What is a Yacht Cruise? How is it Different From Ocean Cruises?
Understanding the difference between a yacht cruise and a typical ocean cruise.
Roughly 20 years ago, Carol and I had a bad experience on what was billed as a luxury cruise ship and we vowed to never cruise again. However, the cruise industry has made significant strides in the last two decades and we’ve completely changed our minds on that stance as we’ve sampled quite a few of the modern cruise offerings.
While the quality of a cruise experience has dramatically changed for the better over the years, in our view, another great benefit offered by the cruise industry is the great variety of cruise experiences that are currently available.
There are massive cruise liners available for those who are more budget minded, there are cruise lines that specifically target the luxury traveler, there are expedition cruise lines that offer travelers destinations like Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands; and there now also exists quite a number of cruise lines that feature much smaller mega-yachts.
Carol and I just finished a wonderful sailing on Windstar Cruises MSY Windsurf, which they bill as the world’s largest motor sailing yacht. I’ll be featuring a number of articles on our website over the coming weeks where I’ll share our experience sailing on the Windsurf, but I thought it might be helpful for our readers and clients to understand the difference between a yacht cruise and a more typical ocean cruise line.
Distinctions of a Yacht Cruise
- As you can see in my photograph above, even the world’s largest sailing yacht is completely dwarfed in size by today’s ocean cruise liners. I was enjoying the Caribbean sun on the back of the Windsurf when this 5,400 person behemoth pulled into the port. I was so blown away by the sheer massiveness of the approaching ship, I decided to disembark my ship and see if I might grab a photograph of the ships side by side as a comparison. It was a difficult proposition to get a good comparative photograph. If I went to the end of the dock to capture the larger ship, you could barely see the Windsurf. Therefore, I chose to capture a little over 50% of the larger ship to use as my comparison with the Windstar Cruises ship. When the massive ship let down it’s gangways, I was again blown away by the sheer numbers of people that were pouring out of this ocean-sailing monstrosity. It was like witnessing thousands and thousands of ants pouring out of a massive ant colony. So, the first thing you should know about a yacht cruise is that it is a far more intimate experience. The Windsurf, the world’s largest sailing yacht, holds a maximum of 300 people. However, most commercial sailing and motor yachts tend to hold around 150 passengers.
- Yacht cruises tend to be more destination focused, and because of their smaller size, they are able to reach smaller ports that the larger cruise ships could never approach. I shot the very top photograph at the main port on the island of St. Martin. Besides the Windsurf, and the monster-ship docked next to us, there were also three other very large cruise ships in port. It was a madhouse. As an example of small ports with our much smaller sailing yacht, we were able to moor off a beautiful beach in Barbuda, hop aboard our tender to a small dock, and the locals whisked us away in small boats to a fabulous bird sanctuary to witness a massive colony of frigatebirds. That’s one of my photographs above. Pretty cool. Right? Our yacht was the only ship in sight. Most of the other Caribbean cruisers were off fighting crowds in Antigua.
- Most of the commercial yacht cruises offer their guests a marina right off the back of the ship. Want to swim in the ocean, snorkel; go ocean kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, or simply catch a few rays? It’s all available right on your yacht. Here’s a photo I snapped off the back of the Windsurf. Click photos for larger views.
- Generally speaking, with just a few exceptions, you won’t find stateroom balconies on a commercial yacht. Depending on the size of your stateroom, you’re going to find two or more portholes configured and designed to give you what appears to be a large picture window in your stateroom. This gave me a little concern before our sailing. However, we found such wonderful spaces aboard ship, we found that we primarily used our stateroom for sleeping and enjoyed the many nooks and crannies on the ship to relax, read a book, or catch a little sun. Frankly, we didn’t miss having a balcony at all.
- For us, we found that our sailing yacht offered us a far more romantic and idyllic setting. Because the ship is much smaller, it didn’t dominate the setting and allowed us to feel more immersed in our destinations. We really enjoyed that.
- While yacht cruises certainly offer sailings in the open seas, you’re going to find that yacht cruising is generally done at night as you’re moving from one destination to another. For example, most cruise lines sailing in the West Indies are leaving from Florida and that means 3-4 days at sea just to get to the islands and back. In our case, we flew into St. Martin, enjoyed a sunset sailing every night, and awoke to a different island each day. We were 9-nights on the ship and we visited 9 different islands. For us, we’d rather spend less time in the open seas and more time exploring different destinations.
Here’s a photograph I snagged with my iPhone as we were being tendered to shore while sailing with Windstar Cruises in the Caribbean. As you can see, the sails are down, and the marina is open for business on the back of the ship.
Yacht Cruise Options
Remarkably, as some demand is moving away from the mega-ships, there is a growing number of companies offering yacht cruises to the growing cruise market. Click the links below to explore the options currently available:
- Windstar Cruises – offering both motor and sailing yachts.
- SeaDream Yacht Club – offers two motor yachts holding only 112 people and caters to the 5-star crowd.
- Ponant Cultural Cruises and Expeditions – motor yachts, one sailing yacht, and also offers yacht expedition cruises.
- Crystal Cruises – for decades, Crystal has won best of the best awards in the luxury cruise industry. They have a brand new yacht cruise vessels with more on the way.
Looking back on our Windstar sailing a week ago, Carol and I enjoyed it greatly. AND, we would definitely do it again. Remarkably, the entry-level staterooms were only around $1,700/person for our 9-day cruise, which just might make this the best-kept secret in all of cruising!
If you want to get away from the crowds, we highly recommend that you strongly consider a cruise on one of the growing number of yacht cruises coming to the marketplace. You’re going to thank us later.
NOTE: while this article was designed to talk about yacht cruises in general, please use this link to check out the specific articles we will be writing to share and highlight our fabulous sailing on the Windstar Cruises Windsurf pictured above. It was a blast!
We’re here to help!
As you have probably figured out, we really enjoyed our first foray into yacht cruising. And, it’s a certainty that we’ll do more. It’s not that we all of a sudden prefer yacht cruises over the larger small ship cruise lines, it’s just nice to have both options available to choose from. I think some regions are better suited to yacht cruising. The Greeks Isles come to mind, for example.
So, think you might like to try a fun yacht cruise? You don’t have to figure this all out by yourself. We’re here to help.
To explore the options for a fun yacht cruise, call our travel agency at (480) 550-1235, or use our convenient online information request (click here) and we’ll reach out to you. You won’t pay a penny more for your cruise, you’ll get our expert advice and connections, and we may well have some groovy VIP perks to pass along to you through our Virtuoso Travel Network connections. 😊
Give us a call today, and let’s get a fun yacht cruise on the books!
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for our travel newsletter to keep abreast of our best travel tips, on-location reviews, exclusive travel offers, group travel events, and much more.