It seems like cruise vacations are getting even more popular. The old industry refrain use to claim that cruises were for the “newly wed, the over-fed, and the nearly dead”—but now that millennials are discovering the pleasures of cruising, travel agencies and travel sites are reporting that the number of booked cruise vacations is increasing year after year.
In response to the growing number of passengers aboard their ships, cruise lines are responding by building ever-larger ships. Ten years ago a 2,000 passenger was considered large—today, cruise ships carry as many as 6,000 passengers, and there are plans to build even larger ships to carry more passengers.
But consider the flip side to this situation—what happens when these mega-cruise ships deliver thousands of passengers into a port of call on the same day? The New York Times recently examined the impact of exactly this kind of situation. In Venice, Italy, the rapidly dwindling population of Venetian residents fear their beloved floating city is becoming “Disneyland by the Sea”, as thousands of seaborne tourists flood ashore each day.
These large cruise lines provide great vacation value, which is why they’re so popular—but they’re not for everybody. If you’re looking for a more intimate, personalized cruise experience, these cruises can deliver you to some of the most spectacular scenery on earth, in relatively uncrowded peace and quiet. Let’s take a look at some of the “small cruise” experiences out there waiting for you.
Ultimate, Intimate Alaska
Cruising in Alaska delivers some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. Sure, the big cruise ships go there, but their size limits where they can go, leaving you with a lot of Alaska unseen. A smaller ship is able to slip into the inlets and waterways that show Alaska at its most untamed. You can get up close and personal with icebergs, and get close enough to wildlife to get eye to eye. There are several cruise lines that only sail small ships—think no more than 88 passengers—which mean you’re sharing a singular vacation experience with a small, select group of travelers. Traveling aboard a smaller cruise ship really is the only way to truly experience Alaska nature.
Norwegian Adventure Cruising
On the other end of the cruising spectrum lies a more elemental cruise experience—one that strips away the distracting luxuries so that Mother Nature is front and center. Ever thought about viewing the spectacular Northern Lights from aboard a functioning cargo ship? You can in Norway, where you’ll find simple but comfortable furnishings, low passenger counts (430-1,000),and none of the distractions found aboard the large cruise lines, like casinos, fancy dining, or onboard shows. Instead, you are immersed in the splendor of the Norwegian coastline—and since you’re aboard a smaller ship, you have a rare opportunity to explore the real Norway, the out-of-the-way places the mega-cruisers can’t fit.
Best of all, the streamlined aspect of the cruise really puts the focus on seeing the Northern Lights in all their glory. There’s really no way to describe the feeling when these mysterious bands of light start dancing over your head. And if you’re worried that the Northern Lights won’t show up during your cruise, don’t—some cruise lines offer a guarantee that if you don’t see the Lights on your cruise, you can come back and cruise with them for free!
What’s the best destination for you? Ideally all of them, but as the saying goes, the longest journey begins with a single step—and that first step is research! Think about—and discuss with your travel companions—what is the ideal destination, and what level of comfort are you comfortable with? Once you identify these parameters, hop online to research options, or reach out to your local cruise travel expert for help. They’ll have the experience and insights you need to confidently choose your cruise.