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Small Ship Cruising

An intimate and personal cruise holiday

Discover the world without the crowds

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Featured Small Ship Cruises

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

The No-Fly 2021 British Isles & Summer Wildlife

  • 19 Aug 2021
  • 5 nights
  • Ship: Bolette
  • No-Fly Cruise

Itinerary: Dover

Includes: Pound sterling on board*, Full board cruising*, Small ship cruising*, Sail aboard the Newest Ship in the Fred. Olsen fleet Bolette, during her Maiden Season*

Private UK Chauffeur
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

The 2023 No-Fly Grand World Voyage

  • 23 Feb 2023
  • 79 nights
  • Ship: Borealis
  • No-Fly Cruise

Itinerary: Southampton - Lisbon, Portugal - Cruising the Strait of Messina - Brindisi, Italy - Port Said, Egypt - ★Transit the Suez Canal★ - Safaga, Egypt - Mumbai, (Formerly Bombay)...

Includes: FREE On Board Spend of up to £1,000*, Exclusive FREE Gratuities*, 5% Discount for Ocean Club members*, Exclusive FREE Private UK Chauffeur Service for ALL bookings*

Choice of benefits
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines

The 2022 No-Fly France & Monaco Grand Prix

  • 22 May 2022
  • 12 nights
  • Ship: Bolette
  • No-Fly Cruise

Itinerary: Southampton - Alicante, Spain - Barcelona, Spain - Cannes - Villefranche, France - Bandol - Gibraltar - Southampton

Includes: Pound sterling on board*, FREE On Board Spend OR FREE Drinks Package*, Just a deposit required*, Traditional british no-fly cruising

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Small in size, Large in character

A small cruise ship holds less than 1,300 passengers and some can have fewer than 100 guests on board. 1,300 may seem considerably high to some but with the likes of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas catering for 5,479, this is remarkably low.


Large cruise ships offer a range of unprecedented on board facilities such as, water slides, ziplines, floating restaurants, Broadway-style shows and on board shopping centres, but there’s a number reasons why both large and small cruise vessels have their advantages and disadvantages.

Small cruise ships are perfect for those who love to cruise but are not looking for a resort at sea. What a small cruise ship may lack in innovative amenities it provides with a number of distinctive qualities that larger vessels cannot offer.

Passenger counts are significantly lower and thereby embarkation and disembarkation is a breeze, and queueing in general will not feel like part of your holiday with the reduced number of crowds. But it is not just the passenger count that will make a difference, on board a small cruise ship you will feel a more luxurious ambience with a more detailed personalised service - the bar staff will not just remember your name but your signature drink.

The ship will also be able to dock in ports-of-call that much larger vessels simply cannot, allowing you to discover some of the untouched corners of the world. After an hour or so exploring the ship for the first time you would have found your bearings and will begin to feel like you’re settling in at home. You will quickly become to recognise your fellow passengers faces and may even make lifelong friends with the like-minded travellers on board.  

Types of small ship cruises

There’s many types of small ship cruising you can choose from including yacht-style cruises, river cruises, expedition cruises and more.

Yacht-style cruises: There’s two types of yacht style cruises, large and small. Small yacht types cruises typically have less than a 100 guests on board. If you’re interested in small yacht style cruises we recommend Emerald Waterway’s MV Adraitic Princes II or the MV Adriatic Pearl. These 5-star vessels accommodate only 36 guests and navigate the waters of the Dalmatian Coast. But with such limited availability, you must act fast as cabins aboard these ships are incredibly popular. If you’re looking for an ultra-luxury small yacht, Crystal Esprit is the perfect choice, carrying only 62 passengers and is simply one of the most luxurious small-ship adventures available. Availability will be tight but there is a wide selection of sailings to choose from - so, whether you’re looking to explore the grecian coast to the West Indies, there will be something for you.

There’s a wide selection of ships to choose from in the large yacht cruise category and the passenger capacity ranges from 140 to 400. These ships are ideal for passengers who are looking for an intimate experience that still offers a range of on board facilities, including bars, loungers, libraries and a number of dining venues. One of the benefits of a large yacht cruise experience is that you will have a wider selection of cabins to choose from, as well as the choice of luxurious suites.

