Whether you are new to cruising or a small-ship veteran seeking to just learn more, we’ve compiled our most frequently asked questions here to inform and inspire as you explore this incredible way to travel. Small ship cruising is the travel style that started it all for AdventureSmith Explorations, and it remains our primary travel specialty. Read this small ship cruise FAQ to find out if your burning question is a common one, or contact one of our cruise specialists anytime to ask an expert direct.

What is small ship cruising?

Small ship cruises are the alternative, sustainable way to travel at sea. Instead of what has become the more mainstream way to “cruise” aboard ships with bottomless buffets, elaborate onboard entertainment and large-group, added-cost excursions, small cruises instead focus on the destination and its wildlife and culture. And we’re happy to report that this cruise FAQ is becoming less frequently asked since small ship cruises are catching on.

Small ship cruising is all about allowing the ship to be your basecamp for off-ship adventures. That’s why “Think outside the boat” has been the company motto of AdventureSmith since we were founded in 2003. Standard on both ocean and river cruises are: expert guiding from onboard naturalists; included activities like kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and/or stand-up paddleboarding; exploring and often anchoring in remote wilderness; and likeminded passengers traveling alongside you who value active, sustainable travel experiences.

What is considered a small cruise ship? How small?

It all depends on who you talk to! Small can be relative, and we’ve seen ships boasting to be small yet carrying 500 passengers still. For us, the sweet spot is around 8 to 250 passengers to maintain what we feel is the true hallmark of small ship cruising: active, immersive, off-the-ship, off-the-grid travel.

Are smaller cruise ships better than big ships?

Depends on who you ask, and who is traveling! We sure think so, for all travelers as small ships connect you with the destination better than larger ships. To learn more and find out what size ship is best for you, read our Big Ship vs. Small Ship: What Is the Difference?

What are the best small ships?

There are many excellent choices among the many small cruise ships sailing today. You might have caught our drift by now, but the word “best” is entirely subjective to each individual traveler and their travel style, amenity needs, travel group and activity level. Our team is adept at matchmaking travelers to their own “best” ship or small ship cruise line for the destination at hand. If you want some suggestions, you can take a look at our founder’s favorite ships in 9 Standouts in Small Ship Cruising, the Best Cruise Cabins for Families and the Most Romantic Small Ship Cruises.

What types of people enjoy small ship cruising?

From couples to families to solo travelers, small ship cruisers are savvy travelers who have done the research and are seeking to escape the mass tourism market and opt instead for something more sustainable and rooted in a destination. They want to experience a place, not just see it! They are interesting, engaged, active and educated people seeking meaningful up-close encounters with the wonders of nature and culture, just like you. 

Are small ship cruises good for families?

Absolutely! The level of family friendliness depends on the vessel, destination and small ship cruise line, but there are lots of options to choose to cruise with children and teenagers worldwide. Read more about our family cruises, including testimonials from our family travelers and further resources for booking a family cruise.

Is seasickness an issue on a small ship cruise?

While most small ship cruises travel close to shore or in protected waters where seasickness is not an issue, some expedition cruises can encounter rough seas. Ocean conditions vary widely depending on the destination, season, weather, type of ship, route and many other factors. AdventureSmith’s unbiased staff experts can help you to determine if a particular itinerary is right for you, and savvy travelers can educate themselves on ways to combat seasickness by reading our comprehensive guide on How to Prevent & Treat Seasickness. Enjoying the ocean view with your eye on the horizon is one of the best tips!

When is the best time to cruise?

That all depends on where in the world you want to cruise! Our team has compiled a Small Ship Cruise Calendar to assist travelers in seeing the bigger timing picture for some of our most popular destinations. If your travel dates are flexible, consider a region’s seasonality nuances, or you may choose based on particular interest like the best time to view whales, when baby penguins are hatching or to align with the warmest water temperatures for snorkeling and swimming. And river cruises can often have high- and low-water seasons you can consider. View our Small Ship Cruise Guide resources for more information and inspiration by destination.

How active is a small ship cruise?

Activity level aboard a small ship cruise is diverse, and there are many choices depending on how active or relaxed you’d like to choose to cruise. Many of our cruise itineraries include guided light hiking and easy sea kayaking or snorkeling, and sometimes alternative activities such as stand-up paddleboarding and even river rafting. Each and every activity is optional, and the naturalist/guides aboard every ship will help passengers to determine if an activity or excursion is right for them. A fun part of the AdventureSmith booking process is that we take your activity level into consideration before you go; our team will assess your activity interests and match you with the best cruise for your travel style. Thus, the best part about this cruise FAQ is that your next question after you experience it will be, when can I go again?!

How much does a small cruise ship cost?

How much a small cruise costs all depends on where you want to go, the size of the vessel you are on and its amenities. All cruise and land tour pricing listed on the AdventureSmith Explorations website is the cost per person, in USD, and our rates depending on the destination start at around $200-$500 per day. This price often varies based on how many persons are sharing the cabin, transfer or tour. In general, small ship cruises cost more than their big-ship cruise counterparts, but the experience is so inclusive and immersive that the dividends to you are much greater.

What about pricing for single travelers on a cruise?

Some ships offer dedicated single cabins, but most ships do not but instead have double-occupancy cabins that can be booked for dedicated single-use with a single supplement charge. Somewhat akin to how hotel rooms are a fixed price no matter if you are staying in it alone, this is the case here. Thus, if you are a single traveler, be sure to look for “single supplement” rates that often offer you a discount on paying for the full double-occupancy cabin. In many destinations, there is the possibility of waiving the single supplement by agreeing to a “cabin share,” wherein you are paired with a fellow traveler of the same gender in a cabin. This is especially popular on Antarctica cruises, where you will often find many cabin and pricing options for single travelers.

What is included in the price?

This is a very common cruise FAQ, but note that included and excluded services vary from cruise to cruise, and are always listed in the “DETAILS” section of each itinerary listed on our website. These can be discussed further with your AdventureSmith Specialist upon booking. Common inclusions with the cabin fare are onboard meals and guided activities during the itinerary. Common exclusions from the cabin fare are airfare (international or domestic), gratuities, alcoholic beverages and insurance of any kind. But there are exceptions to each of these. For example, many of our small ships have included alcoholic beverages, and some of our Mediterranean cruises have nights free at ports of call so you can dine on your own off-ship.

Can I book just one cabin, or do I have to charter the entire ship?

Yes, similar to traditional larger-ship cruises, you can simply book an individual cabin aboard a small ship. In fact, 75% of our travelers choose to book individual cabins this way: on a set departure. We also connect travelers in groups as small as 8 guests with charter cruises. Choose this charter option to book the entire ship and help set its route and onboard programming for the duration of your trip. Our most popular destinations for chartering your own ship are the Galapagos Islands and Alaska; read more about Galapagos yacht charters and Alaska yacht charters.