Alternative Lines

If your idea of a dream European cruise involves traveling aboard a large sailing ship or motorized yacht, an alternative cruise line is the best choice for you. A more intimate and sometimes adventurous experience than other cruise options, alternative cruises offer you a chance to forge friendships with fellow passengers in a relaxed, “dress down” atmosphere. You won’t find all-night bingo or big dance numbers on an alternative cruise line, and staterooms and public areas are generally lacking in the comforts of home. The one exception would be Windstar cruises, where you can find more luxury accommodations, service and amenities.

Because the alternative cruise ships have less of their ships riding below the water line, they are able to dock at ports other ships cannot access. Many of the alternative lines have zodiac crafts and other landing crafts that allow you to explore secluded waters and beaches. Most of the alternative lines with European cruise itineraries provide little onboard entertainment, if any, but do offer enrichment opportunities through lectures, guided shore excursions, and conversations with various experts on the region.

Clipper Cruise Line

A Clipper luxury cruise is of the “expedition” variety, where you embark on your voyage along with 100 or so passengers to remote ports of call. The classical design of the Clipper Adventurer is evocative of magnificent ocean liners, with a more intimate feel. A European cruise aboard the Adventurer centers on unusual ports and enrichment opportunities through regionally specific lectures and discussions with experts. Owned and operated by Americans, this alternative cruise line offers meals prepared by graduates of the Culinary Institute of American in New York. You will also enjoy the captain’s open bridge policy, where you can talk with the ship’s officers anytime you want. The Clipper Adventurer tours Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

Lindblad Expeditions

Pitlochry, Scottish Highlands

Pitlochry, Scottish Highlands

A Lindblad Expedition cruise is the adventurers dream. Explore out-of-the-way destinations and spectacular wildlife while Expedition Leaders enhance your experience with lectures, discussions and guided tours. Lindblad believes in “respectful tourism,” and has a commitment to sustaining the diverse ecosystems in which they travel. This unique alternative cruise line partners with several environmental groups who provide expert guides and assist Lindblad in its preservation efforts; including the World Wildlife Fund, Charles Darwin Foundation and the Chef’s Collaborative. Lindblad’s partnership with the National Geographic Society has lead to the renaming of their flagship vessel, the 110-passenger National Geographic Endeavor. The newest ship in Lindblad’s fleet is Sea Cloud II, is a three-masted barque on which you can experience the majesty of a hand-sailed tall ship. The third European cruise ship in Lindblad’s fleet is the Lord of the Glens, which cruises the Scottish Highlands. The National Geographic Endeavor cruises the British Isles, Scandinavia and the Baltics; and the Sea Cloud II explores the coasts of Mediterranean, England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

Star Clippers

This alternative cruise line is your opportunity to experience the thrill of sailing as the ancient mariners did. Passengers can assist the crew with hoisting the sails, climbing masts and even steering the ship. Of course, this is not required, and relaxing on deck with a book is the preference of most of Star Clippers’ passengers. The ship’s size allows you to explore unique destinations as well as more common ports. The Star Clipper and the Star Flyer both carry 170 passengers comfortably, and the interiors have the feel of a private yacht. The luxury Royal Clipper is the largest tall ship in the world, and is the only ship with five masts. With a capacity of 227 passengers, the Royal Clipper offers more amenities and onboard activities, such as a well-appointed spa and health club and a three-deck atrium. European cruise itineraries for the Star Flyer include destinations in the Eastern Mediterranean, while the Star Clipper and the Royal Clipper cruise the shores of the Western Mediterranean.

Windstar Cruises

Life aboard a Windstar Cruise is one of elegant but casual relaxation. This alternative cruise line’s fleet of four- and five-masted tall sailing ships evoke the feel of a majestic sailing vessel with more of the luxurious comforts and public areas than other sailing vessels. Windstar is well known for providing excellent service, several dining options, and impressive spa facilities. The Wind Star and the Wind Spirit both carry 148 passengers, while the newer Wind Surf has a capacity of 308 passengers and is home to the WindSpa. European cruise itineraries include destinations in the Mediterranean and the Greek Isles.