7 Cruises for People Who Hate Cruises

There are two types of people out there: cruise lovers and cruise haters. While some people may be okay with enduring cramped sleeping quarters, crowded lines for on-board amenities, and glasses of corked wine and plates of buffet-style slop that's been sitting out for too long in the salty sea air… I'm not one of them.
I was scarred as a child from cruises with my family. My first ended with me desperately attempting to straighten the crimping from my beaded braids before returning to third grade and trying to forget the nightmare of being holed up in a cabin with no windows and my gaseous, gambling-addicted grandma.
Consequently, I became a non-cruiser and have since avoided cruise ships like a liar avoids eye contact. I've held fast to that identification, until recently, when I heard about some new expeditions that sound rather tempting. River cruises that make frequent stops at German vineyards? A luxury Amazon River cruise set on feeding guests uncommon adventures and a five-star Peruvian chef-driven menu? Yes, please!
I'm not fully converted yet, but these seven itineraries are making me want to test out my sea legs again. Note: They're not cheap, but if you're looking for a trip where everything is taken care of and your only job is to relax, these are a world away from my grandmother's cruises.
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Photo: Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions.
Aqua Expeditions: Amazon River, Peru
Aqua Expedition's vessels manage to make a cruise along Peru's Amazon River feel indulgent and comfortable, yet fully authentic. Only 24 passengers are allowed aboard this small ship at one time, plus a 21-person crew (that's a 1.1 to 1 passenger to crew ratio!), a number that eliminates the urge to rush for anything. There's rarely a wait for a spot in the open-air hot tub, and dinners are slow-paced with locally sourced cuisine from celebrated Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino.

The excursions included in the price are optional — though you probably won't want to miss the chance to sip Champagne on a late night caiman-spotting trek or forage for fruit in the rainforest.
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Photo: Courtesy of Anantara Song River Cruise.
Anantara Song River Cruise: Bangkok, Thailand
In ancient Bangkok, daily life revolved around the river and canals. Floating vendors sold goods from bamboo rafts while elaborate barges transported rice to and from the city. The city is largely modernized today, but the Anantara Song river cruise transports you back to a world that once was.

The ship is an actual 22-meter rice barge that has been converted to sleep no more than four couples for a three day, two night cruise along the Chao Phraya. Although the rooms are small, you'll most likely be spending your time above the hull before and after off-shore excursions, as all meals (dinner, afternoon tea, pre-dinner canapés and cocktails, etc.) are served on deck so that you can gaze at the passing scenery.
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Photo: Courtesy of The American Queen.
The American Queen: Mississippi River
Referred to as floating palaces by Mark Twain, Victorian steamboats are a symbol of a bygone era. The American Queen is the largest steamboat ever built and is the last remaining authentic one still offering overnight cruises in the U.S.

The ship cruises along the Mississippi River in a very Maverick-esque fashion, with a two-story grand saloon where you can watch a killer cabaret performance and a handful of antebellum-inspired lounges perfect for trying your hand at poker or sipping a classic cocktail. Whitewashed rocking chairs and porch swings line the deck, so you can drink lemonade and sweet tea while channeling your inner southerner.
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Photo: Courtesy of Vulkana Spa Boat.
Vulkana Spa Boat: Norway
This boat is basically a floating spa that just so happens to also offer a place to sleep. But, with only three cabins with double beds and one cabin with four beds, it's a fairly exclusive mobile spa. With its hip remodel of a worn-out Nordic fishing vessel, Vulkana caters to a younger demographic with a taste for the luxe.

The spa includes a Hamam (a Turkish bath), a clothing-optional wood-fired sauna, and a Japanese Zen lounge; the ship itself houses a hot tub on the top deck where you can sometimes spot the Northern Lights at night, a 7-meter diving dock for anyone crazy enough to dip into the chilly waters of the fjords, and a small restaurant that serves traditional Norwegian food around a common table. The vessel does a few cruises around the river in Tromso, but the the most exclusive way to experience Vulkana is to rent it for a night with friends.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alaskan Dream Cruise.
Alaskan Dream Cruises: Alaska
Even non-cruisers dream of taking an Alaskan cruise, but the secret no one tells you is that most of those "Alaskan experiences" are just cliché Caribbean cruises cloaked in a deceptive winter disguise. The Alaskan Dream Cruise is precisely what most people envision when they imagine sailing up north, and this small-ship excursion will not disappoint.

The vessel holds no more than 40-60 passengers, and its small size allows it to venture where most cruise ships can't. Stops include actual wilderness experiences in the offbeat communities of Kake, Kasaan, Wrangell, and Petersburg that have only been frequented by naturalists and artisans. The best part? There are no produced shows for entertainment in the evenings or rock walls or even pools on the ship. Guests are encouraged to hang out on the deck watching for wildlife, visit in the lounge, or chill in their rooms relaxing…sans TV.
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Photo: Courtesy of French Country Waterways.
French Country Waterways: Various Regions Of France
The people in charge of these boutique French experiences prefer the term "luxury hotel barge" to "cruise ship," if that tells you anything about what to expect onboard. The ports this barge stops at aren't tourist traps, but actual people's homes and vineyards where guests disembark. Most of the meals are eaten off the boat at Michelin-starred restaurants and local farmers' markets.

Everything from exclusive wine tastings with the specific winemaker to a private walk through a historic châteaux guided by the family in residence, could happen on these highly unpredictable, authentically French excursions. Routes go through the Upper Loire Valley, Burgundy, Alsace-Lorraine, and Champagne regions of France, and run April through October each year.
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Photo: Courtesy of Regal Princess.
Regal Princess: Various Destinations
Even if large-ship cruising isn't your thing, there's at least something enchanting about boarding a brand new ship in its maiden year. The paint is still fresh on the Regal Princess, a ship that comes from incredibly good breeding — it's the sister ship of the Royal Princess, which Duchess Kate officially named.

Although you may encounter some stereotypical cruise personalities onboard, there is a very atypical boutique vibe on this ship; e.g., nightly movies shown by the pool with popcorn or warm cookies and milk, exclusive craft beers, genuinely good entertainment everywhere from the piano lounge to the main stage, and an a wine cellar featuring vintages from around the world. One of the ship's best-kept secrets is the pedicure chair at the spa, which can give you an exclusive sea-level view of the sun setting beneath the horizon if you time your appointment just right.

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