Island Sky

Small Ship Cruises

The allure of small-ship cruises is the flexibility and ease with which we are able to navigate some of the most fascinating destinations on Earth, including remote islands and narrow fjords inaccessible by larger ship. To this end, we have chartered select vessels from the best fleets in the world for our small-ship voyages—using the highest standards and providing you with the very best experience. All of the vessels we charter offer lovely ocean-view staterooms and have access to myriad amenities, including a dining room, library, lounge, observation area, fleet of Zodiacs for excursions ashore, and more.

Upcoming Small-Ship Cruises

  • Best of Micronesia

    Best of Micronesia: Rabaul to Palau

    March 3March 20, 2019

    Snorkel or dive nearly every day as you discover the western corner of Micronesia. You'll also meet friendly locals, who will greet you with traditional dances; search for island endemics and a multitude of seabirds; and tour the archaeological site of Nan Madol.

  • Treasures of Japan with South Korea

    Treasures of Japan with South Korea

    April 12April 28, 2019

    A classic Zegrahm expedition, not only will you enjoy a thorough Japan tour, you'll also spend a full day in Gyeongju, South Korea. Other highlights include visiting sacred Shinto shrines and ancient Buddhist temples, discovering Hiroshima, and spending time in Matsue.

  • Alhambra, Spain

    Iberian Peninsula

    April 18May 3, 2019

    Join this brand-new itinerary highlighting the very best of the Iberian Peninsula’s diverse history, cultural traditions, and architectural wonders. Tour the Alhambra, visit the Sagrada Familia Church, stroll through the old town of Porto, and follow in the footsteps of ancient Christian pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.

  • Australia's Kimberley

    Australia's Kimberley: A Voyage to the Outback

    May 3May 17, 2019

    Your adventures in the remote and captivating Kimberley region of Western Australia are highlighted by unusual wildlife in Prince Regent Nature Reserve, the beauty of the Buccaneer Archipelago, and sublime desert-scapes.

  • Wild & Ancient Britain with Ireland

    Wild & Ancient Britain with Ireland

    May 3May 18, 2019

    Witness some of Europe's largest seabird colonies—puffins, gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, and more—on our return to the British Isles. Visit Giant’s Causeway, Neolithic monuments, and a variety of architectural wonders.

  • Underwater Wonders of Western Australia

    Underwater Wonders of Western Australia

    May 13May 27, 2019

    Snorkel or dive nearly every day on this brand-new expedition of Western Australia, to discover colorful hard and soft corals, along with healthy populations of tropical fish. You'll explore Ningaloo Reef, home to whale sharks, dolphins, and humpback whales, as well as Little Turtle Island, an important nesting site for flatback turtles.

  • Wild Norway & Svalbard

    Wild Norway & Svalbard

    May 17June 2, 2019

    The Arctic summer and its lingering daylight allow ample time to discover Norway and Svalbard, with their abundant wildlife and stark natural beauty—journey by Zodiac and on foot, meeting the region’s hardy residents.

  • St. Petersburg, Russia

    Best of the Baltic

    July 4July 18, 2019

    Discover the scenic beauty of Bornholm Island; visit Visby, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and once trading center of the Hanseatic League; and tour the historic districts of Gdansk, Riga, and Tallinn.

  • Gros Morne National Park, Canada

    Path of the Vikings: Reykjavik to Quebec

    August 27September 12, 2019

    Cruise along chiseled fjords packed with icebergs for up-close views of glittering glaciers on our brand-new expedition that explores the Arctic region of Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. You'll search for beluga whales, and seabirds such as razorbills, guillemots, and kittiwakes, and enjoy a hike through Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Papua New Guinea

    Papua New Guinea

    September 20October 6, 2019

    Highlights of our return to Papua New Guinea include snorkeling or diving among some of the most biodiverse waters in the world; meeting friendly Trobriand Islanders; and watching the spectacular fire dances of the Baining tribe.

  • Cruising Sicily

    Circumnavigation of Sicily

    September 22October 4, 2019

    Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Agrigento and Syracuse; cruise among the scenic Aeolian Islands and enjoy up-close views of still-active Stromboli Volcano; and tour Monreale’s impressive 12th-century Cathedral, hailed as Italy’s most beautiful Norman church.

