It’s almost November, and in the world of cruising that means one thing: only a month remains until the launch of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, sister ship to the gargantuan Oasis of the Seas which was launched last December.

It also signals the start of near-endless media coverage about the ship, her accommodations, itineraries, performers – the works.  In other words, there’s no need for us to report on her.

Instead, we’re taking a different track here at From the Deck Chair by focusing on eight other ships that are worthy of your attention and cruise dollars.  This week, we highlight four small ships that are worth watching, and next week we’ll follow up with four large ships. 

Some of the ships listed below may be new, while others may have been in a particular fleet for years.  In each case though, there is something unique and noteworthy that makes these vessels stand out among the rest.  There’s something here for every taste, and every budget.

Silver Wind Silversea Cruises

Silversea’s elegant Silver Wind.
Note the new addition above the navigation bridge.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises 

Built in 1995, this intimate, 296-passenger ship has been a favorite amongst Silversea passengers for years.  At just 514 feet long, Silver Wind is one of the smaller, more intimate ships in the fleet – which is saying a lot for a line that prides itself on its small-to-midsize ships.  

Silversea’s goal is to exceed passenger expectations, and it does so through its high culinary standards, exemplary service, and its luxurious, well-appointed ships. 

 One of Silver Wind’s fantastic, newly refurbished suites.
Photo courtesy of Silversea Cruises

In keeping with that theme, the line spent an entire month and millions of dollars upgrading and refurbishing the Silver Wind at the San Giorgio shipyard in Genoa, Italy.  Carpets were ripped out and replaced.  Chairs and furniture re-upholstered.  Staterooms revitalized.  Beds and bedding swapped out.  Onboard decor updated and modernized.

Perhaps most ambitiously, the ship was also fitted with a brand-new, 60-guest Observation Lounge, as well as a new Spa and Fitness Centre.  The new addition distinguished Silver Wind from her sister, Silver Cloud, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows that now grace the forward end of Deck 9.  Behind the scenes, a new glass elevator whisks passengers from Deck 8 to the new addition on Deck 9.

Accommodations were not overlooked either: four new Medallion Suites were added to Deck 8, a new Owner’s Suite to Deck 7, and new Vista and Medallion Suites were added to Deck 7.

The result is a passenger favorite revitalized for a new decade of cruising.  If you like your ships yacht-like, elegant but not pretentious, Silver Wind is tough to beat.  The line hasn’t stopped there, however: earlier this year, the larger Silver Whisper was revitalized, adding many features found on the newer Silver Spirit, including the hugely popular Black Rock outdoor dining option.

In this age of  “bigger-is-better”, it’s refreshing to see lines pay attention to the vessels that brought them their success to begin with.

Oceania MarinaOceania Cruises

One of the few photographs of Oceania Marina, still under construction.
Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises 

Due to set sail this coming January, Oceania Marina is notable for being the first newbuild for Oceania Cruises, a line built upon the ashes of the former Renaissance Cruises.  A line’s first purpose-built ship is a big event, and Oceania is pulling out all the stops for Marina.

While the ship is still under construction, the initial interior renderings are impressive: the decor is a throwback to the glorious days of the original transatlantic liners, albeit in a 2010-style.  At 782 feet long and carrying just over 1,200 passengers, this is a ship that leans closer to being called “midsize” rather than small – but we’ve included her here because, up to this point, Oceania has been a small-ship line.

 A rendering of one of Marina’s impressive suites.
Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

Despite the size and passenger increase, Marina’s more subtle touches – from six different open seating dining venues to numerous intimate, clubby public spaces ensures the ship will appeal to those who love a smaller ship, while still remaining attractive to those who like their ships on the larger size.

The big head turner?  The bathrooms.  For a ship in the premium category, Marina offers many features that approach those found in the ultra-luxury category: granite bathrooms with separate tub, sink and shower areas.  If you’ve ever squeezed into the “white cylinder” offered on most mainstream lines, you’re bound to appreciate the extra space.

PrinsendamHolland America Line

ms Prinsendam, shown here in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Holland America Line 

A veritable blast from the past, Holland America’s Prinsendam has had plenty of opportunities since her 1988 launch to garner a loyal following of passengers.  Originally built for Royal Viking Line as their Royal Viking Sun, Prinsendam is Holland America’s “elegant explorer”, and as such, routinely operates some of the line’s best, most obscure and unique itineraries.

 Prinsendam’s Explorer’s Lounge.
Photo courtesy of Holland America Line

She’s also been heavily modified and updated since her Royal Viking days, but largely for the better.  While a recent refit added additional balcony suites and altered her aft pool deck (and her sleek profile), Holland America has ensured Prinsendam still sparkles with a series of soft refits that have seen fixtures, furniture, public rooms and staterooms refitted and brought firmly into the new century.

She’s a throwback to “the good ‘ol days” of cruising – but in a modern, elegant and tasteful fashion.  On the mainstream front, it’s tough to find a more classic experience than this ship.

 Le BorealCompagnie du Ponant

 Le Boreal at sea.
Photo courtesy of Compagnie du Ponant

If you’re from North America, chances are you haven’t heard of either Le Boreal or Compagnie du Ponant – and that’s a shame. The French line has been trying hard to make significant inroads into the English-speaking market, and their newest vessel showcases that superbly.

Holding a maximum of 264 passengers, this “mega yacht” is remarkably striking with its sleek black hull and twin smokestacks.  Inside, the ship represents its modern, European roots with sleek, stylish and often minimalist decor.

Modern European decor graces Le Boreal’s staterooms.
Photo courtesy of Compagnie du Ponant

Offering a slice of Europe at sea, what’s perhaps most surprising about this ship is the wide variety of European itineraries she sails, and the price of admission: itineraries are some of the best outside of the ultra-luxury category, and price points are quite affordable for a ship her size.  The line states their prime objective when desiging Le Boreal was to create “a subtle blend of luxury, intimacy, and well-being” in a unique setting.  They seem to have achieved this: there is nothing else quite like this ship.

Intrigued?  Visit each of the above lines for more information on their respective ships.
Too small?  Stay tuned – next Monday we take a look at four large ships worth sailing.


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