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Seven small-ship cruises to recommend

With small-ship cruising tipped to be a popular choice once cruising resumes, Abigail Healy rounds up options from ultra-luxury adventures to eco-conscious voyages


While cruising might be off the cards currently, agents can use the start of 2021 to prepare for future trends. Tipped for popularity when cruising resumes are small ships, defined as those carrying from 50 to 1,300 guests.

Scenic Group’s director of trade sales, Joseph Grimley, says: “Feedback from our network of agents shows a growing trend towards small-ship cruising, with a preference for fewer guests and more space onboard.”

Beyond the obvious appeal in a post-Covid-19 landscape, smaller ships are also more environmentally friendly, can access smaller ports that larger ships cannot and, as Anthony Daniels, general manager for Hurtigruten UK & EMEA, says, they “offer guests the opportunity to get up close to some of the most remote parts of the world”.


Here are some of the latest ships and itineraries for 2021 and beyond.

Sustainable sailing in the Med

Intrepid’s small-ship cruising programme focuses on sustainability with capacity for just 50 passengers.

Zina Bencheikh, managing director for Intrepid EMEA, says: “We have a no single-use plastic rule, and 90% of meals are from local producers. Our crew are all local and all the trips are carbon-offset.”

The operator currently sees most potential for short-haul cruises, with Croatia, Turkey and Greece selling well so far.

Two options for clients keen on some 2021 sunshine include eight-day sailings in Croatia and Turkey. Guests can explore Croatia’s medieval towns and small coves or, in Turkey, sail on a traditional gulet boat that drops anchor near Roman ruins and in secluded bays for swimming.


Book it: Cruising Croatia’s Central Coast sailing starts from £1,925pp and Cruising the Turkish Coast from Fethiye leads in at £2,425pp.

Adventuring from home

Accessing remote parts of the world in a responsible and sustainable way is Hurtigruten’s mantra, and new for May 2021 is a programme of sailings in Alaska that will take guests to lesser-explored parts of the US state.

For clients less keen to fly, the line’s first-ever ex-UK expedition departure will take place in March on the newly refurbished Maud, sailing around the British Isles, along the Norwegian coast and on to southern Scandinavia.

Adventurous clients who prioritise eco-credentials might look to Hurtigruten’s second hybrid ship, Fridtjof Nansen, which is set to embark on its first Antarctic season.


Book it: The 15-day Northern Lights and Fjords Expedition onboard Maud starts from £3,599pp.

Cruising in luxury

For high-end clients, look to Seabourn, in particular its new expedition ship Seabourn Venture, touted as “ultra-luxury”. Launching in December 2021 and carrying just 264 guests, Venture will feature two submarines, 24 Zodiac boats and a fleet of expedition kayaks.

Steve Smotrys, Seabourn’s vice-president of global sales, says: “There are a couple of things that are high on luxury travellers’ lists right now. First, they covet space and privacy when they travel, and secondly, they want
to feel safe.”

Between December 2021 and April 2022, the ship will sail a series of 12- to 14-day Norwegian winter voyages featuring outdoor activities such as skiing and snowboarding plus excursions in search of the northern lights.


Book it: The 12-day Norway & North Cape sailing starts from £8,999pp.

Freedom to roam 

Freedom to roam 

Space is a common theme for the luxury lines, with Peter Shanks, Silversea’s managing director UK & Ireland, asserting that getting closer to unique destinations and being surrounded by more space are “hallmarks of what real luxury travel stands for today”.

The line offers space in abundance and launched two new ships last year – Silver Moon and Silver Origin – with Silver Dawn set to launch this year.

Other developments include Silver Cloud and Silver Wind being specially positioned in Antarctica for the eclipse on 4 December 2021, as well as the line returning to Australia’s Kimberley Coast with Silver Explorer based in
the region for the first time.


Book it: The inaugural sailing of Silver Dawn from Barcelona to Lisbon on 9 November 2021 leads in at £4,680pp.

No flight required

No flight required

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is known for its broad choice of ex-UK cruises, and it is upping its game with two new ships – Bolette and Borealis, previously operated by Holland America Line.

Geoff Ridgeon, head of sales, says another benefit of smaller ships is being able to offer more personal service. “Having a smaller number of guests allows our crew to learn their names, their favourite drink, where they like to sit in the lounges.”

Bolette’s inaugural programme is predominantly based out of Dover, while Borealis will be sailing almost exclusively out of Liverpool. Both ships will begin with UK-based cruises before heading further afield.


Book it: Borealis’s 19-night Canada in the Fall cruise, departing Liverpool on 28 September 2022, starts from £2,999pp.

Shoring up customer confidence

Shoring up customer confidence

Ponant goes one step further in bolstering both safety and consumer confidence with impressive onboard medical facilities.

Herve Bellaiche, chief sales and marketing officer, says: “Our ships have been equipped with a complete and rapid solution for detecting Covid-19 in 20 minutes in confined areas and difficult-to-access environments.”

New for this year, Le Commandant-Charcot will be the first polar exploration ship operating on a hybrid electric/LNG (liquefied natural gas) system. It will explore remote destinations such as the North Pole, the Ross Sea, the Bellingshausen Sea and Peter I Island, and will take in the solar eclipse on 4 December 2021.


Book it: The 15-day Total eclipse in the Weddell Sea from 30 November to 14 December, 2021 leads in at £13,760pp.

Set their curiosity alight

Set their curiosity alight

Scenic Eclipse launched in 2019 after much anticipation. Referred to by Scenic as a “discovery yacht”, it features two helicopters and a submarine offering guests the chance to get an unusual perspective on the destinations visited.

Following a successful first season, new itineraries are planned for 2022/23.

Lisa Bolton, general manager of product, says: “Our new programme sets the benchmark again, from new itineraries taking guests across the Antarctic Circle to our first-ever itineraries to Japan and the Russian Arctic.”

Its Fire & Ocean: Russia’s Kamchatka & The Kurils voyage could be a good suggestion for the well-travelled client keen for a new adventure. It takes in one of the world’s most active plate boundaries, the Pacific Ring of Fire.


Book it: The 13-day Fire & Ocean itinerary starts from £12,595pp.

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