a lot yet a nod to their loyalty. Some passengers would never consider a standard cruise ship. Note: Announcements are made in English, German, and French.

Passenger Decks

4: No elevators.

Price

$$  Expensive

Included Features

Watersports, weather and conditions permitting.

Star Clippers Itineraries
  • Generally, all three ships  (only two in 2019)  summer in the Mediterranean between late April and October doing mostly one-week itineraries, plus a handful of longer 10- and 11-night sailings. ROYAL CLIPPER is based in the Western Mediterranean calling at ports in Spain, France and Italy and the islands: Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and the Balearics. STAR FLYER undertakes some cruises in the Western Medit. to then position in the Adriatic along the Croatian coast, Greek islands and the Turkish coast but not Istanbul, for mostly 7 nights but a few 10 and 11. To reposition between the Mediterranean and the Caribbean in the spring and fall, longer trans-oceanic positioning voyages are the target for those who wants days under sail between ports with perhaps calls in the Canaries or Azores, and of course, one may begin or finish the voyage  with a string of Western Mediterranean ports calls. These voyages may be as short as 15 nights or as long as 28.
  • Two ships winter in Caribbean on mostly 7-night sailings (November-March), ROYAL CLIPPER offers varied 7-night itineraries from Barbados, longer 14-nighters through the islands and along the coast of Colombia to Panama including a canal transit.  STAR FLYER makes 7-night cruises from St. Maarten and longer 14-nighters along the coast and amongst the island to Panama including canal transit.
  • Through 2019, the STAR CLIPPER is in Asia spending half the year doing Andaman Sea mostly 7-night cruises off the coast of southwestern Thailand (October-April) and 7-, 10- & 11-night itineraries in the Indonesian archipelago the other half of the year. New 10- and 11-night itineraries will sail from Singapore to ports along the Malaysian coast and to the island of Borneo, including Kota Kinabalu and Brunei.

Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Approaching lovely Monemvassia. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Why Go?

For the great mix of adventure and comfort, you can feel like an old salt soaking in the sailing scene without giving up the luxury of nice cabins, good dining and even massages.

When to Go?

Two generally winter in the Caribbean and Central America and this pair then spends the summer in various parts of the Mediterranean with spring and fall transats to connect the two seasons.. The third is based in Southeast Asia and the Indonesian islands for the foreseeable future.

Star Clippers Cabins

Cabins are nautical, with wood-paneling, navy blue fabrics and brass details. The ROYAL CLIPPER’s standard cabins measure 148 square feet, while the CLIPPER’s and FLYER’s are a bit smaller at 120 to 130 square feet. The vast majority of cabins on all three ships are outside rooms with portholes (some with a pull down third birth); a handful is smaller inside cabins without portholes.

Each of the trio has a handful of suites, including six on the CLIPPER and FLYER, plus one large oddly configured owners’ suite. The 14 Deluxe Suites on ROYAL CLIPPER’s Main Deck measure 255 square feet and have private balconies, sitting areas, minibars, whirlpool tubs and 24-hour butler service; the two Owner’s Suites measure 355 square feet and have two marble bathrooms, though no balcony.

All cabins have TVs with DVD players, private bathrooms with showers, hair dryers, small vanity table with stool, and surprisingly ample storage space unless you’re a major clothes horse.

Consider that the lowest deck cabins near the stern will be close to the rumbling engines, and the cabins bordering the entrance to the dining room get residual noise and traffic and meal time.

A triple cabin, room 206.

A triple cabin, room 206. When not in use, the upper berth will be folded up and away.* Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Public Rooms

On all three ships, the open air Tropical Bar is the hub of activity. Passengers gather around the chunky wooden bar for drinks and daily afternoon canapés are served there, and sometimes special theme lunch bunches as well. It’s the spot for evening entertainment (local talent that often comes aboard while the ship is at anchor) and informal briefings about the day’s schedules.

Adjacent is an indoor wood-paneled Edwardian-style library and card room, and also an indoor piano lounge mainly used for people who want a quiet place to read during the day. Each of the trio has one restaurant; the ROYAL CLIPPER’s fussier and multi-level. The ROYAL CLIPPER also has a small gym and spa and health club on a lower deck below the waterline with portholes to look out into the deep.

Star Clippers Dining

Each ship has one restaurant with open seating and tables for mostly six or eight, encouraging passengers to meet and mingle. The dress code is casual, though some guests enjoy wearing jackets on the captain’s gala night. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style, with made-to-order omelet and pasta stations, respectively, while dinner is served a la carte. The FLYER and CLIPPER’s restaurant is one story, while the frillier dining room on the ROYAL CLIPPER is multi-level with a vaguely 19th-century Mississippi steamboat look.

