What to Choose? Small Ship or Large
Going on a cruise is as much about the journey as the multiple destinations. Many people plan their next sea voyage based on the season or port, but overlook one other crucial aspect: the ship’s size. The differences between cruising on a small or large ship go far beyond the number of passengers. The lifestyle, focus, activities, dining choices and a multitude of other variables are dramatically different depending on the boat’s size. Weigh the pros and cons before you decide whether a large party cruiser or smaller, more intimate liner is right for you.
A larger cruise ship generally houses anywhere from 1000 to 5000 passengers, while a smaller ship holds less than 500. Many small cruise ships sail with only 150 passengers onboard, making for a more personalized experience. The number of passengers isn’t as pertinent at sea as it is once you leave the boat. Don’t be surprised if you cannot find a seat at a local restaurant or stand in line for several minutes at a port shop when you traveled on a large ship.
If you’re looking to cruise to popular destinations such as the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Hawaii or Mexico, sailing on a larger liner is the better option for you. Many smaller liners stop at these same ports, but they also visit places that bigger ships simply cannot access. If you want an adventure to a remote island off the coast of Canada, Alaska, or even the North Pole, boarding a smaller ship is your only option.
Simply getting to your next port on some liners means spending several days inside the confines of the cruise ship. Large cruise ships offer a variety of distractions in the form of musical reviews, magic shows, pools, climbing walls, water slides, casinos, art auctions, talent shows and other activities. Smaller liners don’t have the space to accommodate elaborate productions, and the onboard entertainment is often limited to a movie, lecture or piano bar.
The limited amount of space translates into a limited amount of dining options on small cruise ships. There are typically only one or two restaurants with a fixed schedule and a limited amount of menu choices. If you want more variety and dining freedom, a larger cruiser is the better option. Bigger ships house several restaurants, buffets and bistros with a more diverse menu selection, and you might even catch a show while you dine with the ship’s captain.
Pricing is a tricky subject and you have to research what is included when you pay that upfront base fee. If you’re planning to stop at many ports and participate in sight-seeing tours, a smaller liner is generally cheaper, because the accompanying destination fees are included in the price. With many larger ships you pay extra to participate in the land-based tours. If you’re limiting the time you spend on shore and want to spend the majority of experience enjoying the ship, a larger cruise liner is generally less expensive because the base price covered your onboard entertainment, meals, taxes and accommodations. This base price is also generally more expensive on smaller ships. Read the fine print carefully to determine what is included with your package, before making that final decision.
Traditionally, cruising was about enjoying a romantic adventure with your significant other. This mystique was shattered when cruising became the new family vacation. If you want to bring along the entire brood, choose a larger cruise ship. There are several voyages that cater specifically to children and have several activities that will keep them distracted between ports. There are a handful of smaller cruise ships that offer family-friendly voyages, but for the most part, steer clear of the diminutive boats if you want to keep the kids happy and occupied.
The greater number of passengers doesn’t allow larger cruise ships to offer scheduling flexibility. If you want to limit your time ashore at major port cities to visit popular sites and attractions, choose a larger cruise ship. If you’re after a more personalized experience and want to explore the ports on your own terms, small-liner cruising is the better option.
If you want to board a lively party vessel that emanates a sense of excitement and fun, a larger ship is the way to go. The larger boats are more impersonal, but the hustle, bustle and liveliness of the voyage makes up for the crowds. Smaller cruises offer a sense of intimacy where you’re allowed to take in the scenery and explore exotic cultures. If you’re outdoorsy and want to commune with nature and relax, sail on a smaller boat.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition that might require care, board a larger ship with an on-board physician and clinic. Many smaller boats aren’t equipped to handle emergencies, forcing passengers to wait until the next port to seek proper medical attention.
This guest post was provided by Shannon Pierce, who is a freelance writer and cruise coordinator. She helps hundreds of people book great cruises, and believes that whether you are booking cruises from Galveston or visiting New York City, it is important to get out and experience the world.