5 Cruise lines you’ve (likely) never heard of

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Several years ago, I cruised to Baffin Island with a company called Cruise North. Never heard of them? I hadn’t either (they don’t exist anymore). The experience was fascinating in every way, and I learned that cruises aren’t always about chocolate buffets, spas, and bingo!

We gay travelers are known for having been there, done that. Yet there always seem to be travel experiences that are new, including cruise companies that most of us have likely never, or barely heard of.

Here are five cruise lines that are relatively unknown to me, and I’m betting to you. Some of them are small, others are focused on non-English speaking guests. One doesn’t even want to be considered a cruise line—its even in their name.

If you’ve cruised on any of these, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section below.

  1. Hurtigruten

    Based in gay-friendly Norway, Hurtigruten retains its role as a ferry company in its homeland, while progressively branching around the world as an “expedition” cruise line.

    Hurtigruten cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen sails through Geirangerfjord in the line's home country of Norway. Image courtesy: Hurtigruten

    Hurtigruten cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen sails through Geirangerfjord in the line’s home country of Norway. Image courtesy: Hurtigruten

    At home, Hurtigruten’s coastal routes are legendary for showing off the magnificent fjords. Abroad, their ships range from Alaska to Antarctica. In 2019, the company will launch the world’s first hybrid-powered ship, the MS Roald Amundsen. That’s progressive thinking!

  2. UnCruise
    UnCruise guests kayak near the ship Safari Adventure in Mexico. Photo courtesy: UnCruise Adventures

    UnCruise guests kayak near the ship Safari Adventure in Mexico. Photo courtesy: UnCruise Adventures

    UnCruise takes adventurous cruisers on voyages into unusual ports like Molokai in Hawaii, Haines in Alaska, and Washington state wine country, on ships ranging from 22 to 86 passengers. They have openly gay staff—watch this space for a future staff interview!

  3. Hapag Lloyd
    Hapag Lloyd ship MS Europa cruises Bora Bora. Image courtesy: Hapag Lloyd

    Hapag Lloyd ship MS Europa cruises Bora Bora. Image courtesy: Hapag Lloyd

    Long a major player in global cargo, Hapag Lloyd’s cruise options feature five ships—two small (400 & 500 passenger) cruise ships and three expedition vessels. They take a primarily German demographic to the far corners of the earth, including the Arctic and Antarctic regions and some unusual itineraries around the world.

    The larger ships offer a bilingual staff, and the expedition ships operate in German only (although we’ve rarely met a German who didn’t speak English!).

  4. Pullmantour Cruceros.
    The ship Pullmantour Monarch, with its distinctive ex-Royal Caribbean crows-nest lounge feature. Image: Pullmantour Instagram

    The ship Pullmantour Monarch, with its distinctive ex-Royal Caribbean crown lounge feature. Image: Pullmantour Instagram

    Owned by Royal Caribbean, Spain-based Pullmantour caters to Spanish speaking guests—which could be a perfect opportunity to practice yours—and also offers English and French onboard.

    The line has a heavy focus on European itineraries, but also features the Caribbean on its four 1,800-2,700 passenger ships, two of which have the distinct Royal crown lounge atop.

  5. Pearl Seas Cruises.

    Pearl Mist cruise ship, an upscale vessel by Pearl Seas Cruises. Photo courtesy: Pearl Seas Cruises

    Pearl Mist cruise ship, an upscale vessel by Pearl Seas Cruises. Photo courtesy: Pearl Seas Cruises

With a single, upscale ship—the Pearl Mist, launched 2014—carrying 210 passengers, this company takes guests on unique Great Lakes voyages including stops in places like Chicago and Toronto, and ocean destinations such as Cuba.

Have you traveled on any of these lines, or other lesser-known lines? Tell about it in the comments section below.