If you’ve taken a look at this blog before, you’ve seen that I’ve done more than my share of small ship cruising in the past few years. My voyages have ranged from sailing adventures in the Grenadines and the Spanish Virgin Islands to a nature- and kayaking-intensive trip to Alaska’s Inside Passage to a luxury Nile float in Egypt to an almost graduate-level learning vacation with seniors on the Lower Danube.
I do enjoy the small ship mode of traveling – be it river, sailing or expedition-style voyages – much more than the ocean liners. I like that the ships can dock in smaller ports, sometimes in the center of town, and that education and exploration are stressed over partying. While these cruises cost more than your typical big ship voyage, the included guides, tours, meals (wine and beer!) and activities often mean that you get more for your money.
So I’m happy to report that I have a few small ship cruises coming up in the next six months. First up: I’ll be getting a glimpse of Viking’s new Longships when I head to Europe to take a Christmas Market cruise on the Viking Aegir in mid-December. With the addition of these ships – 14 coming on line this year and next – Viking is gunning hard to be the dominant line on Europe’s waterways. I’m eager to see what the cabins look like, as well as take advantage of a la carte dining (most river cruises force you to sit down to three-hour meals each night – which can get wearying after a while).
The other great thing about this cruise is that I’ll be traveling with my dad. I took a father-daughter trip with him last year, when we conquered the Indy Racing Experience together. He loves the holidays, and so it will be fun to explore the Christmas Markets along the Rhine with him. While our similar temperaments occasionally lead to arguments, I’m expecting smooth sailing.
In March 2013, it looks like I’ll be on board the inaugural cruise of two of Vantage Cruise Line’s new ships. Like Grand Circle Cruise Lines which I experienced on the Danube, Vantage tends to market to an older crowd and engenders brand loyalty among its customers, most of whom book without using travel agents. I’ll be interested to see how its new ships stack up against its competitor, and also get to experience the waterways of Belgium and The Netherlands. My friend and fellow Value Luxury blogger (and TBEX conference director extraordinaire) Mary Jo Manzanares of The Travelers Way is tentatively scheduled to sail with me.
Finally, I have another Cruise Critic assignment coming up in May 2013 – and this one is a doozy. I’ll be on Viking once again, this time on one of their Russian itineraries, the Waterway of the Czars. The cruise starts in St. Petersburg, one of my favorite cities that I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. Don will be using his vacation to come with me on this trip, and I believe that we’re going to get as much out of the experience as we did in Eastern Europe.
I’m lucky in that most of my assignments, trips and vacations are based on places and things that I’m passionate about exploring. That means you often read a lot here and elsewhere in my outlets about wine and craft beer, art and architecture, upscale hotels and money saving alternatives. I hope that my curiosity and enjoyment of small ship cruising intrigues you enough to follow along these next few months. Ahoy!