Travel in style on a Small Ship
Handy tips every cruise traveler should know.
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The Small Ships


Today’s cruise market offers expanded products providing many choices to match travelers interests. After examining the itineraries, one should also consider the real importance of the destination. For the majority of traditional cruise fans, the ship is really an important part of their experience ­— sometimes as critical to them as the itinerary. But on most small ship programs the ship is mainly the means to get to off-the-beaten path destinations, which are absolutely the main appeal. Rather than varied entertainments, small ship cruisers want an on-board program that will enhance their appreciation of the areas visited.

A small ship provides a low-density cruise experience that will get you closer to the scenic highlights, allow the opportunity for personal contact with on-board guides and other experts and offer a more in-depth experience than a big ship. You will be able to reach areas not possible on a larger vessel.

A true small ship cruise is a different kind of experience and many of the amenities associated with traditional cruising — show-style entertainment, a casino, alternate dining venues and a wide variety of cabin categories — are not normally part of it. A small ship cruise offers a much more intimate vessel accommodating about 50 to 200 passengers, with most carrying 100 or less. The main entertainment is provided by the destination. Naturalists may lead excursions and historians or other experts may offer an authoritative perspective on the environments visited. The area of cruising often involves remote areas that a big cruise ship cannot reach. Most importantly, the small ship is merely the means to get you to a unique destination — it is not a destination in itself, which many of the new large ships can be considered. Accommodations on small ships are comfortable, certainly, but not necessarily luxurious (but there are high-end luxury small ships too). Passengers enjoy good food, often excellent, and personal, attentive service, but rarely alternate dining choices.

The various small ship lines all have their special attributes from ingenious engineering features to top-notch on-board programs. Some are categorized as expeditions, some tout a yacht-like atmosphere. Many have inflatable landing craft that get passengers to areas where even the small ship can’t quite reach. Some offer more physical activities like kayaking and snorkeling. The itineraries range from coastal areas, canals and rivers to far-off exotic locals around the globe. But all offer discerning travelers who are interested in learning more about the world around them a way to visit special destinations in a unique way. Due to the economies of scale involved, a small ship cruise costs more — but most returning passengers agree the experience is worth it.

The pages posted in the small ship section give a sampling of what is available and some proven favorites of TravLtips members. Contact our reservation department for more details and suggestions at 800-872-8584 or

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