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Eli_6

Large ships vs small "luxury" ships

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We are used to cruising larger ships with lots to do.  We like to stay in one of the "ships within a ship" but I have been looking to do a Fjords or Iceland cruise next August so have been looking at some of the smaller so-called luxury cruise lines like Viking, Oceania, Windstar, etc.  My concern is this: Will I get bored not having everything that is available on the big cruise ships? Also, will the voyage be rougher in a smaller ship? I really would like to try the MSC Yacht Club but would prefer to sail from the UK so I can get a direct flight.

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it depends on your boredom  level

We have no idea  about you or your interests

I have not been bored on a smaller ship to Norway  the scenery is so spectacular

 

But if you need to be entertained  most of the time  then yes you will probably be bored

If you do not mind  some time to relax & chat with your fellow shipmates /read/ trivia/lectures/bingo/small shows  not  the glitzy ones from the mega ships  then a smaller ship may appeal

JMO

 

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Start by asking yourself a few questions.  What is my favorite ship?  Why?  What do I like most about this ship?  Least?  What do I do onboard?  What's are essentials that the ship must have?  What's desirable, but not a deal-breaker?  Do I need the latest and greatest in "new"?

 

After you answer those questions, you will be in a much better place to determine if a smaller luxury ship is for you.  Because only YOU know how your needs and desires match up with a potential cruise.  Be VERY honest with yourself, for if you don't, it's a recipe for big disappointment.  (And yes, it does require some work to honestly evaluate your own priorities without self-delusion)

 

And, FWIW, one can hardly call Oceania and Windstar (and maybe Viking) luxury ships - they are definitely a big step down from Regent, Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn.  Premium might be a better term.

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What about a comprise and opting for a line like Celebrity.  They are not the massive mega liners.  The classes usually used for Norway and Iceland are the S class with about 3,000 passengers.  But there is loads of entertainment available and they are certainly luxury; over and above the lines you have cited.

 

Also - look at the itinerary you choose.  If there are lots of sea days you'll need more on board entertainment.  If it is very port heavy the you'll need less on board.  For probably the most port heavy try Hertigruten.  Not luxury (but not bad either!). Not much on board - but it gets everywhere.  Its particularly good in winter when it is the only means of access for fjord towns.

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We were just on Azamara with about 700 pax.  
Yes there are less “activities” or fancy shows but there are also no/very short line ups for things.  Most of the time we took the stairs as it was only a couple of decks up or down.

 

We could arrive to see a show just a few mins before it started, always find a Seat near the pool, getting on and off the ship was fast

We were in the Baltics so we docked right downtown in a few places, especially Helsinki and St Petersburg.

 

If you are doing  Fiords in Norway you want a small ship (to me 3000 is NOT a small ship) as they will be able to go much further in.

 

 

 

 

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Smaller ships can get into more ports - that's one of the draws for me. That means a more interesting itinerary.

 

Personally, I don't care about the shows and movies and all of the different activities.  I would much rather more ports, more interesting ports, and a quieter ship.  That's why I gravitate toward Windstar and Viking.

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8 hours ago, GastroGnome said:

What about a comprise and opting for a line like Celebrity.  They are not the massive mega liners.  The classes usually used for Norway and Iceland are the S class with about 3,000 passengers.  But there is loads of entertainment available and they are certainly luxury; over and above the lines you have cited.

 

The difference between a true luxury line and a 3000 passenger ship is night and day.  I don't think you have sailed on a luxury ship or you would be laughing at the comparison. 

 

Also, Celebrity has been flogging their "luxury" image for a long time - but my two Celebrity cruises (taken because of friends) did nothing to say that they are in a luxury category.  And sometimes, not really into premium.   A bunch of gimmicks (ice bars, etc) to divert you from the reality that they are just another "get em on, get em off" line without true polish.

