Heidi Sarna runs QuirkyCruise.com, an online travel guide that focuses on cool, quirky and small ships carrying fewer than 300 passengers. Recently, she co-authored a book called Secret Singapore where she wrote about the hidden treasures of Singapore. Heidi is also a Freelance Writer since 1995 and has written for numerous media outlets.
Cruise media is pretty niche in the market and not to mention that QuirkyCruise.com only focuses on quirky and small ships. Could you tell us the rationale behind it?
I've always gravitated toward more small-scale and off-beat travel experiences, and so as a travel writer covering the cruise world for many years, it was the small ships and boats that I always enjoyed most and that I felt, as a writer, I had more to say about. The small-ship niche is one that is less well known in many cases (compared to the big mass market ships), so I enjoy sharing my experiences with travellers, from canal barge cruises in Europe and expedition ships in Alaska and the Galapagos, to traditional pinisi sailing ships in Indonesia.
With COVID-19 continuing to spread across the world, what do you think is in store for the cruise industry over the coming 12 months?
Well, it depends where you are living. In Southeast Asia, for instance, the small-ship cruise world will take some time to recover as it's very dependent on flying to the ports of embarkation (for example, to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos for Mekong River cruises, or to points in Indonesia for yacht cruises there), and so quarantining in various countries before a cruise isn't ideal. I'd say as vaccinations are finally ramping up in this part of the world, by spring 2022, things should be largely back to normal for the small-ship cruise niche. (For the mega ships, we know they have been successful with their cruises to nowhere for the time being — for a freelance assignment, I sampled Quantum of the Seas
in Dec 2020.
Meanwhile, in North America and parts of Europe, small-ship cruising (and big ship cruising too) has resumed to a large degree over the past few months, including in Alaska, the Galapagos and the rivers of North America.
Since cruise operations have been paused in many countries, are your readers still interested in cruise reviews and news?
Yes! Our subscriber list has grown over the course of the pandemic; people are eager to dream and plan travel for later 2022 and beyond. Our subscribers receive a twice-monthly QuirkyCruise.com newsletter highlighting our best articles, news and curated offers.
Could you tell us more about your book Secret Singapore and who its target audience is?
The "Secret" series, by the boutique house Jonglez Publishing, is targeted to mostly locals, and also to visitors who want to learn more than just the typical tourist sights. "Secret Singapore" is a book by "locals" for locals. My co-author Jerome Lim is born and bred in Singapore and I'm a long-term resident, here more than 15 years.
How did you pick what to be featured on the book?
The 160+ plus secret places and things included in the book had to first, be photographable, and second, had to be truly little-known, forgotten, hidden and/or secret. Jerome and I started our list with our favourite secret places, which got us to easily 70 or 80 without much effort. We both explore a lot and so digging around and researching things we had read about or seen, got us another 80 entries for the book.
You have also been a Freelance Writer since 1995, what kind of commissions and freelance work are you open to?
Over the years, I have written articles and edited copy for travel, business and lifestyle publications, both print and online, from Conde Nast Traveler, Afar.com, the Straits Times and the International Tribune to Expat Living, the New York Times and many others. I love writing, but I also really enjoy editing, taking someone else's draft and turning it into a tighter, cleaner, more readable piece of writing. That is very satisfying.