Pearl Mist exterior

Whether you've never cruised before or have only cruised on a big ship, it can be hard to know whether a small-ship cruise is for you and which small ship to choose. Launched in 2014, Pearl Mist is a quintessential small ship characterized by excellent service, good food and visits to small ports. Cruise Critic has compiled seven reasons why the 210-passenger ship appeals to people who crave intimate experiences and learning on their next vacation, but don't want to be overwhelmed with a too-much-to-do atmosphere.

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Pearl Mist might just be the ship for you if:

1. You enjoy lectures and learning.

There are two things you can count on during a Pearl Mist sailing. You'll stop in a cruise port just about every day (weather permitting) and you can sit in on a lecture by an expert in the region you're sailing through every day. At least one expert -- usually a historian, author or professor (or all three in one person!) -- accompanies every sailing to provide background on the history, culture, art and nature of the ports you'll visit along your itinerary.

Pearl Mist service

2. You appreciate impeccable service.

With a nearly 3.5 to 1 crew-to-passenger ratio, you'll never have difficulty finding a crew member to help you. Cabins are cleaned within minutes of leaving; waiters know your name and which drink you like with dinner. Have difficulty walking? Crew will carry you onto the tender if necessary.

3. You want to get to know your fellow cruisers.

With a maximum of only 210 passengers, daily cocktail hours and open seating at all meals, Pearl Mist makes it easy to meet every one of your shipmates. You'll meet educated people from all walks of life, many of whom have led a fascinating existence. Don't be surprised if you make good friends onboard.

4. You seek new travel experiences -- without the all-day flights.

The vast majority of Pearl Mist cruisers are over 70 and have decided long-haul flights to Europe and Asia are no longer a possibility. But wanderlust never goes away. Because of its size and unique itineraries, Pearl Mist provides well-traveled folks a chance to see places they might never have been before. Visit picturesque Nova Scotian towns where locals still speak with a lilt. Explore Cuban cities that have been closed off for years. Dock off of small islands in the West Indies that big ships can't get to or spend a full day in Panama Canal's Gatun Lake -- all without having to travel too far by plane.

Pearl Mist dining

5. You love delicious, multicourse meals.

Three-course gourmet meals every night; delightful lunches highlighting local specialties like steamed Prince Edward Island mussels or Maine lobster mac 'n cheese -- the chef onboard Pearl Mist will work miracles to make sure all passengers have a meal they enjoy (no matter what their diet limitations). Every meal can be tweaked for gluten sensitivity and low-salt or low-cholesterol requirements; vegetarian appetizer and entree items are always on the menu for lunch and dinner, and special requests are welcomed.

6. You like ice cream, especially root beer floats.

There is no shortage of ice cream onboard Pearl Mist. You can choose from five to seven ice cream flavors for dessert at lunch and dinner every day, and free root beer floats are passed around every evening during the nightly entertainment.

7. A daily afternoon nap sounds like a wonderful idea.

Most days, Pearl Mist spends half to three-quarters of a day in port, leaving several hours of the day with little to do beyond attend a lecture, read a book, play cards or chat with friends. Even on days when the ship is in port longer, excursions are only a few hours and unless you want to shop 'til you drop or dine in port, you'll probably return to ship before it sets sail. All that free time can be filled nicely with an afternoon snooze.