  • Zafiro

    Amazon Voyage with International Expeditions

    October 4October 13, 2019
  • Tahiti to Easter Island

    Tahiti to Easter Island: Marquesas, Tuamotus & Pitcairns

    October 10October 29, 2019

    Beyond the typical Polynesian paradise, one may delve deeper, to find aquamarine lagoons affording the world’s most dazzling snorkeling and diving, an intriguing Easter Island tour and the sky-piercing volcanoes of the Marquesas.

  • Gentoo Penguins, Antarctica

    Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands

    January 4January 25, 2020

    Following in Sir Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps, explore the White Continent’s rugged landscape, meeting vast penguin colonies in South Georgia, greeting albatross in the Falkland Islands, and enjoying every long moment of daylight in the austral summer.

  • Enderby, Auckland Islands

    Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand

    January 16February 2, 2020

    One of the few operators allowed to travel the far-flung isles of the Southern Ocean, join us on a journey through the Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand, as well as Macquarie Island.

  • Aldabra Atoll, Seychelles

    Ultimate Seychelles with Aldabra Atoll

    February 14February 29, 2020

    Enjoy snorkeling and diving in the Seychelles; spend two full days exploring the Aldabra Atoll; and discover the unique flora and fauna of the region.

  • Tubbataha Reef

    Philippines with Palau & Taiwan

    February 29March 16, 2020

    On this exotic Philippines tour, explore mangrove forests and scenic coastlines on numerous Zodiac excursions, while nature hikes reveal the amazing biodiversity of these isolated islands.

  • Manta ray

    Ultimate Maldives: A Snorkeling & Diving Adventure

    March 21April 3, 2020

    Cruise through the lesser-visited southern Maldives aboard the luxurious 26-guest diving live-aboard, Emperor Serenity. With two snorkel or dive options daily, you’ll search for whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and dolphins among the stunning underwater topography.

  • Manta ray

    Ultimate Maldives: A Snorkeling & Diving Adventure

    March 31April 13, 2020

    Cruise through the lesser-visited southern Maldives aboard the luxurious 26-guest diving live-aboard, Emperor Serenity. With two snorkel or dive options daily, you’ll search for whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and dolphins among the stunning underwater topography.

  • Horizontal Falls, Kimberley, Australia

    Australia's Kimberley: A Voyage to the Outback

    April 21May 5, 2020

    Your adventures in the remote and captivating Kimberley region of Western Australia are highlighted by unusual wildlife in Prince Regent Nature Reserve, the beauty of the Buccaneer Archipelago, and sublime desert-scapes.

  • Wild & Ancient Britain

    Wild & Ancient Britain with Ireland

    May 11May 26, 2020

    Witness some of Europe's largest seabird colonies—puffins, gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, and more—on our return to the British Isles. Visit Giant’s Causeway, Neolithic monuments, and a variety of architectural wonders.

  • Atlasova Island

    Wild Kamchatka with the Kuril Islands

    May 20June 4, 2020

    Search for the region's prolific wildlife on Zodiac cruises and naturalist-guided walks. Witness huge concentrations of seabirds in a frenzy of breeding activity, step ashore on beaches crowded with northern fur seals and Steller's sea lions, and photograph stunning scenery, including wildflower studded tundra backdropped by volcanic peaks.

  • Circumnavigation of Iceland

    Circumnavigation of Iceland

    June 10June 22, 2020

    Iceland—a land of hot springs, glaciers, lava fields, and waterfalls—is a nature lover’s paradise. Explore the country’s fabled Golden Circle—Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss Waterfall, and the Geysir Center—and look for a variety of breeding seabirds, including kittiwakes, guillemots, and puffins.

  • Odessa, Ukraine

    Circumnavigation of the Black Sea

    June 26July 10, 2020

    Centuries of history and architecture come to life as you discover the countries surrounding the Black Sea—Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria—and its busy bazaars, archeological treasures, and stunning landscapes.

