Best Boutique Cruise Line (2021)


Boutique cruise lines, like these 10 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. What's your favorite boutique cruise line?

  • 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 Michael Nalley / Windstar Cruises

  • 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

  • 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 Cruises

    Uniworld Boutique River Cruises

    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 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

  • 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

  • Oceania Cruises

    Oceania Cruises

    One of the world’s largest luxury cruise lines, Oceania Cruises attracts passengers with its destination-centric itineraries to more than 330 ports around the world, as well as its stellar culinary program headed by Master Chef Jacques Pépin and its spacious accommodations (the Regatta, Insignia, Nautica and Sirena only carry 684 guests). 
    Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

  • 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

  • Ponant


    Ponant, the world’s only French cruise line, is also a top choice for polar cruising. Ponant’s luxury yachts have no more than 132 staterooms and suites, allowing them to sail to smaller, more intimate ports not accessible to larger ships. Expert speakers and guests of honor enthusiastically share their knowledge of these authentic destinations, from the Arctic to Africa to the Adriatic.
    Photo courtesy of Ponant / Francois Lefebvre

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises

    Regent Seven Seas Cruises

    Guests aboard the five Regent Seven Seas vessels enjoy all-suite staterooms, nearly all of them outfitted with private balconies. Inclusions like unlimited shore excursions, specialty restaurants, unlimited wine and spirits, pre-paid gratuities, WiFi and 24-hour room service mean there aren’t any surprises on the final bill. A staff-to-guest ratio of 1 to 1.5 means each guest receives stellar service. Regent Seven Seas sails to nearly 450 ports around the world.
    Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises


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

  1. Windstar Cruises
  2. American Cruise Lines
  3. Viking Ocean Cruises
  4. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
  5. Star Clippers
  6. Seabourn Cruise Line
  7. Oceania Cruises
  8. American Queen Steamboat Company
  9. Ponant
  10. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

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

Congratulations to all these winning cruise lines!

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