Travel & Leisure Magazine's Top Small Ship Cruise Lines For 2014

By Clark Norton
October 5, 2014
Courtesy of Windstar

Travel & Leisure Magazine has named its top five small ship cruise lines for 2014 as chosen by its readers. As you might imagine, all fall into the luxury to ultra-luxury class. Here are the top five:

1. Paul Gauguin Cruises

Paul Gauguin Cruises, which sails the South Pacific out of Tahiti as well as the MediterraneanAdriatic, and Caribbean seas, jumped all the way from number seven  in 2013 to the top spot in 2014. You can expect to find onboard naturalists along as well as special guests, such as Jean-Philippe Cousteau, who accompanies several diving themed trips each year. Fares are all-inclusive: gratuities and complimentary beverages, including wine and beer, are all covered.

Paul Gauguin has two ships. Its flagship, called the Paul Gauguin, carries a maximum of 332 passengers and has some suites as large as 588 square feet, including balcony. Special youth programs are offered during school holidays and you have use of onboard kayaks, paddleboards, and other water sports equipment. The ship was designed to be able to dock in shallow-water South Pacific ports. The newer Tere Moana, which carries just 88 passengers, has less spacious staterooms for the most part, but has a very high staff to guest ratio (1:1.5), with accompanying top of the line service. It sails the Mediterranean, Adriatic and Caribbean, including stops in PanamaCosta Rica, and Colombia.

2. Seabourn

Seabourn, an ultra-luxury line that ranked first among Travel & Leisure readers from 2009 to 2013, took the second spot in 2014. Seabourn sails the world from Antarctica to India to Canada and well beyond, with ports in every continent. Its two older ships each carry a maximum of 208 passengers, while its three newer ships each carry 450. Suite sizes range from 277 to 575 square feet, and ships are outfitted with spas and fitness centers, among many other amenities.

3. Windstar

Windstar, which features six striking-looking sailing yachts recognizable for their four or five mechanized sails, jumped from third to second in 2014. Generally less expensive than the other winners, Windstar conserves by not offering all-inclusive perks like complimentary alcoholic beverages or shore excursions in their base fares, though you have the option to price them as personalized add-ons.

The six ships, which sail the world from Arabia to Tahiti, the Caribbean to the Greek Isles, hold between 148 and 310 passengers. The largest, Wind Surf, is said to be the largest sailing yacht in the world, but all are small enough to enter small harbors and coves that larger ships can’t reach. All the ships’ staterooms and suites are ocean view, and watersports platforms are available for recreation in the warm seas.

4. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent, which finished out of the top five in Travel & Leisure’s 2013 survey, jumped into the fourth spot in 2014. (It also made the large-ship list because only one of its three vessels holds under 500 passengers.)  Regent is an all-inclusive luxury line whose fares include unlimited shore excursions, a good perk. Its multiple restaurants allow open seating and flexible dining hours. Its smallest ship, the Seven Seas Navigator, sports all suites with ocean views; its larger ships all have balconies as well and hold 700 passengers each.  

Regent does indeed sail the seven seas, including some two-week “Grand Crossings” (repositioning cruises) such as from Cape Town, South Africa, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and “Grand Voyages” of up to 62 nights that may take you from Cape Town to Beijing. 

5. Silversea

The luxury line Silversea has finished fifth in each of the past two surveys. Silversea boasts eight ships; the newest and largest holds 540 passengers while the others range from 100 to 382 passenger capacities. Silversea ships, all with ocean-view suites, cruise to all seven continents. The three smallest, each holding 132 passengers or fewer, are expedition vessels that cruise the polar regions, the Galapagos and the Pacific islands.


Photo courtesy of Windstar

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