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Cruise West the Spirit of Nantucket

If you long for the open ocean but bristle at the thought of all-night discos, thousand-seat dining rooms or congested Caribbean ports-turned-duty-free-shopping-malls, know this: Not all cruise ships are vast, floating resorts.

A diminutive but growing industry niche revolves around small vessels -- a wide-ranging group that includes yachts, rugged expedition ships and classic sailing schooners -- where passenger counts top out at 200, rather than 2,000.