Small Ship Cruise Travel Guide

Frequently Asked Questions


How many passengers are on board small ships?

Small ship cruises include everything from small yachts to ocean-going vessels. Private yachts cruising the Aegean and Adriatic may accommodate as few as 12 passengers while the American Queen Steamboat Company’s Victory I has a maximum capacity of 202 passengers. Most Road Scholar programs operate on small ships accommodating between 30 and 50 guests.

Is Wi-Fi available? How much does it cost?

Most ships these days offer Wi-Fi, though the reliability is still unpredictable. Satellite Internet has improved drastically over the years but the connection is not going to be as reliable as it is on land. Ships that offer Wi-Fi often limit the bandwidth available — ideal for a quick email or check-in, but not suited for browsing the web or uploading photos. For more information about the Wi-Fi policy, please check your program materials or directly with the cruise line.

When was the ship refurbished?

Older ships are constantly being taken out of service and refurbished. Refurbishments can depend on the condition the ship was in when it is brought to dry dock and can range from rearranging the cabin configuration to updating the ship’s décor. Among the refurbished ships Road Scholar programs take place on are the Callisto, rebuilt in 2005 and then renovated in 2016, which sails in the Mediterranean; the Safari Voyager, which was rebuilt in 2016 and sails to Costa Rica and Panama; the Panorama sails the waters around Iceland and was rebuilt in 2001, then renovated in 2014.

Is bottled water available?

Bottled water is available on all cruise ships, though often at an additional price that can be as steep as $4 per bottle. Ships have state-of-the-art water filtration systems, so tap water — including the bathroom tap — is safe to drink and readily available throughout the ship. Instead of purchasing water on board, you can bring a reusable water bottle to refill in your cabin.

Are shuttles services provided in each ship?

One of the best parts about small ships is they can dock in the center of town. Since marine trade was the primary form of trade and transportation for many of these cities, the downtown region is easily accessible from the docks.

Can I pay with cash and credit card on board?

Small ships will accept cash and credit cards while on board, requiring bills to be settled at the end of the cruise. The currency accepted on board varies by cruise line; most cruise lines operating in Europe use Euros while ships in North America use U.S. dollars. Some may offer services converting currencies. It is always a good idea to carry small bills in the local currency for when you are in port; there may be a minimum purchase amount required to use your credit card.

What type of restaurants are on board?

Small ships typically only have one restaurant on board in addition to a lounge that serves snacks, coffee and tea through the day. Breakfast is served as a buffet while dinner is a multi-course meal served in a single sitting. Lunches will vary between buffet and plated table service depending on the cruise line and the activities planned for the day.

Can the chef accommodate meal restrictions?

The chefs aboard small ships are flexible and will do their best to accommodate dietary restrictions. The course menu will be posted ahead of time so passengers can ask for a substitution if they would like. To understand the options available, talk to the group leader or the maître d′.

Does the ship sail at night?

In order to maximize the amount of time that can be spent in port, most cruises will complete a majority of their sailing at night. On cruises in which the ports of call are shorter distances apart, more sailing will typically be done during the day. On occasion, some cruises will visit multiple ports in the same day with time dedicated to sailing to enjoy the local scenery and natural beauty.

Can I do laundry on board? How much does it cost?

Laundry is available on most cruises but varies between self-service and paid laundry service. When operating self-service laundry machines, cruise lines charge a machine operating fee, for detergent and dryer sheets. Cruises that offer paid laundry service charge per item and the service selected — wash/dry, wash/press or press only. Some cruise lines keep a laundry bag inside your cabin that your steward will pick up around the midpoint of the sailing.


Educational Small Ship Adventures with Road Scholar

Learn and explore aboard small ships that can close-cruise scenic coast lines and access off-the-beaten-path ports that larger ships can’t reach. Make both the journey and the destination an adventure as you discover the world’s most fascinating places on luxury yachts, rugged expedition ships and more.

20+ Number of educational small ship adventures with Road Scholar See them all

“This is a great program for those who want a wilderness travel experience without the physical demands of wilderness travel. The small ship, with its flexible itinerary, superb crew and comfortable accommodations, was perfect.”

— Janet, Road Scholar Class of 2017, from Rochester, N.Y. —