How Small Is a Small Ship -- and Which Luxury Cruise Ship Size Is Right for You?

Luxury Cruising
Is it a state of mind?
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#2
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
I have a lot of thoughts on this subject. Firstly, Windstar, Oceania, Viking Ocean and Azamara are not true luxury cruise lines (even the CEO of Oceania does not consider their ships to be luxury).

IMO, Seadream falls into the luxury "Large Yacht" category. It meets the requirements of being a luxury cruise ship but does not have balconies. There is certainly a place in the "luxury" category for Seadream - even though it is not a "boat" that I would want to sail on.

Ultra Small does not describe Seabourn, Silversea and Regent's cruise lines. I would call them "small-medium" but they are definitely luxury cruise lines.

"Small" IMO, doesn't fit this at all. The largest "true" luxury cruise ship is Regent's Explorer which holds 750 guests. There are no true luxury cruise lines that are larger than this.

We like to sail "true" luxury cruise ships that carry 400-750 passengers. It has enough public spaces, things to do and the suites are large enough to be comfortable. Most, if not all, have balconies and are are all-inclusive.

I know that I am excluding Hapag-Lloyd's luxury Europa and Europa I (may have the names wrong) but they do not cater to the North America market and the majority of passengers are not English speakers. This does not make them less of a luxury cruise line (even though they are not inclusive and cater to families).

Anyway, the "luxury" cruise lines listed above are considered luxury cruise lines by most Cruise Critic posters. It seems that only Cruise Critic considers others Windstar, Azamara, Viking Ocean and Oceania to be "luxury". IMO, this is what causes the confusion on the luxury boards.

Note: For some reason, Crystal is never in my mind. It does have two older ships that carry close to 1,000 passengers and is a "true" luxury line. Based on the description of the suites, we would not sail on Crystal due to the small suites. In order to have a suite equal to the size of the other luxury Iines, one would have to book a suite that is more expensive than their competition.
#3
350 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by Travelcat2
I have a lot of thoughts on this subject. Firstly, Windstar, Oceania, Viking Ocean and Azamara are not true luxury cruise lines (even the CEO of Oceania does not consider their ships to be luxury).

IMO, Seadream falls into the luxury "Large Yacht" category. It meets the requirements of being a luxury cruise ship but does not have balconies. There is certainly a place in the "luxury" category for Seadream - even though it is not a "boat" that I would want to sail on.

Ultra Small does not describe Seabourn, Silversea and Regent's cruise lines. I would call them "small-medium" but they are definitely luxury cruise lines.

"Small" IMO, doesn't fit this at all. The largest "true" luxury cruise ship is Regent's Explorer which holds 750 guests. There are no true luxury cruise lines that are larger than this.

We like to sail "true" luxury cruise ships that carry 400-750 passengers. It has enough public spaces, things to do and the suites are large enough to be comfortable. Most, if not all, have balconies and are are all-inclusive.

I know that I am excluding Hapag-Lloyd's luxury Europa and Europa I (may have the names wrong) but they do not cater to the North America market and the majority of passengers are not English speakers. This does not make them less of a luxury cruise line (even though they are not inclusive and cater to families).

Anyway, the "luxury" cruise lines listed above are considered luxury cruise lines by most Cruise Critic posters. It seems that only Cruise Critic considers others Windstar, Azamara, Viking Ocean and Oceania to be "luxury". IMO, this is what causes the confusion on the luxury boards.

Note: For some reason, Crystal is never in my mind. It does have two older ships that carry close to 1,000 passengers and is a "true" luxury line. Based on the description of the suites, we would not sail on Crystal due to the small suites. In order to have a suite equal to the size of the other luxury Iines, one would have to book a suite that is more expensive than their competition.
Good post, TC2.

Where do you think Ponant and Paul Gaugin fit in? The PG used to be a Regent ship. My experince was that it deserved to be called a ''luxury ship''.

Ponant has nice French air to it. It is also good bcause it only has 230 passengers. Butt when I travelled on it, I didn't feel that it had the components that made it a true ''luxury'' experience. I thought that's expereince was very much like the description of the other 4 star lines (ie Oceanoa, Azamara, Windstar, etc).
As someone who doesn't really like ''cruising'', I would not travel again on a ship that had more than 250 passengers., but I agree that the descriptor ''luxury crusie ships'' should apply only to lines like Regent, Seabourn, SIlversea and Crystal
#4
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by Toryhere
Good post, TC2.

