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The 12 Benefits of Booking a Small-Ship Cruise to Hawaii in 2024

We were sunning on the top deck, my best friend and I. It was a lazy day out at sea, me with my book, my friend writing in her journal. The sun shining bright overhead. 

Looking out over the ocean, the blue water shimmered in a way I didn’t notice before. This felt special. A blue sky, blue sea. A crew member, seemingly concerned asked: 

“How are you doing?” 

“I’m, I mean, we’re perfect,” I said, losing my sense of place and looking out at the Hawaiian views. 

We were on our way to the next stop on the small-ship experience—snorkeling. But sitting out on the top deck, there wasn’t any commotion, no rowdy passengers, just a few of us sitting in the sun and enjoying the day. 

I’ve been on a few small-ship cruises, and they’ve always been my favorite type of trip. There’s a lot more personalization that goes into a it. And while it may not feel like an endless walk through a mall, somehow, some reason, and there is so much more space! 

Attention from the crewmembers is always available, but also they are atune to those who are just looking for a moment to enjoy a book or a hot tub soak. But, the greatest advantage on this small ship is, ease when it comes to accessing the attractions, ports, scenery, and wildlife, afterall, a Carnival ship wouldn’t be able to pull up right next to migratory whales.  

I love the ocean; I often think I would’ve been a fish in any other life. And small-ship travel gives me that experience—the opportunity to get closer to nature, to enjoy the strangely silent yet roaring sea.  

12 Benefits to Booking a Small Ship Cruise to Hawaii 

Booking a small-ship sailaing to Hawaii can offer a unique and immersive experience compared to larger cruise ships. Here are the reasons why I find small-ship travel so much more enjoyable. 

1. Much Easier to Have an Intimate Experience 

Small ships accommodate fewer passengers, creating a more intimate and personalized atmosphere. This allows for better interaction with fellow passengers and crew, fostering a sense of camaraderie. Assuaging any concerns we may have had, the demographics were an interesting mix of retired explorers, families, and solo millennials.  

On UnCruise Adventures’, you have the opportunity to chat up the captain, to hang out with the staff, and to have real, meaningful connections and conversations with the other guests, create a bespoke opportunity, and be around folks who are invested in the experience rather than a nightclub or dinner reservations. 

2. Better Access to Smaller (and More Interesting) Ports 

Small ships can navigate to smaller, less-crowded ports that larger cruise ships cannot reach. This provides an opportunity to explore hidden gems and experience a more authentic side of Hawaii.

I learned, too, that the founder has had long-standing relationships with the communities throughout the islands, so moments with local communities, visits to private beaches, or close-up encounters with wildlife .

3. You Get Closer to Nature

With fewer passengers, small ships offer a closer connection to nature. You can enjoy unobstructed views of the ocean, landscapes, and wildlife from the ship’s decks.  

On the UnCruise Adventures Hawaiian Experience, you’ll have a front row seat to the whales and dolphins that swim alongside the boat. You’re closer to the sea than on any big cruise ship. 

Hawaiian Islands – UnCruise Adventures

4. So Much More Flexibility! 

Small ships often have the flexibility to change itineraries based on weather conditions or passenger preferences. This can lead to a more spontaneous and adaptable cruise experience. 

Want to join the snorkeling that day on your tour? Go for it. Every experience on the boat is available for every guest. 

5. More Cultural Experiences 

Small ship cruises may offer more in-depth cultural experiences, such as local guest speakers, workshops, and authentic cuisine, allowing you to immerse yourself in Hawaiian culture. 

In a time like now when Hawaiians need as much support for local businesses as possible, small ship cruise companies like Uncruise are doing as much as they can for the local community.

Donate to the Maui Strong Fund – Hawaii Community Foundation
The Maui Strong Fund is providing financial resources to support the immediate and long-term recovery needs for the people and places affected by the devastating Maui wildfires. 
Learn more and donate here 

6. Personalized Service 

The smaller guest-to-staff ratio on small ships usually results in a higher level of personalized service. Crew members can cater to individual needs and preferences more effectively. 

The hills of Molokai

7. Off-the-Beaten-Path Activities 

Small ship cruises tend to offer unique and off-the-beaten-path activities such as kayaking, snorkeling, and exploring remote coves and bays that larger ships cannot access. 

Discover Hawaii’s remarkable culture, history, and natural treasures on a behind-the-scenes experience with UnCruise Adventures. Whale watch from the yacht’s bow or bridge in the Humpback National Marine Sanctuary. Kayak along the coast of Lanaʻi. Learn about local tradition and Hawaiian culture from a kupuna. Each day on the small ship is full of off-the-beaten path activities and original experiences. 

And like with most small-ship travel experiences, you can choose to do as much or as little as you want. But there’s so much less pressure when you’re on one of the UnCruise’s boutique yachts because there’s just so much more individual space and opportunity to make the trip your own. 

8. Fewer Crowds 

Because small ships carry fewer passengers, you can avoid the crowds and long lines that are often associated with larger cruise ships. 

There’s no queuing up to get into any special activity. With boutique small ships from UnCruise, everyone has the opportunity to join every experience. 

Turmeric roasted cauliflower

9. A More Relaxing Atmosphere 

If you’re looking for a more tranquil and peaceful cruise experience, small ships offer a quieter environment without the hustle and bustle of larger ships. 

Snorkeling is one of my favorite aquatic adventures—it allows me to feel like a fish! Snorkeling in Hawaii on the UnCruise Hawaiian Adventure means warm water, coral gardens, and neon-colored fish—all up-close and personal. 

And you’ll remember snorkeling with sea turtles long after you’ve taken off your flippers. 

10. Respect for the Local Environment 

Small ships have a much smaller environmental footprint compared to larger cruise ships. Companies like Uncruise prioritize sustainability and responsible travel practices, making it a much more ethical choice if you decide to take a cruise. 

11. Opportunity to Explore More 

Due to their smaller size, these ships can take you to less explored areas, allowing you to truly discover the beauty and diversity of the Hawaiian islands. 

Everywhere I travel, I’m always on the quest to learn and explore the most about the destination. With small-ship travel, you have so many more chances to learn and explore up-close. 

12. Educational Opportunities 

Some small ship cruises provide educational programs and expert guides who can offer insights into the history, geology, marine life, and culture of Hawaii. 


While small ship cruises offer plenty of exciting benefits, keep in mind that not all of them include full-service amenities. Read more about UnCruise’s on-board experience here

The choice between a small ship and a larger ship ultimately depends on your preferences for environmental sustainability, cruise experience, activities, and atmosphere. 

Personally, I love being out on the water and the big cruise ship companies are just a bit too much. Small ship companies like UnCruise are a much better option for those of us that love traveling within tropical destinations like Hawaii but want to do so ethically and responsibly. 

If you’re planning your next tropical vacation for the autumn or winter, check out their Hawaiian Adventure small-ship travel offers here. Use code Adam500 for $500 off your next booking with UnCruise!