Anyone who hasn’t cruised before may be wondering where to start when deciding what form their first experience should take. Well, the physical size of the ship is an important concern and one of the first decisions you are likely to have to make. Indeed, many people who have tried cruising and found it wasn’t to their tastes may have an entirely different experience if they chose a size that was more suited to their needs.
With the recent launch of some of the largest cruise ship in the world, Harmony of the Seas, some of the lucky few who got to step on board were in their element, whilst others came to the conclusion that they would prefer something smaller.
So, when it comes to the size of the ship, how do you decide? Here are some pros and cons to help.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of choosing a small ship is that they can reach destinations that larger vessels cannot. Instead of anchoring out at sea and having to get ashore via a tender, you can dock in port and make the most of every destination you visit. In places such as the Norwegian Fjords, there will be areas off the beaten track that a small ship will have no problem reaching. This often means you get to visit locations that aren’t overrun with tourists.
Other pros include the fact that small ships often have an excellent staff-to-guest ratio. This means there are less passengers per crew member, which will result in a more personal and relaxed service. This is why many of the luxury cruise lines offer smaller, more intimate ships.
A third reason to choose a smaller ship is the space that you will have on deck. You are less likely to feel crowded at any point, there’ll always be a spare sun lounger by the pool and there will be more room to relax and enjoy life at a slower pace.
The fact that these vessels are smaller means that they don’t have room for the glistening array of public spaces that larger ships have. There is likely to be just a few dining options, one or two places dedicated to evening entertainment and limited facilities to keep you busy during those sea days.
The major sticking point could come in the form of price. Because of the wonderful pros listed above, cruises on smaller ships come with a price tag. As well the cost of the cruise itself, you may also find there are high charges for certain added extras onboard (alternative dining, spa treatments, shore excursions).
Giant vessels such as Harmony of the Seas, Britannia and Norwegian Escape, all of which have launched in the past year or so, have numerous state-of-the-art facilities to keep you and your family occupied. From bumper cars to waterslides and everything in between, it’s unlikely that you will ever need to utter the words “I’m bored”. The most innovative technology also makes its way onto the larger ships first.
There will be a large selection of places to grab something to eat too. Whether you are looking for a small snack, a hearty breakfast or a slap-up three-course meal, a range of restaurant options will provide great variety. On some ships you could easily eat somewhere different every night of your cruise and still not sample everything available.
Finally, in the pro column, a large ship means that you don’t have to worry about bumping into the same people again and again. Some people find this awkward and it often leaves them unable to enjoy their holiday the way they want to. The fact that there are thousands of passengers on board will mean you are less likely to run into the couple you met the day before and a fluent dining system will mean you don’t have to sit with the same people every evening. However, for those who enjoy socialising and meeting passionate cruisers, this may be a negative point.
A mammoth cruise ship can often feel like more of a floating resort that a mode of transport. The maze of corridors, each one identical to the last, can cause you to get lost and you often have to factor in the time it takes to wait for a lift whenever you plan to do anything. Some cruisers feel this atmosphere takes away from what a traditional cruise should offer and doesn’t provide the nostalgic feeling associated with smaller ships.
The wide range of exciting activities inevitably appeals to the family market and so choosing a large vessel is not wise if you want a holiday without children. Whilst there is usually an adult-only area that offers a slice of tranquillity, some cruisers would rather the entire ship featured this relaxing ambience.
If it’s a pro that smaller ships can visit the harder to reach destinations then it’s a con that large ships can’t. They usually get around this by tendering people to shore in a lifeboat, but this meets waiting your turn to disembark and you will inevitably have less time to explore.
In all honesty, the size of ship you ultimately choose will come down to personal preference. If you are looking for a relaxed, luxurious atmosphere that harks back to the traditional days of cruising, are more than happy to lay by the pool with a good book during your sea days and wish to visit some lesser known destinations, a small ship may be your best bet. However, if you need to keep the family entertained at all times, are a younger couple wanting a modern cruising experience or you want to taste the world as well as see it, you are much more likely to enjoy a holiday about a larger vessel.
It is worth pointing out that this is not always the case, though. There are some fantastic large ships out there that still cling to tradition and offer a refined experience (Queen Mary 2), whilst there are also smaller ships which can cater expertly to families (Rhapsody of the Seas).
One more thing to consider is that there are a range of ships that are labelled as mid-sized. This rather fluid term can be used to describe a vessel with room for anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 guests (roughly speaking). These can sometimes offer the best of both worlds and a happy medium in terms of everything mentioned above.
For more advice of what size ship would be best for you, contact our knowledgeable team today.