Thursday 16 May 2013

Top Eight Luxury Small Ship Cruises

What constitutes luxury when it comes to small ship cruising?

The active travel company securing matches between adventure-seeking clients and a treasure trove of small expedition ships, AdventureSmith Explorations, says luxury can mean accommodation, service and dining as well as the flexibility to shape an itinerary into a customized experience.

When catering to more upmarket clientele, AdventureSmith Explorations ( director and founder Todd Smith begins with a handpicked selection of eight of his company’s small ship cruises that fall into the luxury category. Indicative of the service his company provides, Smith goes behind the scene to offer these insider’s tips on the best cabins or suite accommodations on each vessel to maximize one’s time and enjoyment on the water:

An Alaska cruise, Discoverers Glacier Country aboard the 22-guest Safari Quest, offers upscale intimacy and gourmet dining along with the flexible itinerary of a private yacht charter. Insider’s Tip - The Captain Staterooms A1-A4 have a floor to ceiling sliding glass door opening to a small balcony (rare aboard small ships and yachts).  Smith says to book early and choose A4 or A2 for the quietest cabins on board.

Costa Rica, Panama Canal & Colombia aboard the 72-guest Variety Voyager resembles a millionaire’s mega yacht. Insiders Tip - While the Owners Suite and P Category suites are obvious choices for travelers seeking the finest cabins, the B Category cabins, especially on the Riviera Deck, offer a very nice cabin with view windows at a considerable value.  Advice is to book early to secure one of two Riviera Deck B cabins that are located away from the forward stairways.

An Amazon River Cruise aboard the 24-guest Aqua means enjoying the highest standards of modern-day luxury cruising on the Amazon. “Oversized suites are the largest I have ever experienced aboard a ship of this capacity, with a sitting area, king beds and a full walk in bathroom with shower.  Executive Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of Lima’s culinary stars, has created a menu that draws on both Peruvian and European influence,” says Smith. Insider’s Tip - Master Suites on the Main Deck are larger and can be adjoined which is a perfect option for families.  Because they are raised from the water level, suites on the Second Deck offer more expansive views into the surrounding rain forest.  

A Galapagos Cruise aboard the 16-guest Athala II offers spaciousness, stability and speed. A crew of 10 plus a bilingual naturalist guide offers a very high crew to guest ratio. Insider’s Tip – The main deck cabins are the obvious choice for luxury travelers because they are larger and they have balconies.  The cabins on the Upper Deck are smaller but they still offer a small sitting area, they open directly to the observation deck, they are very quiet and they can interconnect which makes them a great choice for families with kids.

In Antarctica The White Continent is a cruise aboard the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer. “Luxury in Antarctica must be balanced with access; among ships with ice-strengthened hulls that offer daily shore excursions in Antarctica, the National Geographic Explorer is the finest,” says Smith. A partnership with National Geographic means traveling with the most experienced ice team available, including authors, professors, researchers and photographers. Insider’s Tip – Only a handful of cabins aboard the National Geographic Explorer can be considered luxurious and they sell out early, sometimes up to a year in advance.  Focus on Categories 5, 6, and 7 as these cabins offer balconies or verandas and all are located on the Upper Deck.

In Asia Sailing the Mekong River: Cambodia, Vietnam, Angkor, Saigon is aboard the 48-guest Jahan that offers a step back in time into a distinctive British-Indian colonial themed boutique hotel.  Built in 2011 and specifically designed for Mekong River Cruises, she is, says Smith, “without question the finest ship on the river.”  Meals aboard Jahan are part of the exploration and offer a window in to the region with fresh, local ingredients highlighting outstanding Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisines.  Insider’s Tip – Limited departures mean this cruise sells out quickly.  The two Suites and two Category 3 Cabins sell out first because they are the largest at a whopping 376 and 549 square feet respectively.

Australia’s Kimberly Expedition aboard the 100-guest Orion is, says Smith, “more mega-yacht than cruise ship. No expense has been spared.” Insider’s Tip – Luxury travelers will want to focus on the Owners Suites or the Balcony Suites on Deck 5.  These cabins are the most spacious on board with a sitting area and floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that open onto a private French balcony (except Owners Suite 509 which does not have a balcony and is located near the stairway).

Sailing the Greek Isles aboard the 58-guest Sea Cloud combines tall-ship sailing with a highly appealing destination. Built in 1931 by E.F. Hutton for his wife Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Sea Cloud is a vessel of incomparable grace that harks back to the golden age of ship travel. Insider’s Tip – The Owner’s Suites (Category A) and Original Deluxe Cabins (Category B) feature Carrara marble, golden bath fixtures, polished teak, antique furniture, fireplaces and walk-in closets. The spacious original cabins (Category B) include artifacts collected by the Huttons from their travels. These wood-paneled rooms feature various armchairs, marble fireplaces, and antique furnishings. The remaining cabins (Category 1-4 are a mix of converted original officers cabins and additions made in the modern era.

About AdventureSmith Explorations
Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Tahoe City, CA, along the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. In 2012, owner Todd Smith joined the ranks of Conde Nast Traveler's prestigious 13th Annual Travel Specialists List as the world’s expert on small ship expeditions. For information, availability and 2013 reservations Phone:  800-728-2875  toll-free, visit or Email:
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