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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.