Many people settle down with family during the holidays to catch up, and reconnect with loved ones. For a small group, the holidays are a perfect time to explore and experience the world.
Small ship cruises have been busy this holiday season, exploring diverse areas of our world, from the southern reaches of Antarctica and the South Pacific, up to the unique Galapagos Islands and Central America, and further to Europe and America’s southern Atlantic coast.
Christmas and New Years falls in the middle of the Antarctica cruise season. Several small ship companies are exploring Antarctica and several islands off the mainland.
- Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Explorer had just left the Antartic mainland and was traversing the Drake Passage on Christmas Day. Expedition members led guests in rousing renditions of their favorite Christmas carols. The National Geographic Explorer is due to return for New Year’s, undoubtedly celebrating the New year with several varieties of penguins, amid floating iceberg sculptures.
- Quark Expeditions had several of its ships around Antarctica this holidays season. Onboard ship, passengers gathered in the lecture hall to sing Christmas Carols. A few passengers continued the caroling in the lounge area until the wee hours of the night. The Ocean Nova was exploring the Antarctic Peninsula & South Shetland Islands. Kapitan Khlebnikov, on its final passenger cruising season, was at sea for Christmas, and will be visiting St. Paul Island, a breeding site for Subantarctic Fur Seals, Southern Elephant Seals and Rockhopper Penguins, and one of the last islands before crossing the Drake Passage, for New years. And the Sea Spirit will be in port at Ushuaia, Argentina, preparing for it’s next sailing.
- Gap Adventures ship Expedition spent Christmas exploring the Antarctic Peninsula & the South Shetland Islands.
- Orion Expeditions Orion celebrated Christmas exploring the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Zegrahm Expeditons Clipper Adventurer will bring in the New Year cruising the South Scotia Sea, southeast of South America.
- Silversea Expeditions Silver Explorer spent Christmas exploring Saunders Island and Westpoint Island of the Falkland Islands. The Silver Explorer will return to the Antarctic Peninsula to bring in the New Year.
While much of America’s eastern coastline is considered too cold for comfortable sailing, the southern Atlantic coast is still ripe for exploring.
- American Cruise Lines had four of its ships sailing the southern waters of the Atlantic coast during Christmas. American Glory made a call at Palatka, FL, a charming river town with grand homes and restored plantation houses. American Star made a call at Amelia Island, Florida, with its miles of quartz beaches and rolling sand dunes, surrounded by calm waterways and the Nassau Sound. Both American Spirit and Independence made port stops at Beaufort, SC, where horse-drawn carriages bring visitors through the narrow streets of the historic district past eighteenth and nineteenth century homes famous for their unique Beaufort style architecture.
Costa Rica & Panama
While there is no snow in Costa Rica, there is plenty of wildlife to observe.
- Lindblad Expeditions National Geographic Sea Lion arrived early Christmas morning at Manuel Antonio National Park, one of Costa Rica’s smallest national parks, and a small jewel isolated by the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful scenery and plenty of wildlife. Guests saw not one by two sloths (a first), white-faced monkeys, black iguanas, and several species of birds.
European River Cruises
Europe is a perfect choice in destination for those looking to experience many of the Christmas traditions, such as Christmas Markets, caroling and unique gifts and crafts. River cruises afford the traveler a unique way to unpack once, then travel to many of most historic, popular cities in Europe.
- AMAWaterways had three ships cruising the Danube River (and lesser Main-Danube Canal) around Christmas. The holidays were experienced in style aboard these ships. European Christmas traditions were experienced, such as putting shoes out at night and St. Nicolas making his visit to leave everyone chocolates. On Christmas Day, AmaLyra was in port at Vienna, Austria. AmaLegro made a stop in Budapest, Hungry. And AmaDolce visited Prague in the Czech Republic.
The Galapagos Islands are an exceptional choice for destinations (and experiences) to celebrate the holidays, especially for families with children.
- Lindblad Expeditions ships National Geographic Endeavour and National Geographic Islander celebrated Christmas in the Galapagos Española Island. The day was filled with snorkeling with a curious sea lion, followed by more sea lion encounters on the beach. Marine iguanas and the Galápagos hawks greeted guests during a hike. Other observations during the hike were sea lion pups interacting with iguanas, blue-footed boobies courting and some lava lizards displaying their aggressive behavior to impress females. All in all, an amazing, rich, unforgettable Christmas.
What better place to celebrate the holidays than in paradise!
- Paul Gauguin Cruises gives “White Christmas” a new meaning, bringing guests to the white-sand beaches of magical French Polynesia. Aboard the Paul Gauguin, guests visited Bora Bora, who Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener described as “the most beautiful island in the world,” on Christmas Day. Private beaches, a glass-bottom boat excursion and a tour this island paradise were enjoyed by guests. Paul Gauguin will also pay a visit to Bora Bora for New Years.
What about Holidays 2012?
Now is the absolute best time to plan and book your 2012 small ship holiday cruise, as the warmth of the holidays are still fresh in your mind. Baja Mexico and Mississippi River are just some of the destinations being added to the selection in addition to those listed above. Visit the small ship Holiday Theme cruise section of the Sunstone Tours & Cruises website at http://www.sunstonetours.com.