Cruise Ship Size Comparison – Pros and Cons of Large vs Small

Cruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Have you been looking at cruises but unsure which cruise ship size to pick? Here we answer your questions with the cruise ship size comparison – pros and cons of large vs small. Let’s see which one is right for you.

Both options offer their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

From ship size to dining options, and onboard atmosphere to destinations, there are many factors to consider before deciding. 

I recently cruised on a smaller cruise ship than the last few I have been on, and I forgot how nice smaller ships can be.

So I thought this would be helpful if it is your first cruise or you are considering trying a different ship size for your next cruising adventure.

Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of cruise ships large vs small.

Cruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

(This post may include affiliate links for more information see my disclaimer).

Cruise Ship Size Comparison

Most new cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger with all the bells and whistles and are more like floating hotels than ships.

Some have many passenger decks with a water park with water slides, a zip line, a basketball court, a roller coaster, a laser tag, an ice-skating rink, rock climbing, and loads more!

But do you need all these things?

Maybe you would just like a swimming pool, a hot tub and a smoking room, it is all your personal preference. 

Modern cruise ships have come a long way since the world’s first cruise ship the ‘Prinzessin Victoria Luise’, and the size of the Titanic (an ocean liner) is tiny compared to the world’s largest cruise ship the Icon of the Seas.

Cruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

And yes, the newest ships are beautiful inside, but they are quite different to what traditional cruise ships were like. But what do you want from your cruise?

A floating Vegas or a traditional cruise ship feel?

Therefore, when you are considering a cruise, one of the most important factors to weigh up is the size of the ship and its passenger capacity.

Big ships generally carry thousands and thousands of passengers, whereas smaller ships carry a lot less.

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages, here is a quick version of the pros and cons of big vs small cruise ships:

Cruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Pros of Small Cruise Ships

  • Getting on and off the ship is easier and quicker
  • Not as many people onboard
  • Traditional cruise ship feel
  • Smaller ship means not too much walking to and from venues/cabin
  • Better itineraries, as can go to more ports as the ship is not too big
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Cons of Smaller Cruise Ships

  • Sometimes not all the latest technology
  • Not great for families with kids
  • The dining options are limited
  • Sometimes they are older ships
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Pros of Large Cruise Ships

  • Lots of dining options
  • Lots of space
  • You may get a good deal if the ship needs to be filled
  • All the latest shows
  • Have the wow factor  
  • Good kids’ clubs and areas for them
  • Newer ships and modern
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Cons of Larger Cruise Ships

  • Lots of people
  • There can be lots of kids
  • Getting on and off the ships takes longer
  • Too much choice
  • Have to wait longer for drinks/food
  • A lot of walking to and from venues/cabin
  • Limited itineraries
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Now we will break down in more detail the differences between the new mega-ships to the smaller ships, so you can decide which is best for you.

What is the difference between cruise ship sizes?

Cruise ships come in various sizes, ranging from small intimate vessels to massive floating cities on the sea.

The size of a cruise ship is usually determined by its gross tonnage, which refers to the overall internal volume of the ship.

The smallest cruise ships can have a gross tonnage of under 10,000, as they increase in size large cruise ships can exceed 200,000 gross tons.

Today there are many cruise lines and cruise ships to pick from, so when you pick your cruise look at the itinerary and the ship, so you get what you are looking for.

ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

What is Classed as a Big Cruise Ship?

When we talk about large modern ships the really big ships that may come to mind are; the Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Wonder of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and the current largest ship, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. These are currently the biggest cruise ships around.  

Then there are MSC Cruises with the MSC World Europa, then Costa Cruises with the Costa Toscana and Costa Smeralda, and the list goes on.

There are many different cruise lines, including big ships from the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity, P&O Cruises, and AIDA Cruises.

It depends on what you think of as a ‘large cruise ship’ and how big you want to go!

In today’s world, a cruise ship that carries more than 3000 passengers is classed as a large ship.

Let’s have a look at the benefits of larger cruise ships.

cruise ships

Advantages of Large Cruise Ships

  • Large ships offer plenty of amenities and facilities that cater to a wide range of interests and preferences which will give the wow factor as there is so much onboard.
  • There are lots of dining options from the traditional main dining room to multiple speciality restaurants with different cuisines, coffee shops, casual eateries of pizza, burgers, ice cream, etc, and then of course the buffet dining venues.
  • The bigger the ship the more space there is for different types of lounges, theatres, and pool decks.
  • More entertainment ranging from Broadway-style shows to comedy, magic, and talent shows, live music performances, art auctions, cooking demonstrations, port information and special interest talks.
  • Recreational activities like rock climbing, surfing, ice skating, bumper cars, water parks, basketball, tennis, ziplining, roller coasters, laser tag, many swimming pools and hot tubs, spas and fitness, shopping onboard, playing in the casino, and more!
  • Large cruise ships do have good kids’ clubs and they have special areas for them. They can mix with other kids to do activities, play sports or play with the toys onboard.  
  • If you are looking for a good deal on a cruise you may be in luck if the ship needs to be filled, which you do not always get on smaller ships. Look out for those offers, and sign up for the cruise line newsletters to get all the latest flash sales.
  • The larger ships can be newer and quite modern.
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

What is Classed as a Small Cruise Ship?

Small cruise ships do depend on what you call ‘small,’ as there are exceedingly small cruise ships that can berth under fifty passengers. Other small ships that carry a few hundred.

