Big Ship vs. Small Ship Cruises

Large Ship vs. Small Ship size comparison in Skagway, Alaska.

Large Ship vs. Small Ship size comparison in Skagway, Alaska.

There have been an increasing number of articles the past couple of years that describe the differences between the large and small ship experience. Typically, you’re either in one bucket or the other. But with the number of mainstream cruisers looking for something different, small ship cruises are gaining increasing exposure.

But let’s be honest. The small ship experience is not for everyone. We at Sunstone Tours & Cruises would not benefit in sending someone looking to party on a small ship cruise.

The table below is geared to show some of the differences, illustrating the advantages and disadvantages between the two types of cruise experiences.

  Large Ship Cruises Small Ship Cruises
# of Passengers 1000 – 5000 Less than 500
Where they sail / ports Popular regions & ports that swell in population by 2000 to 20,000 depending on the number of ships in port on a given day. A few popular regions & ports, along with many unique regions & ports that larger ships cannot visit due to their size (examples: California Wine region, Petersburg, Alaska).
Focus Activities, entertainment, shopping, gambling, dining, drinking; the ship. Scenery, wildlife, experiencing different cultures, activities; the destination.
Dining Many options, venues. Features extravagant menus and presentations. One seating per meal, only 1 or 2 options for dining. Regional fresh fare.
Family-friendly Yes. Ships offer many options for both children & adults. Include children programs. Not normally. With the exception of special family sailings, there is no focus on children’s needs or engagement.
Internet access Yes, on most ships, either Internet cafe or Wi-Fi throughout the ship. Only on a few ships. Most people access the Internet in ports.
The Ride Smooth. Usually you’ll never know you’re on the water. Smooth in sheltered waters, rough in open water, as most small ships do not have stabilizers.
Medical care Doctor on-board with clinic-style facilities. No doctor on-board. Medical care usually at next port or emergency air-lift to nearest hospital.
On-board Lifestyle Mega-resort Inn, or Bed & Breakfast
Shore Excursions Optional. Need to be purchased separately. Usually one excursion included in each port. Option excursions also available.
Advantages
  • Many options, lots to do (or not).
  • Travels to popular destinations with plenty of activities & shopping.
  • Cabins span between large enough to full penthouses.
  • Perfect for someone looking to party, or get away from day-to-day life.
  • Price. Typically affordable.
  • Intimate, casual, unique experiences.
  • Shore excursions included.
  • Flexible schedule. If humpback whales are feeding, ship will remain for quite some time.
  • Visits destinations that the bigger ships can’t (or won’t).
  • Perfect for someone looking to discover, experience, interact or learn new things.
Disadvantages
  • Many, many people. Cattle herding at times.
  • Impersonal
  • Scheduled. No flexibility if something of interest is discovered.
  • Price.
  • Cabins tend to be very small.
  • Lack of on-board entertainment, facilities.
  • Will be bored is not an “outdoorsy” person.
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Posted on April 3, 2009, in Small Ship Cruising (General) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. What’s your opinion of the MS Paul Gauguin? Too small?

    • Paul Gauguin to small??? No, I don’t think so, it is bigger than most of the small ships we offer. She is luxurious and a good value right now with excellent offers on the cruise and air. Give us a call if interested. 888-815-5428

  1. Pingback: Big Ship vs. Small Ship Cruises « Sunstone Tours & Cruises Blog

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