amalfi-italyAlthough most people think of gigantic ships when they think of cruises, smaller vessels have a number of unexpected benefits. With options ranging from sailing schooners to riverboats, small cruises typically have fewer than 300 passengers rather than several thousand, making for a completely different cruise experience. A cozy atmosphere and access to smaller ports can turn your trip into a unique adventure. Here are some of the best small cruise lines in today’s market.

Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is a cruise line that allies with National Geographic to bring passengers to a variety of remote and exotic locales. The staff of each ship includes experienced historians, naturalists, scientific specialists, expedition leaders, and photographers who can educate and explore with passengers; scientific equipment such as underwater cameras and microscopes are also available to give a unique look at the world. Excursions often involve kayaking, snorkeling, or shore landings to give guests an up-close view of nature.


Hurtigruten, a cruise company based in Norway, is geared towards passengers who want a polar expedition. With elegant minimalist design and luxurious accommodations, the 13 ships of this company can carry up to 276 passengers. Expeditions tour the coasts of Europe near the Arctic Circle, with small landing craft to take passengers ashore and gorgeous wild scenery. Occasionally Hurtigruten will offer special themed cruises that focus on subjects like astronomy or Viking history.

Un-Cruise Adventures

The expedition line Un-Cruise Adventures is an excellent choice for nature lovers. Eight vessels, none of which carry more than 100 passengers, sail along the coasts of North and Central America, as well as a few Pacific islands. Generally, itineraries avoid port stops in favor of natural inlets and bays where passengers can explore the wild. Ships often include amenities such as hot tubs, fitness areas, and gourmet meals to make the journey more comfortable.


Another unique choice is Windstar, which offers cruises aboard yachts equipped with sails. The combination of motor and wind propulsion allows customers to savor the romance of sailing without having to put up with any of the inconveniences. With destinations in Europe, Central America, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific, this line offers casual elegance without getting stuffy.


Finally, AmaWaterways is a line that focuses almost exclusively on the famous rivers of Europe. With luxurious modern ships that include in-cabin entertainment, heated swimming pools, contemporary décor, and glass elevators, this line provides daily tours and regional cuisine for an intimate look at European culture. As with every other small cruise line on this list, this group offers cruises that are utterly unforgettable.

Want to learn more? Our cruise agents have traveled the world on all of these cruise lines, and would love to help! Contact USA River Cruises today!