Big ships versus small ships

What are the main pros and cons of choosing a big ship over small?

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


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    2nd May 2015
    It would be nice if searches let you specify whether you want to travel on a small ship or big, and it was easier, when reading about cruises, to determine the size and passenger capacity of the ship.
    5th May 2015
    Hey you should check out truly small ships on micro-cruising
    2nd May 2015
    We have just returned from a cruise on the largest cruise ship in Australian waters, The Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the sea. The ocean view balcony cabin we had was not large but comfortable the bathroom was very small though. The dining had a lot of choice some of which you payed extra for, lots of bars and other choices. The embarking and disembarking were tedious I will admit, but really on the whole it was an amazing cruise and we would recommend it.
    25th Jun 2016
    Friends of ours travelled on the same Cruise Ship last year and are going again next year. One of them has an auto-immune (not contageous) disease which requires a special diet - otherwise severe illness for a few days. The person concerned was shown the following day's menu so there was no delay in receipt of meals at all. No illness at all either.
    2nd May 2015
    if you want a relaxing holiday, smaller ships are better . Princess Line caters for Oldies (50+) and the catering for wheelchairs ,walkers is good. They are happy to assist.
    The major shows are hard to find seats unless you get there at least an hour before the show starts,so organising a meal at the right time is important. The buffet is excellent food(as much as you want) and so are the restaurants but the main restaurants are Ala carte. There is heaps to do and for a cruise of 14 days you would not get bored. Small children ,another matter. Shopping is ok but not a lot of until you get off the ship at a port.
    2nd May 2015
    Outside cabins are the best as you have a window to look out when you wake up. Inside Light only. Balconies are ok but you pay more. Size doesnt matter as you are only in your cabin to sleep.
    3rd May 2015
    My observation is that if you want to drink and 'party' go P&O, families with waterslides etc Carnival, retirees Royal C, people cashed up Holland. Happy to be corrected.
    4th May 2015
    General rule to go by , bigger the ship , = Lower price ,
    4th May 2015
    Big ship, small ship, going on a cruise and pixii is concerned with the COST...oh well, it takes all sorts I suppose.
    Small ships are better, they fit in many more ports than the bigger ships, and who wants to jump in a tender at every stop, the 'Queens' already have that problem, and if the cabin is at the bow or stern a lot of time is wasted with long walks to attend functions.
    Not everyone is 20 - something and/or super-fit.
    4th May 2015
    One thing not mentioned is sea sickness. Are the bigger ships less likely to make you nauseous?
    4th May 2015
    Hi Mak , the cost comment is general info which I thought the person's enquiry was about !
    Is there ever a topic on here that can be commented on without some nasty response ?
    5th May 2015
    Lisette , the bigger ships are less likely to have you seasick , speak to dining room wait staff or Doctor , a cabin mid ship also less likely to have you upset , go & enjoy. !
    6th May 2015
    Thanks for the info. :)
    5th May 2015
    I sell cruises on ships that hold max. 100 passengers. My clients are travellers not tourists. They want authentic travel. To them it's about the destination not the ship (although we have beautiful ships). Cultural immersion is key.
    29th Aug 2016
    We've just done a Med cruise on Viking Sea, 950 passengers 450 staff. No children and mainly 50+ Facilities great and ship didn't feel crowded at all. Even the pools although quite small were never crowded. Drinks with lunch and dinner (3 hours each time) and you could take your own on board without being charged corkage or having it confiscated. A very civilised cruise line.

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