The company that for four decades has offered award-winning international multi-sport vacations has responded to growing demand by launching a new category of adventure – small ship cruising. Utilizing a variety of classic vessels that carry from 12 to 150 passengers, this year there are seven cruises from Antarctica to Alaska.
Dan Austin, Founder and President, cautions that an Austin Adventures cruise is a far cry from a traditional big ship experience with thousands exercising their way on crowded shore excursions and to and from meals.
“Austin Adventures cruises are all about our signature trademark – small group adventure. We have found some of the best small ship cruise options from around the globe. Imagine a cruise up the Amazon where you can fish for piranhas, or discovering what Charles Darwin saw in the Galapagos, or whale watching in Alaska,” he says.
Austin adds that many enticing shoreline destinations can only be fully appreciated by small ship cruising. For example Antarctica and the Amazon are two regions offering spectacular natural wonders that can only be experienced on board a small and nimble ship designed to maneuver shallow, difficult-to-navigate waterways inaccessible to mega cruise liners. His company’s selection of ships ranges from a Peruvian riverboat that sleeps 14 to a four-masted sailing yacht accommodating 148.
The Australia | Kimberley Wilderness Cruise is an 8-day/7-night voyage on the 36-passenger True North that cruises through Western Australia’s pristine Kimberley wilderness region. On shore excursions guests hike (or helicopter) to the top of King George Falls, take a refreshing dip in a secluded billabong, marvel at some of the oldest art in the world -- "The Bradshaws," a group of traditional cave paintings with mysterious origins -- and climax each day with a glass of Australian wine while watching the sunset from an observation lounge. Departures in 2014 are April 19, May 10 and 31, June 21, July 12, and Aug. 2 and 23. Cabin prices begin at $10,495 per person.
Alaska Northern Passages & Glacier Bay is an 8-day/7-night cruise departing weekly in the summer aboard the newly renovated 76-guest Wilderness Explorer built specifically to navigate narrow straights and shallow lagoons. Amenities include a sauna and hot tub, a Douglas fir-topped bar, a hydrophone for listening below the surface and a bow-mounted underwater camera that streams to the vessel’s lounge and to guest cabin TV. The cruise explores from Juneau to Sitka, taking in spectacular tidewater glaciers, snow-capped mountain ranges, chiseled fjords, and pristine waters and wilderness teeming with whales, otters, bears and bald eagles. The per person double rate starts at $4,195. Departures are from May 3 through September 13, 2014.
Antarctica | Peninsula Expedition Cruise is an 11-day/10-night exploration through a world of sculpted ice and spectacular wildlife: sliding penguins, slumbering seals, 3,000-foot ice walls, and surreal sunsets. Guests navigate iceberg-laden waters and White Continent wilderness by small ship, zodiac, kayak and on foot. The M/V Plancius, originally an oceanographic research vessel for the Royal Dutch Navy, accommodates 114 passengers. Built specifically for icy conditions and equipped with 10 Zodiac Mark Vs, Plancius offers a restaurant/lecture room, a spacious panoramic observation lounge (with bar) and large, open deck spaces, perfect for enjoying the scenery and wildlife. The per person double rate starts at $8,450. Multiple departures between June - September and October – May.
Ecuador | Galapagos Islands is an 8-day/7-night exploration of Darwin’s world that enables guests to witness many of the same wonders he first recorded. Guests snorkel alongside warm-water penguins and sea lions and marvel at the diverse and fearless avian population. Home base is one of three identical 20-passenger motor yachts: M/Y Eric, Flamingo I and Letty, all with outside-facing cabins with private bath and shower. The per person double rate is $3,900. Departures are weekly year-round.
Peru | Amazon River Cruise is a 5-day/4-night journey aboard the 130-foot luxury riverboat M/V Aqua that sleeps 24 pampered guests. This itinerary reflects June through November departures. Another itinerary is in effect during high-water season of December through May. Departures are year round. From the observation deck guests can hear exotic birdsong and monkey calls, and witness three-toed sloth along theUcayaliRiver and other simians on thePacayaRiver accessed by skiff. The per person double rate begins at $3,800.
Costa Rica & Panama | Corcovado to Panama Canal is a 7-day/6-night voyage celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal this year. Guests sail the exquisite marine and wildlife-rich shores of Costa Rica and Panama’s Pacific coastline, including a transit of the Panama Canal. Corcovado National Park’s treasures include spot tapirs, jaguars and scarlet macaws; breaching whales and pods of playful dolphins welcome guest to the Osa Peninsula. Guests snorkel among schools of manta rays in Coiba National Park, home to one of the largest coral reefs in Central America. Home base is the 148-passenger, four-masted Wind Spirit sailing yacht with over 10,000 square feet of open deck space, a water-sports platform, library, pool, hot tub, a variety of dining options and an on-board spa. The per person double rate is from $2,199. 2014 departures are Mar 9, 16, 23, 30, Apr 6, Dec 13, 20 and 27.
Greece & Turkey | Greek Isles & Turkish Delights is an 8-day/7-night cruise that takes guests from the Acropolis of Athens to the palaces of Istanbul, enroute exploring the tiny streets of Mykonos, the birthplace of Apollo on Delos, the coffee houses of Bodrum and the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Guests sail on the four-masted Wind Spirit sailing yacht with 73 ocean-view staterooms, over 10,000 square feet of open deck, a water-sports platform, library, pool, hot tube, varied dining options and an onboard spa. The per person double rate starts at $3,599. Weekly departures are from May 17 through Oct. 11.