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Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 2:23 pm
by TresBelle65
I'm interested in the idea of cruising in order to see interesting parts of the world, perhaps those parts that are not otherwise easy to travel to....

I'm not much interested in cruises that center around: eating (and more eating!), cheesy entertainment, children running around (I love them otherwise lol) glittery evening wear and drinking games.

I am more interested in cruises that focus on interesting, not heavily-touristed ports, educational information about the ports, meeting interesting people and interesting excursions.

Cost is always key, but not the most important factor in choosing a cruise. Interesting itinerary and conversing with fellow passengers are more important.

Would appreciate any suggestions!

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 2:28 pm
by Pajamas
Research cargo ship cruises. Friends did one down along the east coast of South America and really enjoyed it. Pretty much the opposite of the typical cruise. Spent a lot of time with the crew and got a lot of reading done.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 2:33 pm
by ResearchMed
TresBelle65 wrote: Tue May 01, 2018 2:23 pm I'm interested in the idea of cruising in order to see interesting parts of the world, perhaps those parts that are not otherwise easy to travel to....

I'm not much interested in cruises that center around: eating (and more eating!), cheesy entertainment, children running around (I love them otherwise lol) glittery evening wear and drinking games.

I am more interested in cruises that focus on interesting, not heavily-touristed ports, educational information about the ports, meeting interesting people and interesting excursions.

Cost is always key, but not the most important factor in choosing a cruise. Interesting itinerary and conversing with fellow passengers are more important.

Would appreciate any suggestions!
Start browsing through www.CruiseCritic.com

Note the "table of contents" for the Forum part, and just "browse".

You can even ask this particular question in one of the relevant "sub-forum" sections, such as "First Time Cruise Questions", to get some specific starting points.

We like both types.

We just returned last month from a cruise all the way up the Norwegian Coast, up and over the top to the Russian Border, and then back again. We went at a time that there would be a good chance to see the Northern Lights, and there was an "Astronomy Package", with a professional astronomer, who was one of the most enthusiastic lecturers we've ever met.
The cruise line (Hurtigruten) is actually a "ferry" that really provides transportation and supplies (including autos) to little towns all along the Norwegian Coast (~top 2/3, actually). Some years ago, they realized there were others who wanted to go along, and they slowly added some cabins, and then suites.
But there is zero "entertainment" except some special lectures (no casinos either!).
And although there are bars, there certainly wasn't a "party ship" feel in any way (except for a special celebration when it crosses the Arctic Circle northbound).

They now also run Antarctic Cruises, as do National Geographic, Smithsonian, and some regular cruise lines, including some very upscale lines.

There are lots of "expedition" type cruises on quite a few lines, and then there are the "uncruises", smaller ships with special activities, etc.

You should find something that "fits".
Huge range of prices, too.

Enjoy!

RM

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 3:38 pm
by Grasshopper
For small ship active cruising I like UnCruise Adventures. snorkeling kayaking hiking, rarely go to ports mostly small islands.

https://www.uncruise.com/destinations

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 3:56 pm
by Smorgasbord
I did a three day trip down the Yangtze before the Three Gorges dam was operational. The only westerners on the boat were myself and another guy; it was pretty neat and definitely not the standard Caribbean Cruise. I also did a two week cruise to Antarctica on a Quark boat. I believe there were 80-100 passengers with the youngest being in their early 20s.

I haven't done it, but one I've been considering is a cruise down (or up) the Nile.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 4:08 pm
by delamer
Cruises to Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. are different than those to the Caribbean, even if you are literally on the same ship (which we have been).

Caribbean cruises are more about relaxing and enjoyimg the weather and beaches. Cruises to historic or cultural areas in other continents are a different animal — about education and new experiences.

A cruise that goes to St. Petersburg has a different atmosphere than one that goes to Grand Cayman.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 pm
by ResearchMed
delamer wrote: Tue May 01, 2018 4:08 pm Cruises to Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. are different than those to the Caribbean, even if you are literally on the same ship (which we have been).