  • travel the great barrier reef

    Best of the Great Barrier Reef

    July 14July 28, 2020

    Join this exciting expedition that reveals the underwater wonders of the legendary Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, alongside marine biologist and expedition leader, Brad Climpson.

  • Melanesia

    Melanesia, Solomon Islands & Vanuatu

    September 10September 27, 2020

    Introducing the extraordinary diversity of Melanesia and its fascinating people, our award-winning journey to these idyllic islands features incredible bird-watching opportunities, elaborate local traditions and ceremonies, snorkeling over pristine coral reefs, and much more.

  • Mekong River

    Along the Mekong: China, Thailand & Laos

    October 23November 9, 2020

    While the highlight is cruising on the legendary Mekong River, this Laos and Thailand journey also immerses guests in ancient Buddhist temples and the World Heritage Site city of Luang Prabang.

  

Our Vessels

  • Caledonian Sky

    Caledonian Sky

    Recently refurbished, the all-suite Caledonian Sky welcomes 100 guests at a time to her beautifully designed public spaces, vast outdoor decks, alfresco dining, and Zodiac excursions.

  • Coral Discoverer

    Coral Discoverer

    Sized just petite enough for immersive regional exploration, the 65-guest Coral Discoverer caters to the adventurous spirit with a fleet of Zodiacs—and to the sybaritic spirit with Australian and New Zealand wines, two large-screen TVs, and all ocean-view staterooms.

  • Coral Expeditions II

    Coral Expeditions II

    Purpose-built for cruising the Great Barrier reef the 42-guest Coral Expeditions II is the ideal size to access the very best dive and snorkel sites in the region. Refurbished in 2015, public spaces include a spacious lounge, small library, single-seating dining room, and a large sun deck.

  • Emperor Serenity

    Emperor Serenity

    The Emperor Serenity was built in 2016 and offers 4 decks of guest facilities. All staterooms have two lower beds—one double and one twin—as well as individual air-conditioning controls. Public spaces include a spa, sun deck, restaurant & bar.

  • Evolution

    Evolution

    The intimate Evolution accommodates just 32 guests. Public spaces include an observation deck and a canopied bar on the roof deck, a single-seating dining room, cozy lounge, and Jacuzzi. A fleet of Zodiacs are available for scenic cruising and landing on remote shores.

  • Hebridean Sky

    Hebridean Sky

    The all-suite Hebridean Sky welcomes 104 guests at a time to her beautifully designed public spaces, vast outdoor decks, alfresco dining, and Zodiac excursions.

  • Island Sky

    Island Sky

    The recently enhanced Island Sky is the best of both worlds for an expedition ship—spacious, yet intimate, with an elegant piano bar, well-stocked library, alfresco dining on the rear sun deck, and a fleet of Zodiacs for excursions ashore.

  • Le Bellot

    Le Bellot is currently in the process of being built, and will be completed in 2020. It will feature innovative and environment-friendly equipment, elegantly designed suites, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.
  • Le Bougainville

    Le Bougainville is currently in the process of being built, and will be completed in 2019. It will feature innovative and environment-friendly equipment, elegantly designed suites, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.
  • Le Champlain

    Le Champlain

    Le Champlain is currently in the process of being built, and will be completed in 2018. It will feature innovative and environment-friendly equipment, elegantly designed cabins, spacious suites with large windows, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.

  • Le Dumont d'Urville

    Le Dumont d'Urville is currently in the process of being built, and will be completed in 2019. It will feature innovative and environment-friendly equipment, elegantly designed suites, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.
  • Le Ponant

    Le Ponant

    As beguiling as a sleek, three-masted sailing ship is expected to be, the graceful Le Ponant offers two restaurants, all ocean-view staterooms, Zodiacs and watersports equipment, and more beneath her 16,140-square-foot sails.

  • Ocean Adventurer

    Ocean Adventurer

    Outfitted with stabilizers and an ice-hardened hull, the Ocean Adventurer promises a smooth ride in the world’s most adventurous seas—hallmarks include a first-rate satellite navigation and communication system, a fleet of Zodiacs, all ocean-view staterooms, a small gym, a dining room, and more.