The continental cuisine is simple and delicately spiced, with several options for dinner entrees, plus soup, salad and appetisers. To please the mainly European clientele, there are plenty of cheeses and marinated meats and fish at breakfast and lunch, and at dinner there are always pasta and fish dishes, plus choices like eggplant Parmesan and broiled lobster.

The staff is happy to accommodate special orders and second helpings, and several theme nights per cruise see them donning Italian garb or other fun costumes. A 24-hour coffee and tea station is set up on the bar, and each afternoon a complimentary snack is offered at the Tropical Bar, from waffles with chocolate sauce to fried plantains and salsa. About 11:30pm each night, a cheese board, fruit, or another snack is set out by the piano bar for late-night noshing.

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! Photo credit: Heidi Sarna

Passengers are free to climb on the bowsprit mast. Weeeeee! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Star Clippers Activities & Entertainment

There is rarely more than one sea day on a Star Clippers cruise, though the ships are usually on the move before dinner and early mornings so guests get plenty of time to enjoy the ships at sea. When weather conditions cooperate, the sails are put up and the engines are turned off; otherwise engines power the ship as well as a few sails up for show. The cruise director or captain does at least one talk a day about the ships or the destination, and passengers are welcome to crawl into the bowsprit netting at the front of the ships for an exciting stint sunbathing above the crashing surf.

When in port several times per cruise, you can climb a mast in a harness and stand on the crow’s next 55 feet up for sweeping views. Passengers are free to stroll into the chart house to chat with the captain or officer on duty, and occasionally there are engine room tours, excursions via tender to photograph the ships under sail, and exercise classes on deck. The ROYAL CLIPPER has a small gym and “spa,” while STAR CLIPPER and FLYER offer massages from a tent-like room up on deck within earshot of the crashing surf.

In port, if you don’t go off on a guided excursion or a walkabout on your own, there is free watersports equipment including paddle boards, windsurfers and snorkeling gear which are hauled to a nearby beach (passengers are shuttled back and forth on one of the ships’ pair of zodiac boats, which also offer water skiing) or used right next to the ship if anchored in an appropriate spot, inviting passengers to hop right into the sea. Some itineraries offer scuba diving opportunities for certified divers, including equipment (for an extra charge).

photo safari

The beloved “photo safari” when passengers can take photos of the ship from tenders. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Evenings, it’s drinks before and after dinner at the Tropical Bar, when a key board player is often on had to serenade passengers with evergreens. After dinner, there’s an hour or so of entertainment offered, from a local folk dance troupe when in port late (ie steel drummers in the Caribbean to whirling dervishes in Turkey) to a crew talent show, trivia contest or dress-up dance party. Once in a while a movie may be shown on deck, projected onto a sail. Things rarely howl on too late.

Along the Same Lines

Windstar’s sailing ships are the closest, and Sea Cloud and Sea Cloud II are in the ballpark too.

Star Clippers Contact Info

Star Clipper Palace, 4, rue de la Turbie, 98000 Monaco; www.starclippers.com; (377) 97-97-84-00.    

— HMS/TWS

PollyPurple8 copy

 

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QuirkyCruise reader review
Reviewer

Stephen Andrews from Australia

Cruise Line

Star Clippers

Ship

Star Clipper

Destination

Thailand

# of Nights

7

Departure Date & Ports

April 2017, from Phuket, Thailand, to Islands in the Andaman Sea

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: 4

Have you been on a small ship cruise before?

I have been on six small ship cruises.

Review

Voyage on a sailing ship

This was our 4th cruise on a Star Clipper and there will be others. The experiences on a sailing cruise are many and varied. My biggest buzz is when you can feel the ship lift beneath your feet as the sails fill. The music from Conquest of Paradise always raises the hair on your neck as the sails unfurl and set you on your way. Lying on the bowsprit net looking straight down into the water as dolphins ride the bow wave. On the rubber boat excursions to snorkel in clear waters and look for Nemo. The bonhomie around the bar from passengers who enjoy Star Clipper cruises.

 

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star clippers in thailand

Star Clippers in Thailand.

By Heidi Sarna.

With our beach bags and snorkeling gear slung over our shoulders, we filed down the metal staircase extended along side the 170-passenger Star Clipper and into a tender that would transport us to a Thai beach for the day. A short ride later, the boat was nudged into the sandy shoreline and we climbed out of the forward hatch, up and over the bow, and down a short ladder into the surf.

