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Three cruises without the crowds

Chris Carter looks at three small, intimate cruises that are perfect for culture seekers.

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A Turkish gulet: perfect for exploring Croatian islands

Cruises have an image problem, says Alice Howarth in the Evening Standard. Find yourself trapped on one of these "vast, tacky ships" and "you'll be forced to do the conga around the buffet during bingo hour". But there are better ways to see the world a river cruise, for instance. Smaller and more personal, "they're fast becoming an obvious holiday option for culture seekers".

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The Fernao de Magalhaes, for example, operated by Cosmos, plies the Douro, one of the Iberian Peninsula's major rivers. Exploring historic cities and the Portuguese countryside along the way, you can also taste the local port, roam 18th-century palaces, and get lost in the winding lanes of Porto.

From £1,107 per person for eight days Cosmos.co.uk.

An Icelandic saga

All manner of cruises visit Reykjavik, says Sue Bryant in The Sunday Times. But you'll get a better feel for Iceland if you explore beyond the capital. For that, you need a ship that's small enough to squeeze into some of the tighter ports. The 690-passenger Azamara Pursuit leaves from Southampton in August and heads north to safjrur, hemmed into a long fjord by towering volcanoes; then on to "hip" Akureyri in the north of the country; then "the arty port of Seyisfjrur, surrounded by snowy mountains and waterfalls".

From £5,339 per person for 15 nights AzamaraClubCruises.co.uk.

Croatia on a gulet

A superyacht would look out of place among Croatia's Elaphiti Islands, says Peter Hughes in The Daily Telegraph. Just as well, then, that the Angelica is a double-masted Turkish gulet, "clad in Mediterranean vernacular". She might not spend her winters in the Caribbean, but she was designed for pleasure all the same in Bodrum, Turkey, which is to gulet construction what Cremona is to violin making. She would look out of place in the Antigua Yacht Club, but among the lesser-known islands of Croatia, she's perfect. After all, "there are horses for courses and vessels for voyages".

At six foot six in his deck shoes, Ivo, the captain, looked like a stretched version of Robert De Niro. "In his right hand he gripped the wooden spoked wheel; his left hand was thrust into his shorts pocket. When he removed it, you knew the sea was about to get up." No matter. Even in windy weather, Angelica hugs the Dalmatian coast on its way to the unsullied Elaphiti Islands.

From €12,000 for a week's charter SaildAlmatia.com.

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