2022 Readers’ Choice Awards: Why Traveler Voters Chose Small Boat Cruises This Year

As a passenger visiting the port of Argostoli, the capital of the Greek island of Kefalonia which only allows small boat cruises, I almost felt like an intruder. There was not another ship in sight of the rolling hills and calm blue waters of the harbour. But in Kefalonia, known for its laid-back natural charm and lack of mass tourism, our ship, Windstar’s star pride, fit the low-key medium: The small ship, which carries just over 300 guests, was low-key enough not to disrupt the leisurely daily rhythms of the port. The harbor waters were so calm that the area’s iconic sea turtles circled beneath our walkway, bobbing their leathery heads at the surface to breathe.

On shore, I strolled through a cedar forest along the seashore and joined a handful of locals taking a casual dip. I’ve found these types of intimate moments are easier to find on smaller ships, which can provide a more immersive experience. Many savvy travelers agree. In this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards, nearly 90% of Traveler readers rated Small Ships and River Vessels as having outstanding amenities, from cabins and food to services and shore excursions.

From a practical point of view, small boat cruises allow passengers to access places that are more difficult to reach. Windstar, ranked sixth by readers in the small ship category, has ships compact enough to squeeze through the narrow Corinth Canal in Greece and all the way to Delphi, places usually accessible only by private yachts.

Once anchored off the hilly coast of Delphi, I loved that Windstar could deploy its water sports platform, giving passengers the ability to jump from the aft deck into the topaz waters and snorkel with snorkel, paddleboard, kayak or just float. Some fragile destinations, like Tahiti and the Galapagos, only allow small ships, with cruise lines like Silversea and Ponant sailing on special-size vessels designed to reduce impact on delicate ecosystems while providing maximum safety. passenger comfort. The luxury line Regent’s Seven Seas Navigator takes travelers to attractions such as the prehistoric megaliths of Scotland’s Orkney Islands, while Seabourn’s fleet of intimate vessels ferries passengers to charming Greenland villages like Ittoqqortoormiit, a fishing town less than 500 inhabitants.

On board, the smaller ships seduce readers for their intimate atmosphere and attentive crews. Every morning on star pride when I came downstairs for breakfast, still half asleep, my waiter, Uud, always greeted me by name and remembered my coffee order as if I was his only guest. Such personalized attention is a norm for smaller luxury fleets, including Windstar’s, which has a 1:1.5 crew-to-guest ratio. One morning when the sea was particularly choppy, Uud noticed my uneasy gaze and recommended remedies for seasickness (sitting amidships on the lowest deck worked wonders). It was a truly individualized touch that would have been harder to find in a larger crowd.

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here. See the full list of 2022 Readers’ Choice Award winners here.

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