Small ship sailing cruises
Sailing holidays are for voyagers who want to understand what’s going on behind the scenes of a cruise. Experience required ranges from absolutely zilch to Day Skipper qualifications that allow you to steer a yacht solo. Many small group sailing holidays can handle all types of abilities. Perpetually patient skippers will show complete novices the ropes, while letting sailors with some experience focus on perfecting their port manoeuvres. Each sailing will always begin with a safety and mission briefing, so you’ll get a handle on what’s required each day.
Sailing cruises that let you earn qualifications like the Competent Crew or Day Skipper along the way are more rigid in their approach. It’s hands-on stuff, with minimum textbook theory involved. If you don’t want a qualification, you’ll just get the pleasure of ending up with a sea miles log form that you can hang above the mantelpiece. A small ship cruise specialist will be able to find the right sailing holiday for you based on your capability, preferences and crew members (children are usually welcome).
One thing’s for sure: go small ship sailing, and you’ll be among fellow explorers and an international crew that really knows how to spin a yarn. After working, eating and living together for a week or two, you’ll have (ship)mates for life.
Our Small ship cruising Holidays
Types of sailing cruises
Bareboat sailing is for the experienced sailor. You’ll get to charter your own boat for a week all for yourself, so if you don’t want a skipper on board then you’ll need a Day Skipper qualification. Most holidays head for the Mediterranean (Croatia and Greece) or the Caribbean (Antigua and Barbuda, for example). In fact, some would say that bareboat sailing is one of the best ways to see these heavily visited spots. You’ll experience them by blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em beaches and population: 3 islands.
Itineraries are often tailor made, so you can take them with a generous pinch of seasalt. Boats come stocked with books with tips on the most beautiful bays to moor in or snorkelling spots where there are more turtles than people. Berths don’t tend to be pre-booked, so you’ll need to take special note of the tour operator’s advice about high season in your wish-list ports.
Flotilla sailingFlotilla sailing is exactly what it says on the tin. You’ll sail as part of a fleet of boats, so your yacht is just for you and your friends or family. You can opt to have a skipper or not, depending on your level of experience. Whatever you choose, there’ll be an experienced guide leading the way. All you have to do is make it to that day’s meeting point by nightfall – be that the Amalfi Coast or the wide, flat bays of the British Virgin Islands.
Tall ship sailing
Make like Hornblower and sail the seven seas in a tall ship. You’ll get to muck in with a good-sized experienced crew, so it’s a great environment for learning how to sail. Have a go at climbing the rigging and unfurling the sails – even scrub the deck (but try to avoid walking the plank). You’ll be among likeminded people after a Napoleonic adventure – and there’s often room for a ship’s dog.
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Sailing holiday tips
More about Small ship cruising
They take you to another world. Places with names like the Mergui Archipelago, the Kyles of Bute, Wrangel Island or Wolf. Welcome to the world of small ship cruising holidays.
Small ship cruising comes in all shapes and sizes without ever entering that supersize, floating hotel territory. Read on to find out which type of small ship cruise is for you.
We've created a guide that sums up where you can go when on a small ship cruise. Of course the weather dictates everything, so you must always be prepared for flexibility.
What is a small ship, anyway? It might be a family-sized yacht, a schooner designed to tuck into orca fjords, or a 200-passenger icebreaker that delves into the frozen Arctic.
From weather, time at sea and your wildlife wish list, to low carbon credentials and accessibility – there are a boatload of considerations when choosing a small ship holiday.
Our top 10 cruises vary from the well known, such as the Galapagos or the Nile in Egypt, to some really far out there expeditions: Kamchatka in Russia or Svalbard in the Arctic.
Our best cruises from the UK include wildlife safaris, art workshops and family adventures among Hebridean islands teeming with wildlife.
Small ship cruise activities are far from the world of mini golf and lounge singers. The evening entertainment is more likely to be an eco lecture or a photography tutorial.
Some of the most characterful creatures on the planet can only be reached on a small ship wildlife cruise. Find out how you can see polar bears, penguin colonies and whales.
Whether you’re gliding down the Nile on a felucca, aboard a groundnut boat in the Gambia, or exploring Kerala, river cruise holidays explore cultural and spiritual monoliths.
Go to southern Spain and you can see 700 years of Moorish influence, go to Morocco and see millennia of it.
Who says cruises aren’t for kids? Some of the smallest Caribbean-bound yachts can be fitted with toddler-proof safety nets, while Antarctic icebreakers come with quad rooms.
We run through your options as a solo traveller on a small ship cruise, whether that’s booking a single cabin or recommending months when supplements are kicked to the kerb.
Our experts have given us some top cruise tips, from packing tips and remembering that you might be at sea for a few days, to sea sickness and whether to bring children.
Giant cruise ships have come in for a lot of bad press, and we believe that they really are cruising for a bruising. Read on to find out why we really don’t need a bigger boat.
Find all our small ship cruising guides in one place from Alaska and the Maldives to Scotland, Arctic cruising and many more.