Last updated: 09:00 PM ET, Wed May 27 2015

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  • Amber Nolan | May 27, 2015 9:00 PM ET

    7 Under the Radar Cruise Lines

    7 Under the Radar Cruise Lines

    Most cruisers are well-versed in names of mega cruise ship companies like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian Cruise Line, and they may have even heard of some smaller cruise lines like Un-Cruise Adventures, American Cruise Lines, or Viking River Cruises. However, these six, under-the-radar companies offer a unique cruise experience that even the most in-the-know travelers may not be familiar with.

    Ayravata Cruises in Myanmar

    Founded in 2003 by three Myanmar entrepreneurs with experience in travel and tourism, Ayravata Cruises provides a luxury experience on the Chindwin and Ayeyarwaddy (Irrawaddy) rivers. The company operates four “floating boutique hotels” that carry between 32 and 56 passengers, each with modern interior décor comprised of teak wood interiors and a touch of Myanmar culture through traditional motifs, wooden figures, fabrics, and paintings. While three of the vessels were built between 2007 and 2014, one steamer ship was originally built in 1947 and sailed under the historic Irrawaddy Flotilla Company. Itineraries range from short, one or two-night exploration cruises to 10-night sailings that visit small villages, temples, pagodas, and colonial towns.

    Silhouette Cruises in Africa

    The concept behind Silhouette Cruises combines the romance of sailing with the allure of the tropical Seychelles. What began in 1997 with one tall sailing ship, the SV Sea Shell, has expanded to a fleet of four, and also offers special voyages that assist in oceanographic research and monitoring missions. Situated some 930 miles east of mainland Africa, the Seychelles are often referred to as the biblical Garden of Eden and regularly-scheduled weekly itineraries allow travelers to explore this beautiful region with visits to nature preserves, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and remote islands for snorkeling and relaxation.

    Proud Mary Cruises in Australia

    Spanning 2,299 miles, Australia's Murray River is the fourth longest river system in the world, and the Proud Mary navigates these waters on two and five-night exploration cruises. Excursions include nature hikes to Reedy Creek Gorge (also known as Mannum Waterfalls), Ngaut Ngaut Aboriginal Conservation Park, one of the oldest archaeological digs in Australia, or campfires and barbecues on the riverbank with entertainment under the stars. The ship has 18 spacious river-view cabins with twice-daily service, as well as several lounges and complimentary use of canoes and kayaks.

    Manatee Amazon Explorer and Anakonda Amazon in Ecuador

    While a number of river cruise ships navigate the Amazon in Peru and Brazil, very few explore the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin. Advantage Travel offers voyages with two cruise lines; Anakonda Amazon River Cruises and Manatee Amazon Explorer on upscale vessels that embark from the frontier town of Coca, Ecuador, and sail along the Napo River on week-long itineraries. Cruises visit the Limoncocha Biological Reserve, local village schools, and Yasuni National Park with opportunities to spot pink river dolphins, squirrel monkeys, piranha, and other wildlife.

    A-ROSA in Europe

    While Viking River Cruises, Uniworld, and Avalon Waterways take much of the spotlight in the European river cruise market, until recently, A-ROSA has remained under the radar to American travelers. Although the company — which specializes in the Danube and Rhine Rivers — has roots dating back to 2000, it wasn’t until 2013 that it introduced itself to the North American market. A few features that set it apart from the other river cruises are the open bar policy, which includes free soda, juices, coffee, cocktails, wine and beer at any time (not just at lunch and dinner), a $200 excursion credit, bicycle rentals, a heated pool on the sun deck (for most ships), and an onboard spa and fitness area.

    Celestyal Cruises in Greece

    Celestyal Explorer

    Previously known as Louis Cruises, Celestyal Cruises became the new brand in 2014 that aims to offer a true Greek experience with authentic Greek hospitality, local cuisine, and Greek entertainment. There are four traditional cruise ships in the fleet that visit Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece, including one brand new ship, the Celestyal Odyssey, that sets sail in June, plus two charter vessels. Most ships average around 1,300 passengers — significantly smaller than the giant vessels the big-name cruise companies have introduced in recent years. Ships are fitted with dining rooms, lounges, buffets, a casino, sauna, gym, hair salon, library, and even a video arcade. 


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Amber Nolan Captain’s Blog: Cruise Tips and Advice

Amber Nolan Amber Nolan loves to be on the water, and although she enjoys the fun and excitement of larger cruise ships, she prefers setting sail on smaller vessels to unique destinations. Originally from western New York, this restless traveler has a knack for finding creative ways to travel and befriending interesting characters along the way. On her most recent adventure, she hitchhiked on private aircraft across the United States. She previously served as the cruise editor at Sherman’s Travel but her work can also be found on and USA Today Travel. She current resides in South Florida.
Journey on an Avalon River Cruise

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