For those who are looking for the ultimate luxury cruise experience, Silversea offer the very finest at sea paired with a personal experience. Their fleet ranges in size but if you’re looking for a large yacht cruise, Silver ShadowSilver Whisper and Silver Wind cater from 296 up to 382 passengers. Silversea will go above and beyond to meet your expectations and with your in-suite butler, you will feel truly special with your every whim catered for.   

Star Clipper fall into the large yacht category and offer their 170-300 passengers a tall ship sailing experience. A cruise with Star Clipper will be unlike any other and they are currently navigating the waters of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Far East, including Thailand and Bali.

Small cruise ships: If you’re looking to cruise on a ship that is not as intimate as a yacht but has fewer passengers than the categorised larger vessels, then the ‘small cruise ship’ category may be the perfect option. Holding from 450 to 1,300 passengers there’s a range of ultra-luxury boutique style cruise ships, including the fleet of Seabourn Cruises and Regent Seven Seas; to a more traditionally British experience aboard P&O Cruises’ Adonia; or Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch, Boudicca or Braemar.

For ships skewing towards the higher-end of the ‘small ship’ category, passengers can take advantage of a wider range of on board facilities, such as glorious spas, multiple dining venues, exquisite atriums and glowing show lounges.

River cruises

A river cruise ship carries around 150 to 200 passengers and you are guaranteed to enjoy an outside facing cabin allowing you to embrace the beautiful vistas that will pass you by. River ships are generally much smaller than ocean liners, allowing them to navigate locks and sail beneath low bridges that ocean vessels cannot. On board you will generally find a dining venue, bar/showroom, gym and excursion office. On some ships, you will also find a pool, as seen on Emerald Radiance.

The beauty of a river cruise is that their small size allows you to sail in the heart of much-loved towns, cities and countrysides such as Bordeaux, Budapest, Bucharest and Amsterdam. Plus on a river cruise you will visit a new port, or two, everyday but without the sea days. Embarking and disembarking the ship is a breeze and you will not be required to travel miles to get the main attraction of each destination. What’s more, with port-intensive shore excursions included in the package, this will be a culturally-enriched experience.

There’s a range of fascinating river itineraries with  APT, Uniword, Emerald Waterways and Scenic, and each sail the rivers of Europe, departing from April through to November. If you’re looking to delve into the culture of the Far East, why not navigate the rivers of Asia on a Mekong river cruise with APT.

Expedition cruises

Many expedition ships are small in size and offer guests once-in-a-lifetime experiences across the globe - from Antarctica to the Galapagos Islands. Expedition ships have to be small, with shallow drafts to enable them to get much closer to off-the-beaten track destinations. The difference with an expedition cruise is the experience, which is very much about what happens on land and thereby what you may lack with on board entertainment and high-tech gadgets, is made up for ashore with awe-inspiring landscapes and wildlife.

There’s a number of major cruise lines competing in the expedition cruise market, including Celebrity Cruises, with four expedition ships, that discover the Galapagos Islands. These are Celebrity Xploration, Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xperience and the newest of the Celebrity’s expedition fleet, Celebrity Flora.

Silversea’s Silver Galapagos also navigates the islands and offers its 100-passengers an incredible array of on board facilities, including a number of bars, a gourmet restaurant and beauty salon.

Silversea are also proud owners of the Silver Cloud Expedition - this is one of the larger expedition ships, carrying 260 passengers. Silver Cloud transitioned from Silversea’s Ocean liners in 2017 to focus solely on expedition cruising. She was refurbished and now she navigates the waters as a five-star ice-class expedition vessel. She is one of the only expedition ships at sea to offer its guests the choice of five on board gourmet restaurants.

If you’re looking to explore the untouched beauty of Antarctica, we are delighted to offer a number of exclusive cruise packages, with Hurtigruten aboard ms Fram, ms Midnatsol and ms Roald Amundsen. Hurtigruten will take you to the coldest continent on earth that will warm your heart with its unspeakable beauty and endearing wildlife. All three ships vary in size and carry from 318 to 970 passengers.