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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. They have no rock climbing walls or Broadway musicals. But they also have several unique benefits due their small size.
1. Convivial passenger mix
Fewer entertainment options means that socializing is the main entertainment. Smaller vessels attract the type of passengers for whom travel is the main draw, not the features of the ship. With smaller ship cruising, you run into the same passengers day after day. This helps build relationships over the course of a cruise through common experience.
I have many friendships that have started on the ship because of a hallway conversation or over drinks in the bar. Due to the establishment of a routine, passengers begin a pattern of conversation. Jigsaw puzzle fiends, bridge players, or trivia aficionados form friendly relationships.
2. Personalized service
Small ship cruising often means a higher staff-to-passenger ratio. 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 a number of things. My preferred wine was remembered and a favorite ice cream flavor was noticed. The pillows were always put back on the bed the way I liked them.
3. Flexible options due to small ship cruising
A 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. There is no worry of being turned away from a preferred dining time or a show. As a result, my evenings onboard can be fluid. I can wander to dinner after a leisurely round of drinks. Then I can migrate to the show after dinner. Or I can even stop off for a bite of dessert and a visit with new friends elsewhere in between.
4. Access to more ports
Small ship cruising can be better when it comes to variety in itineraries. Many ports are not equipped to handle thousands of passengers on the mega ships. As a result, 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 ship cruising often leads to prime city docking locations in some crowded ports. Meanwhile larger ships are relegated to berths further outside of the city center.
For example, in St Petersburg the small cruise ships have a unique docking experiences. We spent three days docked in town at the English Embankment while on Seabourn. Each morning, we woke to iconic postcard views visible from the veranda of our 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. Their guests had to take buses in to the city and arrived at the major sites at least an hour after us each day.
These are just a few of the things I love about small ship cruising and the list grows with each cruise that I take. But these five are enough to keep me coming back to small ship cruising again and again!