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Small ship cruise advice

Is this the right forum? Does the rick steves travel forums have a section for Med. cruises?

We are interested generally in an 8 to 13 day cruise in the Mediterranean probably Adriatic or Aegean Sea area. But are flexible. We hope to Find a cruise line which offers small ships (less less than 1300 passengers ). But not concentrating on luxury. So moderately priced, not high luxury nor budget.

Many thanks

Posted by
4152 posts

There is no specific section for cruises even though Rick Steves does publish a Mediterranean cruise guidebook. I can't help you with smaller ship info as my cruise was on NCL on a 5000 passenger ship. I loved it by the way.

I think the best cruise info you'll find on this forum is practical advice on what to see in each port and not necessarily cruiseship advice. But we do have a lot of experienced people on the page including some cruisers.

Posted by
8429 posts

Azamara is a cruise line I would look at. Some of their sailings can be quite reasonable and others a bit more pricey. Currently have some sailings in a good sale.

Posted by
1946 posts

You might check out cruisecritic to find the right ship and itinerary but then come back to Rick Steves for information about ports and excursions.

I have taken eight cruises but on NCL, always medium to large ships.

I believe that Windstar offers small ships but I think it is pricey. You also might look into Viking Cruises. They have small ships but I do not know if they are less than 1300 passengers and I have heard many good things about Viking.

Posted by
6014 posts

All the Viking Ocean ships are 930 Passengers- Ocean as opposed to Viking River ships.

Posted by
37 posts

I can highly recommend Windstar. They have ships with sails, (mostly for looks, but will use them if weather conditions permit) that hold between 150-350 passengers depending on the ship. They have yachts that hold 350 passengers. They do not have the evening entertainment that you will find on Mega ships, usually a piano bar with vocalists is the norm. Sign up for their 7-7 emails and you can find deals. Cruise Critic boards is an excellent site to use for reviews.

Posted by
466 posts

This summer will be giving Oceania cruises a try. They have smaller ships as well and good itineraries. We loved our Viking Ocean Med cruise as well.

Posted by
16401 posts

Sorry, we are not cruisers and I have no idea what is considered “expensive”. It seems quite reasonable compared to other small-ship (250 or so passengers) I have seen promoted.

Posted by
7364 posts

It's true that this newsboard is not busy with Cruise news. This board has a high proportion of Independent (land) Travelers. I've reviewed some Windstar cruises on Cruise Critic.

I also recommend Windstar, specifically for your mentioned areas. But many of those cruises are 7 nights. I have read that Viking has very loyal customers who book a year in advance, so you may have trouble getting on one of their ships. Windstar has so many departures (and some get discounted eventually) that you have a good shot even for a 350 passenger ship. Of course the cabins that get discounted first are near elevators or stairwells, and so forth. All day-excursions at Windstar have to be purchased.

I would say Windstar motor ships have large, comfortable cabins, but Windstar does not aspire to quite the level of luxury some people associate with cruising. Their motor ships have all just been renovated, and they are about to re-do the older sail-power ships (which have rather cramped cabins.)

Posted by
8429 posts

I am going to mention Azamara once again for size and value….. at least take a look. For those of you wondering about cruise prices, they can be all over the place. I’m taking an eight night Istanbul to Athens cruise this fall for $2000 as a solo traveler on Azamara. This was a good price. My point is careful shopping can get you a cruise on a small ship luxury cruise line at a good price. You don’t have to a pay an crazy amount for a smaller ship.

Posted by
75 posts

I'm currently researching cruises for Greece 2025 as I would like to tack on one to Rick's 14 day Athens & the Heart of Greece. Someone already mentioned Windstar and they do have several different routes around Greece but a 7 night cruise on their smaller 148 passenger ship is anywhere from $4500 to $5799 depending on the week. Their larger ships (312 persons) you could get Istanbul and Aegean for 11 days for about the same price.
Azamara has a 7 day for $2,700 with a balcony on their ship the Pursuit - 690 Passengers (I'm looking for Sept 2025)

Note that neither cruise companies include the excursions but unlike a land tour you'd have your meals covered on-ship. Some cover gratuities and some don't, some include ALL beverages.

I've been on viking ocean before and their ships are very very nice (900 persons) but I'm about to try a Windstar this winter. You should probably find a travel agent that can explain the different companies offerings and price points.

Posted by
11218 posts

Smaller ships will cost more but we would choose them ourselves. We have been on a few, maximum size 350 passengers for us.