  • Sabei Pandaw

    Sabaidee Pandaw

    The Sabaidee Pandaw  is currently in the process of being built, and will be completed in 2018. Staterooms are quaint and feature large French windows and individual air conditioning controls. Public spaces include a small library, covered observation deck, restaurant and bar.

  • Serenissima

    Serenissima

    Built in 1960 and scheduled to be refurbished in 2018, the Serenissima is a comfortable expedition vessel. Public spaces include two lounges (one with a library and games), a single-seating dining room, and elegant bar.

  • Silver Discoverer

    Silver Discoverer

    Recently refurbished, the 120-guest Silver Discoverer is ideal for cruising among the nooks and crannies of far-flung Asian and African islands. Each stateroom features an ocean view and her fleet of Zodiacs allows for up-close exploration of remote shorelines and offshore islands.

The World's Best Small-Ship Cruises

The cruise industry tends to favor a “bigger is better” approach, with behemoth 5,000 to 6,000-guest ships becoming the new norm. But small-ship cruises offer a very different sort of experience; the best small-ship cruises carry less than 300 guests, allowing for better interaction with the crew (and fellow guests), and provide exclusive experiences that larger ships don’t have access to. From cruising the Amazon and Nile Rivers to ocean voyages in the Antarctic, Galápagos, and Polynesia, here are our picks for 10 of the world’s best small-ship cruises:

Antarctica 

There’s a very good reason a voyage to Antarctica ranks high atop most nature-lovers’ bucket lists; actually, there are a LOT of very good reasons. Antarctica is the planet’s coldest, driest, and windiest continent. It is largely untouched by humans and perpetually covered in ice. This leads to seriously stunning scenery, from icebergs that tower like skyscrapers to epic mountains reflected in the still waters. The Antarctic Peninsula is also one of the world’s best small-ship cruises for watching wildlife, from orca and humpback whales in the water to four different species of penguins and countless seals on shore. As if that’s not enough, there are also historic sites and scientific research stations to explore, with around 20 hours of summer daylight from December through February.

Coastal Cuba 

President Obama loosened the decades-long restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba several years ago, causing a dramatic surge of interest in traveling to the Caribbean island. With President Trump threatening to reverse improved US diplomatic relations, there’s never been a better time to explore Cuba’s impressively pristine natural wonders and rich local culture. A circumnavigation of Cuba via small ship offers unique opportunities to explore parts of the country most Havana visitors never get to see. In addition to the culture of the capital city, the Caribbean’s largest island offers majestic mountains, verdant valleys, and rich Colonial history. There’s also a diverse array of wildlife in national parks and nature reserves that remain far off the beaten path of mass tourism.

Egypt 

If you’re interested in ancient history, archaeology, and rich indigenous culture, exploring Egypt’s pyramids, temples, and colorful bazaars is probably a bucket list item. Small-ship cruises down the Nile River and/or Lake Nasser offer an excellent alternative to overland adventures, allowing travelers to hit highlights such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, Luxor Temple, the Temple of Isis at Philae (accessible only by boat), and the massive rock temples of Abu Simbel along the way. If you get a chance, don’t miss an opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings, which is home to at least 63 tombs and chambers that served as the final resting place for Pharaohs and nobles buried during the 16th to 11th centuries BC.  

The Galápagos Islands 

With 18 major islands (most uninhabited) and three smaller islets spread across 3,040 square miles, a small-ship cruise is the only way to truly explore the Galápagos Islands(link sends e-mail). The incredible array of flora and fauna you’ll find in Darwin’s paradise is wildly different from island to island. As documented in The Voyage of the Beagle, Charles Darwin found that animals adapted genetically to a given island’s unique ecosystem. Thanks to its remote location and UNESCO/National Park protection, the wildlife of the Galápagos is plentiful. Endemic species such as flightless cormorants, Galápagos penguins, Galápagos sea lions, giant tortoises, and marine iguanas are mostly unafraid of humans. And the diving off the coast is undeniably spectacular.

