Small-ship cruises offer amazing experiences.

There are some unique cruising options now available to people who are looking for something different.

The idea of boutique/small ship cruising is to create a personal and intimate experience where guests will get to know one another and visit unique destinations, or cruisers will have the opportunity to try different types of vessels.

This could include sailing ships from lines such as Windstar and Star Clippers, to small adventure ships from lines such as Coral Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions, Lindblad Expeditions, Quark or APT.

Other lines, such as Paul Gauguin and Aranui, sail in only one area so guests can deeply immerse themselves in the local culture. Aranui, which is a half-board, half-working ship, will take guests around the South Pacific, dropping off cargo.

Luxury hotel brands such as Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Belmond are now also starting to play in this space, with superyachts with all the big boy toys such as jet skis, scuba diving and watersports platforms.

Small ship cruising in the Kimberley with Coral Expeditions
Small ship cruising in the Kimberley with Coral Expeditions

Lines such as Emerald Cruises, Scenic and Travelmarvel also offer yacht-style cruising.

Many of these lines cross over to the expedition and adventure space, exploring lesser-known ports due to their size and manoeuvrability. The focus of the ships is around the experiences on shore and cultural immersion. Like expedition vessels, you won’t find large-scale entertainment areas or several dining options. The ships also have fewer numbers of public areas such as lounges and bars. But because of the size, these are the places where you can swap stories with your fellow cruisers and share experiences. 

These types of ships are designed for those who are looking to get away from the crowds, and they tend to sail in much warmer climates.

Paul Gauguin Cruises has one intimate ship which explores the Tahitian islands. The cruise is designed for guests to understand the Polynesian culture through songs, dance and stories. Guests will also learn how to make jewels or knot wrap-around skirts with local guides and elders.

With Paul Gauguin, guests can also go diving from the ship’s marina and explore the pristine reefs of French Polynesia, sharing the waters with manta rays, dolphins and reef sharks.

Windstar’s fleet consists of six ships – three boutique ships and three unique sailing ships. The line’s flagship sailing ship, the Wind Surf, only has capacity for 342 guests. While it has a spa onboard and several lounges and bars, the ship can take you everywhere from the Caribbean to the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

The line’s four-masted ship, the Wind Star. accommodates just 148 guests, which makes you feel like you’re on your own private yacht. Because of the ample deck space, guests can escape the crowds for private moments on the sea.

Windstar's stunning four masted ship sails in exotic destinations
Windstar’s stunning four masted ship sails in exotic destinations

The all-Australian Coral Expeditions caters for guests to explore destinations such as the Kimberley, the Indonesian Archipelago and Papua New Guinea. One of the benefits of small ship/boutique cruising is that chefs don’t have to cater for large numbers.

For instance, chefs on Coral Expeditions can prepare small-batch meals made with Australian ingredients with produce sourced from local markets.

Star Clippers is a traditional sailing line where the line’s flagship, the Royal Clipper is the largest and only five-masted full-rigged sailing ship. The ship balances all the amenities of a modern yacht with the traditions of sailing. There are three swimming pools onboard, where you can relax while you watch other guests climb the mast.

HOT TIP: All boutique/small ship companies are different from one another – from the destinations they visit to the type of vessels you’ll be on board. Like expedition cruising, small/boutique sailing is not for everyone. Make sure you do your research, especially about the ship.