Cruise industry talks to CLIA about the small ship cruise experience

Travelling on board ships with a smaller passenger capacity is on the rise among travellers.


Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has uncovered some interesting facts about small ship cruising.

Cindy D’Aoust, president and CEO of CLIA, said: “The small ship sector is a vital and constantly-evolving part of the overall cruise industry that excels at creating unmatched travel experiences, making it more popular than ever. Small ship cruising allows for a unique and intimate cruise unlike any other.”

Facts on small ship cruising from the industry:

1.)    Small ships can cruise the world: contrary to popular myth, small ships have the ability to sail to a myriad of destinations around the world, some of which are unattainable by bigger ships. Small ships often cruise along famous and historic rivers. To create an even more memorable experience, many small ship cruise lines also offer themed itineraries that focus on different interests like diving or beer tasting:

·         Avalon Waterways’ ‘Danube Dreams for Beer Enthusiasts’ is a ten day European voyage that sets its sights on beer-lovers with ale-centric activities both on board and on land. This small ship cruise allows travellers to visit historic breweries; attend special beer tastings; learn about European beer-brewing techniques during on board lectures and workshops; and take part in a beer expert-led dining experience.


·         In a partnership with BBC Earth, Tauck is taking cruise travellers to far-reaching destinations, ranging from Costa Rica and Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands, with a deeper understanding of each destination. Travellers can view destination-specific nature documentaries created by BBC Earth filmmakers and partake in shore excursions in which they use BBC Earth experts’ technologies, including thermal imaging cameras and underwater hydrophones, in order to truly become at one with nature.

2.)    Small ship cruising is affordable: in the case of small ship cruising, exclusivity and intimacy doesn’t mean the experience is unattainable for the majority. In fact, small ship cruises are affordable at a variety of different price points:

·         Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers all-suite accommodations, round-trip air, personalised service, cuisine in speciality restaurants, fine wines and spirits, unlimited internet access, gratuities, ground transfers and a pre-cruise hotel package for guests staying in concierge-level suites and higher. The cruise line also offers unlimited sightseeing excursions in every port and nearly 90 per cent of Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ shore excursions are free and unlimited for travellers to choose, as long as their time allows.

3.)    Small ships offer unique experiences on board and on shore: just because smaller ships lack space doesn’t mean they lack amenities or entertainment. In fact, on many small ships the crew-to-traveller ratio is quite impressive, with some ships having a nearly one-on-one service ratio. Another large draw to small ship cruising is sailing to lesser-known destinations by ship and being able to enjoy all that those destinations have to offer on land with port-intensive itineraries:

·         Emerald Waterways has a unique indoor/outdoor pool with vitality lane for lap swimming that can be converted into a cinema in the evening. This is a great space to relax, to get exercise, or to host a special cocktail reception.

4.)    Small ship cruising is flexible for each traveller: just because the ships are smaller doesn’t mean the schedule or planning is more rigid. In fact, small ship cruising lends itself to creating personalised trips for every type of traveller. There is something for everyone on a cruise, no matter the size of the ship:

·         Fitness fanatics and active travellers can get active and explore new destinations through hiking and biking excursions.  AmaWaterways carries 25 bicycles on board for travellers hoping to take a guided bike tour through a port town or for exploring independently. On board their AmaLyra ship, the cruise line is currently offering a wellness programme that includes yoga, running, cardio, circuit training, and health and relaxation focused discussion groups.


5.)    Small ship cruising takes travellers to off-the-beaten track destinations : it’s no secret that small ship cruising differs from travel on larger vessels, but small ships have points of differentiation that can make even the most skeptical cruise traveller fall in love. Small ships can navigate more narrow channels, offering a chance for cruisers to visit hidden gems unreachable by other means of sailing:

·         Many large ships travel through the Panama Canal, but small ships are able to offer the most intimate experience along the famed canal. Windstar Cruises offers wet landings and access to ports like Bahia Drake, Puerto Jimenez, Parida, and Bocas del Toro in Costa Rica and Panama so travellers can get an up close and personal experience.

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