I have been on cruise ships of many different varieties and each one dictates through size and style a special kind of experience. The boats varied from the Princess luxury liner with 1,500 passengers to a sailing yacht with approximately 200 or less on board and a barge that accommodated 24 people. I personally prefer the smaller ships.

The one Princess cruise that I took, to Alaska in 1988 on the Star Princess, did have some delightful elements. For example, the entertainment was geared to my generation and the orchestra played music from the 40s and 50s. We sang along. There was a gambling casino and I actually paid my reasonably sized bar bill with my winnings at Black Jack. There was bridge, an exercise room and some very good shore trips to Sitka where the Russians had settled at one point, and elsewhere along the shore.

Our stop in Junod was great, with a salmon cookout and panning for gold. I asked for the recipe for the salmon topping, which was really delicious, but they wouldn't give it to me. No, I didn't find any gold. The large number of passengers and the touristy atmosphere on board the Princess, however, is not my favorite type of cruise experience.

Two small cruise ships with really special designs and attributes were Le Ponant, a three-masted schooner in which we sailed the Aegean Sea, and the Turmalina, in which we cruised the Amazon.

More Information

Fact box

Le Ponant had a French crew and, to my delight, the first night of the cruise at the welcome aboard dinner I was seated next to the captain. I suspect that this was because his English was very limited and our group leader, a classmate of mine from Smith, knew I spoke French.

I learned that he was from Nantes, was a skier and tennis player (both sports dear to my heart). He also told me that Le Ponant would soon cross the Atlantic for winter cruises in the Caribbean. I was somewhat surprised at that since Le Ponant is quite a small ship. Following that dinner we arrived on deck to find that we were totally under sail in the quiet of a beautiful evening.

Throughout the voyage I enjoyed speaking French with the crew who, unlike Parisians, did not try to change to English when they noticed my accent.

The Peruvian ship Turmalina was an ornate triple-decked river boat accommodating about 30 people, colorfully painted in reds, greens and rusts. While the style of the hull suggested an old Spanish galleon, the cabins and dining room were comfortably air-conditioned with all the modern facilities.

She had an attractive teak wood bar. At night we were entertained there by the crew who played traditional Peruvian musical instruments and sang lively South American songs. The Turmalina and her sister ships were built in Iquitos, a Peruvian village at the mouth of the Amazon, by one of the new entrepreneurs of the region. We cruised the broad flowing river admiring the colorful birds and animals of the rain forest and were followed by pink dolphins who dove under water just as I got my camera set to take a photo.

Le Ponant and La Termalina both had bars, cabins with refrigerators with drinks and other amenities to which the international traveler was accustomed. They required moderate-sized crews including a head chef to attend to the passengers needs. I just returned from a barge trip on the canals in the Netherlands, however, which was a great experience but the barge had absolutely no frills.

The Anna Cornelia was low slung in the water and simple in design. She accommodated 20 passengers. The captain owned and lived on the ship and there was a crew of three. They did all the cooking, laundry and other shipboard tasks. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style but the food was excellent. The cabins were small with no closets -- you hung your clothes on hangers from hooks on the wall - and don't forget to bring your own washcloth and shower cap. The informal life on the barge, however, gave the small group of seventeen a feeling of family. We really got to know and enjoy each other and the crew.

Thus I have experienced the luxury Princess, some traditional cruise ships on the Danube and the Yangtze Rivers the more specially styled ships, Le Ponant, La Termalina and the Anna Cornelia, a river barge on the canals of Holland. I have enjoyed them all for their different attributes and while I prefer the friendliness and less elaborate trappings of the smaller ships, it was fun to have one experience on a "Love Boat" cruise on the Star Princess.