A cruise on a small ship or expedition-style ship is as different from a cruise on a large ship as flying in a small plane is from taking a jumbo jet. They both share the sea but they present different perspectives on it and often serve very different purposes.
(For this write-up, we’ll limit the discussion to small ocean and sea-going vessels as opposed to river ships and boats.)
Both small and large cruise ships have their place in the realm of cruise travel and both have their adherents, but there’s no guarantee that if you’ll like one you’ll like the other.
Small ships, for instance, may have some amenities, such as a smallish swimming pool, a lounge, a bar area, and a dining area, but nothing like you’d expect to find on a modern-day cruise liner that may hold from 2,000 to 6,000 passengers.
Casinos, climbing walls, Broadway-style theaters, huge dining halls, discos, organized contests and games (beyond board games), and other features of big cruise ships are highly unlikely to appear on a small or expedition-style ship.
Even medium-sized cruise ships, in the 600 passenger range, are far more likely to have multiple restaurants, organized entertainments, and other typical cruise amenities.
The Small Ship Experience
On a small ship, you’re more likely to make meals or the pre-dinner appetizer-cocktail hour the hub of your social life.
Gatherings are more likely to include lectures on what you’ll see the next day than late-night dance parties. The libraries on small ships take on more importance than on the typical large cruise ship.
Shore excursions and sightseeing are also at somewhat more of a premium on small ships than large. The general thrust of a small ship or expedition-style cruise -- especially the latter -- tends to be on the destination or itinerary (such as the Galapagos Islands or whale-watching off Alaska) rather than the ship itself.
The ships themselves, though, may take on greater importance if they’re traditional to the countries being visited (such as the Turkish gulet or Arabian dhow), where a large part of the pleasure is experiencing that type of vessel.
A trip across the polar reaches on an icebreaker or another expedition-style ship is another singular small ship experience. (The only ships that have permission to actually land on Antarctica hold 500 passengers or fewer.)
If you think that small-ship cruising may be right for you, Stride can help you sort through the many possibilities around the globe. Happy sailing!