But things have changed in the luxury cruise market, and over the last few years we've seen a steady trend towards slightly larger ships, for a whole variety of perfectly good reasons. Nevertheless, the recent spate of small ship orders have been very welcome. And if you are a small ship fan, what a lot of options you will have to choose from...
Top of our list, with the first of a fleet (maybe three, maybe five, who knows?) due next February, is Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. The yacht will carry just under 300 guests accommodated in spacious suites with private terrace. Taking its cue from the laid-back style of a Ritz-Carlton resort, we think this vessel will be a little bit special, with a spacious ocean front winged marina, Ritz-Carlton's awarded Gold Standard service, and a personal Concierge to help you plan your time ashore. First year itineraries include the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Canada/New England. In the future, expect to go further afield: maybe the Pacific or Asia.
Stylish French operator Ponant is in the process of launching a series of ships which are smaller, rather than larger, than the original fleet. Taking their exotic sounding names (Le Dumont d'Urville, Le Jacques Cartier) from great French explorers, this fleet of six yachts carry fewer than 200 guests each. Their style is probably best described as coastal chic, with plenty of natural fabrics and fibres used in the décor, making for a fresh airy environment with lots of state-of-the-art innovations such as the underwater 'Blue Eye' lounge enabling you to sit over cocktails watching what is going on under the water, or the hydraulic marina deck at the back so you can check out what's happening above.
In the expedition arena, so many new vessels are imminent. Australian touring and river cruise company Scenic are in the process of building their first ocean going ship, Scenic Eclipse, in Croatia. With 200 guests, a helicopter and a seven-seat submarine, this little ship will be exploring the world off the beaten track.
Also from Australia, we will see Aurora's new vessel the Greg Mortimer, named after the company's charismatic and adventurous owner. Custom built for Aurora Expeditions, the Greg Mortimer will be the first expedition cruise ship to feature the patented Ulstein X-BOW - an innovative piece of marine technology that allows for a smoother journey, even when exposed to stronger currents and powerful waves. We can't wait to see how that technology works.
Meanwhile out of Germany one of the most highly respected marine operators, Hapag-Lloyd, updates its expedition fleet with Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration - two pretty little ships with lots of attention to detail which will impress even the most experienced expedition cruiser.
In 2020 Silversea will replace its Galapagos islands ship Silver Galapagos with a new build currently under construction, Silver Origin. We think we can safely say that this will be the most luxurious vessel ever to operate in the area, creating the perfect combination of one of the best destinations in the world with one of the best ships.