It takes a Certain Kind of Traveler for Very Small Cruise Ships

It takes a Certain Kind of Traveler for Very Small Cruise Ships

In my blog post on July 13 I discussed small cruise ships.

The ships from Seabourn , Oceania, Viking, Regent, Silversea and Crystal appeal to those of you that appreciate the more intimate, luxury atmosphere of traveling without all the bells and whistles that the large cruise tout.

How much smaller than those and why choose a very small , maximum 148 guests, cruise ship is the question.

For now, let’s just call this category the “expedition adventure cruise ships”. Scroll down to learn more.

 If you are more interested in the incredible itineraries that larger and even mid-size ships cannot navigate to, where the immersion to the local culture and cuisine is more paramount, then choose these.

If you would like a ship’s staff that shares your passion for travel in a more intimate way, then choose these.

If you enjoy a totaly relaxed atmosphere where casual dress codes are the norm, then choose these

If you wish to engage with a staff of naturalists, guest lecturers and historians, then choose these.

If you prefer guided tours accompanied by specialists more knowledgeable in the culture of many of the world’s most intriguing destinations, then choose these.

If you wish to travel with a maximum of 148 like-minded guests, (many are even half that size), then choose these.

I am not suggesting you can’t have a cruise adventure on a bigger ship. Miriam- Webster uses the definition of adventure as, “an exciting or remarkable experience.”

With the exception of the Celebrity Xpedition (not a misspelling) and her new sister ships, Xperience and Xploration, the leader in the field is Linblad National Geographic.

However, Celebrity fans that wish to enjoy the true experience of the Galapagos Islands on 7, 10, 11 and 15 day itineraries will not be disappointed. Click Here for sailings.

Every Celebrity Xpedition-Class cruise booked with Key Traveler comes with our exclusive Cash Back Rewards. Call 888-539-1881 for exclusive savings.

Linblad Expedition Cruises

The plethora of choices for Linblad’s expedition cruises range from travel to Costa Rica and Panama, exploring British Columbia & the San Juan Islands, Columbia and Snake Rivers Journeys, Whales & Wilderness in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, South Georgia & The Falklands, a Journey to Antarctica, Patagonia: Chilean Fjords and Argentina’s Staten Island, and, of course, Machu Picchu & Peru’s Land of the Inca plus the Upper Amazon. And, there’s more. New! The Real Cuba.

View all the amazing Linblad trips Here. Call 888-539-1881 for exclusive savings.

Linblad National Geographic Explorer moves with the season, navigating her way from the south through Norway up to the Norwegian Arctic, Iceland and Greenland. How else can you get such experiences as a remotely operated vehicle to explore down to 1,000 feet of the polar ocean; remote-controlled crow’s nest camera broadcasting real time footage on high definition LCD video screens in each cabin; large fleets of MK-5 Zodiacs for landings and double kayaks for true adventure travel?

 Lest we forget, every Linblad National Geographic cruise you book with Key Traveler comes with our exclusive Key Traveler Cash Back Rewards. Call Today, 1-888-539-1881. Let’s talk about your first, or perhaps your next, adventure cruise.

“Love to Travel. Love to Save”

Small Cruise Ships. Smaller Cruise Ships Smallest Cruise Ships


                     Small Cruise Ships. Smaller Cruise Ships. Smallest Cruise Ships

Often, I get asked by my clients to find them a cruise on a small cruise ship.

Clients may have an idea in their mind what they are referring to as a “small” cruise ship.

Compared to all the mega-ships on the market, cruise lines like Oceania, Azamara, Crystal, Viking, Seabourn, and Regent Seven Seas can be considered small by most standards, but even those can be in different categories.

Oceania actually falls into two separate categories since their O Class, Marina and Riviera, are very different in size compared to their R-Class ships, Sirena, Insignia, Regatta and Nautica.

The smallest ships are dedicated to the adventure travelers and river cruises.

Adventure cruises include the National Geographic cruises by Linblad Expeditions, Un-Cruises Adventures, Barge Cruises, Tauck Small Ship Cruising and a host of lesser known lines.Look for a separate blog on these so you don’t fall asleep reading this one.

