The 18 finest small cruise ships crusing the world

In a world the place gigantic megaships draw all the eye, I’ve at all times discovered small ships to be one of the best.

I’ve sailed on greater than 125 cruise ships of all sizes, however my favorites have by no means been the large “floating resorts.”

I’m drawn to the intimacy and prompt group that develops between a small variety of passengers and crew cruising collectively. I benefit from the serenity of small-ship cruising, with no traces to attend in or crowds to take care of on board.

I additionally gravitate to the off-beat itineraries small ships supply as a result of they give attention to uncommon and distant locations that solely small vessels can entry.

Who wants the bustling Caribbean when you possibly can discover Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago within the Arctic Ocean; lesser-known Greek Islands like Skopelos and Skiathos; French Polynesia; or the Galapagos Islands?

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Individuals typically ask me that are one of the best small ship cruises, and that query is tough to reply.

The brand new high-tech expedition ships, outfitted with the newest {hardware} and design touches, are extremely interesting. Nevertheless, I additionally adore sure older small ships for his or her heritage and environment.

After all, one of the best small ship for you could rely on the place you want to sail and whether or not you’re on the lookout for a calming yacht-like expertise or a rugged journey.

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If you happen to’re like me and discover that larger is not at all times higher, this listing is for you. Listed here are 18 of the world’s finest ocean-going small cruise ships, each older and new. Every carries fewer than 400 passengers and all are perfect for your subsequent intimately sized journey journey.

Lindblad Expeditions: Nationwide Geographic Decision and Nationwide Geographic Endurance

Nationwide Geographic Decision and Gentoo penguin colony on Cuverville Island, Antarctica. RALPH LEE HOPKINS/LINDBLAD EXPEDITIONS

How small? 128 passengers.
Greatest for: Gadget-loving adventurers.

Lindblad Expeditions has been a frontrunner in small-ship expedition cruising since 1966 when firm founder Lars-Eric Lindblad pioneered expeditions to Antarctica, Easter Island and the Galapagos.

At the moment, the road’s fleet of small ships explores practically the complete planet, at all times with a formidable lineup of specialists and photographers alongside for the experience.

Lindblad’s latest 128-passenger ships, National Geographic Resolution (2021) and Nationwide Geographic Endurance (2020), have been constructed for hard-core exploration within the polar areas they name dwelling.

They sport a placing X-bow design (an inverted ship bow design for gas effectivity), a polar class ranking of PC 5 Class A (a notch above most Antarctica cruise ships), and a dynamic positioning system that retains the ships hovering quietly in place.

Passengers can make the most of every ship’s fleet of Zodiacs and kayaks and stash of snowshoes and cross-country skis that assist in exploration.

Excessive-tech toys, corresponding to a remotely operated automobile and underwater video digital camera, hydrophone, remote-controlled aerial digital camera and video microscope, enable friends to view footage of undersea life wherever the ships could also be.

The ships additionally function a fitness center, yoga studio, spa, ocean-view saunas, library and two eating venues. On deck, two infinity sizzling tubs supply superb views.

All cabins are outward-facing (and 12 are single cabins, a rarity) with an “expedition command heart” that features a pill, a number of electrical and USB retailers, a TV, a barometer and a Nationwide Geographic Atlas.

Cruise fare covers wine and spirits, excursions and tour gear.

Associated: These are the best Antarctica cruise ships

SeaDream Yacht Membership: SeaDream I and II

SeaDream is understood for its meals, private service and seashore events. SEADREAM YACHT CLUB/FACEBOOK

How small? 112 passengers.
Greatest for: Yacht fanatics in search of the solar.

SeaDream Yacht Club‘s 40-year-old ships is probably not new, however they’re nonetheless a number of the prettiest basic luxurious yachts afloat. Suites don’t have balconies. Nevertheless, they’re spacious, lately refurbished, and have wooden particulars that evoke a basic nautical really feel.

What the ships lack in fashionable touches, they make up for in expertise and repair. The meals is great and served each on the romantic outside decks and inside the comfortable restaurant.

The road’s iconic weekly seashore barbecue on a distant stretch of sand, full with Champagne and caviar within the surf, is a cruise spotlight on all itineraries. An open bar contributes to the social environment on board, and watersports from a stern marina when situations are proper are a terrific perk for energetic vacationers.

The SeaDream twins winter within the Caribbean and summer season within the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Associated: Why it’s easier to meet new people on a smaller cruise ship

Sea Cloud Cruises: Sea Cloud I

Sea Cloud I is a four-masted personal luxurious yacht. SEA CLOUD CRUISES/FACEBOOK

How small? 64 passengers.
Greatest for: Historical past buffs and crusing ship lovers.

