Alternative cruise lines for adventurous travelers
By Georgina Cruz
10:21 AM EDT, April 1, 2013
If instead of sharing a sailing with thousands of others you prefer something different and more intimate, why not think outside the (cruise ship) box? Here are five ideas to ponder that can take you on journeys on America’s great rivers, on Galapagos and polar expeditions, on off-the-beaten-path Caribbean isles’ explorations under sail, and more. Cruise fares listed are per person, double occupancy, and the best found at each line’s website at the time of writing. Cruise fares are subject to change. Government taxes and fees and airfare to and from port of embarkation are extra. Always inquire if there are any discounts or specials available before you book.
American Queen Steamboat Co. – Are you game for a cruise on a lazy river on a paddle wheeler? The American Queen steamboat features sailings on America’s rivers including the Upper & Lower Mississippi, and the Ohio & Tennessee Rivers. Along with you for the ride would be up to 436 passengers. This riverboat with its big red paddlewheel, white filigree and two fancy chimneys heralding the American Victorian era, returned to service this spring after more than a decade of inactivity when its company, the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. ceased operations in 2001. Among the itineraries is a Great Steamboat Era 14-day cruise from New Orleans to St. Louis on June 22. Ports of call include Natchez, Miss.; Vicksburg, Miss.; Helena, Arkansas; Memphis, Tenn.; New Madrid, Mo.; Cape Girardeau, Mo. And Chester, Ill. Fares start at $3,695 and include complimentary shore excursions at each port, complimentary one night stay at a hotel pre-cruise, complimentary beer and wine with dinner and other features. Visit www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.
Celebrity Cruises’ Xpedition – The premium Celebrity Xpedition accommodates 92 guests on cruises to the unspoiled Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. This archipelago’s wildlife is legendary and includes sea lions, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, to name a few, that exhibit no fear of humans and seem to pose for pictures. Various cruise lengths are featured including seven-, 10-, 11- and 13-day voyages. A seven-night voyage departing from Baltra, Galapagos on Dec. 7 visits Daphne Island, Galapagos; Puerto Egas, Santiago; Rabida; Elizabeth Bay, Isabela; Caleta Tagus, Isabela; Sullivan Bay, Santiago; Bartolome Island, Santiago; Las Bachas, Santa Cruz; North Seymour, Galapagos; P. Baquerizo, San Cristobal; Cerro Brujo, San Cristobal; Kicker Rock, San Cristobal and Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. Fares start at $3,499 for an ocean-view cabin (inside cabins are sold out for this voyage). Visit www.celebritycruises.com.
Silversea’s Silver Explorer & Silver Galapagos – Silversea’s ultra-luxury 132-guest Silver Explorer can whisk guests away on expeditions to the polar regions of the planet so passengers can watch for such sights as penguins in Antarctica and polar bears in the Arctic. An ice-strengthened hull (Lloyd’s Register 1A rating) enables the Silver Explorer to navigate among ice floes and push through them with ease. A fleet of Zodiac boats allows for exploration and an expedition team of naturalists and other experts provide insight. Among the ship’s Antarctica expeditions is a 10-day journey roundtrip from Ushuaia, Argentina on Dec. 13 (Best Available Fare: $8,799). The expedition spends five days cruising and exploring the Antarctic Peninsula. Among the Arctic sailings of the Silver Explorer is a June 16 voyage out of Longyearbyen, Norway (10 days, Best Available Fare: $7,399). This voyage spends seven days cruising and exploring Svalbard within the Arctic Circle and visits Bear Island and Tromso, Norway. For those wishing to explore the Galapagos, Silversea also offers the new Silver Galapagos, its second small-sized expedition ship, which is currently sailing as the Galapagos Explorer II. The all-suite, 100-guest vessel will undergo a major refurbishment in September 2013 and will offer socially and environmentally responsible ecotourism to the Galápagos archipelago. The company will start selling its 2013 Galápagos program in mid-November of this year, offering two new seven-day itineraries that will begin operating in late September 2013 as follows: Sailing Saturday to Saturday roundtrip from Baltra Island, Silver Galapagos will trace a path across the western, southern and eastern islands, including Santiago, Bartolomé, Isabela, Fernandina, Floreana, San Cristóbal, and Santa Cruz. And sailing Saturday to Saturday roundtrip from Baltra Island, another itinerary encompasses the northeast, central and southeast islands of Santa Cruz, Genovesa, Seymour Norte, San Cristóbal, Española, and Plazas Sur. Complimentary expeditions ashore will be guided by an experienced expedition team. In Silversea Expeditions style, the guests of Silver Galapagos will enjoy ocean-view accommodations, gourmet cuisine, butler service, and a selection of all-inclusive shipboard amenities, including complimentary beverages, wines and spirits served throughout the ship, stocked in-suite beverage cabinet, and all gratuities. Above itineraries are subject to change. Visit www.silversea.com.
Star Clippers – It’s not a tall tale: this line’s three tall ships offer sailings in the Caribbean, Costa Rica, the Mediterranean and the Baltic. The ambiance onboard is relaxed and casual and each of the vessels boasts a small passenger contingent: Royal Clipper, 227 guests; Star Clipper, 170 guests; Star Flyer, 170 guests. Each tall ship has a portable water sports platform for such activities as swimming, sailing, snorkeling, diving, and water skiing. Among the sailings are seven-day Windward Island itineraries on the Royal Clipper with several departures scheduled November-March. The cruises visit St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts, Iles des Saintes and Martinique roundtrip from Barbados. Fares start at $2,195 (a 30 percent discount on the Dec. 8 sailing, and most cruises are listed as including free air. Visit www.starclippers.com.
Windstar – This line’s luxury yachts, Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf, carry 148 to 312 guests who experience the pleasure of being at sea under sail and visiting rarely accessed ports of call. Onboard life is casually elegant and there are complimentary water sports and alternative dining venues. Itineraries include the Mediterranean, Italy, Greek Isles, Northern Europe, Caribbean, Costa Rica & Panama Canal and Trans-Atlantic crossings. Seven-day Costa Rica & Panama Canal “Passage Through Panama” voyages have multiple departures scheduled November-March. The Dec. 8 cruise is priced from $1,999. Visit www.windstarcruises.com.