These wet landings would be the norm for the week; part of the adventure of visiting beaches without infrastructure. This was precisely why most of us had signed up for the 7-night Andaman Sea cruise in the first place, to go somewhere warm, sunny and remote, and to get there on a cool tall ship.

star clippers in thailand

Wet landings are business as usual on the Thailand itineraries. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Tall Ship Beauty

Star Clippers‘ four-masted Star Clipper itself was a destination. In fact some passengers didn’t care where the ship was going, they were there for the nostalgic sailing ship experience. About 25% to 50% of the time the engines are shut off and the ship moves under sail power alone — otherwise a combination of the two are used to propel the ship at speeds of about 9 to 14 knots — and it’s a sight to behold.

On the Star Clipper cruise I recently took with two friends Beth and Sheila, each evening, usually before dinner, passengers gathered on deck, many of us with a glass of wine or tropical concoction in hand. We were there to watch the Indian sailors nimbly handle coils of thick rope, wrapping and unwrapping it from pegs and cleats and pulling it along winches, to unfurl whichever of the 16 sails the captain wished to release to help us on our way.

As the sails inched skyward, the solemn theme song from the film “1492: Conquest of Paradise” was broadcast to set the mood. Passengers fixed their gaze on the sails and the twilight sky as the canvas flapped in the wind and the ship creaked through the waves like ships did centuries before.

RELATED: 10 Reasons to do a Star Clippers cruise in Thailand.  by Heidi Sarna

star clippers in thailand

Sunsets through the rigging are breathtaking. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

This appreciation for the experience is exactly what Swedish businessman Mikael Krafft had in mind when he started Star Clippers. He spared no detail or expense to design and build his fleet of three square-rigged clippers in the likeness of their speedy predecessors. Krafft and his team were guided by the original drawings and specifications of Scottish-born Donald McKay, a leading naval architect of 19th-century clipper-ship technology.

The result is a trio of tall ships with few rivals and lots of repeat passengers. The four-masted Star Clipper and twin Star Flyer were launched in 1992 and 1993, respectively, while in 2000, came the 227-passenger five-masted Royal Clipper. A fourth new tall ship, the Flying Clipper, is being built and will debut later this year.

UPDATE: While the Flying Clipper has been completed, a dispute between Star Clippers and the shipyard has delayed its debut; stay tuned. 

The fleet plies the waters of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia, aiming for yacht harbors and remote bays and islands.

star clippers in thailand

The Star Clipper cruise sails round-trip from Phuket (yellow star) to islands in the Andaman Sea.

Andaman Sea Island Hopping

Round-trip from Phuket, we traveled 533 nautical miles around the Andaman Sea, as far north as the lower tip of Myanmar and south again to Langkawi in northern Malaysia. Most of our ports for the week were part of national parks and clusters of islands with names that weren’t easy to remember. But it didn’t matter what the kohs (also spelled ko) were called, what you remember about this itinerary are the beaches, the bright teal-blue water and those craggy towers and mounds of ancient limestone — partially submerged hills and mountains formed over millions of years.

star clippers in thailand

Some of Asia’s best beaches are in the Andaman Sea. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Each day took on a similar rhythm. After breakfast was a port talk up on deck by the captain or the funny and unflappable Brazilian Cruise Director Monica who loved repeating each morning on the approach to a new port: “Let’s go to paradise.”

The first visit was to KOH SURIN to the north of Phuket. We first snorkeled around reefs some distance from the beach, hopping in the sea right from a tender, ogling giant clams, brain coral and rainbow-striped fish. Then we hit the beach, where the ship’s watersports team had set up kayaks, sailboats and paddleboards. After successfully paddleboarding, a pleasant triumph when you’re no longer a spring chicken, we relaxed on the sand sipping water from coconuts.

star clippers in thailand

Beth gets up on the paddle board after the first try! * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The busiest beach we’d encounter all week was in the SIMILAN ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK archipelago. As one German passenger joked after attempting to snorkel: “There were 3 fish and 2,000 legs.” Dozens of buzzing speedboats brought the mostly Chinese tourists on day trips from Phuket or Krabi, their revving outboard engines spitting water as they dropped off and collected their passengers from the beach.