The one-of-a-kind, four-masted Sea Cloud was initially commissioned as a non-public luxurious yacht by multi-millionaire Wall Avenue titan E. F. Hutton in 1931. Hutton’s extravagant heiress and businesswoman spouse, Marjorie Merriweather Put up, oversaw the ship’s inside design, outfitting it in marble, mahogany and gold-plated fixtures.

After passing by way of varied homeowners, Sea Cloud I has spent the final a number of a long time providing casually elegant windjammer cruises to old-ship lovers from Europe and North America.

Passengers select from 10 unique cabins, together with Put up’s personal suite with its Louis XIV–fashion mattress and nightstands, marble hearth and loo, chandeliers and complex moldings.

Sea Cloud winters within the Caribbean and summers in Mediterranean, visiting the Greek Islands, Italy and the Canary Islands.

Associated: Big vs small cruise ships: Which will I like better?

UnCruise Adventures: Wilderness Legacy


How small? 90 passengers.
Greatest for: Sporty cruisers who love quirky ships.

Constructed in 1983, UnCruise Adventures‘ Wilderness Legacy is actually a one-of-a-kind quirky ship. Its throw-back fashion exterior harkens again to a Twentieth-century steamboat.

The ship attracts a loyal fan base because of its roomy dimension and cabins that open onto coated promenade decks (relatively than a central inside hall). It even includes a sizzling tub on deck and an elevator, a rarity on older small journey ships like this.

The moveable, custom-made “sea dragon” platform on the stern makes for simple entry to kayaking, paddleboarding and swimming, actions standard with UnCruise’s sporty followers. The adventurous may take pleasure in climbing, bushwhacking and biking in some ports.

Fares embody all the things from wine, beer and spirits to every day excursions.

The most important ship within the UnCruise fleet and constructed for coastal cruising, Wilderness Legacy spends its time in Alaska’s Inside Passage and Glacier Bay Nationwide Park, in addition to on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Associated: The best Alaska cruises for every type of traveler

Star Clippers: Royal Clipper

The Royal Clipper is a five-masted tall ship with a marina for simple entry to water sports activities. STAR CLIPPERS

How small? 227 passengers.
Greatest for: Crusing fanatics with a penchant for the previous.

Star Clippers’ good-looking five-masted tall ship Royal Clipper is taken into account the most important sq. rigger in service. Modeled after the good 1902 German clipper Preussen, the ship is an actual throwback, with a lot of wooden and brass options and nautical-style components.

Royal Clipper additionally has spectacular fashionable niceties for a ship of its dimension, together with three small swimming pools and an aft marina for simple entry to complimentary water sports activities. It additionally presents a small fitness center and spa.

Within the winter, Royal Clipper island hops across the Caribbean, crusing spherical journey from Barbados to a number of the lesser-known islands. In the course of the summer season, it cruises the Mediterranean alongside the French and Italian rivieras and explores the coast of Croatia and the Canary Islands.

Windstar Cruises: Wind Star and Wind Spirit

Wind Spirit in Tahiti. WINDSTAR CRUISES

How small? 148 passengers.
Greatest for: Romantics and foodies.

Windstar Cruises‘ 148-passenger four-masted motorized yachts are beloved for his or her upscale but informal crusing vibe and nice meals in partnership with the James Beard Basis.

Standing on deck when the sails are unfurled is without doubt one of the extra romantic moments you’ll possible expertise on any ship.

The expansive wood solar decks on Wind Star and Wind Spirit make you wish to be on topside as a lot as doable to benefit from the yachting life. Every has a number of eating choices, each indoor and on deck, together with a weekly barbecue on deck beneath the celebrities.

Each have a stern marina for simple entry to water sports activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.

The comfy cabins aren’t big, however they’re well-appointed with wooden particulars and nautical aptitude. Suites are a mix of two cabins.

Windstar presents each cruise-only and all-inclusive fares. You possibly can construct an a la carte trip or pay upfront for a simple journey that features an open bar, limitless Wi-Fi and included crew gratuities.

Wind Spirit is stationed within the islands of French Polynesia, crusing year-round out of Tahiti by way of February 2024. Wind Star is its globe-trotting sister, focusing totally on the Greek Islands in the summertime and Costa Rica and Panama within the winter.

Associated: The 2 classes of Windstar ships, explained

Ponant: L’Austral

L’Austral docked in Antartica. RAGNAR AXELSSON/PONANT

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 264 passengers (200 in Antarctica).
Greatest for: Stylish Francophile foodies.

