The swell of new ways to travel by boat means that every passenger can be the captain of his or her own adventure, whether they crave a small-ship adventure or a more traditional cruise. We're onboard with that. Ready to set sail? Here are five exceptional ways to answer the call of the sea. 

Hire a private yacht
Make like Jay-Z and Beyoncé in Saint-Tropez by chartering a private yacht—or perhaps something a touch more modest? GetMyBoat is the mariner’s answer to Airbnb, with 65,000 boat rentals—everything from rowboats to sailboats to 271-foot superyachts—available in 171 countries. The options range from low-budget backpacker fare (sailing on a 45-foot cutter rig between Portobelo, Panama, and Cartagena, Colombia, with a stop in the San Blas Islands, for $525 per person) to pretty swank (chartering a 47-foot captained catamaran in Auckland to circle the Whangaparaoa Peninsula at $1,405 per day). 

Travel by cargo ship
It’s the French Polynesia conundrum: Tahiti and Bora Bora are easily accessible but less authentic; touring the Marquesas, north of the Tuamotu Archipelago, avoids the resorts but requires a private yacht. The solution: The Aranui 5, a cargo freighter with 103 no-frills cabins accommodating some 254 guests, which stops at remote islands on 14-day routes from Papeete. Beds in an eight-person Class C dormitory from $2,920. 

The AFAR Guide to Small Ship Cruises

Go canal boating
You don’t need a license or even experience to traverse the vast network of calm waterways throughout western Europe and the United Kingdom. A river boat is easy to operate and has a homey interior, sort of like an aquatic RV or tour bus. At Le Boat, they’ll show you the ropes and teach you how to navigate locks and dock. All you need to worry about is where to go. A three-night rental of the 39-foot, two-bedroom Caprice starts at $306. 

Cruise around the world
Want to see Melbourne, Dubai, Cartagena, and Pago Pago, all on one trip? It’s possible if you have 119 days and at least $17,999 to spare. The MSC World Cruise, launching from Genoa, Italy, in early 2019, makes 49 ports of call in 32 countries. Equally epic, Silversea Cruise’s 2018 World Cruise visits 60 ports in 121 days. Prices start at $57,850 per guest and include butler service and dinners at the ship’s Relais & Châteaux restaurant.

The AFAR Guide to River Cruises

Join an expedition
Aqua Expeditions’ small ships not only have A/C, a full bar, and gourmet meals by renowned chefs, but they also explore remote waterways such as the Peruvian Amazon and the Mekong River. In 2017 and 2018, the conservationist cruises (from $3,645 per person) led by oceanographer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau are as close as one can get to an adventure with Jacques, Jean-Michel’s late father. 

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