Savoring Adventure on Small Ship Cruises

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“We have a whole range of activities. We go ashore every day—once, twice or sometimes even three times—there’s a lot of kayaking, a lot of hiking and a tremendous focus on photography,” explains Sven Lindblad, who recently completed a trip in January. “On board that particular trip, we had four photography professionals and those folks were able to interact with the guests in a multitude of ways, not only on how to take that picture, but how to organize them, how to process them, how to color correct, etc. So anyone who’s interested in photography, it was like taking an NYU photography class or something. I myself, for example, I’m a very keen photographer and I used to do it as a living way, way back,” he adds. “But I’ve always been really hopeless at post-production. But I came off that trip having learned a skill that’s exponentially changed my life. So it’s very, very active.”

There are five 14-day cruises scheduled for Antarctica this year, from Nov. 26 through Jan. 5, 2012, and you’ll find the passengers will include an eclectic group from families and college professors to scientific professionals and generally, Lindblad says, it’s, “People who have the time to do it. People who are basically curious and have a reasonable sense of adventure and off you go.” Indeed, he adds, there’s plenty of activities going on that will capture that sense of curiosity. “We have divers who go down and they use our ROV (Remote Observation Vehicle), which can go down to a 1,000 ft. and take video. Then sometimes they go diving in dry suits and they bring back information about what’s going on under the sea. We had a couple of folks who were researching killer whale patterns and movements and they were applying darts to the whales’ dorsal fins in order to follow their migratory patterns and that was all happening in the bow of the ship. There was just stuff going around all over the place.” In fact, he points out, “The only down side of the whole experience is because you have just constant daylight and because there’s just so much to see, you never want to go to bed. So I was exhausted at the end of it because I’d be up at 2 in the morning and thinking about going to bed and then I’d think, ‘No, no, the light’s just too beautiful,’ and then eventually at 4 in the morning I’d go to bed and then be up at 6:30. Literally, you’re just constantly surrounded by drama and beauty. It’s just the most stunning place in the world.” Rates run from $10,580.

alaska with innersea discoveries In Southeast Alaska, InnerSea Discoveries has two ships that guarantee cruisers an “un-cruise” experience offering them more time in the wilderness on active adventures than shopping the main streets of the port calls that the big cruise ships call on. With newly reconverted ships that offer more room for equipment like two-man kayaks and new technology that makes it easy to launch four kayaks at a time, there are no lines and no disappointments.

“Once you get up to—there’s really no set numbers—but once you get up to say 100-plus passengers, it really isn’t very easy, almost impossible to do all the hiking and kayaking just because, to get all the people who want to do it, it takes a lot of time and usually vessels aren’t equipped to take that many kayaks to really make it happen,” explains Tim Jacox, executive v.p., sales and marketing. “So with InnerSea Discoveries, with the number of passengers on board and the boats built so that they can carry quite a bit of equipment on board—they’re beamy, so you have a lot of deck space to be able to carry it—we’ll have 28 kayaks on both of the vessels, which is certainly a lot. They’re 2-person kayaks for the most part, so that will just about accommodate everybody. But there’s almost never a time where everybody will want to be out kayaking because we offer so many different types of excursions when we’re anchored in wonderful little coves. So people have their choice.”

But while the focus is on activities outside the ship such as hiking and kayaking, the company’s put a lot of new features on board, as well, including an underwater camera mounted on each ship’s bow that streams video from the underwater world to flat-screen TVs in all guestrooms and the lounge with views of dolphins playing in the bow’s wake, while an underwater hydrophone pipes in the otherworldly sound of whales communicating with each other. All guest cabins are above deck with large view windows and feature upscale amenities, memory foam mattresses, DVD players, iPod docking stations and eco-friendly bath amenities. Hot tubs are situated outside on deck and each ship also has a sauna, exercise equipment, complimentary on-deck yoga classes, a large resource library, well-stocked DVD library and board games. A professional masseuse is part of the crew and massages are available for a fee.