Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions
A new classification designed to honor the smallest oceangoing vessels, the best intimate-ship ocean cruise lines category recognizes ships with fewer than 150 cabins. More nimble than their larger counterparts, these petite ships often take travelers to farther-flung and less-frequented ports, from tropical destinations to both poles.
Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated individual cruise ships on their cabins and facilities, food, service, itineraries and destinations, excursions and activities, and value. Those assessments were combined to generate results for the cruise lines in six categories, including river cruising.
Coming in second is Overseas Adventure Travel, which operates in destinations such as Patagonia and the Chilean fjords, Antarctica, the Arctic, the Red Sea, and the coast of Italy. "Outstanding crew and great tour leaders," wrote one voter. In third place: the eight-ship Greek-owned line Variety Cruises, which another reader lauded for its "relaxed, very friendly manner."
French line Ponant, with a fleet that includes the eco-friendly polar expedition ship Le Commandant Charcot, ranked No. 4. "Staff and activities were amazing," wrote one voter who sailed on L'Austral. "The expedition crew hired for Antarctica was unreal!" SeaDream Yacht Club, with its impeccable vessels and amiable hospitality, fills out the top five. "The service is beyond compare," enthused a reader. "SeaDream makes you feel like a friend coming back on the boat."
Below, find the full list of the best intimate-ship ocean cruise lines — and more on what sets this year's winner, Quasar, apart.
1. Quasar Expeditions
Courtesy of Quasar Expeditions
"This is one of the most romantic ships in the Galápagos and by far the classiest and most iconic," wrote one T+L reader who sailed on the historic yacht Grace, which Grace Kelly received as a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis when she wed Prince Rainier III in 1956. The two-ship line's Evolution also earned considerable praise. "I highly recommend this company to anyone looking to visit Ecuador and the Galápagos," said another reader who had sailed on the 32-passenger ship.
More information: quasarex.com
2. Overseas Adventure Travel
Courtesy of Overseas Adventure Travel
More information: oattravel.com
3. Variety Cruises
Courtesy of Variety Cruises
More information: varietycruises.com
Gilles Trillard/Courtesy of Ponant
5. SeaDream Yacht Club
Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club
More information: seadream.com
6. Windstar Cruises
Courtesy of Windstar Cruises
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 91.83
More information: windstarcruises.com
7. Celebrity Cruises
Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 91.52
More information: celebritycruises.com
Courtesy of Silversea
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.89
More information: silversea.com
9. Lindblad Expeditions
Michael S. Nolan/Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions
More information: expeditions.com
10. Alaskan Dream Cruises
Courtesy of Alaskan Dream Cruises
More information: alaskandreamcruises.com