Set sail for a great holiday, on these 10 cruises with a difference

(THE GUARDIAN) - Taking a cruise doesn't have to mean climbing aboard a massive modern liner. Here are some more traditional approaches to a holiday on the water.

1. Evia, Greece

Evia is Greece’s second-largest island, and more popular with domestic tourists than foreigners. Take the kids and explore by caïque, the region’s traditional wooden fishing boat, stopping to scramble among ancient ruins, swim in the Aegean and load up on feta and filo in local tavernas.

Explore’s eight-day family caïque cruise on eight-cabin MV Isidoros costs from £625 (S$ 1,138) per adult, £565 per child.

2. Bodrum, Turkey

People have been building boats on this stretch of the Aegean coast since classical times, and from the outside, their traditional wooden, twin-masted gulets look much as they ever did. But inside, it’s a different story. Passengers sleep in eight comfortable cabins, and swap fishing duties for swimming, sunbathing and some light sightseeing.

Direct Traveller’s eight-day Sail Away in Bodrum trip costs from £201 per person, including accommodation and most meals.

3. Mekong, Vietnam-Cambodia 

The first tourist ship to negotiate the river passage from the Vietnamese Mekong to the more tranquil Cambodian side in 2003, the RV Mekong Pandaw is still doing the trip today. 

The 24 teak-and-brass cabins have panoramic windows, and complimentary ice-cream is served from dawn to dusk on the sundeck.


The Mekong Pandaw's intimate size keeps things friendly. PHOTO: MEKONG RIVER CRUISE

Pandaw’s four-night Saigon-Phnom Penh trip costs from £630 full-board, including entrance fees and guiding.

4. Senegal to Gambia

Experience the wilder side of cruising on a voyage from Dakar down the coast of Senegal and up the Gambia river in a 25-cabin yacht.

There’s a stop in Banjul, but most of the time you’re in pristine nature reserves, spotting hippos, crocodiles, chimpanzees, bushbabies, and countless birds.

Seafarer Cruises’ one-week Rivers of West Africa cruise costs from £1,325 per person full-board.

5. Island hopping, Maldives

If over-water bungalows don’t float your boat, it doesn’t mean the Maldives are a no-go area.

Island-hopping on a traditional wooden dhoni with just five cabins, passengers can sunbathe on uninhabited sands, snorkel over quiet coral reefs and dine with a local community.

 G Adventures’ seven-day Maldives Dhoni Cruise trip from Male costs from £989 per person full-board.

6. Kerala backwaters, India

Most people just spend a night in Kerala’s palm-lined backwaters on a thatched houseboat, and stick to the busier channels. On this six-night trip, the crew will pilot your one-cabin boat through quiet canals to tourist-free temples and villages, and serve coconut-laced curries under the stars.


A kettuvallam, one of the thatched-roof wooden boats traditionally used to ferry rice and spices, but now converted into full-service accommodation. PHOTO: LYDIA VASKO

 

Kerala Connections’ six-night cruise on a converted kettuvallam (rice barge) costs from £735 per person full-board 

7. The Hebrides, Scotland

The other five guests, skipper and chef aren’t the only companions on this refitted “tall ship” in the Hebrides.

In most remote, tranquil bays, passengers will be joined by sea eagles, basking sharks, orcas and dolphins. Days can be spent swimming, hiking, and sinking a shot of whisky or three.

 St Hilda Sea Adventures’ five-night Sounds of the Hebrides cruise costs from £750 per person full-board.

8. Nile temples, Egypt

Tutankhamun isn’t the only Egyptian royal with history on the Nile. In 1938, Egypt’s last king, Farouk, launched his steamship, the Misr, on the river.

Restored to its former glory in 2006, it has 24 plush cabins packed with antiques, all with marble bathrooms. 

Memphis Tours’ four-day cruises cost from £564 per person full-board, including excursions.

9. Gota canal, Sweden

Cruise Sweden’s “Blue Ribbon”, part of a 614km waterway linking Gothenburg to the Baltic, on a steamer and watch castles, churches and villages float by.

The 25-cabin, 1912-built Wilhelm Tham has period furnishings and white tablecloths, and guests don’t have to help at any of the 44 locks for which the canal was nicknamed “divorce ditch”.

 A three-day Göta Canal Highlights cruise costs from £743 per person full-board.

10. Six island hop, Cape Verde

Explore the Cape Verde archipelago with its mixture of African and Portuguese heritage and welcoming locals on a three-masted motorsailer that can accommodate up to 49 passengers in 24 cabins. It takes in coffee and sugar plantations, colonial towns and the Fogo volcano.

Variety Cruises’ eight day Islands of Cape Verde trip costs from £1,600 full-board including excursions.