Caribbean cruises are more about relaxing and enjoyimg the weather and beaches. Cruises to historic or cultural areas in other continents are a different animal — about education and new experiences.

A cruise that goes to St. Petersburg has a different atmosphere than one that goes to Grand Cayman.
Right.

And even different ships, from different cruise lines, cruising in the same area, could have very different excursions and onboard activities/lectures, and also *very* different vibes, in part reflecting different passenger mix.
The passenger mix would likely be very different, in general ages and interests, etc.

RM

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 4:29 pm
by snackdog
If you are not too price sensitive, the cruises the National Geographic Society does are simply top notch. Small boats and great lectures and excursions.

If you are older, you may also like the the Elderhostel cruises although they are heavy on noisy, white-haired Americans from the heartland.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 6:15 pm
by quantAndHold
Grasshopper wrote: Tue May 01, 2018 3:38 pm For small ship active cruising I like UnCruise Adventures. snorkeling kayaking hiking, rarely go to ports mostly small islands.

https://www.uncruise.com/destinations
This. Exactly. We don’t like cruising. We’ve taken UnCruise four times, and we would do it again in a heartbeat. Small ships that go places bigger ships can’t get to. Lots of naturalist led, small group outdoor activities. These guys are a class act all the way.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Tue May 01, 2018 6:51 pm
by obgraham
Take a look at Viking Ocean Cruises. True, food is a big item, but there are several alternative dining venue. No "Broadway Shows". No formal nights. Good talks. 1000 passengers, not 6000. No Bordello-like decor.

All the mainline cruise benefits without the glitzy rubbish.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 1:48 am
by Cruise
OP; others have mentioned some expedition-type ships, such as Quark and NG. Another option is the smaller luxury cruiselines, such as Seabourn and Silversea.

It really depends on your interest level. For example, I couldn't get my wife to consider Antarctica on an expedition ship, as she wanted a balance between the zodiac landings with expedition teams, but also having a fully-equipped fitness center and suburb F&B options. For us, the best Antarctica ship was the 450-passenger Seabourn Quest. For others, it is a smaller ship.

I second CruiseCritic as the resource for all things cruising.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 5:27 am
by Tamarind
I feel the same way about "floating city" cruises. Both my suggestions use different ships that change the experience:

Windjammer (in the Caribbean) or similar operations elsewhere use tallships. While the ships have engines, whenever possible they sail. Much smaller ships mean a limited number of passengers, so while you can still eat, drink, and relax, the vibe is quite different.

I second the cargo ship idea above. While not a formal cruise, I once hitched a ride across the North Sea (Oslo to London) on a container ship. Captain was a family friend. Got a good upclose look at how wild the open sea can be (makes a person feel tiny). Lots of reading and thinking time. Interesting to learn more about how the shipping industry that holds the modern economy together works on a micro level.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 6:30 am
by oldcomputerguy
obgraham wrote: Tue May 01, 2018 6:51 pm Take a look at Viking Ocean Cruises. True, food is a big item, but there are several alternative dining venue. No "Broadway Shows". No formal nights. Good talks. 1000 passengers, not 6000. No Bordello-like decor.

All the mainline cruise benefits without the glitzy rubbish.
I would second taking a look at Viking. We took one of their European river cruises last year, I came away with a very good feeling about them. We're taking one of their ocean cruises next year.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 8:01 am
by bberris
Get another couple and charter a boat from Greece. The price will be comparable to a cruise if you hire a skipper and cook.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 8:19 am
by Watty
Alaska has a fairly extensive ferry system that I traveled on when I was in my 20's and it gets into a lot of small places where cruise ships don't go to. They have basic cabins you can reserve but back then you could also set up a tent on the deck and just "camp" out and lots of people did that for the long stretch from Seattle to SE Alaska. Back then once you were up to Alaska you did not need reservations if you did not have a car or a cabin so you could just get off in a town and then catch a later ferry like you were taking a bus. There are lots of tourists and backpackers that do this. This can be combined with things like rail trips or taking day or overnight boat tours on smaller ships.

