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Best Small Cruise Ship (2021)

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Note from 10Best: Someday, we'll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we'll keep supporting the places that inspire us. Contact individual cruise lines for the latest updates. 

  • Viking Orion

    Viking Orion
    Viking Ocean Cruises

    The new 930-guest Viking Orion offers all-veranda staterooms with amenities like free wifi, flatscreen TVs and heated bathroom floors. It’s also the first ship in the fleet to feature a high-tech planetarium in a 26-seat dome theater.
    Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Royal Clipper

    Royal Clipper
    Star Clippers

    Designed after the tall ship Preussen, the Royal Clipper is the world’s largest full-rigged sailing ship, complete with 42 sails. The vessel carries just 227 guests with luxurious accommodations and modern amenities like three swimming pools, relaxed dining and a marina platform for water sports. Passengers can even don a harness and climb the mast to a crow nest.
    Photo courtesy of Star Clippers

  • Celebrity Flora

    Celebrity Flora
    Celebrity Cruises

    This new 100-passenger, all-suite mega yacht from Celebrity Cruises offers some of the largest and best appointed accommodations in the Galapagos Islands. Food onboard is curated by a Michelin-starred chef, and each suite has a Personal Suite Attendant to help guests unpack.
    Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

  • Viking Star

    Viking Star
    Viking Ocean Cruises

    Built in 2015, Viking Star was Viking’s first oceangoing vessel and remains one of the world’s best small ships. While you won’t find casinos or amenities for young children, you will find a Nordic spa with a “snow grotto” at sea, several dining options, and onboard extras like free wifi and complimentary wine and beer at mealtime.
    Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

  • The Gauguin

    The Gauguin
    Paul Gauguin Cruises

    The Gauguin, flagship vessel of Paul Gauguin Cruises, was designed specifically for the waters of the South Pacific. The 332 guests aboard the ship sail to small ports inaccessible to bigger ships, all while enjoying luxury amenities like spacious suites and staterooms, an onboard water sports marina, three restaurants and a spa.
    Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

  • Wind Surf

    Wind Surf
    Windstar Cruises

    The 310-passenger flagship vessel from Windstar Cruises looks and feels impressive. A recent renovation brings new finishes and furnishings onboard. Guests are greeted with fresh flowers and fruit in their staterooms, and amenities like welcome cocktails, a fitness center, nightly port talks and complimentary water sports equipment.
    Photo courtesy of Jeff Zaruba / Windstar Cruises

  • Viking Jupiter

    Viking Jupiter
    Viking Ocean Cruises

    Built in 2019, Viking Jupiter accommodates only 930 guests. Like her popular Viking sister ships, Jupiter features a spacious spa, several dining venues, an intimate jazz lounge, two cinemas, pool with retractable roof and a sports deck.
    Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Viking Sea

    Viking Sea
    Viking Ocean Cruises

    The 930-guest Viking Sea was built in 2016 as the second oceangoing vessel in the Viking fleet. Itineraries are destination focused, but onboard, passengers enjoy an inclusive experience with all-veranda staterooms, plenty of public spaces to spread out, excellent alternative dining options and top-notch service.
    Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

  • Seabourn Encore

    Seabourn Encore
    Seabourn Cruise Line

    The ultra-luxury Seabourn Encore features 300 suites for 600 passengers with all the amenities of Seabourn’s Odyssey-class ships. New additions to Encore include a VIP area on the top deck, a wellness program and two new restaurants, The Grill by Thomas Keller and Sushi.
    Photo courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

  • Seabourn Ovation

    Seabourn Ovation
    Seabourn Cruise Line

    Seabourn Ovation, sister ship to Seabourn Encore, is the newest addition to the fleet. This 600-passenger ship attracts passengers with its inclusive cruise fares that even include unlimited caviar. Dining options abound, including alfresco dining at Earth & Ocean at The Patio. The ship also comes outfitted with high-speed internet–the only one in the fleet.
    Photo courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

While large ships come with certain advantages (bowling at sea, anyone?), some cruisers prefer the intimacy, personalized service and destination-focused itineraries of a smaller vessel. These 10 cruise ships and yachts, each with a passenger capacity of under 1,000, can get to smaller ports inaccessible to larger ships and offer a more social atmosphere where it’s easier to get to know your fellow guests.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Small Cruise Ship are as follows:

  1. Viking Orion - Viking Ocean Cruises
  2. Royal Clipper - Star Clippers
  3. Celebrity Flora - Celebrity Cruises
  4. Viking Star - Viking Ocean Cruises
  5. The Gauguin - Paul Gauguin Cruises
  6. Wind Surf - Windstar Cruises
  7. Viking Jupiter - Viking Ocean Cruises
  8. Viking Sea - Viking Ocean Cruises
  9. Seabourn Encore - Seabourn Cruise Line
  10. Seabourn Ovation - Seabourn Cruise Line

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 ships!

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Don and Heidi Bucolo

Don and Heidi Bucolo

Don and Heidi Bucolo

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Danielle Fear

Danielle Fear

Sherry Laskin

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Sherry Laskin

Jason Leppert

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