Let’s be honest, cruising isn't for everyone. If all-you-can-eat buffets, all-you-can-drink cocktails, and camera-wielding tourists aren't your thing, boutique cruises have something different to offer with small ships allowing access to amazing wildlife, kayaking, diving stops, and genuine cultural experiences. Here are seven of the coolest boutique cruises to help convince you to give cruising a chance.
Nile in Style
The intimate Flaneuse du Nil has only seven cabins and was designed to resemble the same sailing boats used by the ancient Egyptians during the time of the pharaohs. This beautiful ship meanders through the waters of the ‘sacred river’ for five days, stopping at the most archaeologically interesting sites along the way. You will see the temple of Edfu and El Kab, the capital of ancient Egypt, as well as getting to witness the busy waterfront lives of modern day Egyptians.
The Peruvian Amazon
Aqua Expeditions prides itself in accessing some of the most remote areas of the world with their small ships. Set sail in the opposite direction to the crowds and discover the Mekong river, the Galapagos Islands, or Indonesian isles. It is the Aria Amazon that really captures our imagination though. An architecturally designed ship with floor to ceiling glass windows, it will take you into the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve in Peru, only accessible by boat and home to the birthplace of the Amazon. Cruise through the black waters, looking out for rare pink dolphins before stopping to take walks through the rainforest with local naturalists who can point out sloths, toucans, and macaws.
Antarctica and the Arctic
This is about as far from the typical lounging, eating and drinking cruise as you can get. Quark expeditions only travel to Antarctica and the Arctic and their ships are proper expedition boats carrying no more than 200 people. You will still be well catered for but the emphasis here is accessing remote and little inhabited areas at the extreme ends of our earth. Want to see a polar bear? Or go on a penguin safari? It’s all possible here, as well as snowshoeing, kayaking, and even swimming for the brave. They are also committed to environmentally-responsible tourism and follow strict regulations to leave the polar regions unspoiled.
The Zambezi Queen
If you’ve ever been on a safari you’ll know that animals always head to water. So how about traveling through the African Savannah on a luxury river cruise where you will always have access to the water's edge? You could wake up to elephants having a morning bath or antelopes passing by as you leisurely travel down the Chobe River in Namibia. Guides can take you out on small boats to get closer to bird and animal life, or drop in to traditional villages before ending the day with an open air BBQ onboard.
National Geographic Cruises
Linblad is another one for serious explorers and wildlife enthusiasts. These expeditions to places like Alaska and the Galapagos come with National Geographic naturalists, researchers, and photographers onboard so you can really feel like David Attenborough. Packed with features like underwater cameras, video microscopes and glass-bottomed boats you can get as close as possible to some of the rarest and most beautiful wildlife on earth. In Alaska you’ll be taken to remote inlets where orcas come to hunt, get the chance to see First Nations performances, and witness the massive scale of Glacier Bay National Park.
LGBTQ+ River Cruises
Uniworld is a boutique cruise line offering luxury trips along the most fascinating rivers in Europe. From the Danube to the Douro you can discover bustling cities and undiscovered gems with only 120 other people on board. One such trip takes in the south west wine region of Bordeaux, and is part of ‘Out on the Rivers’ hosted by gay and lesbian veteran travelers. There is special programming, events and parties and all LGBTQ+ travelers, friends, family, and allies are welcome aboard.
Simply the best way to see these unique islands is by living aboard a cruise ship. If you’ve already made it to the middle of the Pacific Ocean it’s worth paying extra to do a multiple-day trip here and see the amazing animals of the Galapagos up close. No ship is allowed more than 100 people aboard due to the strict National Park’s regulations and it is best to go with a smaller boat to gain the best access. Ecoventura’s MY/Letty is a comfortable 20-passenger boat with two knowledgeable guides onboard and regular snorkeling and kayaking stops for a safari-style wildlife adventure.
We hope we’ve given you some trips to add to your travel bucket lists! Whilst boutique cruising is not the most budget way to travel, you will remember these experiences forever and won’t have to queue up in a buffet line once.