The case for small-ship cruising

It’s hardly surprising that huge cruise ships get all the attention, especially when they are newly launched. Carrying anywhere between 1500 to 5000 guests, they wow cruise fans with all manner of innovations – from 4D cinemas and specialty restaurants to huge spas and pools with retractable roofs.

If you’re not crazy about crowds, however, there are good reasons to consider choosing a small ship for your next cruise. The good news?  It doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune. Here are five reasons why you might want to consider going small.

1. You travel in style
Small cruise ships tend to largely fall into the luxury category, offering a ‘red carpet’ experience. This means more crew members for each person travelling, allowing the bartender to not only know your name but also your preferred pre-dinner drink. On a smaller luxury ship, more perks are also included in the fare – such as gratuities, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and alternative dining.

2. You can travel affordably
Small-ship cruising can end up being more affordable and convenient than travelling on land, with transport, accommodation and most meals included in the fare. Some examples include a river cruise in Europe, travelling from Hungary to Holland; river cruising in the remote Amazon region of Brazil; cruising off shore in the Great Barrier Reef; and island hopping around the Galapagos.

3. Enjoy unusual ports of call
Similar to above, travelling to many places in a single trip can be a hassle, especially when travelling on land. On a small ship cruise, however, you get to visit more offbeat ports of call that larger ships can’t access, as well as enjoy unique experiences such as beach barbecues. And with fewer fellow cruisers, shore excursions groups will be smaller, making touring easier, without the death stares that are usually saved for busloads of cruise crowds.

4. There are no crowds
Fewer guests mean, you guessed it, smaller crowds and queues. This makes everything, from ordering your morning latté to disembarking, a lot easier. It also ends up being a more sociable way to travel, with many finding it easier to make lifelong friends. Or, at the other end of the scale, solitude is also easier to come by, with many quiet spots to call your own.

5. It’s all about cruising
While large ships have many distractions to woo new cruisers, small ships offer a more authentic feel of being at sea. With a more intimate atmosphere, more flexibility with activities, more space on deck and more unusual ports of call, small ships truly focus on what cruising is all about. Instead of heading inside to a cinema or to see a Broadway production, relax in a sun lounger outside while watching the scenery pass by, and take in the sea air.

The small ship lines

Captain Cook Cruises: Offer affordable, casual cruising of the Murray River, the Great Barrier Reef, the Kimberley and Fiji, with a fleet of ships accommodating up to 120 guests.

Lindblad Expeditions: Allied with National Geographic, it offers soft-adventure cruising with a fleet of boutique ships accommodating between 28 and 148 guests.

North Star Cruises: The True North accommodates 36 guests and spends most of her time cruising around Australia, with annual visits to Papua New Guinea. 

Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Offers three all-inclusive ships; and if you cruise on Seven Seas Voyager or Seven Seas Mariner, everyone gets a suite with a balcony.

Seabourn Cruise Line: Has a small fleet of luxury ships, which are all-inclusive and carry no more than 450 guests in all-suite accommodations with ocean views.

SeaDream Yacht Club: The all-inclusive SeaDream I and II are more mega-yachts than traditional cruise ships, with watersports platforms and a dress code of casually elegant.

Silversea Cruises: This European boutique fleet offers luxury accommodation with private verandahs, butlers and complimentary shoreside events on some cruises.

Star Clippers: Offers tall-ship experience, with no rigid timetables, a casual dress code and a focus on outdoor activities, such as snorkelling and diving.

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

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Short and sweet cruising

A regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices, SJ is in search of the world’s best Margarita most Monday nights.

YourLifeChoices Writers
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.
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