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19 hours ago, Eli_6 said:

We are used to cruising larger ships with lots to do.  We like to stay in one of the "ships within a ship" but I have been looking to do a Fjords or Iceland cruise next August so have been looking at some of the smaller so-called luxury cruise lines like Viking, Oceania, Windstar, etc.  My concern is this: Will I get bored not having everything that is available on the big cruise ships? Also, will the voyage be rougher in a smaller ship? I really would like to try the MSC Yacht Club but would prefer to sail from the UK so I can get a direct flight.

I don't have experience yet, so take my advice for what you pay for it 😉 

 

Smaller ships can fit more places and will usually have more personalized service, better food, etc.  The trade-off is often the focus is on the destination or just relaxation, not "lots to do" active entertainment.

 

My husband and I have booked Viking Ocean for next year and realize it won't have big shows or as much activity, but there is enough for us.  It will also give us a chance to truly relax on sea days - unless we end up going to lectures.  This type of cruise can be a chance to catch up on reading, sleeping, pampering (spa use is included) that I often miss on "standard" cruise lines because we don't want to miss the fun.  Relaxing doesn't have to mean boring.

 

The voyage might be rougher (smaller ship, North Atlantic), but we found rough seas to be more noticeable on the larger Regal Princess and Carnival Sunrise than they were on Grandeur of the Seas or Carnival Pride (and seas were rough on all ships). 

 

FlyerTalker gave great advice about really searching what matters most to you.

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There are several small ships from various lines which sail from the UK- we go with Fred Olsen, but not many would be counted as "luxury"- and some such as P&O's Aurora/Arcadia, and Cruise and Maritime ships are adult only, so are not for everyone.

Saga's new Voyages of Discovery is a more luxurious ship, but you have to be at least 50 years old to sail with her, although your partner can be younger.

 

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Wouldn’t want to do a small ship to Bermuda, only time I ever got sea sick on a cruise on a little 20,000 ton ship almost 40 years ago. Have done smaller ships in Mediterranean which was fine. 

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16 minutes ago, George C said:

Wouldn’t want to do a small ship to Bermuda, only time I ever got sea sick on a cruise on a little 20,000 ton ship almost 40 years ago. Have done smaller ships in Mediterranean which was fine. 

we did  a small ship to Bermuda  (20,000GRT) it was fine going  but  heading back to Montreal we hit the end of  a tropical storm

not fun

We have since been back on a 30.000 GRT   ship  it was a bit bumpy from Nassau  but fine back to  Charleston

It all depends on the day 😉

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4 minutes ago, LHT28 said:

we did  a small ship to Bermuda  (20,000GRT) it was fine going  but  heading back to Montreal we hit the end of  a tropical storm

not fun

We have since been back on a 30.000 GRT   ship  it was a bit bumpy from Nassau  but fine back to  Charleston

It all depends on the day 😉

When I started cruising almost all ships were 20,000 grt , what a difference from today .

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On 11/14/2019 at 6:42 PM, Eli_6 said:

My concern is this: Will I get bored not having everything that is available on the big cruise ships?

I don't know......will you?

Only you can answer that:  What do you like to do onboard?  What do you not like to do onboard?  

 

Also, "big" and "small" are relative terms.  A ship of about 40,000-50,000 GT or so is not "small", but it's also not big like most mainstream ships which are >90,000 GT, many over 125,000 GT.   Be sure to also look at the ratio of guests to space -- a smaller ship with 1800 people will not be the luxurious experience of the same size ship with 900 people.   "Smaller" ships are not necessarily "luxury" experiences.

 

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As mentioned by other members, it all depends what you find important. A smaller ship will not have the Grand show and the endless crazy activities. Its more laid back and relaxing. And they are always organizing activities, just on a smaller scale. What I like the most is that you will not see lots of people everywhere and if you choice one of the luxury lines, food is better. 

And my advise, look at booking a balcony!

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1 hour ago, calliopecruiser said:

I don't know......will you?

Only you can answer that:  What do you like to do onboard?  What do you not like to do onboard?  

