Cruises are amazing, but sometimes mega cruise ships can leave you feeling like cattle being herded through long lines at the buffet and at port debarkation. Smaller ship cruising is where it’s at — if you can afford it, that is. More intimate ships not only translate to fewer fellow passengers, but it also means you can visit lesser-known ports. Plus, you’re less likely to get lost on the way back to your room.
As part of our Best of Travel Awards, TravelAwaits readers nominated and voted on their favorite small ship cruise lines. Here are the results!
1. Viking Cruises (Winner)
Viking Cruises is quite popular with our readers. Not only did the line top this category, but it also took home the gold for best Mediterranean cruise line. There’s plenty to love about this small ship cruise line. Viking does not allow kids under 18, does not have casinos or umbrella drinks, does not allow smoking on board, and doesn’t have formal nights to get gussied up for.
What Viking does offer is an onshore excursion in every port, regional cuisine, and Wi-Fi. Luxe accommodations feature king-size beds, large showers, heated bathroom floors, private verandas, 24-hour room service, and more.
Touted as the “thinking person’s cruise line,” Viking also offers culturally enriching programs such as guest lecturers, resident historians, regional performance arts such as traditional Greek dancing, an onboard cooking school, and more.
“The team at Viking Cruises will make your stay so wonderful you won’t want to go home. Guests are often so pleased with their trips that they use their onboard discount to book a future Viking Cruise before they depart,” says TravelAwaits writer Judy Freeman. Read more about why she loves this cruise line in her article, How To Make The Most Of Your Viking Cruise Vacation. And if you decide to book a Viking cruise, here are five important things to do to prepare for it.
2. Windstar Cruises
Windstar Cruises is pretty pricey, but veteran cruiser Melody Pittman says it is worth it. Windstar small cruise ships host anywhere from 148 to 342 guests, allowing them to reach ports you may not see on other itineraries, including Tahiti, Kobe, Bordeaux, and Honfleur.
Plus, Windstar is the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation, so you know you’re in for a culinary treat. Many of the high-end foods are locally sourced and specialty restaurants are included in your cruise fare. Read about Pittman’s favorite dishes from her voyage on the Star Legend. There’s also 24-hour room service and unlimited ice cream!
From scuba diving to visiting private islands, a wide range of shore excursions are available. Windstar also offers custom tours which can range from a solo trip to a carefully curated excursion for your group to see the sights with your own English-speaking guide. There are also culinary shore excursions!
3. Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises’ 12 main vessels carry about 2,000-3,000 passengers each, but they are still much smaller than, say, a Royal Caribbean cruise liner. Generally, the bigger the Celebrity ship, the newer it is and the more amenities it will have. Its older Millennium Class ships are more intimate.
A few tiny ships, which carry 16 to 100 passengers apiece, are based in the Galápagos, including the Celebrity Flora. This luxury mega-yacht features all-suite accommodations, two chef-inspired restaurants, and an optional glamping experience where you can sleep under the stars.
4. Silversea Cruises
Known for award-winning entertainment, butler service, and 24-hour gourmet dining, Silversea Cruises goes above and beyond all-inclusive and chauffeurs guests from their house to the airport and back. Airfare and pre-and post-cruise hotel nights are included, too!
In addition to iconic destinations, Silversea goes to off-the-beaten-track ports that only small ships can reach. Enjoy a complimentary shore excursion every day or customize your own. Silversea also offers expeditions to remote regions like Antarctica.
Enjoy butler service in every suite and a staff-to-guest ratio of nearly one to one. Champagne, wine, beer, and premium spirits are on the house, and tips are included, too!
5. Seabourn Cruise Line
Seabourn Cruise Line’s young, modern fleet boasts of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry. Intimate ships mean Seabourn can visit everything from marquee ports to hidden harbors where larger ships cannot go. Plus, with nearly one staff member per guest, the crew is able to remember guests’ names. All of the luxuriously appointed suites are oceanfront and come with a Personal Suite Host and Suite Attendant who can do anything from drawing you a bubble bath to assisting in arranging an in-suite cocktail party. Tipping is not required or expected and premium wine, champagne, and spirits, are included.
- 7 Best Caribbean Cruise Lines Our Readers Love
- 7 Best Mediterranean Cruise Lines Our Readers Love
- My 6 All-Time Favorite Cruises From A Self-Proclaimed Cruise Fanatic
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