Cruises can be a remarkable way to see the world; from exploring your favorite ports of call to dinners on deck. Yet, for travelers who want to avoid the cookie cutter world of large cruise lines there are plenty of well-picked alternatives out there. From floating Zen like spaces to intrepid explorations, here are the very best alternative cruise vacations for those who like to book outside the box…
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Floating Hotel Guntu
Japanese artist Yasushi Horibe’s 19 room boutique hotel is a floating oasis drifting in the Seto Inland Sea. Set against a striking backdrop of carved mountains, tranquil waters, and haiku inspired landscapes – the minimalist splendor of Floating Hotel Guntu offers guests a rare experience.
The ship weaves together plenty of traditional Japanese features; from the use of grains in the design to the communal bath, Zen like layout and modest screens. Natural light floods every angle, and days are best spent savoring every morsel of Setouchi Sushi – a delicacy onboard, sipping sake on the deck, and unwinding at the spa.
Off-ship activities include heading out with the local fishermen for the day, taking the moon viewing boat out late at night for seasonal chanting ceremonies, and morning meditation walks along the shores of Setouchi.
The motto behind Sea Dream is that they are not a cruise company – instead they strive to offer guests an elite yacht lifestyle experience. Forbes already named it the best small luxury cruise ship back in 2015, although the CEO would again be keen to point out, they are not cruising.
Intimate voyages onboard offer just over a hundred guests the space to sail, and with 95 crew members, you can see that service is high on their priority list. 56 staterooms are lavishly dressed, dinners are five-star, and a plethora of spa treatments and yachting water-toys are there to keep you fully entertained.
Ports of call include the gauzy blues of the Caribbean, the elegant haunts of the European Riviera’s, and wonderful wine land adventures that take you on a sommelier journey to sip and swirl. The term casually elegant is perfecting pinned onto Sea Dream – it’s for those who prefer the finer things in life without the stuffiness. Step out of the crush of the crowds and into a different style of cruising…or should we say yachting.
Partnering with National Geographic means that you are bound to be able intrepid sailing adventures to the far-flung corners of the earth. Lindblad Expeditions is one of the most exciting cruise lines in the business of small scale expeditions. For travelers who long to hear the groans of icebergs in Antarctica, to enter the Amazon’s heart of darkness, and to explore the edges of the South Pacific – this is the cruise line for you.
Yet, it’s not just the destination that makes Lindblad special, it’s the journey. The cruise company offers an onboard specialist expedition team brimming with scientists, naturalists, photographers, and destination experts. Along with insightful commentary to accompany you on your great adventure you can expect all the comforts of a cruise. A well-stocked library, dinner with guest speakers, and fascinating excursions to meet tribes, watch whales, trek jungles, and climb glaciers are just the tip of the iceberg.
The Shannon Princess
Swap grand cruises for beautiful barges, with a trip through Ireland on The Shannon Princess. The husband and wife team behind the gorgeous little boutique barge hotel are truly passionate about showcasing the finer sights of Ireland against the backdrop of a floating hotel. With space for 10 guests you can rent out the whole boat or take one of the cozy cabins and enjoy small shared cruises.
One of the major delights of The Shannon Princess is the chance to delve deep into Ireland’s lesser known folklore sights. From wild fowl reserves to lunching at Guinness and Oyster Bars, enjoying private musical performances, and sipping whiskey as the green banks pass you by.
The cuisine is another exceptional tour highlight, with Chef Olivia coming from the culinary school of Ballymaloe and offering guests the chance to sample New Irish flavors. From seared line caught tuna to Irish cheese platters, hot foaming smoked oysters and more.