“Corinthian II is a thoroughly comfortable ship with a relaxed house-party atmosphere—no formalities—configured for a discerning crowd who expect the best.”
Travel Dynamics’ flagship Corinthian II offers an intimate luxury onboard with a high level of educational opportunities that include full days of exploring ashore, in whatever waters the ship is cruising—which is mostly in the Mediterranean. The Corinthian II was originally built in 1992 for the now-defunct Renaissance Cruises, sailing under several names. In 2005, following an extensive refurbishment, she entered service for Travel Dynamics.
This spring, I traveled on a ten-day, seven-country voyage from Cadiz, Spain to Piraeus, Greece with calls in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sicily, and Crete along the way. While the ship offers a high standard of expedition cruising she actually represents more of a crossover travel experience for her guests— from expedition cruising to educational travel.
Easy on and Easy off . . .
One of the charms of Corinthian II’s small scale and her limited passenger list is the ease of slipping onboard and settling down in your cabin. The ship’s accommodations are spread over five levels —connected with an elevator—and are more spacious than the “good” grade on a superliner. The top two passenger decks—Decks 5 and 6—have the Veranda and Penthouse suites with balconies yielding the usual additional pleasures of the step-outside opportunity—and offering 300 and 400 square feet respectively.
Down below, the cabins on Decks 2 and 3 offer roomy layouts with cozy seating areas included within the 235 square feet of floor space. Deck 4 cabins offer the same – 235 square feet of floor space and the ship-wide amenities of mini-fridge and fragrant L’Occitane toiletries. The staterooms on all levels are woody in trim, with brass accents and comfortably subdued in shades of blue.
On my trip along the Barbary Coast the cheerful group of travelers was happy throughout the ten-day voyage no matter what deck they had chosen. The accommodations all offer a sofa and pull-up chair for relaxing and possibly enjoying the in-cabin services (or drinks from the complimentary mini-bar tucked into the cabin’s sideboard). A breakfast tray seems the most popular of in-cabin service requests but the discrete charms of the dining room evidently attracted everyone away from their comfy cabins at mealtimes. Decks 5 and 6 staterooms are served with extra touches of luxury such as the complimentary champagne, by a butler who delivers any in-cabin requests with a touch of black-suited-whitegloved style. The ease of gathering the passengers for the departure of an excursion multiplies the benefits of a small ship’s modest passenger count at every port of call.
All the cabins have teak-wood floor bathrooms with marble vanities and shower units— no tubs, not even in the pricier accommodations.
“A table for eight – of course, Madame . . .”
The dining room seats all travelers at the same time following a pleasant evening’s migration downstairs from the Club Room/Bar. The open seating is a relaxed-as-requested process with parties of any size from two to ten escorted to tables around the quietly elegant room. The varied Continental menu in Corinthian II’s Dining Room should create no problems for international travelers—with the nightly vegetarian selection and the consistent offering of an additional fish or beef entrée prepared to order. The dining room’s lively buzz on my voyage suggested a high level of satisfaction with the cuisine and the service.
The house wines are generously poured throughout the repast assisting the maintenance of this house-party-like atmosphere. A high level of sociability is always generated on Travel Dynamics trips. Single travelers, not often the case on large ships, are easily absorbed into the various dinner parties and new friends are quickly made Outside on Deck 5 at the stern beneath white umbrellas, the outdoor luncheon is a major treat as the location is one of the most attractive afloat. The buffet food display and selection of dishes are excellent and like lunch in the dining room, accompanied by a red- and white-wine
offering—which is (as I like to think of it) with the compliments of the Captain. Given the copious amount of food served on board, guests need to beware of the impending snoozestate that follows their luncheon experiences. It is quite evident that guests will not be complaining of hunger pains during their voyage or during their well-catered land excursions.
Where’s the lecture?
The ship’s smart public rooms are stacked at the stern, easily accessed from the staterooms, and go up from the dining room on Deck 2 to the Lounge on Deck 3 and the Club and Library on Deck 4. The Lounge is used for lectures and presentations, while one flight up, the Club’s bar and canapé service makes it the venue to the popular pre-dinner gathering. The ship’s talented pianist plays a fine cocktail-piano for this and other events on board. Other events? Well, yes, the almost nightly birthday celebration(s) brings the usual chorus of stewards and staff to the celebrant’s table-side, accompanied by the ship’s pianist sporting a more portable saxophone! It’s all pleasantly low-key and convivial.
Is there time for a spin in the Jacuzzi?
Days are full on the Corinthian II, so it may be a problem to slip away to the sheltered area, forward on Deck 6 where the deckchairs are protected from the wind and padded in cheerful blue and white stripes. Here, the Jacuzzi bubbles away, beach towels are on hand and a little sun-worshipping can take place in quiet. The days at sea bring out the most yacht-like qualities of a Corinthian II voyage, leaving little to be desired.
Information and education is the mainstay of a Travel Dynamics International voyage. The journeys are accompanied by distinguished authorities on the cultural environment of the moment in addition to the expert tour and cruise personnel on board. Professors from America’s most distinguished universities are featured on almost every itinerary. This constant proximity of the enormously knowledgeable ladies and gentlemen on a day-to-day basis is an intellectual stimulation. They create cultural highlights with frequently staged lectures or presentations in the ship’s lounge. All tours and excursions are included in the price of the voyage.
Never out of touch . . .
Corinthian II’s communications facilities are up to the latest standards – with the expected multi-national satellite TV-stream in the staterooms and ship-to-world telephone – in addition to the Internet access in the Library (two terminals) and Wi-Fi in the environs of the Library. The buy-time-with-a-card from the Reception Desk is the system used. The Library is located aft of the Club on Deck 4. Printouts of the Satellite news synopsis are placed on the Library table whenever a download is possible.
Attention to detail . . .
The bathroom amenities aboard Corinthian II are from l’Occitane and the supply of chilled bottled water is constant. The evening gathering prior to dinner is always accompanied by canapé trays, as well as the cocktail-piano music from the versatile musician. The Travel Dynamics shore arrangements are well organized with the added touch of wireless guide-to-traveler headsets for more comfortable strolling around the great sites that are the mainstay of the trip. The customary daily programs are distributed each evening to the staterooms along with a plate of canapés for pre-dinner snacking for the suite holders on Decks 5 and 6. Corinthian II’s modest size allows a pleasant familiarity not only with one’s fellow passengers but with the staff. The identification of preferences in the evening cocktail or dining choices is a nice feature of the small ship experience.
Not your Father’s cruise ship…
The term cruise is questionable for a Travel Dynamic voyage. The nature of the travel plan — while using the ship and its foundation—is very emphatically an exploration for people with a healthy curiosity and a strong interest in hearing about, as well as seeing, things. While all the pleasures of a ship-based trip are present, the quite intensive menu of sightseeing and lectures offered on the trips removes these voyages from the usual classification as cruise trips.
Corinthian II is a thoroughly comfortable ship with a relaxed house-party atmosphere—no formalities—configured for a discerning crowd who expect the best.
— Roger J. Ritchie is a Contributing Editor for ShipsandCruises