Small is Beautiful – Cruise Traveller

Small is Beautiful

20 Reasons why small ship cruising is better

Is bigger better? That’s the question cruise lovers are asking as large cruise lines scramble to outdo each other with forever bigger mega-liners carrying over 9000 passengers and crew. But while giant ships grab the headlines, boutique cruise lines are quietly launching more and more smaller ships carrying less than 500 guests for the increasing number of people, including Australians, who love life at sea on a smaller scale.

There are now dozens of small ship cruise lines catering to cruisers who don’t want to sail aboard floating theme parks complete with surfing and parachuting simulators, merry-go-rounds, twisting slides, go-cart circuits, rock climbing walls and, soon, roller coasters. These mass-market behemoths have their fans but there are now growing numbers of seasoned, discerning cruisers for whom less is more…

1. Intimate

Smaller ships are more intimate and exclusive with private spaces where you can relax away from the maddening crowd.

Small ships doesn't mean there's less to do...
Small ships doesn’t mean there’s less to do…

2. Agile

Boutique vessels are more agile and can more easily negotiate narrow fjords and reach less visited, more enticing destinations where you can enjoy richer, more authentic experiences without the presence of thousands of fellow cruise passengers – often from multiple liners.

3. Delicate

Many small villages or fragile places limit the number of passengers that can visit. In Antarctica, for example, only 100 people are allowed ashore at any one time. This rules out large cruise ships so smaller vessels get you to more interesting places.

UnCruise Adventures Safari Explorer in Alaska
How’s this for up-close in Alaska?

4. Up Close

You’re closer to the scenery and it’s easier to spot wildlife ashore or in the water aboard a smaller ship. Larger vessels stay further away at sea and can only sail past places like Antarctica but on expedition vessels, Zodiacs can take you ashore so you can immerse yourself in the scenery.

5. Learning

Small ships often have biologists, astronomers, historians, rangers and wildlife experts onboard who offer lectures and help interpret what you are seeing. You can also meet them and ask them questions.

Lindblad National Geographic in Antarctica with expedition guide viewing penguins
Travel with your very own experts

6. Park it right here

In many ports, smaller ships can dock in the heart of a city or town, allowing you to step off and explore straight away whereas on bigger ships, docks are some distance away and buses are needed to get you into town, reducing time for sightseeing

7. Finding yourself

It’s far easier to find your way around smaller ships. No need for confusing maps or confounding, digital gadgets to find your cabin or the buffet and it’s easier to find your cruise companions or friends.

Peregrine Dalmatia in the Adriatic with guests swimming in sea
Every activity is easier with less guests to coordinate onboard

8. What Queue?

Large ships come with long queues – for everything – including embarking and disembarking and for shore tours but on smaller ships – what queue?

9. Just relax…

Large ships can be bewildering, overwhelming, noisy and frantically busy with lots of announcements. So many choices, options and schedules and needing to book so many activities and restaurants in advance. We thought cruising was supposed to be relaxing?! And good luck finding a spare deck chair around the pool!

Star Clippers let's you unleash your inner sailor
Taking the helm with Star Clippers in Asia

10. Really sailing

You’re more connected to the sea on a boutique ship, enhancing the experience. But there are so many distractions on bigger ships that it’s easy to forget you’re even at sea!

11. What’s in a name?

The service aboard smaller ships is far more attentive and personal. You learn the names of your waiter, cabin steward and bar staff and they remember yours and what you like to eat and drink etc.

Windstar Captain and guest on Bridge
Seeing how it’s done with the crew on Windstar

12. Visit the bridge

On many small vessels, you can chat with the captain, freely visit the bridge and on sailing ships, even help to hoist the sails – it’s more hands-on and carefree.

13. FOMO

Yes there are fewer restaurants, cafes, pools and lounges and fewer choices in entertainment but small ships still offer all those things so you’re not really missing out.

Dining with Hapag-Lloyd on Europa 2
Award winning cruising with Hapag-Lloyd includes delicious menus

14. Less little people

There are usually fewer children on smaller ships, creating a quieter and more relaxed mood aboard. (Although there are some cruise ships that lend themselves perfectly to family and multi-generational cruising).

15. Cards but no Casino

Small ships are often without a casino too – to the delight of small ship lovers!

ms Jahan deluxe stateroom - Heritage Line
Heritage Line’s ms Jahan stylish deluxe stateroom

16. Rest easy

Big ships are big because they have decks and decks – and decks – of cabins. That means long walks from the pool to your cabin. If you forget your sunnies on a small ship, you can duck back to the cabin but on a large vessel you may not bother!

17. More time ashore

With fewer passengers, excursions are smaller in scale too, with less herding onto fleets of buses.

Victory Cruise Lines guests enjoying an included shore excursion
Getting out and about in small groups with Victory Cruise lines

18. VIP

On smaller ships you’re treated like a VIP guest (because you are), not a number.

19. Style and substance

Smaller ships are often more luxurious with superior dining and as you are so important to them, nothing is too much trouble.

Adventure Canada with ice
Find folks who are just as passionate about your holiday destination as you are

20. Like minded-ness

And, finally, smaller ships attract compatible passengers who share your love for a more intimate and customised experience. This builds a special camaraderie amongst passengers and lasting friendships can result.

Silver Cloud Expedition ship in Antarctica
Luxury cruising meets expedition travel with Silver Cloud Expedition

At Cruise Traveller, size does matter! We love small cruise ships – that’s why we represent dozens of cruise lines that offer small ship voyages and expeditions to all corners of the planet. Our ships may be small, but they deliver big and enriching experiences that last a lifetime. Share your big holiday dreams with us and we’ll match you with the perfect small ship and itinerary just for you.

Call us today on 1800 507 777 or visit

Article by Andrew Mevissen