The World’s Most Epic Small Ship Sailing Experiences

best small ship sailing experiences ocean island
Small ship sailing allows travelers to visit the most remote destinations on Earth.

Modern cruise ships can now show travelers more of the globe than ever before. But, full-size vessels can only explore so much.  Here are three epic small ship sailing expeditions for intimately exploring the world’s last remaining, truly wild destinations.

The Outer Atolls of the Marshall Islands (via Infinity Expeditions)

With less than 20 passengers aboard, Infinity Expeditions is the definition of small ship sailing. These aren’t your typical Carnival-style vacation cruises, however. Passengers are expected to volunteer with every aspect of daily life aboard the ship including cooking, cleaning, navigating, and anything else involved in the life of a sailor. The company’s sole ship, Infinity, is a 120-foot vessel purpose-built to tackle the world’s most remote destinations. Their annual travel schedule features only a handful of destinations, but all are bucket-list-worthy. As the second least visited country on the planet, the Outer Atolls of the Marshall Islands is among the most beautiful, most pristine destinations most travelers will ever visit. The highlight of the itinerary is the opportunity to dive Bikini Atoll to explore the “Nuclear Fleet” wrecks from the United States’ atomic testing fleet. Cost: from €59 per day, including three vegan meals daily, plus free sailing, yoga, and cooking classes

Related: Sailing Into New Design with Victorie Yachts

Antarctica (via Quixote Expeditions)

Even with the recent boom in cruise ship travel to Antarctica, it remains one of the world’s wildest destinations. Skip the full-size ships, however, in favor of a small ship experience that allows passengers to get up close with some of the continent’s most remote and unseen spots. Quixote Expeditions’ annual Antarctic Sailing Expedition is a 25-day, once-in-a-lifetime journey that takes passengers from the Argentinian town of Ushuaia (nicknamed the “End of the World”), across the Drake Passage, and onward to the Antarctic Peninsula. At 66 feet, the company’s sole vessel, Ocean Tramp, carries a maximum of just 12 (including crew), meaning passengers are able to intimately explore the wildlife, geography, and topography of the continent in a way that’s completely impossible with larger vessels. Cost: from $8,000 USD

Madeira to the Azores (via Rubicon 3)

If you’re hard-pressed to find the Azores on a map, you’re not alone (it’s in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, by the way — 850 miles west of continental Portugal). This remote Portuguese archipelago is among the world’s most beautiful destinations that no one is talking about. Rubicon 3’s Madeira to the Azores itinerary is a hardcore, 15-day sailing expedition that explores every inch of the island chain by sea. For a few brief days, the trip navigates alongside the vineyards, beaches, and stunning cliffs of coastal Madeira before heading to Porto Santo. From there, it’s onward to open ocean before circling the islands of the Azores, all the while snorkeling, stargazing, and whale-watching. The trip puts the “working” in “working vacation” — every passenger is intimately involved with the day-to-day ship operation. Indeed, most guests book the trip as an intense crash course in fully-certified seamanship. Cost: from £1,350

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