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Small Ship Cruises (Show Transcript)
Hello again everybody! This is Scott from Extraordinary Adventures, and you're listening to the fourth episode of EA Radio. Today we're going to discuss...
Small Ship Cruises
But, before we begin.... did you notice the new intro music from Bensound.com? As a new program, we're still experimenting with the format. So, please, tell us. Do you like it? ...hate it? Email the show at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what YOU think.
So, small ship cruises. You're thinking they're still for your grandparents, right? Well, sometimes they are, but very often they're not. So let's get into it.
First, let's define "small ship." After all, small ships can vary from just a couple of dozen passengers to as much as hundreds of passengers. Some ships that carry a 1,000+ guests still consider themselves small.
The rough guidelines are like this...
Fairly obviously, the larger the small ship, the less applicable everything we're about to discuss becomes. There's a balance, and we're not about to tell you which category of small ship is right for you. Everyone is different, and everyone has different needs and wants. But, I have a crazy idea! How about calling a good travel planner like Extraordinary Adventures and asking them to help sort it all out?
Now, back to the categories. When you're thinking about them, which brands would you be thinking about. Well, for the small yachts, we're talking about Un-Cruise Adventures, Crystal Cruises, and Emerald Waterways. For the large yachts, think Windstar Cruises, Scenic, and Silversea. In the ultra-small ships category, you'll find Seabourn and Regent Seven Seas. And finally, in the small ship groups are lines like Viking Ocean Cruises and Oceania, among others.
But, it's really not just the size that matters in the case of small ship cruises. As Andrea Rotondo of Cruise Critic said in 2018, "Small ships distinguish themselves from mainstream cruise ships in more ways than just physical size, which allows them to sail into small harbors and shallow channels. Lower passenger counts make for easier embarkation and an absence of queues. No matter how small the ship, you can expect more inclusive fares, interesting and unusual ports of call, high-end amenities, excellent cuisine and wine, and polished, personal service.”
So, let's get further into that.
Small ships can cruise the world. They can sail to destinations which are unattainable by bigger ships. For instance, they can navigate narrower channels, offering a chance for cruisers to visit hidden gems unreachable by other means of sailing. So, in this case, size does matter, if you're looking for a cruise that's not just ordinary. If you're looking for the EXTRAordinary in cruise adventures, you may want to start thinking about small ship cruises.
Small ships offer unique experiences on board and on shore. Just because they're smaller, doesn’t mean they lack amenities, or entertainment. Plus, you'll get exceptional service on a small ship. The crew-to-traveler ratio is quite impressive, with some ships having a nearly one-on-one service ratio. Try to find that on a mega-ship!
And then comes price. Now, I don't want to get too far off track here, so for specific pricing, please give us a call and we can get you some quotes. But, you should know that, due to the inclusivity of the small ship experience, often times, the difference in price between these premium lines and the mass-market lines is a lot closer than you'd think.
Take Alaska, for example. Maybe the lead-in price from one of the major lines is $799 per person. But, you still have to pay for the flight, the excursions, the beverage package (if you like to drink alcohol), the dining package (if you like your meals to be a step above the mass-produced catering style of the typical main dining room), your port fees, your taxes, and your gratuities. When you're all done, this $799 can easily turn into a $6-7,000 vacation.
I mention Alaska because Alaska is where the premium lines can really outshine the mass-market lines. Excursions in Alaska are notoriously expensive. I mean, we're talking about a couple of hundred dollars per person per excursion in some cases. But, very often, the premium lines include their excursions in the price of their cruise. They also often include alcoholic beverages, gratuities, and even sometimes, the flights. Plus, their dining is always a cut above. You don't need "specialty dining" - it's ALL specialty dining! They don't nickel-and-dime you the way the big boys do. The price they advertise is often the price. Now, every line is different, but the concepts are generally the same - they are an inclusive experience.
To be fair pricewise, the big boys are often considerably cheaper in the Caribbean. Competition drives the prices down, but it also drives down quality. They all compete an quantity - more shows, more onboard activities, more bells and whistles, etc. It's fun, no doubt, and we ourselves enjoy a Caribbean cruise now and then. In fact, we'll be on Royal Caribbean's Harmony Of The Seas in December of this year. So, we're not totally knocking the mass-market experience here. We're just saying that when it comes to Alaska, the Mediterranean, South America, Asia, Europe, and other exotic destinations, the premium lines deserve another look.
Now, getting back to your "grandparents" concern, let me say something about the type of passengers who go on small ships. These are not your "the cruise ship is the destination" people. These are travelers. These are people who want to see our world, not from the balcony of their stateroom, but up close and in person. They're in search of authentic, immersive experiences. They are more concerned with the itinerary than they are with the amenities on board. They don't need Broadway shows or ice skating rinks. The don't want parades and belly flop competitions. But that's not to say that they don't want any onboard experiences. They do. They just want them to be in support of the itinerary, not a distraction from it. They want fine dining. They want exceptional service. They want evening entertainment. They want to dance and laugh and enjoy the hot tubs and swimming pools. But, that's not why they're there. They're there to get to travel destinations that can best be reached by small ships.
Who is this "they" we keep speaking about? One of the biggest groups of travelers who are seeking authentic experiences are millennials! These are not grandparents. Many are not even parents yet. These are young people who value the better things in life. They have a choice between hedonism and authenticity, and they're choosing authentic. In fact, at one point, Uniworld, a river cruise brand, specifically took aim at millennials who wanted more time in port. They even went so far as to limit the age of guests to 45 years old. They have since removed that age limit, but the message is clear. River cruises are not just for retirees anymore.
And what about crowds? A concern with large ships is the overcrowding - both onboard and in the ports. It's hard to be overcrowded when there are only a hundred people onboard with you. Imagine no lines at the elevator. Wow! What a concept! Or, imagine not getting herded with the masses on to huge busses. Imagine, actually having time to experience the ports because you're not being rushed back to the ship. The logistics of a large cruise ship must be a nightmare. I don't envy those crews. But, that doesn't exist on small ships. Things are far more laid back and relaxed. Excursions are often broken down even further into groups of a dozen. Going into a cafe with 12 people is possible. Going with several hundred? Not. Meeting locals with 12 people is intimate. Meeting the locals with hundreds of people is just not going to happen. So gaining access to places is a huge plus for small ships.
The bespoke, handcrafted, small cruise ship experience is indeed immersive and truly EXTRAordinary, and now you see some of why that is. We could prattle on all day about how much we love small ships, but at some point, this episode needs to end. So, if you're the kind of traveler who values cultures, history, architecture, art, music, food and meeting authentic people the world over, then you really ought to think about taking a small ship cruise. And hey, bring your grandparents, too! Why not!? Multigenerational travel is huge these days. After all, who doesn't love to travel?
Okay, that's the show for today. I hope you have a better appreciation now for small ship cruises. If you want to learn more, head over to our website at myextraordinaryadventures.com or give us a call at (352) 536-1581.
Until next time, this is Scott from Extraordinary Adventures thanking you for tuning in and reminding you to share this show on Facebook and Twitter, and please give us a thumbs up and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We strive to offer valuable information that everyone could benefit from. So, spread the word! And don't forget to email the show with your questions or travel stories. Time permitting, we will read them on the show and give you a big shout out.
We'll catch you on the next episode of EA Radio. Stay tuned... Bye everybody!