10 of the Smallest Cruise Ships in the World (2024)

Today, the cruising industry is constantly striving to be bigger and bolder. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that there would be roller coasters, go-karts, and skydiving simulators at sea? Modern cruise ships are the epitome of a fun family vacation that offers something for everyone.

What about the ships on the other end? You know, the ones that may lack some of the thrills that make the newest and biggest cruise ships so enticing?

There is a lot to love and appreciate about the smallest cruise ships in the world, especially if you are seeking a more intimate experience that is destination-focused. Because of their level of service and opportunity to visit unique ports, cruises on smaller ships tend to be more expensive than those on mainstream cruise lines.

Here are 10 of the smallest operational ocean cruise ships in the world!

1. Celebrity Xploration


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Measuring only 319.5 gross registered tons and 98 feet long, Celebrity Xploration is nowhere near the size of today's mega ships. In fact, she weighs about 98% less than the world's largest cruise ship: Wonder of the Seas. With only 8 staterooms onboard and a maximum passenger capacity of 16, you may feel like you are sailing on a semi-private yacht!

While Celebrity's fleet is not the largest in the mainstream cruise line, they are one of the only cruise lines to offer regular voyages to the Galapagos Islands. You will, however, pay a premium for such a voyage. To sail on this small cruise ship, expect to shell out at least $4,700 per person.

Unlike base fares for other Celebrity sailings, cruises onboard Celebrity Xploration and any other Xpedition vessel are all-inclusive.

2. Safari Quest

At 345 gross tons and 120 feet long, Safari Quest is UnCruise Adventures' smallest ship that has 11 cabins to accommodate 22 guests. UnCruise Adventures boasts about the 2:1 guest-to-crew ratio.

Despite being such a small ship, there's enough onboard to keep you occupied while sailing through Alaska's landscape, such as an on-deck hot tub, fitness equipment, and book library. When you are ready to explore, you can utilize the ship's full-beam swim step, kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, and hiking poles.

In 2023, Safari Quest will be sailing to Alaska, with the cheapest cabin starting at $9,800 per person, based on double occupancy. If you are sailing alone, the cost is around $14,700. Note, though, that unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the price.

3. MS Panorama II


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MS Panorama II, who measures 498 gross tons and is about 164 feet long, looks more like a sailboat than a modern day cruise ship. Technically, she is classified as a small yacht due to her passenger capacity of only 49 guests. That being said, anyone is capable of booking a stateroom and sailing on a small boat adventure with Variety Cruises.

Variety Cruises is not a mainstream cruise line. They operate a fleet of eight cruise ships and four private yachts, none of which carry more than 71 passengers. If you want to visit destinations that are off the beaten path, you will enjoy a cruise with Variety Voyages!

4. Admiralty Dream


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Admiralty Dream is a ship operated by Alaska Dream Cruises, a family-owned company with owners who grew up in Sitka, Alaska and operated boat tours from the Jamestown Bay shipyard. The 514 gross ton and 143 foot ship makes it easy to navigate Alaska's Inside Passage, showing you more of the channels, bays, and wilderness than other mainstream cruise lines.

Admiralty Dream, which was originally built in 1979, can accommodate a maximum of 49 passengers in 27 staterooms. A 5-night, 6-day cruise starts around $2,900 per person.

5. Aqua Mare

Luxury meets Galapagos on Aqua Mare, a 163.1 foot and 620 gross ton ship that was built in 1998 and refurbished in 2021. According to Aqua Expeditions' website, "...she boasts 30 percent more indoor volume than most yachts her size...[and had] two naturalists guides for 16 guests, on top of the islands' most exclusive one-to-one crew to guest ratio."

Aqua Expeditions was founded 13 years ago by Francesco Galli Zugaro, whose goal was to provide guests the opportunity to sail to distant parts of the world on small ships that have an intimate environment.

You can expect a 7-night sailing on Aqua Mare to run you at least $10,500 per person; 14-night cruises begin closer to $20,000 per person!

6. & 7. National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird


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National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird entered service in 1982 as Great Rivers Explorer and Majestic Alaska Explorer, respectively. The nearly identical ships sailed for Exploration Cruise Line until they were sold in 1991 to Lindblad Society Expeditions, a subsidiary of Lindblad Travel. When the ships were designed, they were done so in a way that they would be able to navigate narrow inlets and other passageways that larger ships could not access.

In 2004, the company began a collaboration with National Geographic. Three years later, it turned into an exclusive partnership. Every ship in the Lindblad fleet feature "National Geographic" in the name, and onboard each trip, there are a variety of expedition leaders from Lindblad, as well as National Geographic scientists, oceanographers, etc.

Both National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird are 630 gross tons, 152 feet long, and can carry a maximum of 62 passengers.

8. Le Ponant


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Le Ponant was the first ship for Compagnie du Ponant, or "Ponant Company," a French cruise line that has eleven ships. At 1,189 gross tons and 291 feet, she measures nearly double of National Geographic Sea Lion and Sea Bird! That being said, Le Ponant has a smaller passenger capacity; she is able to host up to 32 passengers in 16 double occupancy staterooms.

A voyage on this vessel will cost you a pretty penny. A 7-night Caribbean cruise starts around $7,000 per person; however, some itineraries are as expensive as $14,700 for 7 nights, with some suites costing over $36,000.

Fun fact: the ship was attacked in 2008 by Somali pirates! Thankfully, no guests were onboard.

9. MS Monet


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Currently operating for small ship cruise line Noble Caledonia, the 220 foot and 1,453 gross ton MS Monet was originally built in the 1970s; it was not until 1998 that the ship was converted to a passenger ship with the ability to carry 50 passengers. Today, she primarily sails around the Adriatic & Aegean Seas, often visiting multiple cities in a single day!

