Five Reasons I Like Small Ship Cruising

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I’m often asked why I like small ship cruising.   Smaller luxury ships certainly lack some of the features of their larger counterparts – no rock climbing walls or Broadway musicals.  But they also have several benefits due their small size.


1.  Convivial passenger mix

Fewer entertainment options means that socializing is the main entertainment option. Smaller vessels attract many passengers, for whom travel is the main draw, not the features of the ship. Seeing the same passengers day after day helps build friendships through common experience.

I have many friendships that have started on the ship because of a hallway conversation or over drinks in the bar. Passengers tend to develop patterns, so the early morning coffee bar regulars begin a pattern of conversation. Jigsaw puzzle or bridge or trivia aficionados form friendly relationships.

2.  Personalized service

Smaller ships often carry a higher staff-to-passenger ratio. And with fewer places onboard for the staff to be spread out, the odds of being served by the same waiter or bartender regularly are high. Crew members get the chance to learn the preferences of their passengers.

On my last Seabourn Odyssey cruise, this meant that my preferred wine was remembered, my favorite ice cream flavor was noted, and the pillows were always put back on the bed the way I liked them.

3.  Flexible options

The lower number of passengers means that many venues don’t require reservations or wait times. On many small ships, the dining room and showrooms are designed to hold all passengers so there is no worry of being turned away from a preferred dining time or a show.

My evenings onboard can be fluid – I can wander to dinner after drinks, migrate to the show after dinner, and even stop off for a bite of dessert and a visit with new friends elsewhere in between.

4.  Access to more ports

Smaller can be better when it comes to variety in itineraries. Some ports are not equipped to handle thousands of passengers so they don’t make the destination list for larger cruise lines. Others actually restrict the size of ships allowed to dock or tender. Small ships can allow cruisers to explore new destinations that may be off the beaten path.

I’ve been able to choose itineraries that visit smaller ports like St. Barth, Varna, and Komodo.

5.  Better dock positions in larger ports

Even in ports that can accommodate ships of all sizes can have a pecking order. Smaller ships can often obtain prime city docking locations while larger ships are relegated to berths further out.

Last year in St. Petersburg while on Seabourn Sojourn, we spent three days docked in town at the English Embankment.  Every morning I woke up to iconic postcard views visible from the veranda of my suite.  We walked off the ship and went straight to the sights.  All of the other ships simultaneously docked in St. Petersburg were in the port outside of town and their guests had to take buses in to the city.


These are just a few of the things I love about small ship cruising. The list grows with each cruise that I take but these five are enough to keep me coming back to the smaller ships in the future.

About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 47.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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  1. There are actually enough to make me try a smaller ship too. Excelllent points and I can’t believe you have been to Varna of all places. 🙂

    • I think it depends on the passenger. I personally like the 450 passenger Seabourn ships but other aficionados think those are too big and prefer 225 passengers or less.

      Passengers on the 2,000 passenger NCL ship I’m on this week keep referring to this as a small ship which makes me giggle! I think my personal threshold would be 600 passengers or less.

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