Ponant has been busy launching six new ships in its spectacular Explorers sequence. Nevertheless, L’Austral (with sister ships Le Boreal, Le Soleal and Le Lyrial) is my favourite ship within the fleet.

Why? L’Austral is the best dimension for a small ship — intimate however nonetheless giant sufficient for facilities corresponding to a fitness center, spa and present lounge.

Its beautiful tiered stern decks function a stunning outside pool space in the back of Deck 6 with an ideal stretch of deck for sunbathing and surroundings watching and an open-air bar above for beautiful views.

With Ponant’s French pedigree, it’s not stunning that meals is a reduce above, particularly the desserts, cheeses and wine. I had one of the best chocolate mousse of my life on L’Austral. Dine outside on the pool deck or within the elegant indoor restaurant. Improve your night with complimentary wine (principally French), Charles Heidsieck Champagne, beer and spirits.

L’Austral explores each polar areas and spends time within the Mediterranean, cruising alongside the coast of Croatia and across the smaller, much less touristy Greek Islands like Amorgos, Milos and Delos.

Emerald Cruises: Emerald Azzurra

Emerald Azzurra is without doubt one of the smallest luxurious cruise ships. EMERALD CRUISES/FACEBOOK

How small? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­100 passengers.
Greatest for: Vacationers in search of intimate luxurious.

Emerald Cruises’ new Emerald Azzurra (and soon-to-debut sister Emerald Sakara) is without doubt one of the smallest luxurious cruise ships afloat and a sensible choice for vacationers who need one thing extra intimate than what Silversea or Seabourn supply.

The ship’s six gleaming white-tiered decks sport a futuristic pyramid-like profile that turns heads when it arrives in port.

Emerald Azzurra includes a watersports platform on the stern for handy entry to kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and driving SEABOBs (electrical underwater scooter-like jet skis). Inside, you possibly can avail of a small fitness center and spa.

Select from open-air and indoor eating on your meals. Wine and spirits are included, so reap the benefits of two spectacular outside spots for a drink and beautiful views — the Sky Bar on the high of the ship and the stylish infinity pool on the stern of Deck 3, adjoining to a lounge and cafe.

Itineraries give attention to the Mediterranean through the summer season, with principally one- to two-week cruises that decision on ports alongside the coasts of Croatia, Albania, Italy, France, Turkey and the Greek Islands. It spends the winters within the Caribbean.

Discover these locations in depth with included excursions.

Scenic Cruises: Scenic Eclipse

A cabin on Scenic Eclipse. ULLI SEER/SCENIC CRUISES

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 228 passengers (200 in polar areas).
Greatest for: Design followers with wanderlust.

An impressively kitted-out expedition ship, Scenic Eclipse has an ice-strengthened hull with a C6 ranking fitted to polar cruising, together with navigating the Northwest Passage. Excessive-tech options embody a GPS dynamic positioning system to take care of a location with out dropping anchor.

The Australia-based line’s debut into ocean cruising had Scenic Eclipse drawing consideration with spectacular additions like a pair of six-passenger helicopters and a five-passenger submarine (each supplied at a further price), in addition to kayaks, zodiacs and e-bikes. (Sister Scenic Eclipse II is ready to debut quickly.)

The ship’s glossy angled silhouette makes for a good-looking profile. The attention-catching inside is refined, with a stark black, grey and beige colour palette, beautiful wooden particulars, white Carrara marble surfaces and daring artwork.

Passengers can take pleasure in a comparatively giant spa and health space, plus a number of eating venues, together with Asian, Japanese, French and Continental eating places. Wine and spirits are included within the fare.

Whereas small luxurious ships sometimes have fancy homeowners’ suites, the pair of high lodging on Scenic Eclipse is on one other stage. Every measures over 2,000 sq. toes with an enormous forward-facing teak-lined terrace, full with a big whirlpool tub.

Scenic Eclipse cruises to almost each nook of the world, together with French Polynesia and the Pacific Islands, Australia, the Indonesian archipelago and Antarctica. The cruise fare contains excursions.

Associated: These cruises cost $30,000 and have no set itinerary. Here’s what to expect

Silversea Cruises: Silver Endeavour

Veranda Suite, Silver Endeavour. MATTEO IMBRIANI/SILVERSEA

How small? ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­200 passengers.
Greatest for: Intrepid vacationers who demand the utmost luxurious.

