It's an age-old cruise debate, and one that can divide the cruising world into two camps. The impending arrival of some mega cruise ships Down Under such as the Ovation of the Seas and the Emerald Princess got us wondering which was better: the big ships with myriad activities, facilities and food options, or the smaller vessels with fewer choices but a sense of camaraderie and familiarity?
Big or small? The advantages of each
There are clear advantages to each. A big ship has a lot to offer, especially in terms of entertainment, and it's a great way to go especially for anyone who likes to stay active. The larger the ship, the more likely you are to find mini golf, ice skating rinks, sports courts, surf simulators and more. The biggest of the bunch, namely Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Quantum Classes and other like the Carnival Vista, take it to the next level entirely with skydiving simulators, zip lines, water parks, SkyRide pedal tracks and rope courses. The variety of options for food may also appeal to foodie cruisers, as big ships often have multiple interesting specialty restaurants.
The more "petite" cruise ships (both luxury small ships and just smaller mainstream vessels) do have their devotees - and they often attract return passengers who feel a connection! In Australia we have the Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden on the smaller end of things, as well as some Holland America ships like the Maasdam and of course various luxury and expedition ships which call in, such as.... Passengers like seeing the same faces frequently as they go about their holiday, and often feel less like a random face in a crowd. They can also be a little more low-key and relaxed in their onboard atmosphere.
I personally enjoy both types of cruise ship. The facilities and dining options on a big ship are fantastic, while the opportunities to meet people onboard and onshore are the highlight of a small ship cruise. It's a tough decision!
Things to consider
With different advantages to each, how does a cruising enthusiast pick their style? Of course, there's no need to decide on one and stick to it - you can experience it all. However, many cruisers find they do have a preference. Here are a few things to think about before you decide.
- Are you the kind of person who always needs to be on the go? If so, you might want a megaship with plenty of activities, facilities and space to wander. Alternatively, pick a small-ship cruise which offers major destination immersion (like a Captain Cook Fiji cruise), so you can be onshore and exploring every day.
- What are your eating habits like? A small ship means great camaraderie at meal times, but certainly fewer options. Picky eaters or those who like variety would do well to choose a big vessel with specialty restaurants, a main dining room, a buffet and more casual options - the Carnival Spirit, for example, has a taqueria and burger bar on the pool deck.
- Are you someone who likes to get to know new people, or do you like your personal space on holiday? A small and intimate ship with lots of shared experiences such as the True North operated by North Star Cruises, will almost certainly provide the opportunity to make friends, while a big ship is much more anonymous despite containing more people.
- Who are you travelling with? Families with children are likely to find themselves better catered for on the bigger ships of family-friendly lines such as Royal Caribbean, P&O and Carnival. Smaller ships tend to have fewer facilities and programs for kids, although older ones will enjoy many of the adult activities. Elderly people who are less mobile are also more likely to be comfortable on a big vessel with accessible cabins, lifts and other accommodations.
The debate rages on! If you can't decide whether you are a small ship sailor or big vessel boatie, why not give both a go and find out once and for all? Find a cruise amongst the many on offer in and around Australia, and if you check out our cheap cruises you might find you can fit two into the budget!