If you long for the open ocean but your heart sinks at the thought of all-night discos, thousand-seat dining rooms or congested ports, know this: You can enjoy a more intimate atmosphere, personalised service and destination-driven itineraries on a cruise. Not all cruise ships are vast, floating resorts. A burgeoning industry niche revolves around small vessels -- a wide-ranging group that includes yachts, rugged expedition ships, riverboats and classic sailing schooners -- where passenger counts are closer to 300, rather than 3,000.
Before we launch into our picks for the best small ship cruises, let's answer one question: How do we define "small"? For this story, we're sticking with vessels that accommodate fewer than 600 passengers. Check out our small ship cruise comparison below.