 For this article, I am setting the limit on the high range to 1,250 passengers and the low range to 458..

Small Cruise Ships. 900 to 1250 passengers

Oceania Riviera and Marina

These upper premium ship max out at $1250 passengers

As most of my readers know, I have sailed these ships numerous times. Each time I cruise on these ships makes me appreciate what upper premium cruising is all about.

Considered by many as the “foodies” line, the two identical O Class ships feature a full size, stadium seating Entertainment Theater, four specialty dining venues: Polo Grill, Toscana Mediterranean, Red Ginger Asian Fusion and Jacques French Bistro. There is no additional charge for those but reservations are required. Two additional dining options are The Main Ding Room and The Terrace Café.

The Terrace Café deserves a special mention due to the opulent selection of menu items such as cooked-to-order filet mignon, lamb chops, grilled shrimp, lobster tails, soup of the day, an elegant salad bar and a changing theme of the day array of freshly cooked food. Help yourself to as little or as much as you like in the casual atmosphere of indoor or outdoor dining.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity 1,070 passengers

Crystal Symphony 922 passengers

Crystal Mozart, Bach, Mahler, Debussy, and Revel River Cruise Ships (Reserved for a separate blog on river cruises)

Crystal Esprit Yacht Cruise (reserved for a separate blog on adventure and smallest cruise ships. 62 passengers).  You can find this and Crystal River Cruises on our Home Page, , in Cruise Finder. Just enter Crystal under Company Name & Click Search Cruises

Crystal has been voted by notable publications as “World’s Best Luxury Cruise Line”

My most recent voyage on Crystal while traveling with fiends presented an unusual experience.

The airline my friends traveled on lost their luggage and they had to board with just their “shirts on their backs”. Of course their attire was not suitable for dining time, albeit a bit stale from traveling. They informed guest relations of their predicament and requested in-suite dining while hoping their bags would arrive before the cruise commenced.

Shortly before dinner on the first night, with still no luggage, their butler knocked on their door and then escorted them to the apparel shop onboard. “Find outfits that fit and consider it a loaner courtesy of the cruise line “he said. What class!Fortunately, their luggage arrived the next day while we were still in port.

The elegant ships of Crystal boast some of the highest space-to-guest ratios at sea with spectacular well-appointed staterooms. Lavish Penthouses feature private teak verandahs, a Jacuzzi tub and separate shower and butler service. Spectacular accommodations will make even the well-traveled guests feel right at home in sumptuous comfort.

Board your Crystal cruise and expect an incredible immersive enrichment experience on a myriad of special-interest topics, such as “Ballroom at Sea and the exclusive “Crystal Wine and Food Festival”. Onboard are experts in a variety of fields who will offer lectures and fascinating hands-on interactive demonstrations relating to Crystal only theme cruises.

Viking Ocean Cruises

Capacity 930 passengers

Viking is a relatively newcomer to ocean cruises. After many years offering the largest fleet of river cruises, the company “dove” into the blue water segment of travel. The pace of building this fleet is unprecedented, starting with the Viking Star, and including the Viking Sea, the Viking Sky, the Viking Sun and the Spirit.

Every stateroom has a balcony. Every stateroom has Wi-Fi. Every cruise includes an excursion while in port. How refreshing!

The reviews for Viking Ocean Cruises from my clients as well as others have only been positive. The staff is very accommodating and the ships are very well appointed.

Go to On Cruise Finder, Click Company and Viking Ocean Cruises. Search Cruises.

I am looking forward to my first experience on a Viking Ocean cruise.

Smaller Cruise Ships 500-800 Passengers

Oceania “R” Class

Includes Sirena, Insignia, Regatta, Nautica

Capacity 684 passengers

t all started 15 years ago when the now-defunct Renaissance Cruise Line went bust.

Renaissance was way overextended. Cruisers loved the ships and the experience.

Frank Del Rio had a vision. Take one ship at a time. Refurbish it to casual elegance. Up the game for the dining experience. And, make sure every sailing was the best experience it could be.

