10 incredible small ship cruise breaks

From Cuba to the Canary Islands, there's something here for everyone

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Bigger doesn't always mean better when it comes to cruise ships. Small ships can breeze into little ports and sail along rivers that larger vessels could never reach. Take the plunge and downsize to one of these brilliant boutique cruises.

See also: Top ten Northern Lights cruises

See also: Cruise secrets you're not supposed to know

1. Norway: eight nights from £1,099pp

Credits: Getty

With a proud Norwegian heritage stretching back to the mid-19th century, family-owned Fred Olsen Cruise Lines lives up to its formidable reputation as the Fjords Specialist.

And as the dramatic spectacle is best enjoyed from the water, the smaller dimensions of its fleet of four ships means they can sail in closer to these natural wonders.

The deal: Elegant Boudicca, capable of carrying up to 880 passengers, leaves from Liverpool on August 29 for an eight-night foray into the Norwegian fjords.

Among the ports of call will be the charming village of Olden, the historic city of Bergen, and Flåm, renowned for its scenic railway. Prices from £1,099pp on the Fred Olsen website here.

2. Canada: 28 nights from £1,999pp

Join the festivities as the country marks its 150th anniversary this year.

Fittingly, CMV's classic ocean liner Marco Polo (pictured, top) will be making the voyage from Liverpool – the vessel previously known as the Alexandr Pushkin sailed from the Mersey port carrying emigrating Brits to Canada over 50 years ago.

And the cruise's September 1 departure means you'll arrive in time to see Eastern Canada in its glorious autumn colours.

The deal:Fares for the epic 28-night voyage, which will sail to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and up the St Lawrence River, as well as visits to Halifax, Montréal and Québec, start at £1,999pp.

3. Cuba: seven nights from £1,835pp

Credits: Azamara

The clamour to visit this year's hot Caribbean destination has meant good hotel rooms are in short supply.

Sailing into the breach is Azamara Club Cruises, with an itinerary which factors in two days to enjoy the capital delights of Havana, then retire to your luxurious cabin on board boutique ship Azmara Quest for the night.

The ship's capacity has increased by four to 690 with the addition of two spa suites – but bars, restaurants, lounges, casino and the pool remain comfortably uncrowded.

The deal: Azamara Quest leaves Miami on November 20 for the seven-night round trip calling at Key West where you can take a kayak nature tour, then visits Havana where you can follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway.

The ship will also make an overnight stop at Cozumel, Mexico's premier scuba diving site, or you can simply relax on the stunning beaches before returning to Miami. Fares start at £1,835pp. Flights to Miami are extra.

4. South Africa: 16 nights from £3,807pp

A trip with Crystal Cruises is guaranteed to be sheer luxury. Offering upscale dining and amazing experiences, Crystal Symphony and sister ship Crystal Serenity are the world's most-awarded luxury ships.

The ultra-luxe cruise line's plans to hold sway on the waves include new ocean-going vessels and a privately owned Boeing 777 joining the fleet in the next three years.

The deal: Crystal Symphony, with a guest capacity of 950, will embark on her first Christmas voyage to Africa, sailing from Cape Town on December 23.

Highlights on the 16-night round trip will include safaris in South Africa and Mozambique, and visits to Namibia's Walvis Bay and Luderitz. Fares for the all-inclusive cruise start at £3,963pp. Cape Town flights extra.

5. British Isles: seven nights from £1,129pp

Joining P&O's British fleet in 2011, Adonia may be its smallest vessel – the adults-only ship has a capacity of just 710 – but it still has all the accouterments of her big sisters, with fine restaurants, bars, a spa and top-class entertainment.

And a voyage round the British Isles is just the ticket for novices wanting to test the water.

The deal: Departing on August 18 from Southampton, Adonia will call at Guernsey's quaint St Peter Port, Dublin for a pint of the black stuff, Ringaskiddy for the vibrant city of Cork, and the enchanting French port of Honfleur, before returning to Southampton. Fares start at £949pp for two sharing an inside cabin.