Compared to other mainstream cruise lines that have been around since the 1960s and 70s, Noble Caledonia is a relatively new, as it was established in 1991. Their fleet of small ocean and river ships allows them to create itineraries and foster an onboard environment that fosters a sense of exploration and wonder, in addition to providing a more personalized service.

10. Chichagof Dream


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Built in 1984, Chichagof Dream, another ship operated by Alaska Dream Cruises, is an older ship that offers "authentic and personal" sailings to Alaska. If the age of the ship worries you, she was renovated and received new carpets and furnishings in public spaces and staterooms!

Those who are looking for a large cruise ship experience in Alaska will want to bypass Chichagof Dream, as the 1,471 gross ton and 207 foot long ship can only carry 76 passengers on any given sailing. You will not have the same experiences and amenities as you would on an Alaska cruise on Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class or Norwegian's Breakaway Class ships.

10 of the Smallest Cruise Ships in the World (2024)


What is the smallest cruise ship in the world? ›

FAQ. What is the tiniest cruise ship in the world? The tiniest cruise ship in the world is the Celebrity Xploration offered by Celebrity Cruises. The ship has a guest capacity of 16 and sails around the Galapagos Islands.

What are the different types of small cruise ships? ›

Small ships range from smaller yachts, sailboats, riverboats and catamarans, up to larger expedition ships. The type of small ship you choose is ultimately determined by a number of factors including your cruise destination, travel companions, preferences for onboard amenities, and so on.

What is the 10th largest cruise ship in the world? ›

P&O Cruises MS Arvia: 185,581 gross tonnes. The MS Arvia is P&O Cruises' fourth ship to be built by German shipyard Meyer Werft. Weighing in at 185,581 gross tonnes, the 345m (1,130-foot) Arvia is slightly larger than her sister ship, the MS Iona.

Which is the smallest celebrity cruise ship? ›

Celebrity Xploration

With a passenger capacity of just 16, the Xploration is Celebrity's smallest ship. As such, cruisers can expect an intimate onboard ambiance.

How big are the smallest cruise ships? ›

Small ships are generally considered cruise ships carrying less than 1000 passengers. Celebrity Xpedition, carries only 92 passengers, weighing 2329 tons, with even lighter ships such as Star Clipper and Star Flyer, of the Star Clippers' fleet, weighing in at ust 2,298 tons.

What is the smallest carnival ship? ›

What is the smallest Carnival ship? The smallest Carnival cruise ship is Carnival Elation, the line's second-oldest vessel. At 71,909 gross tons, it carries just 2,190 passengers — less than half the amount accommodated on ships in Carnival's Excel class.

Are there still small cruise ships? ›

Small Cruise Yachts

Windstar's 148 to 342-guest small ships and personalized approach bring you closer to each destination and every port, so you can see the world from new perspectives.

What is smallest Princess ship? ›

What is the smallest Princess cruise ship? The smallest Princess cruise ship is the 2,000-passenger Coral Princess. Measuring just 91,267 gross tons, it's about 36% smaller than Discovery Princess, making it a significantly smaller vessel.

What is a mini cruise called? ›

A mini cruise or a 'taster cruise' is an ideal introduction to cruising if you have never cruised before or if you would like to try out a different cruise line or ship for the first time. Mini cruises can also make idyllic short breaks to break up the time in between your main holidays.

What cruise ship holds 10,000 people? ›

Icon of the Seas: Royal Caribbean's first Icon Class ship, Icon of the Seas, debuts as the world's largest cruise ship. At maximum capacity, it carries nearly 10,000 passengers and crew combined.

What is the number 1 cruise ship? ›

1. Royal Caribbean Icon of the Seas. Besides taking on the mantle of largest cruise ship in the world, Icon of the Seas is yet another game changer for Royal Caribbean.

What cruise ship is 5 times bigger than the Titanic? ›

Icon of the Seas, the the world's biggest cruise ship – five times the size of Titanic – sets sail | The Independent.

What is the oldest celebrity cruise ship? ›

The oldest Celebrity cruise ship is Celebrity Millennium. It was unveiled in 2000, right at the turn of the millennium (hence its name).

What is the shallowest a cruise ship can go? ›

Most modern cruise ships sail with a loaded draft of around 30 ft. With that draft they will avoid any areas of shallow water less than 30 feet depth unless they want to go aground.

What cruises have the least amount of people? ›

5 small-ship cruise lines for people who hate crowds
  1. Azamara Club Cruises. (Azamara) Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest. ...
  2. SeaDream Yacht Club. (SeaDream) SeaDream I and SeaDream II. ...
  3. Star Clippers. (Star Clippers) Star Flyer, Star Clipper, and Royal Clipper. ...
  4. Windstar Cruises. (Windstar) ...
  5. Silversea. (Silversea)
Jan 14, 2015

What are the smallest ships with Royal Caribbean? ›

The smallest Royal Caribbean cruise ship is Grandeur of the Seas. Measuring just 73,817 tons, it's just a third the size of Icon of the Seas. Grandeur of the Seas dates to 1996, a time when cruise ships were built far smaller than they are today and with far fewer venues.

What are the 3 largest cruise ships? ›

In service
RankShip nameLength overall
1Icon of the Seas364.75 m (1,196.7 ft)
2Wonder of the Seas362.04 m (1,187.8 ft)
3Symphony of the Seas361.011 m (1,184.42 ft)
33 more rows

What is the #1 cruise line? ›

The best cruise lines in 2023. Norwegian Cruise Line ranked as the best cruise line in the world, according to Condé Nast Traveler.


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