If you are someone who likes ocean cruises, we would love to introduce you to the world of small ship cruising. Small ship cruise lines typically offer up to 50 percent more space per person than their larger counterparts. Service levels are significantly higher with one-to-one service levels or nearly double the crew per passenger. But perhaps the biggest draw for travelers considering a small ship cruise: adventure. Small ships can navigate easier into remote harbors in coveted destinations that larger cruise ships can't get near. Here are some of our favorite destinations available only on a small ship cruise.
Mayreau Island, Caribbean - Eastern Caribbean and Grenadines
Mayreau is the smallest inhabited island of the Grenadines. It has a surface area of only 1.5 square miles and a small population of about 250. It is an isolated community accessible only by boat, and everyone lives in the village on the island's highest hill, Station Hill. The charming little church at the top of the hill provides spectacular views over the islands. On a clear day, one can see both Grenada and St. Vincent, showcasing the vibrant colors of the reefs and waters around the Tobago Cays. Its tiny population and lack of commercial development are precisely what makes Mayreau so wonderful.
A private island is the epitome of luxury, and there is no end to the indulgences on Paul Gauguin Cruises' private island paradise. Located just off the French Polynesia island of Taha'a, Moto Mahana offers a stunning view of its lush green hills rising from the sea. Go for a swim in the warm waters. Snorkel with colorful tropical fish among the green and purple blooms of coral. Or paddle out farther in one of the kayaks that have been brought to shore from The Gauguin's watersports marina. Indulge in an overwater massage or simply lounge on the beach with a chilled beverage from the floating bar in this private paradise.
Porquerolles, Iles d'Hyeres, France - Corsica and the French Riviera
The Iles d'Hyeres (aka The golden isles) have been justly described as the jewel of the French Mediterranean. With an almost sub-tropical climate, the islands are sheltered from the worst of the mistral winds, and development has been carefully controlled to preserve the unique character of the whole archipelago. Crescent-shaped Porquerolles is the largest of the islands. On the southern side, the coast is made up of steep cliffs and secluded creeks only accessible to hikers, and on the northern side, you will find fine sand beaches and clear turquoise waters. Much of the island is now part of a national park and nature conservation area, so the island is beautiful, calm, and unspoiled.
Lunga, Treshnish Isles, Scotland - Scotland Cruise: Stafa, Iona & Ross of Mull
The island of Lunga is the largest of Scotland's Treshnish Isles. No longer inhabited by humans, Lunga is now a site of Special Scientific Interest and a special protection area for the conservation of wild birds. Its residents include nearly 50 species of breeding seabirds, including kittiwakes, Manx shearwaters, guillemots, razorbills, storm petrels, and the ever-popular puffins. Approximately 2,000 pairs of puffins breed on Lunga, and these comical birds are a delight to watch and not shy about visitors, allowing people to approach within a few feet of them.
Iceland has 17 ports, but most aren't big enough for large cruise ships to dock. While most cruises are limited to the three largest ports, the majority of this beautiful and fascinating destination can be explored on a small ship cruise. Ísafjörður and Húsavík are two Icelandic towns only accessible on a small ship cruise.
Ísafjörður is a small fishing town located in the northwest of Iceland. It is surrounded by mountains and is known for its stunning natural beauty. The town has a rich history, and you can explore its many museums and galleries to learn more about its culture and traditions. The oldest house still standing in Iceland, built in 1734, is located in Ísafjörður and is now part of the local folk museum. A number of natural sites are also easily accessible from Ísafjörður, including the birdwatching cliffs at Latrabjarg, the waterfalls of Dynjandi, red and gold sand beaches of Raudasandur and Drangajokull, the only glacier in Iceland that is expanding rather than shrinking.
Húsavík is the oldest settlement in Iceland. The town is known for its whale-watching tours and is often called the Whale Capital of Iceland. Twenty-three species of whales, including the largest animal on the planet, the Blue Whale, can be found in or around the bay. The town is also home to a unique whale museum that is definitely worth a visit.
These are just a few off the beaten path ports you may want to consider on your next small ship ocean cruise. Each one offers a unique and unforgettable experience that you won't find in the more popular ports. So, pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an adventure you'll never forget!
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