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Sailing around Antarctica small ship cruise

Small Ship & Expedition Cruises - Best Tours & Trips

Even as mainstream cruise ships get bigger and bigger, small-ship cruising is thriving among travelers who prefer a more intimate experience -- and to dock in smaller ports where the megaships can't go. Expedition-style ships are also popular among travelers seeking adventurous destinations such as the Arctic and Antarctic.

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Top Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Experiences and Attractions


Top Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Experiences

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Top Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Attractions

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Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Trip Reviews


2,782
Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Tour Reviews - Summary
92% Recommend

4.5 out of 5
Excellent 1,687 Great 750 Average 155 Disappointing 41 Terrible 27
Value
4.5 Guide
4.5 Activities
4.5 Lodging
4.5 Transportation
4.5 Meals
4.5

R

Recommends

Outstanding private group tour November 2018

5.0

China & Yangtze River Cruise with Hong Kong

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
We were a group of 34 seniors departing from JFK on 12 Oct 2017. The itinerary was the same as the standard 17-day tour and it was well-paced for our group. Mark Ma was our Tour Director, and he was very helpful, friendly and made sure that everyone was safe and enjoying the trip. My group has been on several guided international tours, and this was one of the best. smarTours helped us set up the tour, get our visas and got us first-class hotels throughout the trip. I recommend that you consider them for your travel group. Ms. Suzanne Anderson at their NYC office was specially helpful. Thanks to everyone at smarTours for this excellent experience. Read more

Operator SmarTours

M

Recommends

18 Amazing Days in China November 2018

5.0

China & Yangtze River Cruise with Hong Kong

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Julian and I are still talking and telling everyone we meet about the surprisingly wonderful trip we recently took. Our guide, Mr. Li Bo, Oscar, was our mother, father, savior, historian, bathroom locator and best friend throughout the entire trip. He seemed to have a second sense and was there when we needed him, either for a pharmacy, help with our luggage or credit cards and the ATM's. The local guides, especially Allie, in Shanghai were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. The hotels and Yangtze River rooms were excellent. All the shows, parks and extras and river cruises were wonderful. The food was pretty good but the hot pots and dim sum that we had when we ventured out on our own was sensational. It's an amazing country with beautiful and unusual sites. I look forward to more trips with SmarTours and I can only hope that they are as great as this trip was for us. Thank you Oscar. Read more

Operator SmarTours

L

Does Not Recommend

Misleading and often just plain dishonest. October 2018

1.0

European sojourn

  • Value 1.0
  • Guide 3.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 3.0
  • Transportation 1.0
  • Meals 3.0
We paid for a 3 week luxury river cruise but received a large group bus trip across Europe with many days of packing and unpacking. I called our Viking representative when we received an email message just 2 days prior to departure that mentioned a possibility of problems with low river levels. I was assured that everything was "normal" In reality, as we learned later from ship personnel, nothing has been normal for at least 3 months. About 2 weeks prior to departure, we received by mail, lovely personalized booklets describing all the details of our voyage on the Viking Lif, which we were to board in Russe, Romania. Instead, we boarded the Viking Aegir but not at Russe, because the Danube was too low. Instead we rode buses upstream to a port on the Romanian side directly opposite our first scheduled stop at Nikopol, Bulgaria. We had a beautiful cruise through the Iron gate gorge, but after three more scheduled stops in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Croatia, our voyage was terminated in Mohacs, Hungary, an unscheduled place two days short of reaching Budapest. So we were herded into buses for a 1.8 hour ride each way to our scheduled stop at Kalocsa. The next day we retraced the journey to Kalocsa and continued an extra 1.5 hours to reach Budapest. We lost the entire morning in Budapest and spent the night at the Marriott hotel. The next day we lost the entire afternoon in that city because we had to take a 4 hour bus ride to Vienna. Where we were put aboard the Viking Embla. Our voyage on that ship ended two steps later at Passau Germany. After a day in Passau we went upriver for a short distance and it seemed that we had entered the canal to take us to the Main river. But much to our surprise, it was a dead end channel for an industrial port. We spent two days there with our balcony room moored tightly against another Viking ship so there was nothing to look at but the scenery at that site was even worse than looking at someone else's window and the balcony was unusable anyway due to the unpleasant odors at that site. The pattern continued with a long round trip bus ride the next day to our scheduled stop at Regensburg and a 3 plus hour trip the following day to Nuremberg where we finally boarded the Viking Lif. A crew member told us that the Lif had not traveled east of Nuremberg for 3 months. We sailed from Nuremberg to scheduled stops in Bamberg, Wurzburg, and Werthiem and then our voyage terminated for good at an unscheduled port in Mainz. Once again we endured a long round trip journey to our next scheduled stop at Koblenz, followed by a 10 plus hour bus trip (with lunch and a walking tour in Cologne) to Amsterdam and a night in a hotel. Despite a promise that our bags would be in our rooms (they did take great care to provide us with tags so they could easily keep our bags organized) all the baggage was dumped in the hotel garage and it took a good 15 minutes of searching to find it and then take it to our rooms ourselves. There is much more, but it would only be more descriptive of the misery of this trip. We know Viking didn't cause the low river levels, but they did not need to lie to us and make us suffer because of it. Read more

