When you think ‘cruise ship,’ your thoughts may immediately turn to the mega-cruise ships of cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and now The Disney Wish.
So, what exactly is a small ship cruising? Let’s check it out and see if you might enjoy sailing the seas on a more modest vessel.
Now, larger cruise ships certainly have their own appeal – traveling leisurely in a resort-style atmosphere packed with dining and entertainment options to exciting world regions. But large cruise ships are not the only fish in the sea. No, no – far from it. Many travelers looking for something more off-the-beaten-track, a bit more personal, have been wooed by small ship cruising.
It is a broad category, but it simply means any ship accommodating 500-700 guests (compared to the 3,500-5,400 passengers aboard the larger cruise ships). A small ship could be anything from a boutique river cruise ship on the Rhine to a Lindblad Expedition ship of 148 passengers on a trek to Antarctica, an all-suite Regent Seven Seas Cruises luxury vessel to a four-masted sailing yacht of Windstar Cruises. Even the smaller Disney Cruise Line ships, The Disney Magic and The Disney Wonder, are considered large cruise ships, each holding up to 2,713 passengers.
Although with varying degrees of luxury and onboard amenities, small ships of less than 700 guests are similar. They allow you to see your bucket-list destinations from the shoreline without distractions. There may not be production shows, casinos, or discos, but there are no crowds, queues, or been-there-done-that ports.
Here are a few reasons you might enjoy a small ship cruise over a larger cruise ship:
- Unique Itineraries: Because of their size, small ships can access ports that some of the larger cruise ships simply cannot. Itineraries are built around the destination and culture and are usually port-intensive. Captains can navigate secluded coves or make unplanned stops for wildlife viewing.
- Personal: Small ships still allow you to travel by sea, but in a more personal way. You can get to know the entire crew and learn about their passion for the region. Fewer passengers onboard with fewer distractions create opportunities for discussion and camaraderie. Sharing adventures ashore further enriches the unique experience.
- Casual Atmosphere: Most small ships do not have a dress code, and the overall ambiance onboard is exceptionally welcoming, relaxing, and educational.
- Easy to Navigate: Because it’s a smaller ship, it will be easier to all over the ship. You might have fewer amenities, but if you’re sailing with little ones or with mobility needs, a smaller ship might be just what you’re looking for.
- Regional Cuisine: Dining rooms tend to serve meals inspired by the specialties of each region and made from local ingredients.
- Rewarding Family Memories: Although most smaller cruise ships may not offer dedicated youth facilities (and may even have a minimum age requirement of 12-14 and older), some smaller cruise ship lines offer certain sailings that focus on educational and exploration activities for children. Families can share in real-time to be inspired by each port of call, then discuss the day over dinner or playing cards.
The small ship cruising category has many different experiences, like Adventure and Expedition Cruising, Small Ships of Princess, River Cruising, Yachting, and Luxury Cruising. Each ship may not have a surf simulator or movie theater, but most will offer gourmet dining, bars or lounges, attentive service, airy public spaces, pools or whirlpools, spa or fitness facilities, and a library.
Small ship cruising can come with a higher upfront price tag. However, many onboard amenities like beverages, gratuities, and even excursions are included with some cruise lines, making the overall vacation valuable, both economically and educationally.
The bottom line, you have choices. Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes, appealing differently to personal preferences. Cruising is one of the most rewarding ways to vacation and see the world if you find the right ship and experience for your individual tastes, just like Cinderella’s slipper.
Our friends at Small World Vacations can help you book all kinds of cruises — not just Disney. If you want to try small ship cruising, request a quote below!
Have you ever cruised on a small ship? Let us know in the comments below!