Not all cruise ships are awash with blue rinses and lavender. There is a trend for smaller boats exploring amazing, remote locations, reports Richard MacKichan
Readers, here’s a promise to you: we will never mention the phrases ‘silver surfer’ or ‘grey pound’, we will never run features on Rosemary Conley or Dame Maggie Smith (bless her), nor offers on stairlifts, funeral care or Glenn Miller recitals. We will never assume you know any less about popular culture than your teenagers do (though we may assume you have better taste). We will tread very carefully around the C-word because unless you’re talking about George Michael’s favoured approach, cruising is just a bit, well, SAGA, isn’t it?
The perpetuated stereotype suggests that the wisdom that comes with being older compels you to don a cardigan and leap on to the nearest gargantuan liner for a fortnight of staring out of portholes, polite conversations with strangers and prescribed fun, all punctuated with the odd stroll round some Mediterranean ruins.
Yet the catch-all term ‘cruise’ detracts from many thriving luxury vacances sur les bateaux. Our very own talisman of travel Oliver Bennett says: “I think cruising has split into various sectors. At one end of the market, there is still a suburb-on-sea aspect to it. Anyone who has read A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace, with its hilarious evocation of Crimplene and desperate sundowners, will relate to this:
“On the other hand, there is a huge – and frankly, fun – market for niche cruisers: culture vultures, gay and lesbian cruises, Beatles cruises and so on. And cruising does allow access to such amazing and underexplored places as the Chilean coastline, both Poles, the Russian Far East… places where aeroplanes and roads can’t access. So it really has value in those areas where you can get off the boat, hop on a dinghy and get face-time with penguins, seals, whales and all.”
Today’s ocean liners – morbidly obese descendants of the Cunard steamers – are populated by dear old high70s. But these smaller aquatic adventures aim for a younger audience: grown-up enough to appreciate a laid-back pace, but far from sedentary, and possessing a wanderlust that reaches beyond dinner at the captain’s table.
From remote river tours on the chicest craft to Antarctic adventures on ice-breaking behemoths, there are trips for all but the most acutely aquaphobic. And in case you’re fearful of typing the C-word into Google, we have selected some of the world’s best for you.
Now read: best adventure cruises, including a Burma river trip, an ice adventures and heavy metal in the Cayman Islands