Caribbean Travel Advisor, News

Travel Agents: Small-Ship Cruises on the Rise in the Caribbean 

By: Joe Pike

The Caribbean Tourism Organization recently reported that the large cruise companies are starting to recover a lot of lost revenue from the last two years.

And now several travel advisors are reporting that the smaller cruise lines and expedition ships are also becoming heavily requested this year.

“Small cruise ships are back, baby,” proclaimed Pattie Kisilewich, travel, wedding and event  planner for Dreamaker Vacations. “The pause, a.k.a. COVID, has changed how people like to travel and especially cruise.”

How such?

“More emphasis is being placed on smaller group and solo travel,” said Kisilewich. “My clients are looking for the more authentic and immersive experiences and large ships do not offer that. Look, a port is a port is a port, but the ship life is what can make or break that trip.”

While Danielle Stephens, an advisor with Unique Romance and Adventure Travel, said Windstar Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Ponant are all impressive recommendations, she admitted SeaDream takes the cake as the current “fan favorite” among small cruises.

“SeaDream is a fan favorite,” said Stephens. “So far, they are popular for clients 60 and over. Boat charters are more popular right now with families and clients in the 30-50s.

“People are going on them for their unique itineraries and for a more yacht-like experience,” she continued.

Stephens said she especially loves that SeaDream offers a variety of itineraries in the Caribbean, including visits to popular destinations and “hidden gems.”

“You can explore picturesque islands, pristine beaches, and vibrant local cultures,” she said.  

The itineraries often include ports that larger ships cannot access, allowing for a more authentic and less crowded experience, said Stephens.

SeaDream yachts are equipped with a marina platform, allowing clients to engage in a range of water sports and activities right from the ship.

A Windstar ship.

Daniela Harrison, an advisor with Avenues of the World Travel, also shared her favorite small cruise lines to recommend to clients.

“My top small ship cruise lines for Caribbean are SeaDream, Seabourn [Cruise Line], Windstar, Silversea Cruises, Regent [Seven Seas Cruises],” she said. “Mid-size ships are Virgin [Voyages], Celebrity [Cruises] and Oceania.”

Aside from the amenities that smaller ships offer, Lena Brown of Largay Travel, said they also have a major advantage over the mega cruise ships.

“You can book big ships that entertain all age groups and small ships that get into unique ports,” Lena Brown of Largay Travel. “Yacht style cruising is a huge request especially for those that don’t want to be with lots of people.”

“Many travelers are looking for that off-the-beaten path experience,” said Brown. “Those clients that love nature and have been on many cruises are looking for more ways to explore. Galapagos cruises and seeing the whales in Mexico have been a big request.”

Kisilewich did admit smaller ships, by nature, offer far less amenities than the larger cruise line.

“Small ships offer less amenities, that is true – four dining options instead of 17, three bars instead of seven, but they also offer more intimate experiences and top-notch service,” she said.

In fact, Kisilewich said the larger ships are starting to get smaller themselves in a way.   

“While cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian [Cruise Line] and Carnival [Cruises] are still planning to bring out new, large ships  – the concept of large ships has changed,” said Kisilewich.

“Cruise lines are realizing passengers want more personal space on these large ships,” she continued, “so while the size is still up there, capacity is reduced and rooms are redesigned to use space more efficiently.”

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