9 Extraordinary, small ship cruises that you probably didn’t know existed (until now)

While Celebrity Cruises announces yet another mega-ship breakthrough by unveiling  Celebrity Edge, I’ll remind you that bigger isn’t always better.

Don’t let me mislead you, Edge looks stunning, and is clearly a breakthrough in modern luxury cruising. But lavish spas, Broadway-style productions, wave-pools and even skating rinks are not always attractive amenities to everyone.

If you’re among those, that may be looking for smaller ships that take passengers in the hundreds rather than in the thousands, then this post is for you.

There are more small ships and boutique cruise lines to choose from than ever, from ultra-luxury to low-cost; with refreshing unique itineraries to less-trafficked ports that only smaller ships can access. It’s time to trade in over-crowded Caribbean ports for a chance to kayak among icebergs, stroll through lively crowds of penguins, sip wine along the Danube or snorkel through the Seychelles.

Here’s nine of my favourites.


1. M.S. Joy

Danube RiverThis riverboat may be smaller than most vessels, but its to your advantage.  M.S. Joy only accommodates 130 passengers (others are about 190) making it a lot easier for staff to execute a high level of service as she winds her way along the mighty Danube River. In total, the riverboat has 67 cabins, and the line claims the ship offers more suites than any other European river vessel. Tauck (the exclusive travel agency) offers all-inclusive fares that include excursions, airport transfers, all gratuities and unlimited complimentary beverages etc.

2. Aqua Expeditions’ Aria Amazon

Meykong RiverThis is my idea of sailing the Peruvian Amazon. I love the Design Suites, as per above photo. All 16 of Aria Amazon suites are furnished with floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Amazon River. This striking black hulled ship only accommodates a maximum of 32 guests plus 26 crew and four English-speaking naturalist guides that will guide you through a few indigenous villages and even help you fish for piranha.
Photo courtesy of: Aqua Expeditions

3. Nenuphar

Canal de Bourgogne, FranceThis 12-passenger luxury barge offer peaceful river cruises from Dijon to St. Leger in the French country waterways of Burgundy. Nenuphar’s itinerary includes an array of interesting daily excursions such as a private Chablis tasting and a visit to a family-owned castle topped with an evening at three Michelin-star Le Relais Bernard Loiseau.

4. Aranui 5

Marquesas IslandsCustom built with passenger comfort in mind, the half cruise ship, half freighter embark on a voyage of discovery following the paths of Paul Gauguin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thor Heyerdahl and Jacques Brel. Aranui’s 14-day cruise will explore the remote Marquesas Islands that include Papeete, Bora Bora, Tahiti and nine others.
Photo courtesy of dany13


5. Crystal Esprit

Crystal Esprit cruiseThis sounds inviting. How about a 7-day cruise around the unspoiled Seychelles, located off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean? The Esprit, coined a boutique hotel on water, 62-passenger ultra luxury cruise line will spoil you in more ways than you can imagine. Like taking one of their many Jet Skis or paddleboards or kayaks out for a spin. Or how about a few selfies in Esprit’s first cruising sub, which offer rides at depths of over 60 feet to the bottom of the Indian Ocean.
Featured photo and above, courtesy of Crystal Cruises


6. Scenic Spirit

Halong Bay, VietnamHow about an all-inclusive river cruise to Vietnam’s Mekong River on board Scenic Spirit. The 68-passenger all-suites vessel offer a five-star luxury experience for all its guests. Just bring your passport, and leave your wallet at home. Even the little things you may not even notice such as port charges, bottled water for excursions, Wi-Fi and tipping, are all included.
Photo courtesy of Disdero

7. The National Geographic Explorer

National Geographic ExplorerHow does this sound; Polar Bear sightings, kayaking among icebergs and maybe a stroll through lively crowds of penguins? It’s what you can expect with the famous National Geographic Explorer. Each year they travel from pole to pole, spending winters in Antarctica and summers in the Arctic.
Photo courtesy of: Jason Auch

8. Antiquity’s Aegean Odyssey

Antiquity's Aegean OdysseyAegean Odyssey combines comfortable boutique-style cruising with an educational focus to historical destinations in the Mediterranean. Specialized itineraries include 14-day cruises to ancient Greece, and other remnants of great civilizations that originated around the Mediterranean.
Photo courtesy of: Antiquity

9. Le Ponant

Le Ponant ShipDiscover the magic of Yacht Cruising on their majestic three-masted Le Ponant. Sail to mythical destinations and secret ports of call only accessible to small capacity yachts like Le Ponant. Visits to a number of small western Mediterranean ports along the Italian and Corsican coast.
Photo courtesy of: Le Ponant

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