Small Ship Cruising


Virgin Limited Edition’s newest addition, Necker Belle, will offer seven-day Caribbean charters.


The cruise industry is putting its own spin on an old saying: “Anything you can do, I can do bigger.” Cruise ships are increasingly becoming less like ships and more like nations unto themselves. Good News: There is still an array of small-ship options out there for those not looking for a cruise ship on steroids.

Ironically, one of the larger personalities on Earth is working a small cruise option into his répertoire. Richard Branson, whose Virgin brand consists of over 360 companies, is adding a 105-foot catamaran to the Virgin Limited Edition collection. The Necker Belle will be available for seven-day bespoke charters in the Caribbean beginning February 2010.

Why we love it? Well, for one, this is perfect for a group outing. The boat accommodates a tidy eight guests in four cabins. It’s perfect for a multigenerational family trip or four close couples wanting to vacation together. All cabins have large windows that are above the waterline so you have perfect sea views. The Master Suite has a queen-size bed and a private bathroom with a double basin and shower. Though the room also has a 52-inch LCD TV and an iPod docking station, we reckon it may not find much use.

Two double VIP guest cabins can also be reconfigured into twins with a junior version of the Master Suite’s bathroom with shower room. Other features include a 26-inch LCD TV, and DVD and sound system. The double guest cabin, which cannot be split into a twin, has an en-suite bathroom, and DVD and sound system. All enclosed guest cabins are air-conditioned.

Foodies will love this charter. Guests decide not only the menu (think decadence—lobster, caviar), but also dining times, either alfresco or inside. After dinner, you’ll want to sip your favorite drink at the flybridge cockpit, a U-shaped area perfect for watching a sunset.

On the Necker Belle, the early bird gets the worm—and the game chair. That is the prized game-fishing perch on the port aft quarter. A chef will be on hand to clean and cook the catch of the day. Makes for a memorable lunch. The boat also has equipment for waterskiing, snorkeling and scuba diving. 

Natural Habitat Adventures’ MC Nina will sail to the Galapagos Islands in 2010; the catamaran has such luxuries as alfresco dining and private balconies.


Want to book? Luxury travel advisors are advised to contact Virgin Limited Edition’s sales and reservations office (enquir[email protected]; 011-44-208-600-0430), which is composed of a team of four.

For those seeking an exploration-minded cruise, check out Natural Habitat Adventures 2010 Galapagos itinerary aboard the MC Nina. The 11-day voyage is being promoted as the “anti-cruise” for its intimacy and sustainable approach. The ship only accommodates 16 travelers and two guides. The “Classic Galapagos Aboard the Nina” itinerary promises an up-close look at the wildlife that is indigenous to the Galapagos Islands. Along the way, guests will have luxuries such as personal viewing balconies and alfresco dining, all aboard a steady ride: the Kat-700 series catamaran is equipped with a state-of-the-art stability system.

The voyage will be operated year-round with the first departure on January 21 from Quito, Ecuador. The final departure is on December 26.

Looking to go somewhere a bit more south? Like the bottom of the Earth, perhaps? Check out Gap Adventures February 20, 2010, 22-day Antarctica itinerary. The trip piques our interest because it’s different from other Antarctica voyages: the first 13 days are spent on land. Travelers will fly to El Calafate and explore Moreno Glacier, within Glacier National Park, in Argentina; hike to Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre for views of the peaks and glaciers; and travel south into Chile to the Torres del Paine National Park. They’re then off to Ushuaia on day 10 in preparation for the Antarctica expedition.

Gap Adventures operates the M/S Expedition, which has a capacity of 120 passengers. Unlike many expedition-purposed ships, M/S Expedition has multiple large public spaces, along with a Polar Bear Pub, Expedition Lounge/Albatross Bar, a fine-dining room, fitness center and sauna, barbecue deck and an observation deck. All cabins face the sea and feature a window or porthole, and have private en-suite bathrooms.

The Necker Belle, with only four cabins, is great for a multigenerational escape.


From Antarctica to Europe, if you are planning to be in Scotland, check out Luxury Scotland, which has just added a 50-foot motor yacht, Louise of Granton, to its fleet. It’s the perfect way to check out Scotland’s craggy coastline and can be chartered for day tours to such must-sees as Holy Loch. The three-deck yacht is pure luxury (think leather upholstery and cherry wood touches). Guests can also arrange a tailored menu that might include Beluga caviar.

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