UK-based online travel company Responsible Travel has witnessed a 121% increase in bookings for the small ship cruise sector.
The company cites a rising demand for authentic, local experiences on holidays as a major factor in the industry's rapid growth.
Responsible Travel has also seen a rise in interest regarding small ship cruise holidays covering wildlife voyages in Scotland, floating boutique hotels in the Mediterranean and Antarctic adventures further afield during the first quarter of the year.
Two of Responsible Travel’s ten most booked holidays in the first quarter of 2017 included small ship cruises around Croatia.
Responsible Travel co-founder and CEO Justin Francis said: “We are seeing a polarisation of the tourism industry; on one side, a rise in popularity of the ‘safe’, isolated-from-local-people experiences offered by all-inclusives and large cruise liners, and on the other an increase in interest for more adventurous and inspiring travel experiences.
“Small ship cruises are clearly meeting the needs of the latter group. These holidays take the focus away from simply ticking off port after port, and instead become a journey into the local heart and soul of a region or country.
“They allow passengers to get to know each destination intimately, in small groups and without overrunning fragile cultures and places with huge numbers of tourists.”
Small ship cruises typically use boats capable of carrying six to around 200 passengers and offer the chance to get closer to the culture and local people in a destination, with on-board meals sourced locally.
The cruises often employ local people as crew members on-board the ships and allow passengers to spend more time exploring local port towns, while covering fewer miles at sea than the distance usually required by a larger vessel.