Planning a cruise itinerary is a complex business; factors to consider include airlift to your embarkation and debarkation points, the local price of fuel, port taxes, shore excursion options and cabotage laws, and that's before you even take into account the additional complications of a global pandemic. Yet every year we find that the inventive itinerary planners at our favourite cruise lines surprise us with fresh ways to explore destinations both exotic and familiar, and this year is no different.
Of course, the key to unlocking the dazzling diversity of travel by sea is to choose a smaller ship. This allows you to access those secret coves, idyllic islands and small ports that are off-limits to the big mainstream ships; indeed, it allows you to access places with no travel infrastructure at all. So if you're feeling jaded by the prospect of visiting the same old ports on the same old ships, let us show you some of the myriad ways that a small ship cruise can provide a different perspective...
1. Ponant - Corsica
In June 2022 Ponant's 184-guest yacht Le Bougainville offers a series of 7-night cruises around the island of Corsica, sailing round-trip from Nice. It's unusual to find a Mediterranean cruise focused on such a small area, and as a result you'll get a real feel for the island's strong sense of identity, regional traditions and spectacular natural beauty.
2. Silversea - Finland & Sweden
If you've already been to the Baltic and you'd like to see more, take a look at Silver Wind's two utterly unique sailings between Hamburg and Helsinki in May and June 2023. Highlights include the charming Estonian island of Saaremaa, the wild beaches and important bird habitats of Sweden's Gotska Sandön and Gnäggen islands, and the pretty Finnish seaside towns of Kalajoki, Vaasa and Rauma.
3. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises - Great Lakes
Very few ocean-going cruise ships are able to navigate the Saint Lawrence Seaway and reach the Great Lakes of North America, so we always let our clients know when new cruises here go on sale. Hapag-Lloyd's 230-guest expedition ship Hanseatic Inspiration will offer four Great Lakes itineraries in May and June 2023, visiting charming lakeside towns, vibrant cities and tranquil wilderness.
4. SeaDream Yacht Club - The Bahamas
SeaDream's 112-guest yachts are one of our favourite ways to explore the islands of the Caribbean, so our interest was piqued by a handful of new itineraries in January 2022 and April 2023 sailing out of West Palm Beach and focusing on the quieter corners of the Bahamas. The beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters are as you would expect, but the swimming pigs and Pablo Escobar connections may not be!
5. Crystal Yacht Cruises - Turkey's Turquoise Coast
If you're looking for a late getaway to the Med this year and you're happy to take your chances with the weather, Crystal's bijou 62-guest yacht Crystal Esprit will be cruising along Turkey's 'Turquoise Coast' from late October through to mid-November, visiting some lovely little ports that are rarely seen on a cruise itinerary. Highlights include the ruins of ancient Knidos, the laid-back town of Kas and the wild beaches of the Datca Peninsula.
6. Paul Gauguin Cruises - Marquesas, Tuamotus & Society Islands
Lots of cruise lines make intermittent calls in the South Pacific, but the 330-guest Paul Gauguin has been operating here year round for over 20 years. Pick a 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus, and Society Islands cruise to learn all about the culture, history and beauty of these islands, perfect to combine with a longer trip to visit family and friends in Australia or New Zealand.