The start of 2014 means a whole new year of travel to look forward to. Below I've picked my favorite new-for-2014 itineraries, from Bali and the Mekong River to Baja and Alaska, explaining why they're high on my list. Where will 2014 take you?
Why I like it: The islands of Bali and Southern Indonesia are tailor-made for small ship cruising. Think calm waters, postcard perfect beaches, stunning coral reef, abundant wildlife, fascinating history and authentic cultural interactions. Heretofore Bali has been included in longer and inevitably quite expensive itineraries. Now two distinctive small (17 to 26 guests) sailing ships will conduct year-round weekly departures, at a fraction of the cost of other Bali cruises, exploring Bali, Lombok, Komodo and lesser-known islands with an experienced multinational team of experienced professionals. Rates are from $2,380 per person, double.
Why I like it: Launching in September 2014 the Aqua Mekong follows in the footsteps of Aqua Amazon Cruises, offering luxury small ship cruises exploring Cambodia and Vietnam. We at AdventureSmith expect the Aqua Mekong to be the finest small ship in this region with spacious accommodations, distinct cuisine, top guides and a unique itinerary. While the Mekong has no shortage of luxury small ships, none offers the flexible 4, 5 or 8-day itineraries and intimacy of this 40-guest ship whose small size allows close up experiences when visiting a remote fishing village, flooded forest or Buddhist monastery. Rates are from $3,000 per person double.
Why I like it: This itinerary begins in Herradura, Costa Rica, skirting the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Panama before including a Panama Canal transit (2014 is the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal). The ship visits Panama’s San Blas Islands before concluding in the colonial city of Cartagena, Colombia. The 72-guest Variety Voyager is a sleek, brand-new mega yacht with modern furnishings, large cabins and plenty of deck space. This trip starts at only $2,590 per person, double, making it the best value in Central America small ship cruises.
Why I like it: The new 40-guest Anakonda is the only luxury small ship cruising Ecuador’s Amazon region, heretofore explored from popular jungle lodges. The Anakonda offers numerous advantages including air conditioning, upscale accommodations, delicious cuisine and the ability to transit hundreds of miles exploring a variety of habitats and reserves. This experience can be easily combined with a Galapagos cruise. Rates are from $1,600 per person double.
Why I like it: Offering a softer alternative to Alaska adventure cruises, the itinerary focuses on popular ports and Alaskan history, filling a much needed niche for travelers interested in a more traditional Alaskan cruise aboard a small ship. The fully refurbished S.S. Legacy has the feel of an historic steamer and segues guests into the turn-of-century ambiance of Juneau, Skagway and Haines. Costumed crew bring history to life on board while included shore excursions immerse guests in culture and history. Glacier Bay National Park’s natural wonders, whale watching in Icy Strait and the wildlife of Frederick Sound combine with urban adventures. Rates are from $5,195 per person double.
Why I like it: The Olympic Wilderness and San Juan Islands cruise offers wilderness adventure cruising accessible from Seattle, with hiking, kayaking whale watching and wildlife viewing with top guides in Olympic National Park and the San Juan Islands. This 8-day cruise is from $1595 per person.
Why I like it: Many years have passed since a small ship visited the northern reaches of John Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez known as the Galapagos of Mexico for its abundant wildlife and numerous endemic species on individual islands. Guests walk among thousands of nesting birds, visit Whales Channel in search of numerous species, snorkel with sea lions and hike beautiful desert landscapes. Rates are from $2,495 per person double.
Why I like it: As the foremost Galapagos small ship cruise experts we have seen a number of new catamarans entering the Galapagos cruise market recently. The 16-guest Ocean Spray is one of the newest ships here and stands out as the only catamaran to offer private balconies in all her cabins that are considerably larger than other ships of her size with an option for a king size bed. Two 8 day/7 night itineraries are offered weekly year-round. From $5,880 per person.
Why I like it: Of all the small ship cruises in the Adriatic, this cruise offers the most comprehensive exploration of history and culture. On-board experts, included shore excursions and off-vessel activities make this more like a private cruise than a group tour. This stretch of the Dalmatian Coast has escaped the mass tourism common in other parts of the Mediterranean and yet the medieval towns, monuments and promenades are among the most beautiful in all of Europe. The 100-guest Corinthian explores well established highlights but also visits the hidden jewels off the radar of most other cruises. Rates are from $4,890 per person double.
For more 2014 small ship cruise favorites, contact the experts at our office: AdventureSmith Explorations 1-877-620-2875.