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Best Boutique Cruise Line (2019)

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Boutique cruise lines, like these 10 winners voted as the best of the best by our readers, elevate your vacation experience with extras like small ships, attractive passenger-to-staff ratios, luxury amenities, unique on-board activities and excursions or all-inclusive fares.

  • Windstar Cruises

    Windstar Cruises

    With fewer than 350 guests per sailing, Windstar Cruises promises passengers a cruising experience free of lines and waiting. Since the six boutique ships are smaller than a typical cruise ship, they can sail into small European villages, off-the-beaten-path harbors and hidden coves, giving guests the opportunity to visit both major capitals and smaller ports. Windstar’s award-winning shore excursions offer guests the opportunity to immerse themselves into the local culture and cuisines of these special ports of call.
    Photo courtesy of Windstar Cruises

  • Viking Ocean Cruises

    Viking Ocean Cruises

    Viking Cruises earned its reputation through its affordable, destination-focused river cruises. With the debut of Viking Star in April 2015, the line made a grand entrance into the world of ocean cruising. Now the line has six ocean vessels. All cabins come with balconies and are notably larger than the industry average, and while the ships lack a casino and kids club, they offer the same destination-intensive programming that made river cruising so popular.
    Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

    Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

    Each of Uniworld’s boutique cruise ships has an average capacity of only 130 guests, as well as one of the best staff-to-guest ratios in river cruising. Passengers on Uniworld itineraries to Europe, Russia and Asia enjoy gourmet cuisine, immersive shore excursions and many all-inclusive benefits. The ships themselves are each unique, complete with sumptuous staterooms and original art commissioned exclusively for Uniworld.
    Photo courtesy of Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

  • Maple Leaf Adventures

    Maple Leaf Adventures

    Small ship cruises with Maple Leaf Adventures focus in on the natural and cultural history of Alaska and Canada’s west coast. Passengers travel aboard a restored classic sailing ship (eight guests), tugboat (12 guests) or expedition ship (24 guests).
    Photo courtesy of Kevin J. Smith / Maple Leaf Adventures

  • American Cruise Lines

    American Cruise Lines

    Passengers with American Cruise Lines enjoy the newest and most environmentally friendly small-ship vessels in the United States as they journey along the Mighty Mississippi, through New England, to the wilds of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest or along the Intercoastal Waterway and Chesapeake Bay. Onboard experts offer daily lectures and meals are crafted from locally sourced ingredients to support the communities visited.
    Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines

  • Blount Small Ship Adventures

    Blount Small Ship Adventures

    Blount Small Ship Adventures take guests – no more than 83 per sailing – to places the big ships can’t go. Often historians, naturalists and culinary experts come aboard to give guest lectures on an area’s history, culture and wildlife, enhancing the experience of a destination. The atmosphere on board is decidedly casual, with open-seating dining and a “bring your own bottle” policy (house wine and beer are complimentary at lunch and dinner).
    Photo courtesy of Blount Small Ship Adventures

  • Seabourn Cruise Line

    Seabourn Cruise Line

    Seabourn’s fleet of all-suite, low-capacity ships carry a maximum of 600 guests each, allowing them to sail to some of the world’s most desirable destinations. Passengers enjoy a nearly one to one ratio with crew and one of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry. Each of the four luxury ships offers a complimentary water sports marina, open bars serving wine, champagne and spirits, and world-class cuisine.
    Photo courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

  • American Queen Steamboat Company

    American Queen Steamboat Company

    American Queen Steamboat Company specializes in Mississippi River cruises ranging from five to 23 days. These all-American, all-inclusive itineraries include pre-cruise hotel stays, wine and beer with dinner, regional cuisine and shore excursions in each port of call. Themed voyages dive deeper into topics of interest, like wine, bourbon, Mark Twain, Civil War, Elvis or Big Band.
    Photo courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company

  • Paul Gauguin Cruises

    Paul Gauguin Cruises

    The m/s Paul Gauguin sails to exotic ports throughout the South Pacific with no more than 332 guests on board. Passengers enjoy several dining options, a spa and fitness center, casino, piano bar, pool and a ratio of one crew member for every 1.5 guests. The Gauguin marina provides easy access to the ocean (and complimentary equipment usage), and an extensive shore excursion program introduces passengers to many facets of Tahitian culture.
    Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

  • Star Clippers

    Star Clippers

    Cruisers with Star Clippers get to sail on three of the largest full-rigged sailing ships in the world, Star Clipper, Star Flyer and Royal Clipper. Passengers aboard these four- and five-masted ships have complimentary access to sailing, waterskiing, windsurfing and other water sports, as well as fitness classes, shore excursions and a variety of daily activities. The views from lookout stations positioned 60 feet above the deck on each mast can’t be beat.
    Photo courtesy of Star Clippers

The top 10 winners in the category Best Boutique Cruise Line are as follows:

  1. Windstar Cruises
  2. Viking Ocean Cruises
  3. Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
  4. Maple Leaf Adventures
  5. American Cruise Lines
  6. Blount Small Ship Adventures
  7. Seabourn Cruise Line
  8. American Queen Steamboat Company
  9. Paul Gauguin Cruises
  10. Star Clippers

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning cruise lines!

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