Where do you think Ponant and Paul Gaugin fit in? The PG used to be a Regent ship. My experince was that it deserved to be called a ''luxury ship''.

Ponant has nice French air to it. It is also good bcause it only has 230 passengers. Butt when I travelled on it, I didn't feel that it had the components that made it a true ''luxury'' experience. I thought that's expereince was very much like the description of the other 4 star lines (ie Oceanoa, Azamara, Windstar, etc).
As someone who doesn't really like ''cruising'', I would not travel again on a ship that had more than 250 passengers., but I agree that the descriptor ''luxury crusie ships'' should apply only to lines like Regent, Seabourn, SIlversea and Crystal
We have sailed on the PG and do feel that it is a luxury ship - one that most of us just forget to mention in our discussions. Had to look up Ponant because I am not familiar with them. I found the website confusing. They list "staterooms" rather than "suites" but do not give the size. They do have butlers and most of their ships are all-balcony. Not sure if they are all-inclusive. Based on what you posted, I agree with your assessment.
#5
350 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by Travelcat2
We have sailed on the PG and do feel that it is a luxury ship - one that most of us just forget to mention in our discussions. Had to look up Ponant because I am not familiar with them. I found the website confusing. They list "staterooms" rather than "suites" but do not give the size. They do have butlers and most of their ships are all-balcony. Not sure if they are all-inclusive. Based on what you posted, I agree with your assessment.
I think Ponant was all-inclusive when I sailed with them. Yes the l’Astral was very new and had a lot of the inclusions of a luxury line, but a few of the passengers we spoke to, who had been on Seabourn and Silversea, said that they thought the service was of a standard that was below what you would get on those lines.

The cabins were of a reasonable size, for such a small ship, and quite stylish.
#6
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by Toryhere
I think Ponant was all-inclusive when I sailed with them. Yes the l’Astral was very new and had a lot of the inclusions of a luxury line, but a few of the passengers we spoke to, who had been on Seabourn and Silversea, said that they thought the service was of a standard that was below what you would get on those lines.

The cabins were of a reasonable size, for such a small ship, and quite stylish.
Thank you for the information - it is appreciated as I always enjoy learning about other cruise lines!

Perhaps how we feel about service could also differ depending upon where you are in the world. I would expect that non-U.S. cruise lines would have more formal/proper service while the service on cruise lines frequented by North Americans would be more casual. This has been brought up (albeit infrequently) on the luxury boards.

We find that the crew and officers that are from more formal countries tend to lighten up a bit when onboard these ships. One Cruise Director on Regent is extremely popular and he is British. However, his humor/humour is funny to just about everyone - no matter where you are from. The majority of the crew on Regent are from Bali, the Philippines and Eastern Europe. The crew from Eastern Europe are generally more reserved while the crew from Philippines and Bali are just a lot of fun to be around.

I'm not saying that one way is better than another and we do fine with formality when it is necessary but we prefer to cruise on luxury lines where English is the first language and where the service is not too formal (even though our butlers looks amazingly handsome in their "tails").
#7
350 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
I think the difference that the seasoned Seabourn and Silversea people noticed on Ponant was that the service wasn’t proactive in any way. They did the job with a smile, but didn’t see if they could anticipate your needs.
Is that what you mean when you say the service is “formal”?
#8
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by Toryhere
I think the difference that the seasoned Seabourn and Silversea people noticed on Ponant was that the service wasn’t proactive in any way. They did the job with a smile, but didn’t see if they could anticipate your needs.
Is that what you mean when you say the service is “formal”?
Not exactly. Somehow it is easier to explain informality which to me means how crew members on some luxury cruise lines enjoy laughing and joking with the guests - will address them by their first name when requested to do so. We have personal relationships with some of the crew that we sail with frequently (Facebook friends, etc.).

I have been told (but don't know if it is true) that some Europeans think that restaurant workers in the U.S., for instance, need to be more formal and not say "hi - how are you doing today?" Perhaps this can be acting "familiar" rather than being informal.

