Find your travel niche in small-ship cruising |

Find your travel niche in small-ship cruising

Georgia Huff
CruiseScape Travel

If you are one of the growing number of Americans who is looking for a new cruise experience, you may be interested in “niche” cruising.

The Niche Cruise Marketing Alliance is a collection of 13 different cruise lines that is hoping to provide the cruise that is “best fitted” for you. You can experience cruising on a sternwheeler, clipper ship, barge or small- to medium-sized cruise ship.

There are many advantages to cruising on these ships. First and foremost, small-ship cruising seeks to provide up-close travel that focuses on destination, scenery, wildlife, natural history and culture, rather than the focus being on the ship and its restaurants, spa features, entertainment and amenities.

Smaller ships offer more versatility. Its size allows it to offer unique itineraries and shore excursions, as it can maneuver into smaller ports and cruise remote secluded locales.

Many carry inflatable watercraft or kayaks that take you to where the action is. In many cases, it allows you to be a participant rather than just a visitor.

Smaller ships many times offer themed cruises, so you are apt to have passengers who share similar interests. Also passengers can cruise to less-traveled places giving them a more unique and interesting cruise.

Lastly, the ships usually offer all-outside staterooms, casual dining at a single seating and cozy lounges and libraries. Prices might be a bit higher but the experience is worth the extra cost.

The following cruise lines are samples of “niche” cruising:

American West Steamboat Co.

If you are interested in returning to those “days gone by,” you can experience cruising Alaska or the Pacific Northwest on an authentic 360-foot, 223-passenger sternwheeler, Empress of the North, or 230-foot, 142-passenger Queen of the West.

Seven- and 11 night Alaskan itineraries aboard the Empress of the North are available from May until September and leave from Juneau or Seattle. If you are interested in Columbia River itineraries, the sailings from Portland are from February to May and September to December.

Enjoy elegant period décor, casual ambiance, informal dining with open seating, included shore excursions and the expertise of naturalists and historians.

Cruise West

Cruise West’s “up-close, casual and personal” cruises are perfect for the discriminating cruiser who is looking for a new destination and cruise experience.

The company that pioneered in Alaskan exploration is now also specializing in cruises to British Columbia, the Columbia and Snake rivers, California wine country, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, Costa Rica and Panama, the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Japan, South Pacific and coming in 2007, China and Vietnam.

Experience all of the usual small ship amenities and never have to tip. Tipping is never expected or required for onboard or land-based services.

Norwegian Coastal Voyage

If you are interested in taking “The World’s Most Beautiful Voyage,” Norwegian Coastal Voyage has 34 ports of call between Bergen and Kirkenes, the port above the Arctic Circle.

While the fleet accommodates the most discerning traveler, it still carries mail, freight and cargo, providing a lifeline along the west coast of Norway.

Guests will have the opportunity to meet people from all around the world and at the same time experience the beautiful sights of spectacular fjords, quaint fishing villages, and the land of the Midnight Sun and Northern Lights. In addition, they also offer cruises to Antarctica and the Chilean Fjords.

River Barge Excursion Lines

Now you don’t have to fly to France to experience a barge excursion.

The R/B River Explorer consists of three vessels, the LaSalle, the DeSoto and the Miss Nari, the only 3,000 horsepower towboat in the United States. All the four- and 10-day excursions to seven regions of the U.S. focus on the rivers and how they shaped our country into big cities and little villages.

Enjoy a relaxing casual cruise with home-cooked meals, local entertainment and a price that includes all taxes, tips, port charges and scheduled shore excursions.

Star Clippers

For truly discriminating clients who are looking for a very unique cruise, Star Clipper’s ship, the Royal Clipper is the perfect answer. It is the largest full-rigged sailing ship (42 sails) accommodating 227 passengers, and has three swimming pools, a three-deck atrium and an underwater viewing lounge.

Their three ships offer seven-, 10-, 11- and 14-night cruises to Caribbean, French and Italian Rivieras, Italy, Sicily, Croatia, the Greek Isles and Turkey. With no rigid schedule, guests can enjoy casual elegance and are free to dine when and with whomever they choose.

It sounds like a perfect vacation to me.

For information, e-mail, or call CruiseScape at 782-2520.