 

Also, "big" and "small" are relative terms.  A ship of about 40,000-50,000 GT or so is not "small", but it's also not big like most mainstream ships which are >90,000 GT, many over 125,000 GT.   Be sure to also look at the ratio of guests to space -- a smaller ship with 1800 people will not be the luxurious experience of the same size ship with 900 people.   "Smaller" ships are not necessarily "luxury" experiences.

 

Two were like 300 people and another was like 600. 

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17 hours ago, jocap said:

There are several small ships from various lines which sail from the UK- we go with Fred Olsen, but not many would be counted as "luxury"- and some such as P&O's Aurora/Arcadia, and Cruise and Maritime ships are adult only, so are not for everyone.

Saga's new Voyages of Discovery is a more luxurious ship, but you have to be at least 50 years old to sail with her, although your partner can be younger.

 

Well, we are five years out from that then as hubs is 45.  

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On 11/15/2019 at 1:53 AM, GastroGnome said:

What about a comprise and opting for a line like Celebrity.  They are not the massive mega liners.  The classes usually used for Norway and Iceland are the S class with about 3,000 passengers.  But there is loads of entertainment available and they are certainly luxury; over and above the lines you have cited.

 

Also - look at the itinerary you choose.  If there are lots of sea days you'll need more on board entertainment.  If it is very port heavy the you'll need less on board.  For probably the most port heavy try Hertigruten.  Not luxury (but not bad either!). Not much on board - but it gets everywhere.  Its particularly good in winter when it is the only means of access for fjord towns.

I have looked at Celebrity. I love the Apex!!!

 

Only bummer part is it is only going to the Fjords in early May of next year.  My husband is taking a week off to go to the Masters in April.  (He is actually getting to caddy on Wednesday IN the Masters!) Therefore, he can't turn around and take off another week plus just three weeks later.  He is a physician and owns his own practice with multiple other medical providers under him so it's a big deal for him to take off.  

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On 11/14/2019 at 9:13 PM, FlyerTalker said:

Start by asking yourself a few questions.  What is my favorite ship?  Why?  What do I like most about this ship?  Least?  What do I do onboard?  What's are essentials that the ship must have?  What's desirable, but not a deal-breaker?  Do I need the latest and greatest in "new"?

 

After you answer those questions, you will be in a much better place to determine if a smaller luxury ship is for you.  Because only YOU know how your needs and desires match up with a potential cruise.  Be VERY honest with yourself, for if you don't, it's a recipe for big disappointment.  (And yes, it does require some work to honestly evaluate your own priorities without self-delusion)

 

And, FWIW, one can hardly call Oceania and Windstar (and maybe Viking) luxury ships - they are definitely a big step down from Regent, Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn.  Premium might be a better term.

 

Thanks for the recs! I will look into those other ones you mentioned. 

 

Have you heard anything about the Ritz-Carlton cruise ship? I actually tried to book the Iceland cruise out of Edinburgh as the dates worked and it looked fantastic, but it was booked already.

 

To be completely honest, one thing I like, which is part of the reason I like the ship within a ship, is people watching and interacting with other people at the bar or hot tub or whatever.  Honestly, I didn't even like it when my husband and I got sat at dinner by ourselves on our last cruise.  I like to be around other people.

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Let me make a specific recommendation for you.

 

Crystal Symphony, June 19th 2020.  14 days around Norway starting in Dover and ending in Copenhagen.

 

Definite luxury experience, and you will have excellent interaction opportunities with fellow guests.  With open seating, you can make dinner arrangements with other folks you meet, the all-inclusive nature makes cocktail interaction easy, and you will be on a ship with plenty of activities and entertainment while still having a comfortable easy-going feel.  Top quality entertainment and speakers.

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1 hour ago, Eli_6 said:

 

To be completely honest, one thing I like, which is part of the reason I like the ship within a ship, is people watching and interacting with other people at the bar or hot tub or whatever.  Honestly, I didn't even like it when my husband and I got sat at dinner by ourselves on our last cruise.  I like to be around other people.

