When you think of cruising there is definitely a set image that most people conjure up but nothing could be further from the truth. As I’ve always said, there’s a cruise line, budget and style to suit everyone. In this article we take a look at the more unique cruise lines out there to really prove there’s nothing quite like cruising.
You’ll notice a few similarities and themes with these lines and ships – expect more of a boutique and intimate experience, with smaller ships that can go into a range of ports and a whole other level of personalised service on offer. I mean, doesn’t this sound like a winning combination? Let’s take a look at my top 7 most unique cruise lines out there.
SeaDream Yacht Club
The two-ship fleet of SeaDream Yacht Club provide an intimate and luxurious experience which may appeal to cruisers and non-cruisers alike. Their slogan is “it’s yachting, not cruising” which says a lot about the product and the exclusive yacht-like feel they impart.
Both ships in the fleet are small by cruise ships standards, they really are yachts. Both are largely identical, with a clubby feel, but with the privacy of sailing at this size conveys. SeaDream explain the yachting experience, compared to cruising, as more free where there aren’t published detail itineraries as to when you will be exactly in port. Instead, the Captain will make a decision on what’s best for the cruise, for instance to stay a little longer in port to enjoy dinner and sunset outsite. The ships are also equipped with a water-sports marina that features a plethora of waterborne activities.
The ships sail a mixture of itineraries including the southern Caribbean and the Mediterranean, though you’ll find other destinations offered as well, including for example Norway in 2020. I can easily picture myself on the deck of these gorgeous ships looking out over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean. They are also known for their wine-focussed cruises, which sound out of this world.
You can find out more about SeaDream here.
Another unique cruise line is Celestyal. This is the only cruise line based in Greece.
Currently operating two mid-size ships, with a third on the way, Celestyal is a destination focussed cruise line which aims to showcase and immerse you in Greek culture. In fact, you can expect to visit on average 7 destinations in the space of a 4-day cruise. For me, that makes it much more akin to river cruising than traditional ocean cruising. I cannot think of many things better than spending a few days island hopping around the Greek Isles in style and luxury. Don’t you agree? It’s right at the top of my bucket list.
Celestyal are also known for providing a personalised service. Both Cruise Critic and trip Advisor repeatedly acknowledge the service provided by the line and the extra mile staff are willing to go. They are also particularly known for providing an excellent service to Solo travellers.
Celestyal is also an all-inclusive experience, with all food included, as well as complimentary house wine, beer, soft drinks, teas, coffees, cocktails and branded spirits. On top of this, nightly entertainment is included, as well as gratuities and two complimentary excursions per cruise. That’s incredible value when you think about it.
Take a look at what Celestyal has to offer here.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
Paul Gauguin is quite a unique cruise experience compared to most. Operating only the one ship (currently), the Paul Gauguin provides an exceptional cruise experience focussed around the South Pacific, Tahiti and Fiji.
If that’s not enough to peak your interest, how about the 5+ star luxury experience on board including gourmet dining curated by award-winning chef Jean-Pierre Vigato, a lavish spa offering signature treatments, an expansive deck and outdoor pool, fitness centre, a boutique, and a lounge with live entertainment introducing you to Polynesia’s vibrant cultures. Like many of the lines features here, The Gaugin also offers a watersports marina.
Doesn’t everything about this sound incredible? You can see more about the Paul Gauguin experience below from Tips for Travellers, run by my good friend Gary.
To learn more about Paul Guiguin’s unique cruises head here. Paul Gaugin has also recently become part of a bigger, but equally as unique cruise family – Ponant. You can read more about Ponant’s fabulous ships, approach and itineraries here.
Aurora operates two state-of-the-art expedition ships which explore some of the most remote coastal areas in the world, including the Arctic and Antarctic.
Purpose built for more extreme environments, these are true expedition cruises with a focus around catering for small groups of travellers. Their latest ship, the Greg Mortimer, only carries 126 guests for an intimate expedition experience, all accompanied by a very experienced expedition team. On board you will find a number of naturalists and local specialists offering presentations and talks on the regions you’re visiting, or ready to answer any burning question you may have.
This experience does not come at the expense of comfort, with neutral and calming cabin designs. The ships also features a library, lounge area, gym, sauna, spa and outdoor Jacuzzis. To learn more head here.
Noble Caledonia offer a whole variety of cruises from a number of operators including expedition, small ship, sailing and river cruising (and in fact featuring many of the lines in this post). They also operate their own boutique ships on a number of intriguing itineraries. They really do offer a huge range of cruises – including from the Hebrides all the way to Papua New Guinea.
Their focus is around offering small-ship cruises where a small number of passengers create a specific camaraderie in order to create a warm and friendly atmosphere onboard. This intimacy really does appeal to me. They operate a number of ships, including the suite-only sister ships, Island Sky, Caledonian Sky or Hebridean Sky. Take a look here at their extensive offerings.
Windstar is a bigger cruise line than most others mentioned in this list, but perhaps one of the most unique, as they offer both boutique sailing yachts and powered yachts. Windstar repeatedly wins numerous awards including from the likes of Condé Nast Traveler.
At the core of the fleet are three gorgeous sailing ships. You cannot help but feel a deeper connection to the ocean than when sailing, drawing deeply on the history of navigation and travel. And this comes through across these three ships on board. That’s not to say they’re not also state-of-the-art, having undergone significant enhancements in recent year. On top of this, Windstar also have a fleet of three smaller cruise ships, Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride (ex-Seabourn ships, one of which is infamous for its appearance in Speed 2: Cruise Control), offering the same experience than their sailing cousins.
However, like most of the ships featured here, Windstar operates a very intimate experience with only 148to 342 guests on their ships. Windstar also prides itself on abandoning the clichés of cruising and giving you the freedom to do what you want, all while visiting less-known ports of call and providing immersive experiences. For more information head here.
The Majestic line
The Majestic Line really is a unique holiday compared to most cruises. For the past 15 yeas, Majestic has been allowing passengers to discover the west coast of Scotland and the Hebrides.
Majestic operate four small boutique vessels, which are capable of taking up to 12 guests at a time. The benefit of this is that they can access some of the most interesting places off of the coast of Scotland. Currently, they offer 18 itineraries ranging from 3-nights up to 10-nights which cruise around some of Scotland’s most iconic places including Islay, Jura, Mull, Skye, St Kilda, Staffa and Iona. There’s plenty do as well from walking, visiting distilleries and learning about local wildlife and culture. It’s a really different style of cruising.
On top of this, expect top-notch Scottish hospitality from the staff on board, with local and seasonal produce being freshly prepared every day. It honestly sounds like a really enchanting experience set within such iconic scenery. What’s not to love? Take a look here.
So, what do you think of these interesting and unique cruise holidays? Which would you choose if you had the choice? Let me know in the comment and across social media.