4 great small ship tours on Canadian coasts

Photo of small house and cruise ship on the St. Lawrence River. USA - Canada border.
Photo by artconcept/Shutterstock

As summer fades, you might just find your mind turning to winter trips . Lots of Canadians are migratory creatures. We stay home during the summer, but spend at least parts of summer traveling around—often someplace warmer, but sometimes just exploring the parts of Canada that were too overloaded with tourists to visit in the summer.

A common way to achieve this is by going on cruises. These trips allow you to travel in the lap of luxury and bring you to all kinds of islands and ports. But the lifestyle of the big cruise liner isn’t for everyone. They’re hectic places, full of late-night revelers, huge and somewhat impersonal dining halls, and crowds everywhere you go.

Fortunately, if you still want to get out on a boat, there is an alternative: small ship cruises. These cruise ships tend to hold, at most, a few hundred people, rather than thousands. They feel a bit less like resorts, and a bit more like an adventure, stopping in at smaller ports and offering unique travel experiences. So if you’re looking for an exciting trip this fall, but aren’t quite ready to pilot your own boat across treacherous seas, a small cruise line is a great option.

We’ve rounded up a few small-ship cruise lines that spend time in Canadian ports. Next time you get the itch to explore, we recommend checking them out.

UnCruise Adventures

UnCruise takes pride in not being the typical cruising experience. They use their fleet of small ships (including yachts and coastal steamers) to go where large ships can’t. UnCruise goes all over the place, from Mexico’s Sea of Cortés to Alaska. In closer-to-home offerings, they also have great little tours of the Pacific Northwest. These tours travel from Seattle to coastal BC and back again, offering everything from hikes to high tea on their stops. UnCruise Adventures won Cruise Critic’s title of “Best Cruise Line for Adventure” in 2015, so they’re a pretty safe bet if you’re looking for a cruise line with experience and style.

Blount Small Ship Adventures

The advantage of small-ship cruises is that they don’t have to cross the ocean. Instead, they can journey on rivers and canals, heading inland and visiting cities that aren’t coast-bound. Blount Small Ship Adventures offers a cool “Locks, Legends, and Canals” trip that spends two ways making its way between New York City and Quebec. It’s a whole new way to experience an area you may have driven through before—from rivers, lakes, and canals. And all of it is undertaken on a ship decked out with comfy accommodations, a dining room, and, of course, a bar. Less than 100 people go on each Blount tour, making their motto feel all the more true: “Like cruising on your friend’s yacht.”

Maple Leaf Adventures

Instead of escaping the winter, why not sail full-throttle into it? Cruises to Alaska are incredibly popular among Canadians. They offer the opportunity to experience the serenity and stillness of the North, and to take in incredible sights that can’t be seen anywhere else, such as glaciers and the northern lights. Maple Leaf Adventures offers cruises all around the islands and inlets off the coast of BC and Alaska, stopping in at beautiful natural spots like Haida Gwaii and the Great Bear Rainforest. If you’re looking for a cushy ride, though, you might want to check out a different Alaskan cruise. Maple Leaf Adventures focuses on giving you an experience. Their tours take place on schooners—that is, massive sailboats—and only carries around ten passengers. If you’re looking for an intimate, nature-focused cruise experience, this is it.


Tauck offers a cruise destination that so many other cruise liners neglect: the Canadian Maritimes. This is a uniquely beautiful part of our country, full of history, beautiful sea views, and, of course, incredible seafood. Tauck’s cruises take passengers around Nova Scotia and PEI, stopping in at quaint seaside towns and authentic Maritime restaurants, and putting passengers up in heritage hotels. They also offer a “fall foliage” tour that lets passengers see the jaw-dropping colours of the season. If you want a vacation from breakneck modern life, we definitely recommend visiting the Maritimes, where the simpler things in life are still celebrated.

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