History has proven that Mr. Del Rio got it right. ‘Enough” said.

Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas Explorer Capacity 750 passengers

Regent Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager Capacity 700 passengers

Regent Seven Seas Navigator Capacity 500 passengers

The brochures from some of the other cruise lines say “All Inclusive”, but the only one that is truly an All Inclusive line is Regent Seven Seas.

So what does this mean?

How about Free Business Class Airfare, Free Unlimited Shore Excursions, Free included Gratuities, Free alcoholic beverages, Free Specialty Dining restaurants and more.*

Every stateroom is a suite. The staff to passenger ratio is as high as 1 to 1.36, ensuring the service you should expect from a luxury cruise line.

 Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara Journey & Azamara Quest Capacity 700 passengers

Azamara is the “small ship” division of Celebrity Cruises. These two ships, like the Oceania “R Class” came out of the defunct Renaissance Cruise Line. The ships have constantly been refurbished to keep up with their high standards.

Why choose Azamara over Oceania?

Sometimes it is price, Sometimes it is the itinerary. Most of my clients have not sailed on both lines. If you believe in ratings, Oceania would be the first choice.

Seabourn Cruise Line

Seabourn Odyssey, Quest, Sojourn. Capacity 458 Passengers

Seabourn Encore, Seaborn Ovation. Capacity 600 Passengers

Seabourn was the first of the ultra-luxury class of all suite small ship cruises. 90% of their guests enjoy the private verandah experience.

Conde Nast has included Seabourn on their “Gold List” of small luxury cruise lines for 20 consecutive years. Why choose Seabourn? If you prefer the smaller, luxury class of vessels, Seabourn may be the right choice. Casual elegance. Desirable destinations. A new experience.

If you wish to chime in with your opinions, please feel free to send me an email. Your opinion counts.


 *Certain restrictions on Regent such as select air city, free business class air, exclusive shore excursions and high end wine choices may not apply.


















What's Up With Celebrity Cruises

What’s Up with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises is the “premium” cruise line of Royal Caribbean.

What makes Celebrity premium?

Their fleet of “Solstice Class” ships, which includes the original Solstice, the Equinox, the Eclipse, the Silhouette, and the newest, Reflection, have been rated by consumers as “best in class”.
Best in Class takes into consideration superior entertainment, culinary excellence, onboard activities, luxurious accommodations and a caring staff.

Celebrity met with their architects to create something special with the Reflection. This ship is the last of their revolutionary Solstice Class ships and has some expanded features including the Reflection Suite, a 1,830 square foot space which features the Reflection shower - a cantilevered shower with glass walls allowing for 360-degree views. The ship also features an extended AquaSpa with an infrared sauna, aromatic steam room and sensory showers which use lights and sounds for an unbelievable experience. Hungry? The Celebrity Reflection is the only ship at sea with 60 dishes that are SPE Certified, meaning they are not only nutritious, but also delicious. These features are just additions to all the other wonderful Solstice-Class features like the Lawn Club and Art Studio.

This is by no means to suggest anything below standards for the parent company’s ships.

Where as Royal Caribbean has the “WOW Factor” with their super large ships, such as the Harmony of the Seas, featuring a ton of dining options, a myriad of family activities and the latest in onboard technology, Celebrity prefers a more intimate experience with a maximum of 1,500 cabins.

Introducing the first “Edge Class” ship.

The Edge is the next innovation for Celebrity, set to start sailing in late 2018. The Edge is now open for booking.

Can a cruise ship have a “Magic Carpet”? You betcha.

The highlight of the Celebrity Edge is the outward-facing vision- the Magic Carpet, an extraordinary venue that changes mood, function, and even its location. This incredible engineering feat is the world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level, so you can soar over the open ocean. With breathtaking views, a full bar, and space for live entertainment, it is truly an innovation in itself.

Galapagos anyone?

Set foot on the Celebrity Xpedition, a state-of-the-art, 100 passenger vessell, sailing exclusively through the Galapagos Islands.

