Here at AdventureSmith Explorations, we partner with expedition vessels all over the globe, carrying travelers to remote fjords, deserted beaches and whale-rich channels and bays. Among the many small cruise ships with partner with, these are a few of my favorites plying the world’s oceans today.


The 8-guest Westward is off the radar of most travelers and just the type of ship I love to refer to the right clients seeking to explore Alaska or Baja up close. Listed with the US National Register of Historic Places, the Westward boasts several factors that make its voyages unique, including the historic nature of the yacht itself, the remarkably talented crew, the pace and depth of exploration and the quiet calm of the yacht at anchor.

Small ship Alaska cruise aboard Westward yacht with green tree forest behind it

Galapagos Grace

The Galapagos is a competitive market for small ships, and it can be difficult for vessels to stand out. The 16-guest Grace, formerly owned by Princess Grace of Monaco, is a historically significant and luxurious platform with outstanding service and guides. Due to her small size and iconic elegance, I recommend the Grace to clients seeking a high-end experience aboard a ship as unique as the Galapagos Islands. Book the Grace Kelly Suite aboard to stay in the same suite that Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier did on their honeymoon. 

Small ship Galapagos cruise aboard historic Grace with zodiac sailing toward the viewer

Origin, Theory & Evolve

The 20-guest identical sister ships Origin, Theory & Evolve offer small exploration groups and 8-day itineraries, the ideal way to explore the Galapagos as you see a wider range of islands and species. Inside, they offer large glass windows and expansive public areas as they cruise these iconic islands with a modern style. These new and efficient ships fit perfectly in AdventureSmith’s ideals as they boast a sustainable design while offering a comfortable and classy experience for guests.

Small ship Galapagos cruise aboard luxury Origin showing the ship on its port side

Ombak Putih

The traditional Indonesian sailing vessel Ombak Putih, combines traditional and modern design for a comfortable adventure through remote Indonesian islands. Her traditional hull, rigging and shape fit perfectly with her interesting and unique itineraries, creating an unimposing and exceptional Indonesia cruise.

Her passenger count of only 24 and fun exploration options like hiking, paddling, cave exploration and incredible snorkeling, allow for deep connections with both fellow passengers and the environment you’re exploring.

Small ship Indonesia cruise aboard traditional sailing vessel Ombak Putih showing the ship from its bow and port side.

Delfin II

The 28-passenger river cruising boat, Delfin II, stands out for the perfect combination of ease and elegance in the Peruvian Amazon. This all-suite luxury ship offers large glass windows for never missing a monkey or exotic bird sighting. The Delfin II also delivers off-ship exploration with water toys like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.

Small ship Peruvian Amazon river cruise aboard luxury Delfin II showing the ship in brown water

Safari Explorer

Safari Explorer is the quintessential expedition ship. At 36 guests she is not too big but not too small, and can offer daily off-vessel expeditions in three intimate groups of 12 guests each.

I always say that once you cruise aboard the Safari Explorer, you will be hooked on small ships forever.

She has upscale appointments and a yacht-like atmosphere but still feels comfortable and welcoming. Offering both Alaska cruises and Hawaii cruises, this is the perfect vessel for first-time small ship cruisers. I always say that once you cruise aboard the Safari Explorer, you will be hooked on small ships forever.

Small expedition ship in Alaska aboard Safari Explorer with still rippled water and a blue sky

Sea Cloud

The 58-guest Sea Cloud stands above the small ship cruising fleet in high-level luxury with the taste and elegance akin to the Victorian era. Sailing on a traditional square rig this smartly has not been done since the British Empire, making this trip ideal for travelers looking to experience the past along with the modern comforts of the twenty-first century. This balance offers guests the ability to sail with sophistication through the Mediterranean with the excellent guiding that National Geographic is renowned for.

White sails fully up on the historic and luxurious Sea Cloud on a small ship cruise in the Mediterranean.

Magellan Explorer

The 71-guest Magellan Explorer is new ship that was purpose-built for Antarctica air cruises that fly over the Drake Passage. The ship’s dedication to keeping it small fits perfectly with AdventureSmith Explorations’ philosophy of small, sustainable cruises. As other Antarctic operators continue to push the boundaries of what constitutes a small ship (many reaching above 150 guests), it is refreshing to see a polar vessel focused on preserving guest experience as well as the environment. Limiting capacity to only 71 guests allows for ultimate comfort on board and for all travelers to arrive on a single flight. For these, and many other reasons, the Magellan Explorer is among my team’s top choices for passengers seeking Antarctica luxury cruises.

Magellan Explorer small ship seen at starboard side with lights on with Antarctica mountains in the background

National Geographic Endurance

National Geographic Endurance is among the most state-of-the-art ships purpose-built for polar expedition travel. Recognizable by her innovative and efficient bow design, she boasts the world-class guiding that National Geographic is known for as well as specialized educational equipment and a helicopter landing pad to allow guests to access the world’s farthest reaches. Her smaller size for polar ships at only 126 passengers allows her to be more nimble and flexible when navigating the polar seas and channels. She has become a fast new favorite of mine for clients seeking Antarctica cruises and Arctic cruises.

National Geographic Endurance expedition ship seen sailing in Antarctica starboard side with XBOW bow and blue hull with sunset in background

These 9 favorite small ships of mine are just a sample of the unique vessels we sail with around the world; view all AdventureSmith’s small ships, browse our selection of small ship cruise deals or read our extensive collection of small ship cruise reviews to learn more.

This blog about the best small ships is among AdventureSmith Explorations’ extensive travel resources. Visit our Small Ship Cruise Guides page for even more tips and inspiration to plan your own small ship cruises. Note that this post was originally published in March 2017. Our team of experts have since updated the content to add new favorites and photos; our most recent update occurred June 2020.