Expedition cruise ships vary in size, but they are generally smaller than the typical ocean-going cruise ships that many people are familiar with. Their smaller size allows them to navigate more remote and challenging waters, offering passengers unique experiences in destinations like the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Amazon.

Here’s a breakdown of the general sizes of expedition cruise ships:

  1. Small Expedition Ships: These vessels usually carry between 12 to 150 passengers. They are intimate and can often navigate waters that larger vessels cannot. The onboard amenities might be limited compared to larger ships, but the focus is on the expedition experience, with zodiac landings, onboard naturalists, and unique shore excursions. This size can be important in Antarctica which has a limit on 100 passengers at a time landing on the continent. Smaller ships will often operate activities as well as landings meaning they can get everyone off at the same time, preferable to many travellers. 
  2. Mid-sized Expedition Ships: These ships typically carry between 150 to 500 passengers. They offer a balance of onboard amenities, like larger dining facilities and more spacious cabins, while still maintaining the spirit of adventure. They can still access many remote areas but with added comfort.
  3. Larger Expedition Ships: These vessels can carry between 500 to 1,000 passengers. While they might offer more luxurious accommodations and amenities, they may not be able to access some of the more remote or shallow areas that smaller vessels can. However, they still focus on providing an expedition experience.
  4. Luxury Expedition Ships: Some lines offer luxury expedition cruising, where ships, though smaller than mainstream cruise liners, provide a high level of luxury and service. These might carry anywhere from 100 to 600 passengers and focus on blending exploration with luxury.
  5. Specialty Ships: Some expedition ships are specifically designed or retrofitted for certain environments. For example, ice-class vessels are reinforced to navigate polar regions safely.

When choosing an expedition cruise, potential travelers should consider not only the size but also the ship’s onboard amenities, the expertise of the staff, and the areas the ship can access. The main draw for these cruises is the opportunity to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, so the ship’s capabilities and the knowledge of its crew are paramount.

Related & Curated Expedition Cruise Features

Expedition Cruise Lines List

Expedition Cruise Lines List

  This is a list of all the key expedition cruise lines operating globally. With links to their primary websites too. Key: Charter: This means the company does not own any ships but charters them each season so does operate. Expedition Cruise Line Number of ships...