Small ships packing big wallop

The majestic Royal Clipper at sunset. Small-ship sailing experiences are gaining favor with young and old alike. Image courtesy Michael Coleman

By Michael Coleman

Romance or just sheer family adventure awaits passengers on three distinctive, small-ship cruise lines.

Star Clippers’ Caribbean

The Star Clippers’ fleet — Royal Clipper (227 passengers), Star Clipper (170 passengers) and Star Flyer (170 passengers) — is offering 45 per cent off select seven-and 14-night sailings roundtrip from Barbados, St. Maarten and Costa Rica this winter.

Each an authentic tall ship, guests can immerse themselves in respective journeys where the wind charts one’s course. Climb the mast for a better view of the horizon or simply relax in the net suspended over the bow with nothing but crystalline waters below.

Look for the vessels to seek out hidden harbors and destinations untouched by larger ships. No long lines on board, no crowds plus a casually elegant atmosphere.

On the web: starclippers.com

SeaDream’s Caribbean

The twin mega-yacht cruisers are offering overnight and late night Caribbean island visits plus an array of new water toys for the young and the young at heart this fall in the Caribbean.

Look for overnight calls at St. Bart’s and tiny, exclusive Norman Island as well as active stops at the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra, Culebrita and Vieques with its bioluminescent bays. 

SeaDream I and II — each with just 112 guests – are now offering a new array of water toys for guests to enjoy from the vessels’ stern marinas. In addition to its zodiacs, water skis, banana boats, wave runners, floating island and snorkeling equipment, it has added twin-hulled Hobie cats, laser sailboats and glass bottom molokini kayaks and glass bottom hanauma II inflatable kayaks to the mix.

On the web: seadream.com

Galapagos Adventures

The Galapagos Explorer II, operating in the Galapagos Islands, is offering a family adventure package featuring a discount of 75 percent off the cruise rate for two children under 15 years, and an additional 50 percent discount for a third child. 

Look for snorkeling equipment, Internet access, special activities for children, and a family picture to be included in the cruise fare.

The all-suite, 100-passenger vessel features excursions led by bilingual naturalist guides. The end result? Guests enjoy a personal experience on the islands and a greater understanding of wildlife and evolution.

The adventure package is available for departures through September 2010.

On the web: galapagosexplorer.com