Should you cruise on the larger ships or the smaller ones?

  • Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Often I am asked, “Do you like small cruise ships or large cruise ships better?” Or some people may say “I like small ships better,” even though they have never sailed on a mega ship.

So, in the last two months I have taken both and would like to share my personal experiences and opinions. One ship had 4200 passengers and the other 1900 passengers. To be fair to both cruise lines, I will not divulge the ship names. I am talking today about the main cruise lines and not the small luxury cruise lines which is an entirely different story and experience. I will review river cruises and luxury ships at a later date.

In February, Dwight and I sailed on a large ship out of a large port in Florida. We drove into the port, dropped off our luggage, parked the car, entered the cruise line building, checked in, had our photo identifications taken ... all in less than 30 minutes.

When onboard, we went strait to our stateroom, dropped off our carry-on luggage and within an hour, our other luggage was at the door.

So we left our room to go exploring. This ship has many lounge areas, six complimentary restaurants plus 24 hour room service, 10 specialty up-charge dining venues, two swimming pools, a separate adults only outside lounging area (at an additional charge), internet cafe, shops, comedy clubs, huge theatre, etc.

Entertainment on this ship was everywhere. Discos, jazz clubs, dance shows, sail-away parties on the pool deck, magic theatre and the like.

Because this ship is one of the larger cruise liners on the seas, it seems to really never get crowded. With 19 floors of entertainment and guests accommodations, there is plenty of room for people to spread out. Even when getting on and off the ship during ports-of-call, there were two gangways and they were never crowded. Because of its size, there was never a problem finding a lounge chair near the pool or at any other location outside where you may want to read or take a nap.

When returning to the ship from one of our ports-of-call excursions, we were welcomed at the gangway by the staff with a party, music, dancing, refreshments and excitement. It was quite a show and passengers from the other ships docked nearby were very interested in what we were doing, if not a little jealous.

On the last morning when returning to our port, we decided to disembark on the “early off” option which allows you to be the first off if you are willing to take your own luggage. The other option is to have your luggage tagged, in front of your stateroom by midnight the night before and then find it in the color-coded areas inside the port terminal. When they made the announcement that morning that the ship had been cleared, we walked off the ship, went through customs, walked to our car, packed our luggage inside, paid the parking fees and were on the highway home in 35 minutes.

Now let’s talk about our small ship experience. I must note, this is the only ship cruising from this port, and because the port is very small, it took a lot longer to get on and off the ship. Upon arrival at the port, we were in the car line for an hour, checked our luggage at the drop-off, got in line to get on the bus to the terminal, stood in line inside the terminal for 20 minutes. This is indeed a negative ... the advantage being that we were close to home and did not have the eight+ hour drive to Florida.

We took this smaller ship which had a shorter itinerary since we were taking our nine-year-old grandson for his spring break. This ship is geared to kids and fun. Water slides, golf putting area, ping pong tables, a fabulous “Kid’s Club,” plenty of entertainment, 24-hour pizza and soft-serve ice cream ... all geared to kids. Not to mention the Atlantis Resort in Nassau, Bahamas where we and our grandson rode every water adventure and slid down every water slide.

Back at port, it was not as easy to get off of the ship. We decided not to do the “early off” program. We had to have our luggage packed and outside our stateroom by midnight. The next morning we went down and had breakfast and awaited our turn to get off the ship. We had to be out of our room by 8:30 a.m. and were allowed to get in line to get off the ship around 9:30 a.m. We then stayed in line to get down the one gangway, in line again to go through customs, in line again to get on a bus which took you to your parking area, then a five minute walk to the car. All-in-all it took about two hours to be in our car and on our way.

So, I have to say, I enjoy cruising on all the ships, but prefer the larger ones which have more amenities to offer, better ports, better planning for crowds, better dining options and better entertainment. Of course, the more upscale the ship, the more expensive so you have to keep your budget in consideration.

Today’s tip – What Cabin Should I Book On My Cruise?

On the larger ship in February, Dwight and I booked a balcony which was great allowing us the opportunity to sit, relax and enjoy the ocean breeze. On the smaller ship we booked an ocean view cabin with a large picture window and a pull down bunk for our grandson to sleep. This, of course, was the most economical way to go except for an inside cabin which is even more economical, yet small and ... no view.

When considering your cabin choice, generally, the more desirable cabins (more expensive and larger with more amenities) are on the top decks of a ship. They almost always sell out first.

The old adage used to be, don’t worry about your cabin; you won’t spend much time there to begin with. Actually, that’s not true. Since cruise lines now consider their ships as self-contained resorts, more emphasis has been placed on making your cabin as comfortable (and larger) as possible.

As an example, some people want an outside cabin with a balcony. This, of course, is almost entirely dependent on the cruise and the weather. If you are cruising the Caribbean, with warm weather, you will want a balcony. However, if you are going to Alaska, an outside view is important, but a balcony may not be used if the weather is cold.

Another reason for a balcony is to provide you with your own piece of paradise when the decks do get crowded and you can have your very own private sail-away party.

And if you really want to enjoy the ship, consider a suite which offers much more room and amenities.

Check with your travel advisor and they can help make your decision based on your needs and budget.

For more information, contact me at paula@travelbyseaorland.com, or pford@cruiseplanners.com or visit me at my website, travelbyseaorland.com. Contact me at 436-0238.

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