Big ships versus small ships

In recent years, cruise lines have built bigger ships, and adding a growing and impressive line-up of dining options and attractions to lure new guests. While others, however, see a benefit to keeping vessels small or boutique in size to offer a more intimate and, perhaps, refined high seas experience. If you’re planning to take a cruise holiday, a key part of ensuring you have a good time is picking the right ship, so what are the main pros and cons of choosing big over small? Here are six things to consider.


Big: There will be more categories to suit more budgets, and on newer big ships more affordable balcony options. The main con, however, is that standard staterooms tend to be smaller. 

Small: These will be more spacious and more luxurious, with enhanced amenities. This comes at a price, however, particularly at the luxury end of the scale, and some non-luxury ships have few or no balconies.


Big: From theatres featuring Broadway-style productions to pubs and cocktail bars, there are more places to spend time when you’re not ashore. Some entertainment may come with a fee, however. And venues can get busy at peak times, making it hard to get a seat or a drink in a hurry.

Small: There’s a focus on enrichment programs and low-key entertainment, with the main con being that things can be quiet at night. You won’t find it hard to get a seat for a show, however, and your pre-dinner cocktail will not take long to arrive. Small ships are also more sociable.


Big: There are dozens of alternative dining venues from which to choose besides a main dining room and buffet, and you can make reservations. The main con is that they come at a price.

Small: Fewer people means no lines, flexible dining and quality cuisine. Sometimes wine is included, but there’s often a lack of choice.


Big: Large spas, sports facilities and multiple swimming pools are some of the perks of bigger ships. Popular facilities get busy, however, with shaded areas and spots around the pool hard to grab.

Small: There is often only one pool, if at all, and it will be small, but there is more space on deck overall. Gyms can also be small, with a lack of sports facilities apart from table tennis.

Getting on and off ship

Big: Embarkation and disembarkation is staggered to handle larger numbers of people, but at the end of a cruise, that might mean vacating your stateroom at 8am and not being able to get off ship for another couple of hours. There may be a larger number of tours on offer, but big ships can’t always dock in the heart of a destination, or dock at all, making tendering necessary. There can be long lines to get on and off ship.

Small: Going ashore and coming back happens at a more relaxed pace, as the numbers are much smaller, with fewer lines and less crowding. Smaller ships can also dock or anchor closer to the action, and tours can be more inventive and personalised with unique experiences.


Big: Staff are well-trained and hard working, but on big ships it can be an impersonal experience; you won’t easily get to know the names of anyone beyond who looks after your stateroom.

Small: It’s hard to beat the attentive and personalised service of a smaller ship, in particular at the luxury end of the scale, where staff will make a point of learning your names, as well as your likes and dislikes.

To find out more about cruising or to find the cruise of your dreams within your budget, visit



Written by YourLifeChoices Writers

YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.

Leave a Reply

Parky’s Favourite Australians

Your lifestyle is the secret to longevity