If you thought COVID-19 would impact the cruise industry, think again. A recent survey by the Cruise Lines International Association found 50 percent of cruisers plan to cruise in 2021, and some ships will launch this summer.
Despite the high demand, other travelers are leery to get on a mega ship. If you fall into the second camp, then a luxury small yacht cruise ship might ease you back to the high seas.
As luxury travelers continue to look for personalized experience, it’s no surprise that high-end cruise lines are sizing down to provide top service, and cruise to places that giant ships can’t access.
These new small yacht cruise ships blend the amenities of a standard cruise with the VIP experience of chartering your own yacht to make for a new way to cruise.
It’s no surprise that high-end cruise lines are sizing down to provide top service, and cruise to places that giant ships can’t access.
On July 17th, Crystal Cruises debuts its new Expedition Cruise division with the launch of Crystal Endeavor. It will be the first luxury expedition yacht cruising in the Arctic and Northern Europe, and the fastest, most spacious expedition ship in the industry. Costing more than half a billion dollars to build, the 200 passengers onboard are in for a treat.
The ship features 100 suites including a nearly 1,900 sq. ft. owner’s suite. Every suite comes with private butler service and features king sized beds, walk-in closets, spa-like bathrooms and heated storage for drying expedition gear. Private verandas are perfect for viewing the scenery with a glass of bubbles in hand.
The Endeavor may be built for expeditions, but creature comforts certainly aren’t spared. The small yacht cruise ships features eight different dining experiences including Crystal’s renowned specialty restaurants Prego and Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Oenophiles can try the best bottles in the Vintage Room, and cigar aficionados will enjoy the Connoisseur Club cigar lounge.
After a day of adventures, the Endeavor offers a full-service spa and two-story Solarium. Relax in the hot tub and enjoy panoramic views of the night sky.
Endeavor launches with an itinerary exploring Iceland. On every sailing expedition guides and guest experts will offer insights into the local environments, landmarks and traditions. Depending on the itinerary, the expedition team onboard will include biologists, marine biologists, naturalists, historians, ornithologists, geologist, ecologists and others.
Guests on the small yacht cruise ships will have access to an array of marine toys when in port including zodiacs, kayaks, snorkel equipment, and a six-guest submersible allowing for deep-water explorations up to 980 feet in select areas of the world, depending on the itinerary.
Crystal is requiring all guests to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to boarding and to board with the results of a negative COVID test. Social distancing and a “nimble” mask policy are in force.
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When it launches in January, 2022, Emerald Azzurra ushers in the era of super yacht cruises for Emerald Cruises, one of the top players in the river cruise market.
Azzurra will sail in the Mediterranean, Agean and Red Seas next year, and in 2023 will add the Black Sea to the mix.
“Emerald Azzurra will carry just 100 guests, and the small yacht cruise ships has been custom designed to sail into the heart of small ports and harbors, just like our Star-Ships on the rivers,” said David Winterton, Global Brand Director for Emerald. “This allows our guests to walk off the yacht and straight into the heart of each port—no long bus rides or waiting in line to disembark. “
The ship will have three restaurants, wellness center, spa and a marina platform to allow easy access for swimming, snorkeling or paddle boarding.
Standard shore excursions are included. Deluxe and active adventures are also available. Currently, Emerald Cruises does not require COVID vaccination, but all passengers will be tested before boarding. Socially distance dining and excursions will be in place.
The nine-stateroom yacht is the ultimate small yacht cruise ship and is the first water-based member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world portfolio.
Kontiki Expeditions launches this summer with the M/S Kontiki Wayra. The nine-stateroom yacht is the ultimate small yacht cruise ship and is the first water-based member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the world portfolio.
Kontiki was founded to focus on both immersive and conscious luxury travel. The company gives back to the local community in a myriad of ways including helping build schools and health centers, and opening soccer schools with the sponsorship of Fundacion Real Madrid.
Ecuadorian designer Soledad Calderon created the staterooms with an eye towards using organic and sustainable materials and keeping things light and airy. There are hardwood teak floors, sustainable linens and rugs, and art from local artists. Panoramic windows bring the outside in. Rooms also feature small touches like bamboo accessories, candles, and books in multiple languages.
In 2021 the Kontiki Wayra will sail two coastal itineraries in Ecuador showcasing the country’s beautiful coast, warm people, UNESCO historical sights, charming towns and diverse wild and plant life. Guests can expect to leisurely float by the country’s beloved blue-footed boobies along with sea lions and howler monkeys.
Onboard programs on the small yacht cruise ship are led by 10 crew members and two local experts committed to sustainability and conscious travel. Onboard, wellness professionals, naturalist guides and a local chef add to the distinctive experience. The dining experience focuses on products sourced from local farms and fisherman and all snacks, coffee and tea onboard are organic and locally sourced.
While vaccination is not required yet, a negative PCR test 72 hours before boarding is, as well as an antigen test given by Kontiki at boarding. Kontiki anticipates that its crew will be fully vaccinated by September.
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Seabourn Cruises helped launch the idea of small-ship cruising and is beginning service after the COVID grounding with weeklong sailings on the Seabourn Ovation this July in Greece.
With room for 600 passengers, the Ovation is the biggest of our favorite small yacht cruises, but with that additional size, comes some nice perks including complementary premium wine and spirits at any time of day, all oceanfront suites with private verandas, and an ultra-luxury vessel designed by renowned designer Adam D. Tihany.
Seabourn has partnered with icons in their respective fields to create top-notch onboard offerings.
Renowned Chef Thomas Keller helms the culinary program and the ship’s The Grill by Thomas Keller is its signature restaurant featuring classic gourmet dishes of the 1950s and 1960s. Six other dining options, including an alfresco patio restaurant ensure that foodies are never bored with the offerings.
Working with Dr. Andrew Weil, Seabourn puts wellness at the forefront on the small yacht cruise ship with certified wellness, yoga and meditation practitioners onboard. The spa features all the classic treatments, along with more unique services like crystal sound therapy.
Seabourn offers some of the best entertainment on the high seas with a partnership with Sir Tim Rice, the acclaimed musical lyricist of Broadway and the West End. Its Seabourn Conversations program brings guest speakers from daring explorers to heralded chefs, learned scholars and celebrated performers to share their stories throughout the journey.
A huge variety of shore excursions are offered on each sailing, offering not only standard sightseeing options, but also programs geared toward adventure, cultural, gourmet and wellness travelers.
Seabourn requires all guests on the small yacht cruise ship to be fully vaccinated for COVID 14 days before boarding. Facemasks, distancing and reduced capacity will be in force.
If you love the idea of cruising, but COVID has left you feeling skittish about sharing your vacation with thousands of strangers, a luxury small yacht cruise is your best bet to get sailing again in 2021.