We joined the multitude, finding a space for our towels in the soft, white sand that was surprisingly clean. We enjoyed the people watching, smiling at the throngs in their orange lifejackets taking endless selfies and playing in the sand. Most of the boats had departed by 4pm, leaving the beach nearly deserted with just a handful of Star Clippers passengers.

star clippers in thailand

An afternoon in the Similan Islands with lots of day trippers. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

In KOH KRADAN, part of the Hat Jao Nai National Park, we snorkeled near spiny sea urchins, mounds of brain coral and schools of neon fish. We floated in the water to keep cool and Beth went paddleboarding again, her favorite new activity. Dressed in floral shirts and white pants, the crew set up lunch on the beach, grilling delicious chicken, sausages and burgers that we ate sitting in the sand or on low hanging tree branches.

star clippers in thailand

Lunch on the beach, completed with grilled burgers and chicken. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The perfect ending to our favorite beach day of the week was a half-hour walk across the island to the other side and down a steep path to a secluded, rock-framed cove that could have been the setting for a cover of a Harlequin romance novel.

star clippers in thailand

Where’s the film crew?? * Photo: Mark

The week’s two non-beach days included LANGKAWI, the one Malaysian port of the week. Beth and I signed up for the guided kayaking through the mangroves of the Kilim Geopark followed by lunch and then a sweaty 3km jungle hike in the Raya mountains with an enthusiastic machete-carrying guide Hizam who pointed out monkeys and exotic birds the likes of the Great Horn Bill and Longtail Macaque. Sheila chose a thrilling tour I couldn’t have handled — a mile-long 2,000-foot-high cable car ride between the peaks of the Machincang Mountains on Langkawi’s west coast.

Star Clippers in Thailand

A kayaking excursion through the mangroves of the Kilim Geopark on Langkawi. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

We anchored in AO PHANG NGA (Bay) on the final day or our cruise and signed up for the “James Bond Island” speedboat excursion. We stopped at the Panyi Muslim village on stilts for a walk around the maze of small wooden shops and homes crammed together on rickety boardwalks.

The other stop was scenic James Bond Island, otherwise known as Khao Phing Kan, where parts of the “Man With a Golden Gun” were filmed back in the 1970s thanks to its spectacular rock formations, some resembling giant dripping icicles.

star clippers in thailand

James Bond Island. * Photo; Beth Crow

The best part of the tour was sitting at the back of the boat near the outboard motors as the speeding vessel bounced through the water for several hours between stops. The views of the karsts, some smooth, some rough and covered with tufts of green foliage, unfolded like a 3D movie.

star clippers in thailand

The breathtaking speedboat ride to James Bond Island. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Besides the handful of excursions offered during the week, there were optional daily diving opportunities with the ship’s dive master. There was also Star Clippers’ beloved “photo safari,” when passengers pile into the tenders to circle the ship and take photos under full sail.

star clippers in thailand

The ship’s two tenders circled the Star Clipper for more than an hour on the beloved photo safari. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Onboard Fun & Games

On board, the main activity for the week was mast climbing, when those interested strapped on a harness and climbed up some 65 feet onto a small platform.  For me, massages were the favorite extracurricular; the masseuse was excellent and the prices reasonable, probably because the treatments were doled out in a humble canvas cabana wedged between the diving tanks and ship tenders. Book a massage when the ship is moving to avail of the breeze and soothing ocean sounds.

star clippers in thailand

View from the top, WOW ! * Photo: Doug Stavoe

With three of us sharing a cabin, we didn’t spend much time hanging out in the room, a cozy 130-square-foot abode with portholes, twin beds and a bunk-style third berth. Designed in nautical navy blue fabrics and wood trim, there was a TV, safe, decent storage space, and bathroom with showers. The ship also has eight deluxe cabins that open right up to deck; one large owner’s suite with a sitting area, mini bar and whirlpool bath; and six inside cabins.

Star clippers in thailand

Some standards cabins have a third berth. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

A Social Affair

Chatting and mingling on a small ship like the Star Clipper is inevitable. We became buddies with Monica and Doug, two easy-to-talk-to fellow Americans in their 50s, and Mark, a good-natured 30-something English chap traveling solo. A group of Germans, led by the gregarious Roland, had an infectious sense of humor that made many of us laugh out loud. Of the 114 passengers our week, a third were Germans, 18 were from the UK, a dozen from North America, and the rest a mix from Australia and other corners of Europe — most were 50+.

RELATED: Reader Review of this Star Clippers Thailand cruise. 