While most people would consider a small cruise ship to berth under one thousand passengers.

You may think a cruise ship that berths under two to three thousand passengers is small but is more of a medium-sized ship.

It depends on what you have cruised on before or if it is your first cruise.  

cruise ship near shore of coastal town

Advantages of Small Cruise Ships

  • Smaller cruise ships have fewer passengers, so there are shorter waiting times for getting on and off the ship. This means less time waiting in long lines making it quicker and easier on port days.
  • There are not as many people onboard small cruise ships so they offer a more intimate, quieter experience. You have the opportunity to interact more closely with the crew members and your fellow cruisers or keep to yourselves.
  • Smaller cruise ships are more like ships and not floating hotels, they have a traditional cruise ship feel. Elegant ships with a nautical classic design and atmosphere.
  • They have more options for itineraries as smaller cruise ships have the advantage of being able to access smaller ports that larger ships cannot reach.
white and brown ship

Disadvantages of Large Cruise Ships

Of course, there are going to be disadvantages even if you are on the biggest cruise ship and here are some to consider:

  • There will be lots of people onboard and this can lead to crowded areas and longer wait times for services.
  • If you are not a fan of children there may be a lot of them on board and you may find this overwhelming at times.
  • Getting on and off the ship takes longer in the ports, so be prepared to line up a lot.
  • Sometimes a big ship means too much choice, which can make decision-making challenging, especially if you are on a short cruise.
  • Crowded bars and restaurants can result in longer wait times for food and drinks.
  • Large cruise ships are restricted in terms of ports they can visit, due to their size, limiting the variety of itineraries available.
ruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

Disadvantages Small Cruise Ships

Again, there are going to be some disadvantages of cruising on smaller cruise ships:

  • They may have limitations when it comes to onboard facilities and amenities – they are not going to have as many lounges, or bars to choose from.
  • Small cruise ships have fewer dining options compared to larger ships, due to their size. But the quality of food is usually very good as they have fewer passengers to cater for.
  • Fewer entertainment options than bigger ships as there are fewer venues. There are still entertainment programs and activities available, just on a smaller scale.
  • Some small cruise ships may lack some of the cutting-edge technology and amenities found on larger ships like cruise line apps working onboard, older TVs, and slower Wi-Fi.
  • Families with young children may find that small cruise ships have fewer dedicated activities and facilities for kids compared to larger cruise lines. While some small ships offer children’s programs, the options may be limited.
  • Some smaller cruise ships can be older vessels that may not have the modern features and amenities found on newer ships. You may appreciate the classic charm of these older ships, but some of you may prefer the updated facilities and technology of newer ships.
cruise ships moored on coast

Which Cruise Ship will you pick?

So which cruise ship size will you pick big or small? Or go somewhere in the middle?

There are just so many options now and there is a lot to weigh up between a big or small cruise ship and it ultimately comes down to your personal preference.

Whether you’re seeking a bustling atmosphere with endless activities or a more intimate experience with personalized service, there’s a ship for everyone. Happy Cruising!

Cruise Ship Size Comparison Pros and Cons of Large vs Small - Lucy Williams Global

More Helpful Cruise Ship Tips You May Enjoy Reading

​Cruise Packing Guides

If you need help packing for a cruise, these guides are very helpful and will have you covered:

ULTIMATE WINTER MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE PACKING LIST

6 HANDY THINGS IN A CRUISE SHIP CABIN

BEST CRUISE ACCESSORIES TO ADD TO YOUR PACKING LIST

HOW TO PACK A CAPSULE WARDROBE FOR A 7-DAY CRUISE TO ALASKA

WHAT TO WEAR ON SMART CASUAL NIGHTS ON A CRUISE

HOW TO PACK A CAPSULE WARDROBE FOR A 7-DAY MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE

​Formal Night Guides

Not sure about the formal nights on a cruise? Here is loads of information to answer your questions:

THE ULTIMATE CRUISE FORMAL NIGHT GUIDE

ARE CRUISE FORMAL NIGHTS BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST?

Pros and Cons of Large vs Small Cruise Ships - Lucy Williams Global

Phone & Internet Cruise Tips

Using your phone onboard a cruise ship is different to being at home or in a hotel, and these tips will help you on your cruise:

TOP 5 TIPS HOW TO USE YOUR IPHONE ON A CRUISE SHIP

APPS THAT WORK ON A CRUISE SHIP WITH NO WI-FI CONNECTION

5 QUICK TIPS HOW TO USE THE INTERNET ON A CRUISE SHIP

Sea Days

Have no idea what to do on days at sea on a cruise? Here are ways to keep yourself entertained: 

WHAT TO DO ON THE DAYS AT SEA ON A CRUISE SHIP

Pros and Cons of Large vs Small Cruise Ships - Lucy Williams Global

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Cruise Ship Essentials

Do you need some help with your cruise vacation packing? 

Well, here are some cruising accessories from Amazon you may find useful on your next cruise. 

To see more, have a look at my Amazon shop page and click here.

Lucy Williams Global Shopping

I hope you have found this information helpful and can now decide on the size of the cruise ship to pick.

If you enjoyed reading ‘Cruise Ship Size Comparison – Pros and Cons of Large vs Small’, please share it with your friends and family on Facebook or pin it for later on Pinterest to refer back to.

Happy Cruising!

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