http://www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs/


I have not done one of their cruises but Road Scholar, which used to be called Elder Hostel has a number of cruise which are targeted at people that are over 55(?).

https://www.roadscholar.org/

I once looked into the cargo ships out of curiosity and one drawback is that the ships do not have the stabilizers that passenger ships have so can sway a lot in rough seas. There are also minimal medical facilities on a cargo ship.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 8:28 am
by magicrat
Buy a boat and go on your own.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 8:53 am
by sailfish2
Tamarind wrote: Wed May 02, 2018 5:27 am I feel the same way about "floating city" cruises. Both my suggestions use different ships that change the experience:

Windjammer (in the Caribbean) or similar operations elsewhere use tallships. While the ships have engines, whenever possible they sail. Much smaller ships mean a limited number of passengers, so while you can still eat, drink, and relax, the vibe is quite different.

I second the cargo ship idea above. While not a formal cruise, I once hitched a ride across the North Sea (Oslo to London) on a container ship. Captain was a family friend. Got a good upclose look at how wild the open sea can be (makes a person feel tiny). Lots of reading and thinking time. Interesting to learn more about how the shipping industry that holds the modern economy together works on a micro level.
Glad to know Windjammer still exists in a new ownership.
The old Windjammer line was owned by an eccentric Miami family and the stories are legend. I would have loved to have cruised with them in their heyday.

This is a cool thread. I had no idea about Cargo Ship cruising. Fascinating.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 9:28 am
by michaeljc70
I've heard Windjammer, Windstar and Azamara are good but haven't tried any of them. I also have read about renting a Captain/boat in the Caribbean. If you have a few couples it isn't that costly to split and they typically have a small crew (often Captain and his wife) that cooks/cleans and will take you anywhere you want to go.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 9:53 am
by sailfish2
michaeljc70 wrote: Wed May 02, 2018 9:28 am I also have read about renting a Captain/boat in the Caribbean. If you have a few couples it isn't that costly to split and they typically have a small crew (often Captain and his wife) that cooks/cleans and will take you anywhere you want to go.
Yes- especially if you choose one of the charter areas recently affected by hurricanes, ie British Virgin Islands. Chartering a catamaran with another couple could be more affordable than you think.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 4:03 pm
by GmanJeff
Cruise lines all have different characters and atmospheres. In general, the more expensive cruise lines (e.g., Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, SilverSea, and Seabourne) tend to operate smaller ships which often go to ports which are unsuitable for larger vessels. Children are less common on such lines, which cater to wealthier couples rather than to families with small children, or younger singles or couples. Such cruises sometimes offer so-called enrichment programs, where a guest speaker aboard lectures on specific topics which may or may not be related to the ship's destinations.

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 5:33 pm
by krannerd
I did 6 days in the Galapagos with Lindblad (affiliated with National Geographic). The cruise was as active as you wanted to be with snorkeling, hiking, kayaking. There were many shore excursions with knowledgeable guides and even lectures on topics of interest. The food was very good (so you could just eat and drink your way through the islands, if you wanted to).

Re: Nontraditional Cruising

Posted: Wed May 02, 2018 10:16 pm
by btenny
I just spent 14 days going through the Panama Canal from LA to Miami. It was a fantastic trip. We traveled with Norwegian. It was a medium sized cruise ship with 2300 mostly older adults. We visited 4 countries in Central America (Mexico, Costa Rico, Columbia and . We took the high end shore excursions and learned a lot about each country. Norwegian solves the small harbor problem in these small countries by using on board tenders to move passengers from the ship into the small harbors. The cruise focus was all the places we visited and the transit of the Panama canal in daylight so you saw all the locks and lake inside the canal. Plus it also does all the good food places and lots of bars normal with cruises. I think this is good trade off vs more heavy intellectual tours. The key is the itenery and the ship.

Good Luck.