Big or Small? Which Cruise Ship Is Best for Your Vacation?

Aerial view at a cruise ship during sunset

Voyaging to exotic destinations, gazing in awe at the sheer beauty of the vast ocean, immersing yourself in new environments and cultures, basking in supreme comfort and luxury—nothing quite compares to setting off on a high-seas adventure aboard a cruise.

Where would you like to travel?

Select your destination, and we'll pair you with an InteleTravel Advisor based on your travel needs.

Your choice of cruise line and ship size, however, can have a tremendous impact on the overall experience.

What’s the Difference Between Big & Small Cruise Ships?

Big and small ships offer completely different cruise experiences, affecting everything from crowd sizes and entertainment options to destination itineraries and port excursions. Depending on your preferences and the exact type of trip you seek, one will be more amenable than the other.

Big Ships, Bigger Onboard Offerings & Amenities

Larger ships are typically known for providing more entertainment, dining selections, cabin options, and amenities. Many big ships serve more as massive floating hotels, providing the same level of luxury and grandeur as one would expect from a premier resort vacation.

You’ll always have access to fun onboard activities aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship. Guests can indulge in a wide assortment of family-friendly offerings and activities, including WaterWorks water park, swimming pools, various sports and gaming centers, and attractions such as SkyRide, a pedal-powered bike suspended high above the deck—its panorama of the gorgeous ocean is unbeatable!

Norwegian Cruise Line features truly incredible onboard entertainment and amenities. Kick back at one of the ship’s lounges or pamper yourself with a massage or beauty treatments and Mandara Spa, to look and feel your best. Also check out Broadway-style musicals at one of its fleet’s large-scale concert venues.

Bigger ships give you more possibilities in terms of stateroom styles and availability, too—from budget-friendly single cabins to the presidential suites with private balconies, and everything in between.

Some mass market cruises even feature a “ship within a ship” concept to provide various curated experiences and luxury options that can appeal to multi-generational travelers as well. That way parents and grandparents can benefit from a more intimate and elegant experience, while still enjoying all the bells and whistles provided by a big ship cruise vacation with their kids and grandkids.

Norwegian’s The Haven, for example, is a specialty guest experience centralized in a separate area of the ship, complete with a luxury selection of dining options, access to exclusive facilities such as pools and private lounges, and even butler service and other luxury amenities. 

Other offers such as The Retreat, Celebrity Cruises’ all-inclusive luxury suites offerings, and The Yacht Club, MSC Cruises’ private onboard guest experience, are designed to help guests enjoy some of the benefits of a small ship vacation, with access to all the best entertainment, dining options and amenities you expect from a big cruise ship. 

Still, there are some experiences that larger ships are unable to offer. While there is a lot to do onboard, a ship’s larger size can limit the number of ports it can enter. Generally, larger cruise vessels make only a few stops at the biggest destination ports, or anchor offshore near some of the most popular attractions along the itinerary, as smaller ports may not have the space or infrastructure to accommodate them.

Given its wider selection of entertainment, activities and accommodations, the big ship experience is perfect for family vacations, adult group outings, and solo trips.

Small Ships Boast More Intimate, Destination-Focused Voyages

While they offer fewer onboard entertainment and accommodation options to choose from, smaller ships make up for it by prioritizing shore excursions and offboard activities to give guests more opportunities to explore and immerse themselves in their destinations.

Smaller ships have the ability to venture to more ports and make more stops, so guests enjoy plenty of opportunities to tour various locations throughout your trip—from popular attractions to hidden gems only accessible off the beaten path.

Small ship cruise lines such as Silversea Cruises provide exclusive access to certain destinations and ports larger ships simply can’t get to, such as the Galapagos Islands. Because they can sail closer to shore, they also grant passengers better views of the coastal attractions, communities, and landscapes.

Despite having less space and amenities than big cruise ships, Silversea’s fleet is renowned for providing luxurious experiences defined by refined aesthetics, top-of-the-line cuisine, and comfortable accommodations in between exciting port adventures.

One of the most appealing characteristics of the small ship experience is less passengers, which makes for a much more intimate and quieter cruise with fewer crowds. They are also more ecologically friendly than bigger ships, leaving smaller carbon footprints and less impacts on the surrounding environments.

If you’re looking for a more intimate cruise experience and you plan to spend most of your time enjoying your destination to the fullest, small ship cruises are the optimal choice, especially for romantic getaways, special occasions, and sightseeing voyages.

InteleTravel Will Plan the Perfect Cruise for You!

Putting a great cruise holiday together demands much time and work, and can leave you in greater need of a vacation than when you started.

With so many different factors to consider, it’s easy to be overwhelmed—but working with InteleTravel eliminates any associated stress and confusion!

Our team of certified travel professionals possess the skills, knowledge, and industry connections to ensure you experience a spectacular vacation, no matter where you plan on going. InteleTravel Advisors will arrange the perfect itinerary for you according to your specific travel preferences, book the myriad aspects of your trip, and secure exclusive travel bonuses and upgrades to make your trip even better.

We’ll handle everything—from booking the best cruise line, selecting the best cabin or suite for your voyage, finding the right time to book and travel to ensure you have the best experience possible, and much, much more!

No matter what type of vacation you’re after, contact an InteleTravel Advisor today to get started planning your dream cruise!

Leave a comment

Never miss an update

Subscribe to the InteleTravel blog to receive the latest travel news and updates