Silversea Cruises is a professional at luxurious small-ship cruising — the road has been at it for greater than 30 years. With Silver Endeavour, it achieves the right mixture of ultra-luxury environment with tough-as-nails expedition {hardware} for its give attention to polar cruising.

On board, many rooms are veranda suites measuring 356 sq. toes (together with a non-public balcony), all with marble baths. The most important Grand and Proprietor’s suites are large multi-room affairs with big personal verandas. The passenger-to-crew ratio is one-to-one; service is great.

For eating, there are 4 principal eating places, together with an Italian and a French-inspired venue. The Grill is an eatery enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass for one of the best views in the home.

There’s a formidable spa, salon and fitness center with panoramic ocean views and a number of other lounges for drinks (at all times included) and lectures.

Close to the well-stocked library is the Expedition Examine, the place the 20-member expedition workforce is accessible for questions. Out of doors deck area contains the forward-facing bow space with an out of doors sizzling tub.

With its PC6 ice-class ranking, Silver Endeavour spends November by way of April in Antarctica and the remainder of the 12 months within the Arctic, together with Greenland, Arctic Canada, Iceland and Norway. Excursions are at all times complimentary.

Associated: The best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity

Seabourn: Seabourn Enterprise

Veranda Suite on Seabourn Enterprise. SEABOURN

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 264 passengers.
Greatest for: Vacationers with excessive requirements for luxurious and particular itineraries.

Seabourn‘s new Seabourn Venture (and upcoming sister Seabourn Pursuit) are on par with Silver Endeavour and Scenic Eclipse in the case of pairing top-of-the-line luxurious and pampering with unimaginable itineraries.

Elegant interiors embody a principal restaurant, a number of lounges and bars the place drinks are all included, a luxurious lecture corridor, a restaurant for espresso and snacks, and spacious balcony suites that begin from 355 sq. toes (together with the balcony).

The windowed health heart and spa space contains an ocean-view sauna and the infinity pool in the back of Deck 5 boasts killer views.

Not only a fairly ship, Seabourn Enterprise is hard, constructed to PC6 Polar Class requirements for a give attention to expedition cruising within the polar areas. The ship carries two submarines, in addition to a fleet of double sea kayaks and 24 Zodiacs that may accommodate all friends without delay.

Seabourn’s giant expedition workforce leads every day complimentary excursions, corresponding to Zodiac sightseeing excursions, shore walks, hikes, snorkeling and kayak outings. Additionally, achieved visitor lecturers give onboard talks.

Like Silver Endeavour, Seabourn Enterprise will spend the 12 months within the polar areas, with lengthy repositioning cruises in between, corresponding to a 51-day Antarctica, Atlantic and Northwest Africa voyage from Buenos Aires to Malaga, Spain.

Associated: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Seabourn cruise ship

Atlas Ocean Voyages: World Navigator

Whereas World Navigator’s itineraries principally give attention to polar areas, it additionally visits Europe and the Canary Islands. MICHEL VERDURE/ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 196 passengers.
Greatest for: Vacationers craving luxurious and plenty of open deck area.

World Navigator is a deluxe expedition ship sporting a 1B Ice Class-certified hull and the newest applied sciences, corresponding to a GPS-based dynamic place system to attenuate motion and noise.

A number of eating choices embody the primary restaurant with indoor and outside seating overlooking the ship’s wake and a steakhouse on the Lido Deck. For cocktails, head to both of two piano bars, the Dome Remark Lounge or the Atlas Lounge, simply outdoors the lecture theatre.

The Atlas Ocean Voyages ship has terrific outside spots for exceptional views (not hogged by a helipad or stern and aft suite balconies), together with a close-to-the-water spot on Deck 5 ahead and a “secret” arc of deck on Deck 6 aft.

It’s also possible to take within the surroundings from the ship’s shallow pool and two adjoining sizzling tubs.

Don’t miss the spa, even in case you don’t ebook a therapeutic massage. It options an interesting seating space going through the ocean and an ocean-view sauna. Walkers and joggers maintain match on the top-of-ship observe.

World Navigator’s itineraries give attention to the polar areas, however the ship visits Europe and the Canary Islands whereas repositioning.

Landings and Zodiac safaris are included on Antarctica cruises, however excursions will not be included on different itineraries. All non-polar cruises supplied from April by way of October are known as Epicurean Expeditions (with one complimentary wine- or food-focused expertise per cruise).

American Queen Voyages: Ocean Victory

Cabin with French balcony on Ocean Victory. MICHEL VERDURE/AMERICAN QUEEN VOYAGES

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­How small? 186 passengers.
Greatest for: In-depth Alaska cruises for nature lovers.

