92 Small Ship Cruise Line Reviews and Counting...
Quirky Cruise
November 29, 2017

Big Ships Small Ships (you know which we prefer!)

By Ted Scull & Heidi Sarna.

Small cruise ships are different than big ships in myriad ways.

  • Well, there’s the very size of course. One is a city, the other is a village.
  • Then there’s the variety of things to do and eat on board — one’s a buffet piled high with lots of everything and the other is a curated prix fixe menu of just what you need and no more.
  • One you may get lost on, the other never.
  • Your cabin may be more than 100 feet above the sea on the biggies, but on a small ship, never more than a few feet above the water.
  • The smallies can pull right up to most any pier in rivers, canals, lakes and bays, while the mega ships can only get into deep water ports, sometimes having to anchor off shore or dock in industrial terminals or miles from town.

You get the drift.

Read more about small ships vs big ships here. And here, for 11 FAQs about small-ship cruising.

The following images clearly illustrate the differences between big ship cruising and small ship cruising. Have a gander and decide which you prefer  ….


In which port would you prefer to board your ship?
Big Ships Small Ships

Boarding the small ship way. * Photo: Ted Scull


Or this …..


Big Ships Small Ships

Boarding the biiiggggggg ships. * Photo: Port of Miami


What is more appealing ….

Sailing aboard a skyscraping block of flats spread over 13 decks with seemingly endless options and multiple banks of lifts to ease vertical exploration or …… finding everything on just five decks?

Big Ships Small Ships

Endless decks with endless diversions. * Photo: Ted Scull from a brochure


Or this …..


Big Ships Small Ships

Small ships have a handful of passenger decks, typically just 2 to 5. * Photo: Ted Scull from a brochure


Do you want your top viewing deck occupied by this sinuous toy …

Or do you want a wide open deck for impromptu deck games or a deck chair?  Adults may prefer the latter and kids the former.

Big Ships Small Ships

The deck toys on a mega ship. * Photo: Ted Scull


Or this ….


Big Ships Small Ships

This cozy cruiser’s top deck hosts some deck chairs and an exercise bike. * Photo: Ted Scull


Ok, most people like to have a cabin with a balcony…

But with a big city number of neighbors or a small village?

Big Ships Small Ships

A sea of balconies on a biiiiggggg ship. * Photo: Ted Scull


Or this ….


Big Ships Small Ships

Some small ships have balcony cabins, but their sheer numbers won’t overwhelm you. * Photo: American Cruise Lines



Do you like your ship’s bow plastered with art …

… to look like this or traditionally painted and including just the ship’s name?

Big Ships Small Ships

Big ship hulls can be a vast muralist’s canvas. * Photo: Ted Scull


Or this ….


Big Ships Small Ships

Small ships display their name and no more — elegant and clean. * Photo: Ted Scull.



Do you like a pool packed with humanity, or one with just a few souls?
Big Ships Small Ships

A mega ship pool packed with people. * Photo: Heidi Sarna


Or this ….


Big Ships Small Ships

Small ship pools are small and so are the numbers in them. * Photo: Heidi Sarna


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Posted In:

How to Choose articles, Photo Essays


  1. Biggie Smalls - 2 years ago

    Not to mention the body-trampling meal-time stampede on a biggie vs. the quiet saunter on its diminutive cousin!

  2. George Coughlin - 2 years ago

    Great article comparing the small and large ships. As you know Ted, I have enjoyed sailing as Captain aboard many of the smaller ships. With companies including Coastwise Cruise Line, Clipper Cruise line, Exploration Cruise Line, St. Lawrence Cruise Line, Lindblad Expeditions, Cruise West, and most recently, Uncruise Adventures aboard the s.s. Legacy.

    • Ted - 2 years ago

      Hey George, I sure do know about your extensive career with small ships and was always a most happy camper when sailing with you. Wow, back to the Colonial explorer as the s.s. legacy, my all-time favorite coastal vessel. I hope you found her in good hands. I did a few years ago on a cruise from seattle to alaska.

      Thanks for the complement.


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