Ahoy There! Upscale Cruises Plus Charming Itineraries With All Leisure Holidays

with Martha Chapman

Judi Pym & Joanne Lundy of Discover the World, Canadian Reps for All Leisure

Colin Wilson of All Leisure Holidays

How civilized! A lovely spread of afternoon tea

If the words “floating country house hotel" make you want to dash home and pack your suitcase, I'm with you. Even the lavish charms of a pretty afternoon tea at Toronto's famed Park Hyatt Hotel couldn't distract me from the totally entrancing-sounding All Leisure Holidays cruises.

The umbrella name for 6 U.K.-based wholesalers, All Leisure has three small ship cruise lines: Voyages of Discovery, Swan Hellenic and Hebridean Island Cruises. Colin Wilson, Group Sales Director, joined a group of travel agents last week to spell out their respective features and sample itineraries.

All 3 lines feature Phillipino crews with up to 1:1 passenger/crew ratio. And, all place the emphasis on enrichment, experience and discovery – and not, as Wilson put it, “getting a suntan".

Voyages of Discovery invite clients to cruise with just 540 like-minded customers. Wilson explained that Voyages is known for relaxed and friendly service and engaging guest speakers who range from historians to academics, as well as creative workshops and even a hugely-popular passenger choir program. (“The U.K. has gone choir mad.") All onboard gratuities and service charges are included. Itineraries include a best-selling cruise around Britain where every port of call is an island, from the Hebrides to the Scilly Isles to the Channel Islands.

Swan Hellenic ships take just 350 passengers in floating country house ambience, according to Wilson. “Within short order they'll know how many ice cubes you take in your gin and tonic." Itineraries include the Greek Isles, Chilean Fjords and another round-Britain cruise, this time stopping at mainland ports.

But truly the most unusual and intriguing cruises are offered by Hebridean Island Cruises in an ugly duckling car ferry which has been transformed, with a lot of consideration and love, into a luxurious floating hotel. How fancy is it? Let's just say that the Queen has chartered it twice; it boasts the ambience of a private club. Inclusions range from a choice of 14 types of honey at breakfast, to whatever you choose to drink when they stop at Britain's most remote pub, to picnic baskets complete with champagne.

Activities for the 50 lucky people who opt for these northern Scotland cruises include walking, biking and fishing – and the crew will even cook your catch for dinner. At as much as £800 per day per person (yes, that's pounds, not dollars) it sounds unforgettable.

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