Mealtime encouraged socializing as tables were open seating for 6 or 8. Breakfast with a made-to-order omelet station, and lunch with a featured pasta or meat, were buffet-style and generous, while dinner was ala carte with continental choices and a few Asian offerings as well such as Pad Thai. Dishes ranged from so-so (a rib-eye steak and pork stir fry were disappointing and the cheese plate came with Ritz crackers) to very tasty, including the chicken curry, shrimp tarts, and raviolis. But a Star Clipper’s cruise isn’t about the food, it’s about being outside on deck.

Star clippers in thailand

Pad Thai is a classic dish of Thailand. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

The open-air Tropical Bar with its thick wooden bar top was the hub, where passengers congregated before and after dinner as the ship’s musician played happy pop tunes on his electric piano. Each evening, some light-hearted entertainment was featured, including a crew and passenger talent show, a traditional Thai dance from a shore-side troupe, and a silly “Pirate Night” party that was great fun.

Star Clippers in Thailand

Thai folk dancing with passengers * Photo: Roland Fella

Afterward, hits from the 60s and 70s were played on the sound system, putting us and new friends in the mood for some dancing as our gorgeous tall ship sailed through the Andaman Sea to our next port of call.

star clippers in thailand

Hotel director Herman at the ship’s hub, the Tropical Bar. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

Fast Facts

Itineraries & Fares: Back in Asia after a long absence, through 2019, Star Clipper is doing 7-night Andaman Sea cruises between October and April starting at $1,360 per person, and spending the other half of the year cruising the Indonesian archipelago round-trip from Bali on mostly 7-night sailings.

Getting There: Most US flights come through Bangkok or Singapore, then it’s a short flight to Phuket. We stayed one night in the pretty Amari Phuket hotel along Patong Beach, near the ship’s anchorage.

star clippers in thailand

A relaxing stay at the Amari Phuket the day before the cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna Selfie

Weather & Dress Code: Thailand is just north of the equator, so it will be hot in the 80s and 90s and with short rain storms the norm. You’ll live in beachwear and cover-ups most of the time; at dinner, smart casual works — sundresses, skirts and pants for women and for men, khaki’s and polo shirts or short-sleeved button-downs.

Money Matters: The Thai Baht is the official currency, but there is virtually no opportunity to shop.

star clippers in thailand

Nature’s bounty is the entertainment on a Star Clipper’s Thailand cruise. * Photo: Heidi Sarna

 

RELATED: The Royal Clipper to Corsica, Elba & Sardinia.   by Christina Colon.

And here’s  Star Clipper’s website.

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new small ships of 2018

By Anne Kalosh.

There’s a building boom in ocean cruising and, lucky for small-ship lovers, plenty of new choices are coming their way. The new small ships of 2018 range from a square-rigged tall ship to coastal vessels to ice-strengthened expedition ships stocked with cool exploration tools.

Ponant

French luxury operator Ponant is introducing two expedition ships of a new style that’s slightly smaller than those of their existing fleet to give added flexibility in deployment. The 10,000-gross-ton LE LAPEROUSE and LE CHAMPLAIN will carry 184 passengers each.

new small ships of 2018

A rendering of Ponant’s Le Champlain. * Credit: Ponant

Perhaps their most exciting feature is an underwater viewing lounge, Blue Eye. French architect/oceanographer Jacques Rougerie designed this spot so passengers can become modern-day explorers, following in the wake of Jules Verne and Jacques Cousteau. They’ll be able to hear underwater sounds, too, thanks to hydrophones installed beneath the keel.

For their inaugural seasons, LE LAPEROUSE and LE CHAMPLAIN will sail from North America to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe via Asia, Australia and the Arctic in the northern summer. One voyage will visit Iceland, following in the footsteps of the Vikings.

Scenic

Australian tour operator Scenic, which has made a big splash in the river-cruise sector in recent years by building up its Scenic and Emerald Waterways fleets, breaks into ocean cruising with what the company touts as a “discovery yacht.” At 16,500 gross tons but carrying just 228 passengers, SCENIC ECLIPSE will be extraordinarily spacious and the most luxurious of 2018’s new small ships.

new small ships of 2018

Scenic Eclipse will have two helicopters and a submarine for exploring. * Credit: Scenic

Travelers will have nine dining options (Italian, French, Asian fusion, steak, a cooking emporium and more) plus 24-hour room service. Among the lounges is a Champagne bar. A nearly 5,000-square-foot spa, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, and plunge pools are other features.

new small ships of 2018

One of nine restaurants aboard Scenic Eclipse. * Credit: Scenic

But with an ice-class hull, two helicopters and a submarine, SCENIC ECLIPSE is definitely an expedition ship and will sail widely throughout the Americas, Antarctica, Europe, the Mediterranean, the Arctic and Norwegian Fjords.

