“Ocean Liners take you to countries and Small Ships take you through countries.”
Smaller ships can access more secluded, harder to get to places. There are more and better planned land excursions and dining in authentic restaurants. Small vessels visit a new port daily, so passengers can visit five or more countries in a week. Itineraries are focused on the culture and history of the towns and are often included in the fare.
A shallow draft allows small ships to pull right into secluded bays on uninhabited islands where a big ship could never dream of sailing. They drop anchor in little coves where you can take a swim, take a warm shower, then and join your friends watch the sun set with a drink. There is rarely a single other boat in sight. The small yachts you are moored right at the city dock and can get on and off as often as you like as opposed to queuing for a ferry to take you ashore.
Passenger numbers are limited to no more than 200 so you actually get to know the staff. The service is personal and most rare these days, sincere. You’ll be pampered from start to finish. Sailing on a small ship, you get the feeling the cabins were designed with real people in mind. Each one is roomy and light, with its own en suite. It’s the difference between staying in a boutique B&B and a big faceless hotel chain. Big cruise ships pollute the water with the sewerage of the thousands of people on board and the massive diesel engines need to power them.
All meals are included, with many lines offering complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner, plus unlimited tea and coffee. There is generally an open-seating policy, so you can sit where you want. Lighter meals can be enjoyed in the lounge, or outside on the deck, and some vessels have additional specialty restaurants. The food is better, there are still buffets, but they’re prepared with care by a small team of local chefs who really know the region’s food. They’re made from market-fresh produce and designed to reflect the traditional flavors of a destination. The Cruise manager or one of your tour guides will happily point you in the direction on the best shops, markets, bars or the most authentic local restaurant to spend the evening at.
The onboard experience is more laid-back than it is on oceangoing voyages, with no formal dress code. There's usually a captain's reception and gala dinner, where some people opt for smarter outfits, but it's not obligatory. The most important packing tips are to take layers to cope with unpredictable weather and comfortable shoes or sneakers, as many tours involve walking on cobblestones or uneven surfaces.
While the entertainment is high quality, music on the main lounge the major attraction is the passing scenery on both banks and ports of call. The intimate nature also means you'll soon get to know your fellow passengers and enjoy dinning with a variety of people or having a quiet intimate meal.
The Staterooms particularly well finished and comfortable, although compact. Standard amenities include hotel-style beds, marble bathrooms with high-quality toiletries, TV and entertainment system, hair dyer, safe and ample storage space. Some cabins have dual French balconies and walkout verandas. If you're on a budget, the lower deck cabins have fixed windows but still provide a view, albeit at water level. When it comes to sailing, inland waterways are very calm and flat, so seasickness is never an issue on a river cruise.
With the internet making travel so much easier to research you might think organized tours are a thing of the past. Well you’d be wrong! An organized, guaranteed departure tour provides the perfect opportunity for busy people to see the best of a destination without all the hassle of renting cars, booking hotel rooms, standing in queues and missing the hidden gems each place has to offer.