Posted by
466 posts

One can find lesser prices on any cruise by looking/booking inside cabins as we do. No need to do any extra packages either. Check out the cruise lines offered air fare. Some offer an included excursion and wine/beer with meals. It’s possible to cruise on smaller ships reasonably…but yes the larger lines tend to be less. We have cruised them also….but willing to pay extra for smaller ships within reason.

Posted by
21 posts

Dear cr18tb4,
the best small ship cruise line for me is Viking. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable too. My friend and I took Viking to the Mediterranean in 2022, when we went to Sicily my friend wanted a special coffee maker. The tour guided took the time to take us to a market the locals use to find this item. How nice. I see others posted Azamara which I've never used. I went to Alaska on Holland America last year, on a small ship. I won't use them again. Viking is all inclusive, and it's probably a little more expensive upfront but I think I ended up paying the same amount. On Holland America, I had to go to a bar and ask for water, I could only get one kind and size bottle. Even in the spa on Holland America which I had to buy a pass for, had no water available. The water fountains were turned off. The food was superior on Viking too. Viking does not have gambling, but I didn't get nickel and dimed. Our neighbors like Oceania Cruises.
I just received a catalog from Overseas Adventure Travel which also has small ships. They have small ships of all sizes, and do go to Greece. I'm using them to travel to Iceland this year, the group sizes are limited to no more than 16 for land travel.

Posted by
88 posts

For the best information on cruising use the forums on cruisecriticdotcom. All of the cruise lines mentioned so far (except NCL) are considered high end luxury lines.

Posted by
58 posts

We are taking a Viking Ocean Adriatic cruise in May. 900 pax, no kids, no casinos, no dancing waiters. We loved our first Viking cruise through the British Isles.

Posted by
11218 posts

I wouldn’t call Viking ships small as they carry over 950 passengers.

Posted by
88 posts

Modern mid-market brand cruise ships hold between 2,000 and 6,000 passengers. Viking would be considered a very high end line. For moderately priced cruises look at Royal Caribbean or Norwegian. Slightly higher, but still not "luxury" lines would be Princess, Celebrity or Holland America. Less expensive cruises would be Carnival, MSC or Costa.

Posted by
564 posts

We like windstar and Viking. Small ships. Reasonably priced.
I suggest going to cruise critic.com for information about cruise lines and ships and ports and destinations and reviews.
Please stay off the huge mega ships - they ruin tourism for everyone. And carnival is party boat central.

Posted by
34 posts

I enthusiastically recommend Iceland Procruises. They use a very small ship (around 200 passengers) with a variety of cabins at different luxury levels, so something for everyone, and the price can be pretty reasonable. We did a circumnaviagation of Iceland with them that was truly amazing. On the second part of the itinerary, a Viking ship was following us and it seemed like a behomoth by comparison! At one port, our ship could dock while theirs had to tender -- what a difference that made.
You could also check out Celestyal, which now has two ships just a bit under 1300 passenges and mostly cruises the Aegean/Greek Islands. We sailed with them a decade ago on a package tour, when the line was called Louis, and it was fine -- not luxurious at all, but great Greek food.
Small cruise ships have become harder and harder to find, without venturing into luxury yachting. Covid was hard on the cruise industry and some of the operators with the smaller vessels (likely leftover from the days when less than 1300 passengers was common) are no more, such as Pullmantur and Cruise & Maritime, which I always meant to try but missed. Others have shed the older, smaller ships, such as Fred Olson's Boudicca and Black Watch (about 530 passengers) that both went to scrap, and Holland America's 900 passenger Prindsendam, which we were lucky enough to sail before her sale to a German cruise company, Phoenix Reisen.

Posted by
2141 posts

Hi, we just returned from a wonderful Viking Ocean cruise, Rome to Istanbul. It was actually three “legs” - Rome to Venice, Venice to Athens, and Athens to Istanbul. We love Viking - beautiful, smaller ships (930 passengers on Ocean), no up charges for different cabin categories, great food, great customer service, no casinos, no kids. Check out the website for all the itineraries.

Posted by
334 posts

We have done 2 small ship cruises with Overseas Adventure Travel. Ships are max of 50 passengers, two groups of 25 each with a guide. Both experiences have been excellent. You will see some mixed reviews of OAT but it is generally with main office customer service and the fact that IF you need a refund for some reason, you absolutely have to hound them about it. That said, the tours we have been on - cruise or land - have been great and we continue to use them.

Posted by
143 posts

SeaDream was recommended to us. We are sailing Athens to Istanbul. I think there are about 175 passengers