Navigating The Seas: Exploring The Pros And Cons Of Large vs. Small Cruise Ships

Embarking on a cruise offers a unique opportunity to explore multiple destinations while enjoying luxurious amenities and seamless travel experiences. However, choosing between large cruise ships like Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas and MSC World Europa with more than 5000 guests versus much smaller cruise ships such as Windstar Star Breeze with only 312 guests or Captain Cook Cruises MS Caledonian Sky with 114 guests presents travellers with a significant decision. Each type of vessel offers distinct advantages and drawbacks, catering to different preferences and travel styles. In this travel blog, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of large vs. small cruise ships, aiding you in making an informed choice for your next unforgettable voyage.

Pros And Cons Of Large vs. Small Cruise Ships

Large Cruise Ships – Pros:

Large Cruise Ships
  1. Abundance of Amenities: Large cruise ships are synonymous with an extensive array of onboard amenities. From multiple dining options and entertainment venues to spas, fitness centres, and pools, passengers are spoiled for choice when it comes to leisure activities. Features like a skydiving simulator, surf wave, rock climbing wall, dodgem cars,and Broadway-style shows, ensure there’s never a dull moment onboard.
  2. Diverse Entertainment Options: With a vast passenger capacity, large cruise ships offer diverse entertainment options suitable for travellers of all ages and interests. Whether you prefer catching a live musical performance, participating in trivia contests, or trying your luck at the onboard casino, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. MSC World Europa, for example, features immersive Cirque du Soleil at Sea performances, adding a touch of sophistication and excitement to your evenings at sea.
  3. Onboard Shopping and Services: Shopping enthusiasts will appreciate the extensive retail options available on large cruise ships, ranging from duty-free boutiques selling luxury goods to souvenir shops and specialty stores. Additionally, passengers can take advantage of various onboard services, including spas, beauty salons, medical facilities, and internet cafes, ensuring a convenient and comfortable sailing experience.

Large Cruise Ships – Cons:

Large Cruise Ships – Cons
  1. Public Spaces: One of the primary drawbacks of large cruise ships is the potential for crowded public spaces, especially during peak seasons or popular itineraries. Long lines at buffet restaurants, crowded pool decks, and busy elevators can detract from the overall relaxation and tranquility of your cruise holiday. Securing prime seating for entertainment events or shore excursions may require advanced planning and patience. Be sure to make reservations for these, including specialty dining restaurants, well in advance before boarding, if possible. Packing a sense of humour for when things don’t work out as planned is also advisable.
  2. Limited Port Accessibility: Due to their size, large cruise ships are often unable to dock at smaller or more remote ports, limiting the diversity of destinations accessible to passengers. While major ports of call are typically included in the itinerary, the sights are often a distance from the port and travellers seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences may find themselves disappointed by the lack of options available on larger vessels.
  3. Impersonal Atmosphere: With thousands of passengers onboard, large cruise ships can sometimes feel impersonal, which could make it challenging to form meaningful connections with fellow travellers and crew members. The sheer scale of the ship may result in a sense of anonymity, detracting from the intimate and personalised experience that many seek when on holiday.

Small Cruise Ships – Pros:

Small Cruise Ships – Pros
  1. Tailored Service and Attention to Detail: Small cruise ships prioritise personalised service and attention to detail, ensuring that each guest’s individual needs and preferences are catered to with care and professionalism. From attentive cabin stewards and knowledgeable expedition leaders to gourmet dining experiences and inclusive shore excursions, passengers can expect a level of service that goes above and beyond expectations. The intimate size of the ship allows crew members to anticipate and fulfill guests’ requests promptly, creating a truly memorable and personalised cruising experience.
  2. Access to Remote Destinations: One of the most significant advantages of small cruise ships is their ability to navigate narrow waterways and reach remote destinations inaccessible to larger vessels. From remote, secluded islands and hidden coves to picturesque coastal towns and destinations where large ships are now banned, like Venice in Italy, small ships can explore off-the-beaten-path locales, offering passengers unparalleled opportunities for exploration and discovery. I particularly love to be able to access watersports equipment straight from the boat. This is possible on many small cruise ships, like Windstar in Tahiti and Captain Cook Cruise in Fiji.
  3. Intimate Atmosphere: Small cruise ships offer an intimate and cozy atmosphere, fostering a sense of camaraderie among passengers and crew members alike. With fewer guests onboard, travellers have the opportunity to forge genuine connections, whether during shared meals, shore excursions, or onboard activities. The charm of small-ship cruising is its ability to foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for travellers seeking a more personal experience.

Small Cruise Ships – Cons:

  1. Limited Onboard Amenities: While small cruise ships offer a charming and intimate atmosphere, they may lack the extensive onboard amenities found on larger vessels. Facilities such as multiple dining venues, expansive spas, and extravagant entertainment options may be more limited in scope or variety. Travellers accustomed to the vast array of activities and entertainment options available on large cruise ships may find the offerings on smaller vessels comparatively modest.
  2. Due to their smaller size and lighter weight, small cruise ships are more susceptible to the effects of rough seas and inclement weather conditions. For this reason, smaller cruise ships’ itineraries tend to favour more protected waters. However, modern stabilisation technology on many smaller ships, like Scenic Eclipse I and II, has significantly reduced the likelihood of motion sickness. Be sure to discuss the itinerary, type of ship, with your travel agent and take any recommended motion sickness preparations.
  3. Limited Cabin Choices and Space: Small cruise ships typically offer fewer cabin categories compared to their larger counterparts. While this can enhance the feeling of intimacy and coziness onboard, it may also result in more limited accommodation options for passengers with specific preferences or requirements.

Summary Of Large vs. Small Cruise Ships!

Choosing between a large cruise ship and a small cruise ship involves weighing the pros and cons of each vessel type against your individual preferences and travel priorities. While large cruise ships offer an abundance of amenities and entertainment options, small ships provide an intimate atmosphere and access to remote destinations. Whether you prioritise variety and excitement or intimacy and personalised service, there’s a cruise ship out there to suit your cruising style. Ultimately, the key is to embark on a voyage that aligns with your preferences, ensuring a memorable and fulfilling cruising experience from start to finish.

There are hundreds of cruises available. At WorldLee Journeys, we help our clients work through the many options, including itineraries, size of ship, cost, and what is and isn’t included in the advertised price. With 35 years of experience, we quickly provide answers to questions and make the planning process easy. If you are considering a cruise, contact Lee at WorldLee Journeys for a complimentary consultation HERE.

Need an affordable Airalo Prepaid eSIM Card? Info HERE.

Looking for a safe and convenient way to manage money on your next trip?

Read our article: 10 Reasons to use a Travel Money Card

Need accommodation?

Get Covermore Travel Insurance Quote

Looking for an Organised Tour or Cruise?

Cruise Hot Deals

Trafalgar Tours on Sale Now
Insight Easy Pace Tour Options
G Adventures
Virgin Voyages – Adults Only

For more information, contact Lee on 0415 193697 or email for assistance. OR

Book A Complimentary Appointment Here

Disclosure Statement: We may receive a commission when you click on our links to make a purchase. This, however, has no bearing on our reviews and comparisons. We will do our best to keep things fair and balanced to assist you in making the best decision for you.

What Our Clients Say

Ready for your own adventure?

Schedule a complimentary travel experience discussion with me TODAY

Sessions are held over the phone & generally run for 10-15 minutes. You’ll learn:

1) About the options available and
2) How to choose the one that's right for you