Q: Peter, I love cruises but not on the megaships. Are there any small ocean ships? I would love to cruise England's Channel Islands. I have used a Cunard ship, but it has been retired. Can you recommend a smaller vessel?
—Mary Proctor, Castle Rock, Colo.
A: While the industry seems to have embraced megacruise ships, they may not be for everyone. Smaller ships offer a more intimate experience and allow you to explore corners of the world that large ships simply cannot reach. Mary, your favorite Cunard ship may have been retired, but many small luxury ships are still cruising the seas.
The Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is a great choice for a trip around the Channel Islands. This cruising company is based in the United Kingdom and has a proud tradition of crafting smaller ships. Besides offering a variety of British Isle cruises, Fred.Olsen cruises sail around the world, to destinations in Europe, the Caribbean and West Africa.
If you're looking for something below the equator, the M/S Paul Gauguin is a smaller ship designed for navigating between the islands of the South Pacific. But just because it’s a smaller ship doesn't mean the vessel is short on amenities. This ship has spacious suites and staterooms (more than 70 percent with private balconies), an onboard water sports marina, three open-seating dining venues and an extensive spa.
I would also suggest that you look into river cruising. These trips are always on smaller vessels and give you the opportunity to see the lands up close. On river cruises, you can observe historical landmarks, natural beauties and the people of the places you visit — all from the deck of your “floating hotel.”
Uniworld is one of the top operators of river cruises and seven of their ships were voted onto Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 10 Small Ships list in 2010. Many of these river cruises take place in Europe, but Uniworld also sets sail in Egypt and China.
Plenty of other small ship cruising opportunities are out there; many of them are off the beaten path. Check out SmallShipCruises.com for a huge inventory of these special types of trips. This site helps find your ideal cruising experience by letting you browse small ship cruises by interest. Want a cruise with exquisite culinary experiences? It has it. Cruises for singles? It has those, too.
Look into some of these companies and resources and you should be able to find a small ship sailing that’s right for you.