Does size matter?

Can’t decide if a small ship or large liner would be better?

Does size matter?

Helen and her husband are planning a cruise, but can’t decide if a small ship or large liner would be better.

Q. Helen
My husband and I are going on a cruise, but are unsure whether to opt for a big liner or a smaller, more intimate ship. How should we choose?

A. While the facilities offered onboard will vary between a large ship and a smaller vessel, it’s more about the experience you want to have. Smaller ships may not have bowling alleys, casinos or nightclubs, but, as you say, they do offer a more intimate experience. Smaller ships can access certain ports large liners can’t and, when docking at a busy port, can often get closer to town which is important if you’re on a tight timeframe.

Smaller ships also offer a cosier, friendlier, atmosphere. On a larger ship with 1000s of passengers, you may disembark not having met most of your fellow cruisers, while on a smaller ship, bumping into the same people may make striking up a conversation easier. And, if it’s your first cruise, you may find a smaller ship less daunting.

Of course, larger ships do have more facilities and offer a livelier trip. Dining options are more varied and, if you enjoy anonymity, being part of a larger group of travellers may be more your style. The activities on larger ships are often around the clock and if you’re travelling alone, you may prefer the busier, more bustling lifestyle offered. Some large cruise ships even host special singles activities.

While it’s important to decide which size of ship you prefer, it’s equally important to decide the itinerary, duration and amount you’re willing to spend. This may help you to clarify your choice.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Apr 2014
    As a general price rule , guide , the bigger ships are priced better , so the same cruise destination on a 2000 people cruise is cheaper than same destination 600 passenger ship , also bigger ships seem to be more "stable " less movement, perhaps than the smaller ships , I've been on both types , probably prefer larger ships , for reasons above , cost ,activities , etc , but you will enjoy ,
    12th Apr 2014
    Larger ships mean that when your ship hits port, the place you are visiting is suddenly inundated with a huge crowd, all doing the same thing. I've seen it happen in many a Mediterranean port, and experienced it myself. Small ships give you a much better sensation of being at sea, so if you like the feeling of being at sea in a ship, small ships are recommended. Those really large ships feel more like theme parks or shopping malls than ships.
    12th Apr 2014
    Richard - Yes, I've seen that in the Greek Islands, when 3 cruise ships rock up, one after the other at 8:00AM and discharge 2000-2500 passengers each, within 1/2 hr.

    The towns and services get utterly overwhelmed, you're struggling to get any food or drinks, all the taxis and buses are chock-full, all the hire vehicles immediately disappear, the roads and footpaths get choked, it' takes any enjoyment off the holiday experience.
    12th Apr 2014
    Richard and Aaron, you are on a cruise ship and you are ashore struggling to get food or drinks? now THAT'S adventurous. We personally loved Greek Island Hopping.
    12th Apr 2014
    With our backpack on our backs, until we reached our sixties.
    12th Apr 2014
    The smallest ship I've sailed on had just 260 passengers. However, one 'small' ship I recommend is Holland America's 'Prinsendam'. About 800 passengers, has many of the conveniences of a large ship, but still has the intimacy of a 'smaller' ship. It's not a new ship, but it is a beautiful ship and you do get that sensation of going on an ocean voyage.
    12th Apr 2014
    I guess the size of the ship you cruise on depends on what you are hoping to gain from the experience. I have only been on the one cruise and that was on NCL's Pride of America cruising the Hawaiian Islands back in 2012. It was a fantastic experience that I would recommend to anyone. Even though Pride of America is a larger cruise liner which can carry almost 2,200 passengers, accessing all ports wasn't a problem. It just meant that when we got to Kona on the Big Island the ship anchored off shore and we travelled ashore via the lifeboats. In my opinion this added to the experience and wasn't a problem. No, we didn't meet every other passenger on the ship but is that what you want? We did get to meet quite a few though, some other Australians and quite a few from the USA. It was great to be able to chat and find out a bit about them and how they were enjoying the experience. The service from the crew was faultless, it didn't matter who we spoke to, they were always friendly and helpful. I can't say I really noticed any problem with ports being inundated with a sudden influx of people either - it wasn't as if everyone was hot on the heels of everyone else. Passengers dispersed in all directions, all with different ideas on what they wanted to see obviously.
    If you really aren't sure, why not take up the offer of one of the 3 day cruises that are always on offer out of Sydney and make your own judgement based on that? Check with Cruiseabout and Cruisesavers to see what is available.

    12th Apr 2014
    Be aware that the highest level cabins that usually command premium pricing, also sway the most when the seas get rough.

