Best small ship and specialist cruises to take in 2022
By Sara Macefield | 2 Feb 2022
Small ship and specialist cruise lines offer a boutique experience, from traditional tall ships to swish superyachts calling in at ports that bigger vessels can’t visit
This new entrant on Norway’s cruising scene emerged in summer 2020 promising a fleet of emission-free battery-powered ships to sail the scenic Norwegian coastal route year-round. The first ship, Havila Capella, commenced sailings last December and three more ships – Havila Polaris, Havila Castor and Havila Pollux – are set to follow this year.
The 640-passenger vessels showcase crisp Nordic design and local cuisine, and claim to offer the most spacious cabins on the route, along with an observation lounge, fitness room and on-deck hot tub. The voyages between Kirkenes and Bergen call at 34 ports and include the 12-day round-trip and six or seven-day one-way sailings.
03455 280026; havilavoyages.com
Picture: Havila Voyages in the Norwegian fjords. Picture: GettyImages/iStockphoto/Den Belitsky
Hebridean Island Cruises
The pocket-sized Scottish cruise line has carved out a niche, offering classy sailings around the Scottish Hebrides and beyond – this year there are 38 departures, including a new golf cruise. Its genteel 50-passenger ship Hebridean Princess resembles a floating country house hotel with comfy armchairs and even an inglenook fireplace in the main lounge.
This year, the 40-guest Lord of the Highlands joins the Hebridean fold, offering a convivial house party-style ambience on sailings along the Caledonian Canal and Scotland’s Western Isles. Hebridean will again offer sailings on Europe’s rivers aboard the Royal Crown riverboat with five itineraries.
01756 704704; hebridean.co.uk
With an 11-strong fleet, including mega-yachts and masted yachts taking between 10 and 71 guests, this Greek company offers a diverse route to exploring the world beyond its main sailing ground in the Mediterranean, where it cruises the Greek islands and Adriatic.
The 2022 sailing programme offers bespoke trips around the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and along rivers in Gambia and Senegal. Two new itineraries explore Tahiti, the Society Islands and the Tuamatu Islands in the South Pacific, while a Central American sailing to Costa Rica traverses the Panama Canal. Other destinations include the Cape Verde islands, Seychelles and Red Sea.
020 8324 3114; varietycruises.com
The billowing sails of this boutique line’s trio of tall ships is one of the most head-turning sights at sea, and for passengers this is the ultimate way to ride the waves. Flagship Royal Clipper and Star Flyer spend this winter in the Caribbean before joining Star Clipper in the Mediterranean for the summer.
Costa Rica is added with seven-night round-trip cruises from Puerto Caldera on the country’s west coast, starting in December on Star Clipper. In addition to port stops in Nicaragua and Panama, there are rich wildlife-spotting opportunities with scarlet macaws, howler monkeys and humpback whales.
0845 200 6145; starclippers.co.uk
This Greek line offers terrific value for money and the relatively small size of its ships means it can visit the Aegean’s lesser-known isles. Cruises return in March with three and four-night sailings from Athens on Celestyal Olympia, while Celestyal Crystal follows in April with one-week voyages.
In addition to the popular islands of Mykonos and Santorini, Celestyal is returning to tiny Milos, northern Greek city Thessaloniki and Kusadasi in Turkey. Later this year will see the return of Celestyal’s Three Continents cruise visiting Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus, and two new Holy Land sailings over Christmas and New Year.
0800 411 8038; celestyal.com
Primarily known for river cruises, the family-owned French company has moved into coastal cruising in recent years with two small ships.
The 197-passenger La Belle de l’Adriatique is cruising the Red Sea to Egypt and Jordan until March, when it moves to the Adriatic for cruises to Greece, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro from April to October.
The 130-passenger La Belle des Oceans (previously Silversea Cruises’ Silver Discoverer) is in the Canary Islands until April, when it moves to its summer home port of Nice for one-week return-trip voyages that circumnavigate Corsica. It returns to the Canaries from November for the winter.
020 8328 1281; croisieurope.co.uk
Known largely for river sailings, Emerald Cruises is branching into coastal voyages on custom-built superyachts, with the first debuting in March.
Emerald Azzurra will carry up to 100 guests in 50 deluxe suites and staterooms, most with private balconies, with facilities including two bars, a restaurant, gym, spa, pool and a water sports platform. Its maiden season of Red Sea cruises includes two itineraries visiting Saudi Arabia, and is followed by a summer/autumn season of Mediterranean voyages, largely focusing on the Adriatic, before returning to the Red Sea next winter.
Sister ship Emerald Sakara is due to join in early 2023.
0161 233 1983; emeraldcruises.co.uk
The Majestic Line
The four small craft of this cruise company, taking just a dozen passengers, offer a rustic Caledonian flavour as they potter along Scotland’s west coast through the Hebrides.
They are soon to be joined by another addition to the fleet, the six-passenger Glen Orchy available for private charter this year. Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan are converted wooden-hulled fishing boats while Glen Etive and Glen Shiel are newer and purpose-built, but all possess the same cosy house party feel bolstered by locally sourced cuisine.
There are 18 different itineraries of three, six and 10 nights with sailings around Skye and Argyll, the Orkneys and St Kilda, which include wildlife cruises to spot the eagles, otters, deer and porpoises that find their home here.
01369 707951; themajesticline.co.uk
This small-ship specialist offers two styles of travel with three classic sailing ships and a trio of all-suite luxury ships. The latter three – Star Breeze, Star Legend and Star Pride – have been expanded in a $250 million upgrade adding more facilities and suites.
Windstar ships start 2022 in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, where one of its yachts sails year-round. This summer, most of the fleet moves to the Mediterranean, where Star Pride cruises the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and sails to Iceland for July and August, while Star Breeze sails along the US West Coast to Alaska.
020 7399 7669; windstarcruises.com
With its beautiful five-masted classic tall ship, there’s no mistaking this newcomer to the cruising world. Tradewind Voyages’ magnificent Golden Horizon, the world’s largest square-rigger, embarked on its first sailings last summer and follows those with a maiden season in the Mediterranean from May.
There will be 23 departures, with cruises along the French Riviera, the Adriatic, and through the Greek islands and Turkey to off-the-beaten-track ports including Sanary Sur Mer, France; Calvi, Corsica; Ponza Island, Italy; and Korcula, Croatia. The 272-passenger barque, inspired by the historic tea clippers from the Golden Age of Sail, heads for the Caribbean in October.
01473 932060 tradewindvoyages.com