For us, we try to behave in a manner that is acceptable in a country we are visiting (we read what is correct and/not correct so that do not insult anyone inadvertently. So, when we are on a ship where the majority of passengers are from North America (Regent, Crystal and Seabourn) we at as we would do at home. A better example may be that in the U.K., people drive (and walk) on a different side than we do in the U.S. So, when we are in England, I am conscious of which side I am walking on. On Regent, where the percentage of non-North American passengers is generally 20% or lower, I walk on the right side of the hallway and feel that others should do the same (Regent is also a U.S. based cruise line as is Seabourn).

There is no right or wrong here - just differences that we need to be aware of
#9
Toronto, Canada
4,498 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
I don't think I'd ever want to sail on a 400-500 passenger ship, as I believe ships that small (unless they are special-purpose cruises like expeditions etc) would cater overwhelmingly to couples. Not friends, not family, but married/romantic couples - and as I cruise solo I prefer a mix of passenger types. I'd love to hear I'm wrong, of course. And, I really prefer port-light transoceanic cruises, and I'm not sure I'd be as comfortable traveling across the ocean in that "small" a boat (re: rough seas).
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#10
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by calliopecruiser
I don't think I'd ever want to sail on a 400-500 passenger ship, as I believe ships that small (unless they are special-purpose cruises like expeditions etc) would cater overwhelmingly to couples. Not friends, not family, but married/romantic couples - and as I cruise solo I prefer a mix of passenger types. I'd love to hear I'm wrong, of course. And, I really prefer port-light transoceanic cruises, and I'm not sure I'd be as comfortable traveling across the ocean in that "small" a boat (re: rough seas).
You may have the wrong idea about small "ships" First, there are wonderful programs for people that are traveling "single" and there are plenty of people traveling with their "adult" (emphasis on adult) family. Although luxury cruise lines range from under 400 to over 700 guests, the experience is the same. Since there is open seating, many people (singles, friends, etc.) opt to sit at large tables where they can mix and mingle with other passengers.

Being mainly a Regent cruiser, we have done many transatlantic cruises on what you consider a small ship. Some are better than others but, for the most part, they handle the seas quite well (especially if you select a suite that is mid-ship). Being on a smaller ship means fewer lines, crowds, easier embarkation and disembarkation, etc. Regent passengers has the mix that you speak of. Couples, families, solos, people from other countries, etc. Since Regent includes some excursions in every port, this is yet another opportunity to mix and mingle with other passengers.

In my opinion, the most important part of being on a luxury cruise line is that there is no "class system" - everyone is treated the same once they are onboard the ship. And, passengers are so laid back - most talk about their traveling experience, the excursions they took that day, etc. They are a very friendly group. On the other hand, on longer itineraries and transatlantic cruises, the age skews rather high. This bothers some people but most of the passengers that I've met are upbeat and lots of fun!
#11
350 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by Travelcat2
Not exactly. Somehow it is easier to explain informality which to me means how crew members on some luxury cruise lines enjoy laughing and joking with the guests - will address them by their first name when requested to do so. We have personal relationships with some of the crew that we sail with frequently (Facebook friends, etc.).

I have been told (but don't know if it is true) that some Europeans think that restaurant workers in the U.S., for instance, need to be more formal and not say "hi - how are you doing today?" Perhaps this can be acting "familiar" rather than being informal.

For us, we try to behave in a manner that is acceptable in a country we are visiting (we read what is correct and/not correct so that do not insult anyone inadvertently. So, when we are on a ship where the majority of passengers are from North America (Regent, Crystal and Seabourn) we at as we would do at home. A better example may be that in the U.K., people drive (and walk) on a different side than we do in the U.S. So, when we are in England, I am conscious of which side I am walking on. On Regent, where the percentage of non-North American passengers is generally 20% or lower, I walk on the right side of the hallway and feel that others should do the same (Regent is also a U.S. based cruise line as is Seabourn).

There is no right or wrong here - just differences that we need to be aware of
I think you have a good point about trying to blend in with the culture of the ship.