Newcomer Ocean Victory is giant for a small cruise ship, which permits it to supply extra on its Alaska expeditions.

Its sizable expedition workforce, which might quantity 18 on choose voyages, contains seasoned authorities in a variety of fields, corresponding to geology, whale communications and pictures. Group members lead complimentary excursions on sea kayaks and 18 Zodiacs so passengers can expertise glaciers, icebergs and wildlife up shut.

Instead of an statement bow with direct views of the water, as many comparable ships supply, Victory has a pair of viewing platforms on all sides of the ship, because of its distinctive X-bow design. These platforms are cantilevered straight over the water for nice views of bergy bits and potential marine life.

The American Queen Voyages ship presents three eating venues, plus a number of bars and lounges (drinks are included in your fare).

Like all good expedition ship, Ocean Victory has one lounge devoted to lectures with giant flat screens to view displays. You’ll discover an ocean-view health heart, a small spa and an out of doors pool with two sizzling tubs.

Ocean Victory’s 11- and 12-night Alaska cruises depart between Might and September. The ship sails between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sitka, Alaska. It visits locations corresponding to Frederick Sound, Endicott Arm, Tracy Arm, the Waterfall Coast (Intestine Bay), Misty Fjords Nationwide Monument and Fiordland (Kynoch Inlet) in Canada’s Inside Passage.

Your fare features a one-night pre-cruise lodge keep.

In winter, Ocean Victory sails in Antarctica for Albatros Expeditions.

Associated: Looking for nature and adventure on an Alaska cruise? Choose a smaller ship

Swan Hellenic: SH Vega

Wildlife lecture onboard Swan Hellenic’s SH Vega. SWAN HELLENIC

How small? 152 passengers.
Greatest for: Cruisers on the lookout for distinctive itineraries together with Africa and South America.

Swan Hellenic’s compact, well-laid-out SH Vega is constructed for expedition cruising with a PC5 ice-strengthened hull.

The inside has a recent, Scandinavian-inspired low-key design ethos. SH Vega is almost similar to its youthful sister, Minerva. The third, barely bigger sibling Diana is ready to debut in Might.

When getting back from a frigid Antarctica tour, you’ll recognize the fireplaces (sure, that’s proper) constructed into the partitions of all cabins. They’re electrical however fairly life like, with flames and crackling sounds.

When the climate’s good, skip the primary restaurant and eat on the buffet, which is ready up in the back of Deck 7, adjoining to the enticing (and heated) infinity swimming pool. Vega additionally has a small fitness center and a spa with an ocean-view sauna.

The expansive Remark Lounge takes up most of Deck 7 and is the spot for expedition lectures. 13 Zodiacs and eight kayaks take friends on water adventures and ashore.

Don’t miss the little statement level known as the Swan’s Nest all the best way ahead on Deck 6. You play out your Jack and Rose fantasies there.

SH Vega cruises the Arctic area (visiting Greenland, Iceland and northern Canada), South America, the coast of Africa (together with South Africa, Namibia and Angola) and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Cruise fare features a one-night pre-cruise lodge keep and one tour in every port.

Viking Cruises: Viking Octantis

Cabin on Viking Octantis. ERIC LAIGNEL/VIKING

How small? 378 passengers.
Greatest for: Expedition cruisers with an instructional bent.

Among the many bigger ships on our listing, Viking‘s new 378-passenger Viking Octantis (together with sister Viking Polaris) was designed to discover the polar areas with some fairly cool options, together with a big two-level storage known as the Hangar.

Inside will not be solely Zodiacs and kayaks however a pair of six-passenger submarines and military-grade velocity used to shuttle cruisers on excursions.

The ship is supplied for scientific inquiry with a remote-controlled underwater robotic, baited underwater digital camera and a FerryBox system for gathering water samples, which you’ll be able to view beneath a microscope within the ship’s science lab. Climate balloons are launched on each cruise to seize data on temperature, humidity and wind velocity.

For decidedly much less educational pursuits, Viking Octantis has a health heart and a spa that features a beautiful indoor pool with sea views, plus a sauna, snow grotto (with snowflakes descending gently from the ceiling by way of chilled air) and outside spa tub.

4 eating choices embody Manfredi’s Italian and a number of other enticing lounges, such because the windowed Aula auditorium for lectures.

Viking Octantis spends a part of the 12 months in Antarctica and the remainder of the 12 months cruising the Great Lakes and Canada, with a handful of repositioning cruises in between.

Planning a cruise? Begin with these tales:

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