The Best Destinations for Luxury Small Ship Cruises

Looking for an intimate holiday that’s as private as social, and as relaxing as adventurous? Small luxury cruises might be your best bet.

By: LF Correspondent

Posted on: November 10, 2023

Small luxury cruise ship

While large ocean liners in destinations like the Mediterranean and the Caribbean remain popular, luxury small-ship cruises offer a more unique and intimate experience. With typically less than a hundred passengers on board, they provide a sense of privacy and tranquility, leading to a more relaxed atmosphere. In addition, the ship's compact size allows it to access remote ports that are otherwise inaccessible to bigger ships. 

If you're interested in this type of holiday, here are the best destinations for luxury small-ship cruises.

1. Antarctica      

Luxury vacation Antarctica

Consider a luxury cruise to Antarctica if you want a cruising expedition you'll remember for the rest of your life. Enjoy the spectacular wildlife and marvel at the incredible scenery of Antarctica with a small group of tourists as your ship sails towards the icy waters. The Antarctic Peninsula is unlike anywhere else on Earth, home to fascinating animals, giant glaciers, and stunning natural scenery unspoiled by humans. 

Depending on the itinerary, your expedition cruise will take you to the furthest reaches of Antarctica onboard a small, boutique expedition ship. Unlike with bigger ships, your small ship cruise no longer requires you to cross the Drake Passage, one of the most treacherous voyages for ships. As your ship sails through icy waters, enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the Antarctic landscape, from shimmering icebergs to towering glaciers. Your cruise is also a fantastic opportunity for incredible wildlife encounters, such as whales, penguins, and seals. 

You can also opt for expeditions that include an exploration of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula, discovering many places of interest for scenic hikes, exploring historical sites, and wildlife watching. Since the group size will be less than 50, you'll have access to all landing sites, including those usually off-limits to larger ships.

2. Croatia           

Luxury vacation Croatia

Croatia is a captivating destination for a holiday, offering a perfect blend of stunning coastlines, rich history, and vibrant culture. So why not explore Croatia on a luxury small-ship cruise? These fantastic voyages offer the opportunity to sail through the country's most popular ports, including the remotest islands that larger ships cannot reach. 

From your luxury cruise, you can step into the quayside and explore the local sights at your own pace or as part of the itinerary. These cruises include impromptu stops for snorkelling and swimming, with plenty of opportunities to sit back and relax while enjoying Croatia's breathtaking coasts. 

Carrying less than 100 guests, you can expect a friendly atmosphere aboard these luxury small ships, not to mention personalised service and outstanding facilities. 

The mealtimes are certainly among the highlights of your cruise. Aside from the sumptuous buffet breakfasts, there's a free bar open to indulge in refreshing drinks and cocktails. Wake up to freshly prepared meals made daily from the freshest local produce. 

Croatia has over 1,200 islands and islets, so it can be tricky to figure out the most popular ones to visit on your cruise. But the small ship cruises will come with a pre-planned itinerary, so you won't have to bother about planning the cruise yourself, which makes it more convenient. The most famous islands you can explore on your cruise are Dubrovnik, Hvar, Korcula, and Split.

3. The Galapagos Islands         

Luxury vacation Galapagos

Luxury small-ship cruises are the most preferred way for visitors to explore the Galapagos Islands since many sites are only accessible by small ships. Taking a small luxury cruise is the best way to uncover the Galapagos Islands' unique charms in all their glory. While there are large vessels that offer expeditions around the Galapagos Islands, there's nothing quite like discovering the unspoiled region on a small luxury ship. 

Luxury small-ship cruises offer an unparalleled and unique way of exploring the Galapagos Islands. Unlike the larger ships with over a hundred tourists, small ships provide a more personal experience, where you sail with a select group of travellers. The small ship's intimate nature allows for a more immersive and tranquil exploration of the islands. As you disembark to explore, you'll enjoy a quieter environment, minimising the chance of disturbing wildlife

Aside from making the overall experience more enjoyable, the peaceful ambiance can heighten the wildlife-spotting opportunities. In addition, having smaller passengers onboard allows the crew to provide more personalised attention, not to mention the likelihood of establishing meaningful connections with other travellers onboard.

4. Greece            

Luxury vacation Greece

The Greek Islands are some of the world's most enticing destinations to explore on a cruise, home to picturesque villages, stunning beaches, and fantastic tavernas serving delectable Greek cuisine. Cruising on a luxury small ship cruise is the perfect way to explore the best of Greece, allowing you to hop from one island to another without having to deal with hotel reservations and ferry timetables.

The most popular islands you can visit on your luxury small-ship cruise include Santorini and Mykonos. But you will also find some cruises that will take you to quiet islands to escape the tourist crowds, where you'll find idyllic beaches and fascinating ruins.

Most of these luxury small-ship cruises feature roundtrip itineraries from Athens. Before heading for your cruise, you can spend the day discovering the ancient sites of Athens, such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis Museum.

5. Roatan                        

Luxury vacation Roatan

Cruising up the coast of Central America and discovering the island of Roatan in Honduras is an experience you'll never forget. Located about 40 miles off the coast of Honduras, Roatan is the largest of the Bay of Islands, a group of tropical islands along the Caribbean. 

Surrounded by the world's most bio-diverse coral reefs, Roatan has long been a favourite of snorkelers and scuba divers interested in exploring the fantastic array of marine life living off the coast of Honduras. Aside from the stunning underwater scenery, Roatan features a lush green and mountainous interior that is becoming a hotspot for cruises in the Caribbean, including luxury small-ship cruises.

Most cruises to Roatan will begin in Guanaja, the easternmost of the Bay Islands. From here, you'll set sail towards the island, across to Cayos Cochinos, and into Utila.

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