I also agree about the relationship with the crew on luxxury ships. But I think it stems from the fact that they are proud of their role in bringing you such a great product. This makes it easier to laugh and joke with them, as my wife and I always try to do when it seems right. But I find it more difficult to do that when the staff are not proactive and proud of the service they are giving.
#12
350 Posts
Joined Jan 2014
Originally posted by calliopecruiser
I don't think I'd ever want to sail on a 400-500 passenger ship, as I believe ships that small (unless they are special-purpose cruises like expeditions etc) would cater overwhelmingly to couples. Not friends, not family, but married/romantic couples - and as I cruise solo I prefer a mix of passenger types. I'd love to hear I'm wrong, of course. And, I really prefer port-light transoceanic cruises, and I'm not sure I'd be as comfortable traveling across the ocean in that "small" a boat (re: rough seas).
You may have a point. But my experience from travelling on a 112 passenger ship is that the romantic couples were always keen to meet solo travellers as were the people travelling with parents or other relatives. In fact one of the reasons most people travel on such ships is that they get the opportunity to mix with like-minded people. On a ship with only a small number of passengers it is easier to mingle.
#13
Toronto, Canada
4,498 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Originally posted by Travelcat2
You may have the wrong idea about small "ships" First, there are wonderful programs for people that are traveling "single" and there are plenty of people traveling with their "adult" (emphasis on adult) family. Although luxury cruise lines range from under 400 to over 700 guests, the experience is the same. Since there is open seating, many people (singles, friends, etc.) opt to sit at large tables where they can mix and mingle with other passengers.

Being mainly a Regent cruiser, we have done many transatlantic cruises on what you consider a small ship. Some are better than others but, for the most part, they handle the seas quite well (especially if you select a suite that is mid-ship). Being on a smaller ship means fewer lines, crowds, easier embarkation and disembarkation, etc. Regent passengers has the mix that you speak of. Couples, families, solos, people from other countries, etc. Since Regent includes some excursions in every port, this is yet another opportunity to mix and mingle with other passengers.

In my opinion, the most important part of being on a luxury cruise line is that there is no "class system" - everyone is treated the same once they are onboard the ship. And, passengers are so laid back - most talk about their traveling experience, the excursions they took that day, etc. They are a very friendly group. On the other hand, on longer itineraries and transatlantic cruises, the age skews rather high. This bothers some people but most of the passengers that I've met are upbeat and lots of fun!
I'm pleased to hear it. I had thought RSSC ships were all larger (700-800 pax), but I see the Navigator is < 500.
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#14
1,504 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by calliopecruiser
I'm pleased to hear it. I had thought RSSC ships were all larger (700-800 pax), but I see the Navigator is < 500.
The Navigator may only carry 490 passengers, but at 28850 tons the passenger space ratio is only 58.2.


The Voyager carries 708 passengers, is 42363 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 59.8.


Compare to the Europa 2 which carries 516 passengers, is 42830 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 83.0.
#15
Washington State
25,852 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by English Voyager
The Navigator may only carry 490 passengers, but at 28850 tons the passenger space ratio is only 58.2.


The Voyager carries 708 passengers, is 42363 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 59.8.


Compare to the Europa 2 which carries 516 passengers, is 42830 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 83.0.
True but they speak English on the Navigator and the Voyager. Seriously, Europa 2 looks like a wonderful ship with their smallest suites the size of Regent's Mariner (50 sq. ft. smaller than the Voyager and Navigator). Besides for language issue, the killer for us is the following:

"[COLOR=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]Some luxury ships only put out the ‘welcome” mats for kids during school vacations — if at all. EUROPA 2 is decidedly family friendly, with seven family “apartments.” The free Baby Welcome Package enables parents to order extensive baby equipment for their suite, freeing up considerable luggage space. Children under 11 travel free; youngsters 12-15 cost about $65 a night when travelling with two adults in the same suite."[/color]
[COLOR=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]
[/color]
[COLOR=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)] [/color]In my opinion, they need the extra crew and space to accommodate the children.
#16
Toronto, Canada
4,498 Posts
Joined Mar 2012
Originally posted by English Voyager
The Navigator may only carry 490 passengers, but at 28850 tons the passenger space ratio is only 58.2.


The Voyager carries 708 passengers, is 42363 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 59.8.


Compare to the Europa 2 which carries 516 passengers, is 42830 tons, and has a passenger space ratio of 83.0.
I have considered the Europa 2, but the pricing puts it really out of my range. I'm not bothered by the language or the smoking, but about 800 euros/day (solo) is too rich for my blood. Then again, so is RSSC for traveling solo......but even traveling double, Europa is probably too far outside my price range. I will keep my eyes out for solo specials, when I return to cruising in 2020 or so (2019 is tagged for an Italy (land) trip).
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