If I was to ‘label’ myself as any particular type of traveller, I would probably use the words intrepid, active, interested, spontaneous, but I can’t say I would have ever had used the word “cruiser”. Oh, there was that time that a group of of us went sailing around the Whitsundays on one of the most memorable trips of my life, but I am not sure that counts as “cruising”, even though we didn’t have the sails up all that often (let’s be honest).
When I thought of ocean cruising, all I could envisage were hundreds (or thousands) of people on a massive ship, lining up at those tired bain maries for dinner, or feeling obliged to go on organised activities with hundreds of others, jostling to get a glimpse of what they are trying to see. No thanks.
But then filming for Places We Go recently, I actually discovered my “inner cruiser” on board a small ship. I didn’t even really know there were that many variations!
Now, I must admit, I have been surprised before, having been on a river cruise in Asia, but still didn’t think ‘ocean cruising’ would be so intimate or personal.
Welcome to ‘small ship’ cruising. Think ‘boutique’ – Now we’re talking.
Stepping on board my recent adventure, following the Turkish coastline south onto the Greek Islands, I was delighted to find our entire passenger group of around 100 or so mingling in the lounge. I only knew my cameraman Kevin and our assistant Michael, but within seconds I found myself drinking champagne with a brilliant group of people from all over Australia.
After we toasted our adventure, I made my way to the top deck for a quiet moment (alone) to farewell the shores of Istanbul and came face to face with those massive ships.
They were so enormous, we were dwarfed by them. Luckily we didn’t stay next to them for long… for the next week, it felt like we had the Aegean Sea to ourselves, in our beautiful, shiny ‘small-ship’.
Which leads me to the top 5 things I love about small ship cruising.
- The stability of the ship.
Let’s face it, put a small ship in the ocean, surely it’s going to be thrown around a little. But I was pleasantly surprised. Even after our first night, where we woke to blustery conditions after experiencing a rare cold snap, our ship felt completely stable.
All I remember is being rocked to sleep like a baby in a cradle. In fact not once on our trip do I ever remember having to hold onto the railings from the wrath of the ocean (even though I do love a good storm!).
- Small ships can dock in ports where the larger ships simply cannot.
In fact our ship went to all sorts of places larger ships cannot. We sat comfortably alongside tiny yachts and brightly coloured fishing boats that oozed the kind of charm you would expect in the Mediterranean.
I will never forget sitting up on the top deck enjoying breakfast as our Captain, Henrick masterfully navigated us into the port of the tiny picturesque Greek island of Kastellorizo. Home to just a couple of hundred locals, we simply stepped off the ship onto the main street.
I wandered along the sandstone path chatting to a group of old fishermen playing cards and enjoying their morning coffee. What a life. This is the kind of travel I love.
- The number of people on board
As I am sure most travellers know, it doesn’t take long to make friends when you’re away. It’s almost like everything is fast tracked; whether you’re on a group tour, travelling alone, or on a ship, there’s something unique about being away. Everything is intensified.
But with small ship cruising with only one hundred or so fellow passengers (as opposed to a large one with up to two thousand!) you very quickly get to know most people.
- The food! Dinner parties every night.
Okay, so I was on a ‘luxury’ small ship, and the food was particularly good (ok – exceptional – and yes I ate way too much).
But one of my favorite parts of my small ship cruising experience was that every night was like a dinner party. The longer we were on board, the more people I’d met. So each night, we’d have drinks in the bar and de-brief our day. Then we’d move downstairs and enjoy a great glass of red and a delicious dinner. By about third day, I realised I probably didn’t need to eat so much, so I started reigning it in a little.
- On-shore excursions
Once again it comes down to the size of our group.
We were all broken into small groups, each with a guide. It made for a personal experience, and one where you can ask questions as you’re moving onto the next site.
I really loved these excursions, especially travelling through a place like Europe where the history is so rich. Every day felt like a new chapter in the over story of the area we were exploring.
I always hate when trips come to an end. After being swept away by the magic of so many mesmerising sunrises and sunsets on the back deck, (mixed with a gin and tonic and great conversation) I felt like it all came to a halt too soon.
As people were disembarking, I found myself swapping emails and phone numbers, promising to keep in touch.
While I have stayed in contact with some, there are many others that remain a wonderful memory of the time I “cruised”. The time where we shared so many wonderful moments, like swimming in the Blue Cave in Kastellorizo (Bob), and enjoyed a brilliant night out on the island of Rhodes (Hugh) and simply watching the world go by from aboard our small ship… Until next time.
Jen travelled onboard the small ship adventure with APT.
What has your experience been with cruising? Are you a cruiser or not? Tell us in the comments