Operator Viking River Cruises

B

Recommends

A fabulous experience October 2018

5.0

Cape Town to Victoria Falls Adventure

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
My daughter and I have just completed this tour. We had a brilliant guide, an entertaining driver and a great group of fellow travellers. We did the camping option. The tents were easy to set up and disassemble. The mattresses provided were very comfortable. The food was excellent in quality and quantity. We saw many animals and travelled through some amazing National Parks viewing incredible wildlife. I strongly recommend this tour. Read more

Operator Explore!

K

Does Not Recommend

Pay for a 4 star trip and get 2 star food September 2018

2.0

Treasures of the Mediterranean - Northbound 2018

  • Value 1.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 1.0
My husband and I took the Treasures of the Mediterranean tour two weeks ago. The food off the ship was very good. The food on the ship was subpar (2 stars out of 4 stars). We ended up ordering French Fries at the beginning of each meal so we would at least have something to eat. I called Tauck and voiced my concerns. They offered us a $250 voucher each for another trip. I hardly think the food portion on the yacht was $250. Why would I go on another Tauck trip when my first one, which was our retirement celebration due to the poor food. The majority of the people on the trip were dissatisfied with the food and their reviews reflected it. Read more

Operator Tauck

Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Tours and Travel Guide


Small Ship & Expedition Cruises Attractions & Landmarks Guide

A cruise on a small ship or expedition-style ship is as different  from a cruise on a large ship as flying in a small plane is from taking a jumbo jet. They both share the sea but they present different perspectives on it and often serve very different purposes.

(For this write-up, we’ll limit the discussion to small ocean and sea-going vessels as opposed to river ships and boats.)

Both small and large cruise ships have their place in the realm of cruise travel and both have their adherents, but there’s no guarantee that if you’ll like one you’ll like the other.

Amenity Gap

Small ships, for instance, may have some amenities, such as a smallish swimming pool, a lounge, a bar area, and a dining area, but nothing like you’d expect to find on a modern-day cruise liner that may hold from 2,000 to 6,000 passengers.

Casinos, climbing walls, Broadway-style theaters, huge dining halls, discos, organized contests and games (beyond board games), and other features of big cruise ships are highly unlikely to appear on a small or expedition-style ship.

Even medium-sized cruise ships, in the 600 passenger range, are far more likely to have multiple restaurants, organized entertainments, and other typical cruise amenities.

The Small Ship Experience

On a small ship, you’re more likely to make meals or the pre-dinner appetizer-cocktail hour the hub of your social life.

Gatherings are more likely to include lectures on what you’ll see the next day than late-night dance parties. The libraries on small ships take on more importance than on the typical large cruise ship.

Shore excursions and sightseeing are also at somewhat more of a premium on small ships than large. The general thrust of a small ship or expedition-style cruise -- especially the latter -- tends to be on the destination or itinerary (such as the Galapagos Islands or whale-watching off Alaska)  rather than the ship itself.

Specialty Cruises

The ships themselves, though, may take on greater importance if they’re traditional to the countries being visited (such as the Turkish gulet or Arabian dhow), where a large part of the pleasure is experiencing that type of vessel.

A trip across the polar reaches on an icebreaker or another expedition-style ship is another singular small ship experience. (The only ships that have permission to actually land on Antarctica hold 500 passengers or fewer.)

If you think that small-ship cruising may be right for you, Stride can help you sort through the many possibilities around the globe. Happy sailing!

Related Guides

Popular Continents:

Europe, Antarctica & the Arctic

Popular Destinations:

Norway, Greenland, Costa Rica, Austrailia, Scotland and Many More

Popular Small-ship & Expedition Cruises: 

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Caribbean Sea; Falkland Islands; Mediterranean Isles; PolynesiaAntarctica and Many More

For Styles:

50+ guided tours, Small group tours, Luxury tours & Wildlife lovers

Related Trips & Tours


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