 

I've found that I have more opportunities to meet and talk to others on the smaller ships I've been on. The big ones seem kind of impersonal to me. On the smaller ships you see the same people everywhere, and people seem happier to share a table or share a conversation.

 

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I also find it easier to interact with others on small ships.  On the large mass market ships, the crowds get too overwhelming for me. I tend to grab a drink and retreat back to my balcony. On the smaller ships it doesn't feel so overwhelming, so it's easier for me to mingle and get to know people.

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This is a favorite personal topic seldom discussed here on CC.  The problem is that most folks are "wedded" to 1 or 2 specific cruise lines which often do not span the huge size differences between many vessels.  DW and I love variety which includes many cruise lines (16 to date) and various size vessels (from 20 passenger to over 4000).  We have yet to try any of the "blight of the Seas" vessels that carry more than 6000.

 

The OP asks about being "bored" and that is a really personal kind of thing.  DW and I are happy on the smallest vessels as long as we have our Kindles!  But we know other cruisers that have a need for constant activities and that can be a problem on really small vessels, especially on sea days.   Given the OP's concern with boredom perhaps a compromise is in order.  So give strong consideration to Viking and Oceania, but you might want to stay away from the even smaller ships.  On the other hand, if "diving for spoons," and the "hairy chest contest" is your idea of fun you are still going to be unhappy.  And I should add that it is not only size, but there are major differences between cruise lines.  For example, on HAL ships if you are not happy with team trivia you might find yourself being forced to entertain yourself.   

 

Speaking of small luxurious ships, what keeps many folks happy?  Socialization does seem to increase on small vessels.  On larger ships there seems to be (at least to our eyes) many folks who try to escape socializing.  It starts in the MDR where they will wait (sometimes for a long time) until they can get a 2-top...so as to avoid being at a larger table.  The funny thing was that when we recently cruised on a 450 passenger ship or a luxury line we quickly found that folks went out of their way to socialize.  We came off that small ship with many more new friends then we often find on ships 10 times that size.  Rather then spending a few hours at various organized activities we often found ourselves enjoying cocktails, food, or just chatting with new friends.  It is amazing how many folks can spend most of their day online in chat rooms and other social media, but have no idea how to do the same thing face-to-face.

 

Hank

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On 11/16/2019 at 10:11 AM, Eli_6 said:

 

Thanks for the recs! I will look into those other ones you mentioned. 

 

Have you heard anything about the Ritz-Carlton cruise ship? I actually tried to book the Iceland cruise out of Edinburgh as the dates worked and it looked fantastic, but it was booked already.

 

To be completely honest, one thing I like, which is part of the reason I like the ship within a ship, is people watching and interacting with other people at the bar or hot tub or whatever.  Honestly, I didn't even like it when my husband and I got sat at dinner by ourselves on our last cruise.  I like to be around other people.


I believe the Ritz Carlton ship is running many months behind at the shipyard.

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On 11/16/2019 at 11:34 AM, cruisemom42 said:

 

I've found that I have more opportunities to meet and talk to others on the smaller ships I've been on. The big ones seem kind of impersonal to me. On the smaller ships you see the same people everywhere, and people seem happier to share a table or share a conversation.

 

Of course one factor is the likelihood of running into like-minded people.  If you like personal interaction, you are more likely to have compatible shipmates on a smaller ship you chose for its ambience and itinerary than you would on a mega-ship which offers everything to everybody - most of the thousands of whom chose the ship more because it offered non-stop entertainment than because it offered personal interaction.

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50 minutes ago, navybankerteacher said:

Of course one factor is the likelihood of running into like-minded people.  If you like personal interaction, you are more likely to have compatible shipmates on a smaller ship you chose for its ambience and itinerary than you would on a mega-ship which offers everything to everybody - most of the thousands of whom chose the ship more because it offered non-stop entertainment than because it offered personal interaction.

Really good point, nbt.

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