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12 Great Small Cruise Ships

Central America
COSTA RICA
Windstar Cruises' Wind Star

The Route The Wind Star stops at six remote Costa Rican ports, including Drake Bay. Guests can bird-watch in Curu National Wildlife Refuge, explore the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park, and view the rain forest from a zipline in the treetops.
Highlight Scuba-diving lessons with a PADI-certified instructor, for an extra $70 per person.
The Ship This 148-passenger sailing vessel may not be large, but its cabins have flat-screen TV's; there is also a casino, as well as an open-air water-sports platform, from which passengers can water-ski, windsurf, kayak, or snorkel. (All activities except diving lessons are included in the cruise fee.)
800/258-7245; www.windstarcruises.com; from $1,999 per person, double; six-night cruise departs January 7.

Europe
FRENCH RIVIERA
SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I

The Route This ship calls in two ports that the big ones can't get into: the unpretentious beach town of Le Lavandou and the rosé wine–producing village of Bandol.
Highlight The captain hosts a poolside cocktail party in St.-Tropez, with champagne and caviar served from a floating bar.
The Ship This 110-passenger yacht has a teak deck with Balinese sleeping beds. Each cabin comes with flat-screen TV's with DVD players and Bose stereos; iPods can be borrowed from the front desk.
800/707-4911; www.seadreamyachtclub.com; from $6,900 per person, double; seven-night cruise departs June 3.

Turkey's Turquoise Coast, the Greek Isles, and the Adriatic
Yachts of Seabourn's Seabourn Spirit

The Route This trip bypasses the crowded islands of the eastern Mediterranean and calls instead on ports that are popular with European yachtsmen. Passengers sun on quiet beaches in Bodrum and visit the oracle of Delphi at Itea.
Highlight An outing to the Mycenaean fortress of Agamemnon at Nauplia.
The Ship Expect all the trappings, from black-tie dinners to dressy cocktail parties. The 104-cabin ship has a pool, a spa, a gym, a casino, and several dining options, including a candlelit supper club.
800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com; from $7,894 per person, double; 14-night cruise departs May 20.

Southern Hemisphere
Argentina to Antarctica
Clipper Cruise Line's Clipper Adventurer

The Route In addition to the usual Antarctic Peninsula run, the Adventurer visits New Island in the West Falklands, where three types of penguins—rockhopper, gentoo, and Magellanic—live. The ship also stops at Port Lockroy, an old whaling town sheltered by mountains.
Highlight Marine biologist and wildlife photographer Rick Price shows guests the best way to capture animals on film, and field biologist Tony Door lectures on seals and penguins.
The Ship This 122-passenger expedition vessel has a fleet of Zodiacs and an observation platform from which animal lovers can view wildlife up close.
800/325-0010; www.clippercruise.com; from $6,560 per person, double; 15-night cruise departs November 20.

galápagos islands
Abercrombie & Kent's Eclipse

The Route This archipelago has 29 species of land birds, 22 of which are not found anywhere else in the world. The best Galápagos itineraries take you to tucked-away spots where you can view the wildlife in its natural habitat. The Eclipse does just that, varying its routes to follow the animals.
Highlight A visit to volcanic Tower Island—home to red- and blue-footed boobies.
The Ship The 48-passenger ship sails with a fleet of pangas (inflatable, hard-bottomed boats), four naturalist guides, snorkeling gear, and wet suits.
800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com; from $4,385 per person, double; 10-night cruise departs November 10.

tasmania, Antarctica, and new zealand
Quark Expeditions' Kapitan Khlebnikov

The Route The Wonders of the Ross Sea trip takes you to the South Pole, calling at remote ports such as Macquarie Island and Cape Evans. Highlight A helicopter excursion from the ship to a rookery of royal penguins.
The Ship There's an indoor pool, a gym, a sauna, and a library on this 54-cabin ship. But what really sets it apart is its icebreaker hull, which cuts through frozen seas and enables the ship to reach otherwise inaccessible parts of Antarctica.
800/356-5699; www.quarkexpeditions.com; from $19,595 per person, double; 24-night cruise departs December 28.

sherri eisenberg last wrote about cruises for T+L's February 2005 issue.

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