The Great Barrier Reef 

In 2016, hyperbolic headlines proclaiming the Great Barrier Reef dead made international news after Outside published a cheeky piece by environmental writer Rowan Jacobsen. While the reef did suffer massive coral bleaching due to warming caused by climate change, most of that damage happened in a relatively small area of the Great Barrier Reef. Which means that there are still some 100,000 square miles of healthy reef that are home to an incredible array of marine species. Zegrahm’s new Best of the Great Barrier Reef expedition, led by marine biologist Brad Climpson, offers an exceptional opportunity to explore the world’s largest reef system. It includes daily snorkeling and diving excursions to the most pristine reefs, birdwatching, Australian Aboriginal art, and guest lectures.

The Greek Islands 

From the majestic mountains of Meteora to the ancient architecture of Athens, mainland Greece has plenty to offer travelers with an interest in nature, culture, and history. But for a true taste of Greek tradition, it’s hard to beat small-ship cruises through the countless Greek islands(link sends e-mail) (estimated range from 1,200 to 6,000). The Saronic Islands are tiny (7.4 to 59 square miles) and quaint: Many mainland residents have vacation homes there, so it’s a great place to catch locals in a celebratory mood. The Cyclades, with around 220 islands, is the densest and most popular grouping in the Aegean archipelago thanks to Delos, Mykonos, and Santorini. For ancient history, the Dodecanese Islands (especially Rhodes) and Crete are hard to beat. 

Lesser Antilles 

When Americans think of the Caribbean, they tend to think of hotspots such as the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Jamaica. But the islands of the Lesser Antilles (which form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean) are generally less over-developed and more pristine than those crowded mass tourism destinations. Zegrahm’s 12-day Hidden Gems of the Caribbean expedition is a great way to explore these lesser-known islands. Departing from Martinique, the 56-guest cruise visits idyllic islands including Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and many more. Activities range from birdwatching and snorkeling or scuba diving to expert onboard lectures about the islands’ fascinating history.

Micronesia

Spread across the western Pacific northeast of Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of more than 600 islands. The country is made up of four island states—Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, and Yap—and is known for its palm-shaded beaches, ancient ruins, and thriving indigenous cultures. It’s also a world class scuba diving destination, which travelers can explore on Zegrahm’s 18-day Best of Micronesia expedition. The trip offers daily opportunities to snorkel or dive the region’s famously pristine coral reefs, which are home to around 1,300 species of fish. You’ll also visit Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, which is renowned for its “ghost fleet” of over 50 coral-encrusted ships that were sunk during World War II.

Peruvian Amazon 

Brazil boasts a whopping 60% of the Amazon rainforest’s total area of 2,100,000 square miles. Unfortunately, that country’s unsustainable exploitation of its natural resources has damaged this once-pristine ecosystem, perhaps irreparably. For a better taste of the Amazon rainforest’s world-famous biodiversity, head to Iquitos, Peru. There, you can board a luxury Amazon voyage that will take you 600 miles along the mighty river and its various tributaries. There are no words that can aptly describe the feeling of seeing countless howler monkeys, iguanas, pink river dolphins, tropical bird species, and occasional big cats (jaguars, ocelots, etc.) as you glide through the forest. Spending time with the welcoming Ribereños who live there is a memory you’ll treasure forever.

Polynesian Islands 

There are so many beautiful Polynesian Islands, it would be impossible to pick just one favorite. But with less than 2,000 miles separating tropical hotspots such as Tahiti and Fiji, a small-ship cruise offers the perfect way to explore numerous gorgeous getaways in just a few weeks. From soaking in the stunning views of Bora Bora and birdwatching in the Cook Islands, to scuba diving in the Marquesas Islands and immersing yourself in the traditional culture of Tonga (the last remaining Polynesia monarchy), these islands offer an incredible array of exciting ecotourism activities.

Bret Love is a journalist/editor with 23 years of print and online experience, whose clients have ranged from the Atlanta Journal Constitution and American Airlines to National Geographic and Yahoo Travel. Along with his wife, photographer/videographer Mary Gabbett, he is the co-founder of ecotourism/conservation website Green Global Travel(link sends e-mail) and Green Travel Media. 

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