    The important thing is to choose a cabin that isn't near a noisy area of the ship, like the engine room.
    12th Apr 2014
    The most expensive cruise that we ever took was the River cruise between Budapest and Amsterdam, tiny ship but the most down to earth passengers, and the most interesting itinerary. You can divide cruise passengers into two classes, those that wish for an enjoyable, interesting, fun experience, (Then first choice is NCL, then Princess), then there are those who wish to escape their mundane everyday life by pretending they are someone that they would rather be, more interested in posing than experiencing travel. I would place P&O Europe, Cunard, and Holland America in that category. No NOT an inferiority complex but spending eight weeks with boring people can put you off cruising for life, choose carefully as to which category you fit.
    Mike Butler
    12th Apr 2014
    Cruising is a very popular holiday pursuit for many Australians including my wife and me. Here are a couple of my personal observations. I don't really believe that there is a lot of difference between a small ship (800 pax) and a large ship (say 2500 pax in the Australian context). On a 10 day cruise, your chances of making more acquaintances on the 800 ship is not much different to making them on a 2500 ship! The friends you will often make will be the ones you are seated with at dinner, so if you are looking for that sort of "friend making" experience request seating at a larger table rather than a 4 person table.
    Some 4 years ago, my wife and I did a 35 night cruise on Princess Lines across and around the Pacific. We had a 6 person table and made lifelong friends with our 4 table sharers. We still communicate by email, and we have visited and stayed with 2 of them in their home in NZ.
    If you are going to do a number of cruises in the next few years, stick to just ONE cruise line! We only cruise with Princess because our loyalty to this one line has now earned us "Platinum" status with them. This is not something to be sneezed at if you have ever stood in the mile long check-in queue when boarding your ship, or looked at the cost of wi-fi Internet while cruising the oceans. We enjoy dedicated check-in with no queues at all, and we received 250 minutes EACH of free Internet access on our last two week trip around NZ.
    Also, you should consider your age group. If you are in your Sixties (as we are) there is a huge difference between (let's say) Princess and P & O, even though they are owned by the same company. On Princess, you will find very few children of any age at all. On our 35 night Pacific cruise, there were a total of 6 children. On P & O (say Pacific Dawn out of Brisbane) there will be hundreds (although P & O does provide dedicated staff to try to keep them all busy!
    These are TOTALLY different demographics! I have nothing at all against children --- I managed to raise two of them, and many, many years ago was a schoolteacher for a few years --- but if you don't like tripping over marauding boys and girls (whose parents appear oblivious to their off-springs' antics) while you totter back to your table with an over-loaded plate from the buffet on a wild and rolling day, stick to Princess.
    I know I am about to be pilloried for those comments, but I have cruised on both conveyances and am sure you would like me to tell the truth!
    The only advantage I can see in a small ship over a large ship comes down to the question of "laundry"! If you are cruising for more than 7 nights and therefore have to launder your clothes, you are in for the fright of your life. On our 35 night Pacific cruise, 2 ladies were actually evicted from the ship in Honolulu for belting each other over the head with steam irons in the laundry! The laundries on cruise ships must surely result in more people ending up in the brig, than alcohol and drugs!
    Here is the best tip you will ever get about travelling --- and I have been doing it since I was a Qantas International Flight Steward in 1967. Go down to Katmandu, Anaconda, Mountain Designs (or similar) and stock up on what I call "trekking gear". Lightweight rinse and wear Columbia (or similar) shirts and long pants. The long pants usually have zip-off legs to convert to shorts. They are made for both men and women, and can be easily rinsed out and dried overnight in your cabin. However, in all honesty, I must confess that many of the men and women I have met on cruises (and not just the older ones) would have SUPREME difficulty finding something to fit!
    Oops! Now I am in trouble again!
    12th Apr 2014
    I think you have said most of it Mike, apart from your expensive shopping list,we buy our wardrobe from" Taarjeet".( P&O Australia? ) NO THANKS,(Peee & Oooh Europe?) BORING, (Keewnaard) SEE ABOVE.( Norwegian Cruise Line) YES EVERY TIME. You wanna get in trouble listen to this one. I was overlooking the pool with this fellow next to me, he told me that prior to his cruise he had had his cataracts done and how he had wished until after his cruise.
    13th Apr 2014
    If you are a member of a motoring organisation some have greattravel consultants who have very good knowledge of all types of holidays including international. Some even have arrangements with some companies. Some have tours aimed at "seniors" so there is less chance of having out of control children putting you at risk of injury or upset babies and toddlers you may have enough of at home. Don't get me wrong I love them, but it is nice to have a quiet break.
    13th Apr 2014
    Forget travel agents selling to their own(pockets) commissions.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles