Travel & Leisure World's Best - Top Small Ship Cruise Lines of 2018

By Samantha Scott
August 16, 2018

Each year, Travel and Leisure Magazine announces their much anticipated list of "Worlds Best Awards." 

Results are consumer based, compiled from a survey sent to Travel & Leisure readers, so this list of small ship cruise lines is truly a representation of what real travelers prefer. 

Small ship cruises run the gamut from value and budget offerings to extreme luxury. This years choices fit nicely in the middle, with companies that offer several types of cruise and several destinations.

The most important distinction to make about small ship cruises vs larger ocean cruieses is certainly the size, but also the approach to travel itself. While the onboard amenities are very nice, there are less dining, drinking, and entertainment options to choose from.

The floating hotel idea of larger cruises is somewhat discouraged, leaving more encouragment for cruise goers to disembark the ship at each port and actually explore. Many different shore excursions are offered, so you can curate your own experience.

Here are the Top 5 Small Ship Cruise Lines of 2018:

1. Quasar Expeditions

Albatross in the Galapagos 

While many small ship cruises highlight the polar regions as thier top destinations, Quasar has a focus on The Galapagos and Patagonia, setting then apart from the pack.

They are known for their distinctive small yacht experience, which provides travelers with a luxury cruise and a small group setting.

See all Quasar Expeditions cruises »

2. Grand Circle Cruise Line

Beautiful european coastline

Grand Circle is known for providing top notch cruises, both river and small ship, within an affordable price range, and covering many destinations. They offer several ways to save money and personalize your trip, making them a line that traveler gravitate to year after year. 

See all Grand Circle cruises »

3. Australis

Patagonia cruise

With a focus in South America, particularly the Patagonia region, Austalis is another cruise line that stands out for having an unusual regional speciality.

Small ship cruises can often feel stuffy and tired, but they make a point to appeal to younger crowds and imbue their itineraries with a sense of adventure and excitement.

4. Ponant

Penguins in Antarctica

Ponant is a France based luxury cruise operator, offering customization and several ways to manage the budget for your trip. Special care is given to making sure each cruise provides supreme customer service, privacy, and comfortable accommodations. The idea is to create an intimate travel experience for every traveler, despite being among many others aboard the ship. 

See all Ponant cruises »

5. Lindblad Expeditions

British coastline on small ship cruise

With destinations around the world and a long storied legacy, Lindblad is the perfect choice for a classic small ship cruise experience.

Their collaboration with National Geographic means that often your shore excursions will include guides who are experts in a variety of fields. The sense of being an explorer permeates Lindblads brand and travel approach.

See all Lindblad Expeditions cruises » 


Want even more? See the full Top 10 List »

 
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Tours & Operators on Stride Awarded and Featured by:

  • National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure
  • Outside, The New York Times
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