Enjoy special amenities such as room service, complimentary plush bathrooms, a fitness room, and nightly lectures by certified naturalists from the Galapagos National Park.

The Celebrity Xpedition sails on 10/111 night and 15 night cruises that include Quito, Baltra Island, Daphne Island, Gardner Bay, Suerez Point, Curmorant Port, Post Office Bay, Baroness Outlook, Murano Point and more.... and, of course Machu Picchu.
With only 50 cabins, the Expedition sells out quickly.

Call your Key Traveler Specialists, 888-539-1881 for all our money-saving cruise perks.

“Love to Travel. Love to Save”

Book Cruises Early vs Last Minute Deals


                    Book Cruises Early vs Last Minute Deals


This subject comes up more often as travelers are overwhelmed with promotions for cruises, both by email and by brochures in their mail box. Yes, we still have physical mailboxes, until Amazon or Tesla figures out something different.

What is the right time to book?

I don’t mean to talk from both sides of my mouth, but the answer to the title of this article is…..depends.

The argument for booking early has more to do with the cruise line or the escorted tour line and how they run their business. And, lest we forget, it is a business.

Cruise lines need to fill their ships at the highest prices the market allows.

Competition, world events and the economy all come into play.

Unlike airlines, who are notorious for the price of the day or even of the minute, cruise lines need to be more sensitive to travelers who book early, only to find out closer in bookings are lower.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and a few others have recently discontinued last minute promotions to restore order to the market and to not anger early bookers. As a matter of fact, even though they still run aggressive promotions, the prices have been going up as inventory decreases.

Keep reading. It gets more interesting.

I have not discussed much about tour companies but I think it is worth mentioning in this article before I address more on the cruise segment.

The higher end tour companies such as Tauck Vacations, which, by the way, is also a major player in the luxury small, (very small) ship cruise marketplace. Tauck Tours and Cruises never, that’s never, runs a sale. So, it surprises a lot of people that call to book even six months or more in advance, only to find out that the trip they want for the date they want is sold out.

Collette Vacations, a premier tour operator in the mid-range price market, will run early booking promotions, but never last minute deals. Check out Collette Vacations on our website.

The same holds true for several small group tours from companies that offer unique trips. More on that in another article.

As for cruises, there is no easy answer. Our clients and the general public see all these deals coming at them and, often, can’t figure out when to pull the trigger and plop down their money.

The smart money goes to the early bookers

Availability! Availability!

First and foremost is finding out how much inventory is available on the cruise line of choice for the date and cabin type that meet your requirements. Only a travel advisor can tell you this. Unless you call direct.

But, you don’t save money by booking direct.

Low inventory means you will not find a better deal down the line. Remember my previous remark. It’s a business!

You won’t get that advice from the huge agencies that are only interested in making a sale before you move on to check out one or more of their competitors. Shopping for deals is now ingrained in our culture. The Internet does not always tell the whole story. The idea is to get you hooked so you will call.

We are not in the car business either, where $199 a month will get you into a $20,000 car, AFTER you put a ton of money down.

Can you imagine if we advertised a $5,000 cruise at $199 only to find out you had to come up with all that extra money down?

Just yesterday one of my regular clients called about a Celebrity cruise and wanted to know how she could figure out the best promotion since she saw three different deals in the same week.

I explained all the options and disclaimers, which were confusing to her.

Another happy client booked.

Today, I booked a Viking Ocean Cruise with more favorable terms than the line offered.

Another happy client.

And, with our Exclusive” Key Cash Back”, travelers save more money.

As is our practice, we cross check all the qualifiers to come up with the best offer.

That is why we refer Key Traveler as Travel Advisors rather than travel agents.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog.

Please feel free to SHARE this article with friends by forwarding it to their emails Click Email this Page at the bottom..

Check our website, for your cruise or tour of choice. Then CALL US for the best promotions. Since the deals can change, we don’t post the best prices and promotions on our website or by email.


“Love to Travel. Love to Save”


Key Cash Back varies by ship, tour, price and travel date. Certain restrictions may apply. Ask your Key Traveler Advisor for details.