6. Indonesia: seven nights from £1,325pp

Credits: The Royal Clipper

Enjoy the gentle pace of life from a bygone era on board a magnificent tall ship.

With a maximum of 70 passengers and a crew of 70, the tall-masted fully-rigged Star Clippers fleet never fails to turn heads, sailing serenely into little ports out of bounds to the big cruise ships.

Adventurous guests can climb the masts to the crow's nest for a bird's-eye view. While the ship is equipped with engines, it will make use of wind power and its sails when possible.

The deal: This year has seen the four-masted Star Clipper venturing to Indonesian waters for the first time operating east or west from Bali, for seven, 10, 11 and 14 nights on selected dates until October 14, with a seven-night cruise from £1,325pp. Flights extra.

7. France and Spain: 15 days from £2,550pp

Credits: Hemis.fr RM

Culture vultures can soak up the history and see some of the world's natural wonders on Voyages to Antiquity's fascinating cultural cruises in the comfort of its boutique ships, small enough to cruise up rivers.

With an average of two experts on each trip, guests can get under the skin of the cultural, historical and natural treasures on the itinerary.

The deal: The 408-guest ship Aegean Odyssey sails along the Guadalquivir and up the Gironde in Bordeaux.

Departing from Seville on June 9, 2018 she will call at Lisbon, Oporto (both Portugal), Vigo (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Falmouth, Dartmouth and Honfleur (France) before arriving at its final port, London.

Fares for the 15-day European Connoisseur cruise start at £2,550pp.

8. Western Caribbean: seven nights from £2,335pp

Credits: Getty

River cruise line Viking's experts on small ship cruising, took to deeper waters in 2014 with the launch of its first ocean cruise ship and is steadfastly on course to be the largest small ship ocean line by 2019, with six vessels each carrying a maximum of 930 passengers.

The deal: Viking Cruises' Turquoise Seas of the Western Caribbean voyage is typical of the great itineraries, with Viking Sky visiting five ports in three countries.

Highlights include the Mayan temples of Altun Ha in Belize, Hemingway's haunts in Key West and Cozumel's Punta Sur, before arriving back at Miami.

Departures for the seven-night cruise are in November, December and January, from £2,335pp for December 17. Flights extra.

9. Western Med: seven nights from £2,818pp

Credits: Gallo Images

With just 92 staterooms and suites, Le Lapérouse is more mega-yacht than behemoth cruise ship. Next summer it will take to the water as the first vessel with a lounge beneath the water line.

Billed as a multi-sensory space called Blue Eye, guests can get up close to marine life, exploring sub-aquatic flora and fauna from the underwater lounge. You'll even be able to eavesdrop on the ocean thanks to hydrophones – micro-phones which pick up sound waves under water.

The deal: Le Lapérouse will sail from Valletta in Malta on September 28, 2018 on a seven-night Splendours of the Western Mediterranean cruise to Athens.

Highlights include Catania and Taormina in Sicily, along with visits to Greek Unesco World Heritage Sites Olympia and Delphi. And before arriving in Athens the ship will cross the magnificent Corinth Canal.

Fares start at £2,818pp.

10. Canary Islands: 13 nights from £2,722pp

Saga's expertise with small ship cruises is why its over-50s clientele keeps on coming back for more, enjoying the informal atmosphere on board. Flagship Saga Sapphire carries a maximum of 720 passengers and cabins are spacious – many with baths.

The deal: Catch some winter sun along with last-minute Christmas shopping on Saga's 13-night Canary Island Medley trip.

Saga Sapphire sails from Southampton on December 8 taking in Funchal, Madeira; Santa Cruz, La Palma; Santa Cruz, Tenerife; Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Arrecife, Lanzarote with La Coruna the last stop before returning to Southampton.

Fares start from £2,722pp from Saga.

Cheap cruise holidays for 2017

Cheap cruise holidays for 2017


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