Expedition Cruise line Cruise West is offering the world's longest World Cruise ever, almost a year-long starting in 2010.
Advantages of Small Ship Cruising As one of the leading small ship adventure cruise lines, Cruise West is best known as an up-close, casual and personal cruise line that sails only small ships, the largest holding about 120 passengers. They made their name in Alaska with closer to nature sailings than guests could ever get on larger, more traditional cruise ships.
I had some questions about small ship cruising. "Just what does one do onboard such a small ship?" Since there is just one bar, no real entertainment program, very few venues to sit and relax and not much in the way of organized activities, don't people get bored?
"Not at all," one of the line's exploration leaders assured me. "Small ship cruising is an entirely different experience than sailing on a large ship. With a Cruise West sailing, the focus is on the sites we visit and the scenery and wildlife we view. That's the entertainment. Our captains have the flexibility to linger in an area if something interesting is going on, such as the sighting of a pod of dolphins, and we make good use of our Zodiac boats going out in search of wildlife encounters. Our guests generally don't look for a late nightlife onboard. They turn in early so that they can be up and about at daybreak. They don't want to miss any good sightings by sleeping in late.
"Our guests are probably a different breed of traveler too. They consider their trip a voyage more than a cruise. They expect to learn some new and interesting things, and to have experiences that they wouldn't get on a large ship cruise. They also meet other like-minded voyagers since our small ships put guests on a first name basis with their fellow travelers and our crew by the end of their first day onboard. There's certainly nothing boring about a cruise on one of our ships."
I asked Jerrol Golden what a typical day onboard this world cruise would be like. "Well, that's a tough one since no two days would be the same. But generally we start out by serving a continental breakfast on deck by 6:00 a.m. for our early risers. Shortly thereafter, a full breakfast service is underway in our dining room. Then we might be in a port with our excursion leaders taking guests on escorted nature walks or city tours. We may have a special excursion planned in that port as well. Other days we'll put our Zodiac craft to work and take guests on bird watching excursions, or perhaps to a secluded beach. We'll also embark on easy nature hikes and other types of wildlife viewing opportunities.
While our guests are busy on their excursions, our chef will be busy in the galley cooking up a scrumptious dinner. The one thing about a Cruise West sailing is the raves we receive on the quality of our meals. With a smaller number of passengers to cook for each meal, our chefs can get really creative and offer a lot of special, customized choices, as well as specialties of the region we are sailing in.
The entire ambience onboard a Cruise West sailing is casual. There are never any formal nights and guests are welcome to show up for dinner in the elegant dining room dressed in shorts or jeans." In fact, the cruise line's slogan is 'We've traded bowties for blue jeans,' and they're not kidding. They want their guests to wear whatever is comfortable and jeans are always appropriate attire anywhere on the ship.
"After dinner," Golden continued, "guests will congregate in one of the lounges where they will be treated to a talk by one of our exploration leaders. The talk will generally cover the things that were seen that day, as well as a preview of what's expected tomorrow. Snacks are served, and bar service is available. While alcoholic beverages are at an added charge, the prices are generally quite reasonable. Sometimes we'll play games after the exploration leaders have finished their presentations, or have group discussions, but generally guests prefer to retire early. Days on a Cruise West sailing are full, and many of our guests like to turn in somewhat early."
While Cruise West's 335-day around the world voyage is certainly the journey of a lifetime, it is probably not ideally suited to everyone. "Unfortunately, our sailings are probably not suitable for people with serious mobility issues, such as those in wheelchairs," Golden admitted. "We find that the guests who most enjoy a Cruise West sailing are those who are in reasonably good physical condition and able to handle easy walks over uneven terrain. We are also probably not the best choice for guests who like to be pampered or entertained. We simply don't offer the services on our small ships that the larger cruise lines have available."
If this "Voyages of the Great Explorers" sailing has piqued your interest, just visit Cruise West's website at www.cruisewest.com where you will find detailed information about all 24 voyages included in this 335-day mega-sailing. From the website, you can also order a detailed printed brochure as well as an informative DVD containing lots of details about small ship cruising. You can also sign up for a variety of webinars, many of them specifically covering segments of this 2010 World Voyage.
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