Adventure of a Lifetime
Adventure of a Lifetime
Everyone should have it on their bucket list,” says Wendy Smith, from Peregrine Adventures, of her Antarctica adventure. “I was there in January when the whales were at their peak. We took trips out in the Zodiac and had mothers and babies all around us. They are so gentle and we got so close you could see every barnacle. It was magical.”
Antarctica is just one of the many destinations Peregrine hosts adventure-cruising expeditions. “Many people think of cruising as the floating hotels with masses of people, but Peregrine do it on a smaller, personal scale so you can really immerse yourself in the destination,” says Smith. The boats offer an exceptional level of comfort on a boutique scale. For trips to the Antarctic, the ice-strengthened ships are sturdy and warm, and equipped with Zodiac boats so you can explore the local area and look for wildlife. Adventure seekers can also try optional activities such as sea kayaking, a polar plunge or ice camping. Those wanting a more relaxing trip can learn about the area from Peregrine guides and keep a lookout for rare birds and animals.
It’s all about the destination
Conventional big-ship cruising is often about life on the boat. What to eat, what to do, which show to catch. Adventure cruising is more about the destination: stopping at little islands the big ships can’t reach, exploring local markets and trying fresh produce, learning a place’s history and culture from local guides who know it best. “That’s the real advantage of a small-ship cruise – you leave with memories of places, not just pools,” says Smith of her most recent trip, cruising Croatia’s coast on the Royal Eleganza.
“The cruise to Croatia was half-board, which I really enjoyed. We had a delicious buffet breakfast and lunch on board, and then could visit a local restaurant of our choice in the evening.”
The new round-trip adventure cruise from Split visits small villages and large cities, as well as the beautiful bays in the Kornati National Park. “It’s very special to be able to go for a swim in the clear blue waters,” she says. And that’s achieved by stepping straight off the boat. The stunning Kornati National Park has the biggest and most incredible collection of islands in the Adriatic Sea, and was described by playwright George Bernard Shaw as the creation of God “to crown His work”.
The cruise also offers the opportunity to visit the Sea Organ in Zadar, an incredible marriage of acoustical engineering and historical art, as well as an easy guided walk in the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Plitvice Lakes National Park.
There are only 16 cabins on the Royal Eleganza, which means you will only ever sail with about 30 other people. “I’ve been on large boats when you descend on a town en masse,” says Smith. “It’s hard to have a unique experience when you have 1000 other people trying to do the same thing.”
The boat is spacious and comfortable, but focuses more on the destination than on-board activities. Instead of a pool, you have the sea. Instead of a casino, they’ve got board games and good books. There’s also no formal dress code to worry about.
“When it comes to cruising, bigger is not necessarily better. While mega liners are very restricted in their routes and itineraries, a smaller ship means we can dock in out-of-the-way ports and drop anchor wherever we feel like it. And while the big boats moor out at sea and ferry passengers to land by tender, we can sail straight into port. You can hop on or hop off as you like. It’s convenience and comfort, all in one.”
In Greece, for example, Peregrine’s Cruise the Hidden Gems of Greece takes you away from the tourist trail by visiting islands such as Amorgos with its unusual rock-hewn monastery, and Sifnos, known for its incredible cuisine. In the Seychelles, the Peregrine cruise can drop anchor in the middle of port towns like Mahe and La Digue.
The other fabulous thing about cruising is you can visit more unusual destinations like Cuba, Croatia and Iceland without having to worry about hefty hotel bills or shifting travel plans. Cuba is a fabulous place to visit but it can be tricky to navigate for a first timer. Peregrine’s Cuban Panorama cruise lets you visit the fabulous towns from Havana to Maria La Gorda, and includes plenty of on-shore activities, such as a visit to the Benny More School of Art.
Peregrine’s trips will have you gliding along the Caribbean, strolling past the pastel-coloured houses of Trinidad, stopping for a swim at Maria La Gorda, dancing the salsa in Old Havana, and visiting a tobacco farm to see how Cuba’s world-famous cigars are made, all without a care in the world.
Where to next?
The toughest part about adventure cruising? Picking the next destination, of course. Peregrine has carefully built a hand-picked range of tours all over the world – a mix of classic cruising destinations (with a twist) and a few groundbreaking itineraries.
Why not try a cruise around the wild west coast of Iceland? Or maybe an island-hopping jaunt through the Adriatic. A bit over the “usual” Greek Islands? While Peregrine’s cruises visit Santorini and Mykonos, they also include port stops in more remote places like Syros, Poros, Aegina, Kea and Kythnos.
Personal touch: On a Peregrine adventure cruise, you’re travelling with between 30 and 50 passengers, not 3000. Their boats have a maximum of 25 suites, and the small group atmosphere means you get a more personal service. Waiters will know your coffee and cocktail order. Your cruise director will greet you by name and you’ll get to know your fellow passengers.
Low impact: Unlike a big liner fuelled by an enormous diesel engine, adventure cruising is less damaging to the environment. These journeys are designed to be low impact so there’s fewer passengers on board, less stress on local communities and each trip is carbon offset through renewable energy projects.
Local Guides: Peregrine has employed local guides for more than 20 years. Who better to show you round than someone born and raised in the area, with connections, and a passion for the culture and the region.
Cruises to Antarctica on the Ocean Endeavour start at $10,240 per person/triple share, and on the Royal Eleganza to Croatia from $2656 for a lower deck standard double or twin. Includes most meals, accommodation, transport and some activities. There are a number of departures throughout the year. For more information and the full itineraries, contact your travel professional or Peregrine Adventures on 0800 770 107 or peregrineadventures.com.