Small Luxury Cruising with Atlas Ocean Voyages
Story and Photos by Neil Wolkodoff
Before Covid, cruising was undergoing a re-set with new ship and activity options. That hit the accelerator to cater to the changing market preferences. With their Next Gen ships, Atlas Ocean Voyages is touting a safer, seamless, and more convenient experience with a Lux-adventure theme.
The Atlas Ocean World Navigator is a pinnacle-appointed, intimate ship in the world of floating hotels. I was drawn to the concept of something a little bigger than a river cruise with limited passengers and very nice appointments all the way. Go way back, and the ad would play “fine Corinthian leather…” This is the first new Lux cruise product in 20 years. The ship, which only holds 197 passengers, can sail from the Caribbean to the Antarctic. Lux adventure in any climate, itinerary, or set of destinations. A big plus was the ability to make new friends both onboard and on the adventure path due to ship size.
The World Navigator can dock in waters not ordinarily available to cruise ships because of its compact size and unique propulsion and stabilization system. Water enters through inlets on the hull and then is directed to primary propulsion and steering/stabilization through the thruster system. No need for an anchor to disturb coral reefs or sea life, and the water jets being much quieter than standard propulsion systems don’t scare the fish.
I chose Caribbean sailing as the combination of the ship features and destinations had great appeal. Designed by Atlas to be a meld of an active experience with inclusive luxury. Included are Air transport and everything on and off-board. A friendly welcome from the primary staff, and poof, everything was delivered to the cabin. So far, a much better-than-average start.
You can actually walk around in the suites and staterooms, a modest-sized luxury apartment feel and layout. Solo travelers have a solo suite option, while other options jump up to the palatial navigator accommodations with butler service. Complimentary stocked mini-bar with your preferences, high thread-count bedding, and bathrooms you can actually use for two people at the same time. The spa shower has three water options, including a three-head, seated back jet.
After settling, adventurers head to Atlas Lounge (nightly piano and other entertainment) and the main restaurant. With the limited guests, I expected one main dining area with an attached bar area. Dining has five options from room service to Porto, which has Michelin-star decor and food to match. Each night has a theme, paired with an opposite side of the menu for classic favorites. There are an average of nine entree options each evening. Vegetarian dishes populate the menu with at least one per category, and I found them far more carefully crafted and tastier than expected.
The 7Aft Chop House features a top-notch steak as another offering with the only charcoal-grilling restaurant aboard a cruise ship. One of the three bars, the Dome Lounge gives a forward view with fabulous nooks for conversations fueled by elevated libations and additional entertainment.
The experience is country club casual, dial-up or down your participation in an environment where everything is taken care of from start to finish. You can dine on steak tartar in your tee shirt and flops.
When you get to a destination, distinct options include paths like a self-guided walking tour or beach sit, a motorcoach to historical and shopping sites, or an aggressive trek. To my surprise, compared to previous cruising, this concept makes for outstanding balance as, like everyone else, my speed preferences change every day.
The stop at Saba Island, the silhouette used in the original filming of King Kong in 1933, remains close to the movie set. In St. Kits, the private Carambola Beach club blended libations, lounging, swimming, and snorkeling. In Nevis, cigar smokers could stock up at duty-free L & L Rumshop, with both cigars and rums, featuring their own Clifton Estates Rum. In St. Lucia, the options ran from an almost vertical hike up the historic Fort Rodney, snorkeling and diving on the close beach, or a motorcoach tour of local shopping, history, and restaurants. The last stop was a private beach day at Mayreau, the smallest of the Grenadines, and a lavish BBQ right on the beach.
And, with covid or weather changes, the size of the World Navigator means they are not locked into options. They can just sail to another spot and re-activity.
Like any cruise ship, there is internet. However, don’t expect this to be as speedy as a cable connection. Especially when everyone is trying to post 17 photos per day. While there are things to do like lectures and films, this is not a full-scale resort with shuffleboard, poker, and other diversions. More like doing something each day then connecting with the other passengers. Expect a bit of an un-plugged pace, and it is a happy place.
The Pool and hot tubs are located upper deck with covered seating areas. The L’Occitane Spa, the first-ever on a cruise ship, has functional elegance. I experienced possibly the best massage ever, coupled with an ocean-view sauna and relaxation/rejuvenation room. The fitness center is option-dense with enough gear from weights to aerobic machines to keep you moving in between adventure excursions.
When I disembarked in Barbados, I had a different cruise experience with Atlas Ocean Voyages. This casual luxury approach will likely change your perception of taking a cruise. If a cruise gets six stars, this would be it.
Neil Wolkodoff, PhD, is a Sports Scientist in Denver, Colorado who has worked with golfers over the last 15 years. During the rare free times, he travels to exotic golf destinations to see how golf, culture and local geography mix in different locales. He has penned articles for Colorado Avid Golfer, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine. In his travels, he has golfed with royalty, tour professionals, the local duffer, and the occasional goat.