Mystic Cruises

Another new operator with river cruise experience who’s branching into the ocean sector is Portuguese entrepreneur Mário Ferreira. His Mystic Cruises is building WORLD EXPLORER, a 9,300-gross-ton ship that will carry 200 passengers in mostly all-balcony-suite accommodations.

new small ships of 2018

Mystic’s World Explorer will operate for Quark Expeditions and Germany’s Nicko Cruises. * Credit: Mystic Cruises

An expedition ship with an ice-class hull, WORLD EXPLORER will sail on charter to Quark Expeditions for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 Antarctica seasons and for Germany’s Nicko Cruises, a company owned by Ferreira, the rest of the year.

The vessel has an energy-efficient Rolls-Royce hybrid propulsion system. A bow observation deck, mudroom and lockers for passenger gear are among the expedition features. Further facilities include a theater/lecture hall, main lounge, observation bar, restaurant, library/chart room, small casino, fitness room, outdoor pool and jogging track.

Star Clippers

Surprisingly, it’s the sailing ship that has the greatest passenger capacity of the year’s crop of small new builds: Star Clippers‘ FLYING CLIPPER, a replica of 1911’s FRANCE II, the largest square-rigged tall ship ever built, can carry 300 travelers. (Though at 8,770 gross tons, it’s not the largest in volume.)

new small ships of 2018

Flying Clipper will be equipped with 35 sails. * Credit: Star Clippers

FLYING CLIPPER will unfurl 35 sails with a whopping total area of 6,350 square meters/68,351 square feet. Among its facilities are a water sports platform in the stern and three pools, including one that funnels sunlight through the atrium into the elegantly appointed double-deck dining room.

FLYING CLIPPER will also have Star Clippers hallmarks including a cozy library, bowsprit net and the alfresco Tropical Bar, where evening entertainment takes place. The ship will sail the Mediterranean in summer and the Caribbean in winter.

Australis

Chilean expedition operator Australis, a specialist in adventure cruises around the southern tip of South America, has just introduced its new ship, the 210-passenger VENTUS AUSTRALIS (Latin for “southern wind”). It features all ocean-view rooms, three lounges and a restaurant.

new small ships of 2018

Ventus Australis sails the tip of South America. * Photo: Australis

VENTUS AUSTRALIS plies the Chilean Fjords, Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego, but what’s really extraordinary is the opportunity for passengers to step ashore at Cape Horn. The ship also offers a new expedition to Condor Glacier.

American Cruise Lines

Connecticut-based American Cruise Lines, which fields U.S.-flag river and coastal vessels, is introducing AMERICAN CONSTITUTION in the spring. The 175-passenger coastal ship is the sister of 2017’s AMERICAN CONSTELLATION. Roomy balcony accommodations and modern appointments characterize these vessels, and their sun decks offer a fun diversion: a putting green.

new small ships for 2018

American Constitution will sail the U.S. East Coast. * Photo: American Cruise Lines

AMERICAN CONSTITUTION will debut with an “American Revolution Cruise” that charts historically significant places around Chesapeake Bay, including Washington, D.C., and Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. Other itineraries are “Maine Coast and Harbors,” round-trip from Portland, “New England Islands,” round-trip from Providence, Rhode Island, “Grand New England Cruise” from Boston, and Hudson River sailings from New York City.

Lindblad Expeditions

Completing 2018’s new small ships roster is Lindblad Expeditions’ NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE, the sister of 2017’s NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC QUEST. Like the ships of American Cruise Lines, these coastal vessels are U.S.-built, fly the U.S. flag and are staffed by U.S. crew.

new small ships for 2018

National Geographic Venture will be the sister of 2017’s National Geographic Quest, pictured here. * Photo: Ian Strachan for Lindblad Expeditions

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC VENTURE sports special design features, from an innovative bow to customized Mark V Zodiacs, that maximize wildlife-viewing and expedition adventures. Other exploration tools include 24 sea kayaks, paddle boards and snorkeling equipment. In addition, the ship will be equipped with a remotely operated vehicle, video microscope, hydrophone and underwater cameras.

The 100-passenger ship has 22 balcony cabins and six sets of connecting cabins for families and groups. It will enter service on varied Alaska, San Juan Islands and British Columbia voyages.

What a selection of new choices for small-ship enthusiasts! And—great news—even more new small vessels are coming in 2019. Stay tuned !

 

© 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.