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Small Ship vs. Big Ship - Why AdventureSmith Explorations Chooses to Stay Small

Story by AdventureSmith Explorations

Posted: September 10, 2018

Company Assists Travelers by Defining the Key Differences Between Small vs Big Ship Cruising

AdventureSmith Explorations’ Todd Smith, founder and president, recalls when privately chartered yachts and fishing boats were the only way – aside from the traditional cruise ship – to take a vacation at sea.

In 2003, this company leapt into uncharted waters and began securing a legacy for today’s small ship cruise industry. Categorized by guest capacity, the experts at AdventureSmith Explorations have defined three vessel options to choose from: “adventure yachts” accommodating 8 to 40 guests, “expedition ships” for 41 to 200 passengers and “traditional cruise ships” for vessels with larger capacities above 200 passengers and reaching up to 5,000+. Each has its advantages and limitations.

“The number of passengers a ship carries relates directly to the experiences a client seeks,” Smith says. “Vacationers who prefer resorts over boutique hotels prefer large cruise ships. Those underwhelmed at the thought of embarking from mega-hub ports to dine and lodge on floating resorts with Las Vegas-style entertainment may prefer an adventure yacht or expedition ship.”

AdventureSmith Explorations capitalizes on another key difference between large and small vessels. The hull of a large ship precludes it from entering smaller ports of call and anchorages, thus curtailing off-the-beaten path cultural forays and up-close explorations of flora and fauna along remote shore lines that are the specialty of yachts and expedition ships. See:

When fine-tuning a reservation, AdventureSmith Explorations’ staff focus on traveler preferences to recommend which small ship to choose. Some travelers may be most comfortable in the intimate, family environment of small adventure yachts, while those seeking more cabin space, private balconies or more varied activity options for their group may want to opt for an expedition ship. On all small ships, notes Smith, the focus of activities connected with smaller vessels exceeds expectations. Keen on adventure, passengers spend most daylight hours off the boat, kayaking, snorkeling and on guided Zodiac and land excursions.

When he started his company, Smith says he didn’t envision the dramatic growth in adventure tourism (predicted to grow nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2020) that would factor into the company’s success.

“Our small ships bring people to adventures in wild regions all over the globe. Imagine kayaking in front of massive glaciers and watching whales breach from a small Zodiac. Many of the places that our small ships visit can be logistically challenging, perhaps involving a long hike in or chartering a plane or simply cannot be reached in any other way (e.g. Antarctica). Small ships make access to these incredible locations not only possible but also provide a comfortable bed, hot shower and a nice glass of wine,” Smith promises.

Following are 9 Standouts in Small Ship Cruising that exemplify the fusion of small ships and adventure in not-to-be-missed destinations.

Adventure Yachts (8-40 passengers):

  • Safari Explorer 36-Guest – Luxury motor yacht divides its year between Hawaii in winter and Alaska in summer
  • Galapagos Grace 18-Guest – The late Princess Grace of Monaco once owned this yacht that now sails in Galapagos waters
  • Westward 8-Guest – Classic beauty that dates to 1924 sails Alaska and Baja
  • Delfin II 28-Guest – Deluxe riverboat designed for exploring the Peruvian Amazon
  • Origin 20-Guest – Sleek motor yacht built for sustainability in order to cruise the fragile Galapagos ecosystem
  • Ombak Putih 24-Guest – Romantic sailing vessel that explores Bali, among other Indonesian destinations

 Expedition Ships (41-200 passengers):

  • Hebridean Sky 114-Guest – An expedition ship that hosts a Citizen Science Program on Antarctica explorations
  • Sea Cloud 58-Guest – The historic Marjorie Merriweather Post windjammer, a beauty of a sailing yacht for cruising the Greek Isles and Dalmatian Coast.
  • National Geographic Orion 102-Guest – A state-of-art expedition ship cruising Antarctica with National Geographic certified guides.

For details on all of AdventureSmith’s small ship cruises worldwide, day-to-day itineraries, availability and reservations, Phone: 866-575-2875 toll-free or visit

About AdventureSmith Explorations -Think Outside the Boat!

Founded in 2003, AdventureSmith Explorations is based in Truckee, CA, near the northern shore of Lake Tahoe. A recognized leader in small ship cruising, in 2012 owner Todd Smith joined the ranks of Condé Nast Traveler's prestigious world’s Top Travel Specialists list as the leading expert on small ship expeditions.