Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Travel Topics > Cruises
Reload this Page >

Do you prefer small exotic cruises or large cruise ships?

Do you prefer small exotic cruises or large cruise ships?

Nov 2nd, 2013, 07:50 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 6
Do you prefer small exotic cruises or large cruise ships?

My wife and I love cruises. We started a few years ago when we took a 7-day Caribbean cruise with the Disney Cruise Line. The ship was huge, a real floating city on the water. We enjoyed all the onboard activities, swimming, shopping, and dancing. We had the most fun at the ports of call. Getting off the ship for a few hours in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and at Cozumel provided the adventure we wanted.

On our way home, my wife looked over at me and made a strange comment. She said, "I feel like we just left a Vegas Hotel." Her point was the large ship towering above the water felt more like a hotel on the water than a boat.

We went on two more cruises on large ships the next two years. We headed up to Alaska and a cruise in the Bahamas. After the third cruise, we realized the magic was wearing off. The dances, swimming in the pool, and formal dinners were not what we really want. We want an adventure that let us experience the sites we see on the Discovery Channel and Travel Network.

Our fourth cruise was very different. We took off for Peru and boarded a small ship for a cruise down the Amazon. This was not a big ship. In comparison to the cruise ships, this was a tiny rowboat. The Aria Amazon had 20 suites, not hundreds of suites like the big cruise ships. During our seven days onboard, we went from being Sir and Maam, to knowing every crewmember by their first name. We met every passenger on the ship and knew all of them by their first names.

A big difference was how close we were to the water. We were just a few feet above the waters of the Amazon, instead of looking down from the towering heights of the big cruise ships. We could almost reach down and touch the water, and could easily do it with a stick in our hands. We were close to wildlife, the water, and people.

There was more variety of food on the big cruise ship, but the quality was not any better. The chef on the Aria Amazon was excellent. I am guessing if we had asked for some other alternatives they may have been available, but we enjoyed every meal. A couple of the meals highlighted local recipes from the Amazon, including sampling meat from an armored catfish. It is not something I would want to eat often, but the adventure of trying new dishes was part of the fun.

We stopped and took excursions every day we were on the Amazon. A couple days we took off on smaller boats to explore tributaries and met people living in the wilderness. Their style of living matched stories we watched on television perfectly. The only people we met onshore while in ports on the big cruise ships were restaurant staff, store clerks, and tour guides. This was wildly different.

The excursion that excited me the most, and horrified my wife, was fishing day. We left the riverboat and headed out on smaller boats to meet up with local fishermen. They guided us to one of their favorite fishing areas where we caught a variety of small fish and piranhas. We kept a few of the larger piranhas. The chef cooked the piranha back on the ship and added them to the menu. We finally found one meal my wife refused to eat, luckily there were plenty of options. Was piranha delicious? The way the chef cooked it, yes. I sampled a few bites from the local fishermen that was grilled on a stick and thought it was bland.

In our experiences, we had more fun on the small adventure cruise than on the large cruise ships. The smaller ship let us explore the area and meet people, which is something we always hoped for on the bigger cruises. We are not done going on traditional cruise trips, but we are planning our next vacation on another small adventure cruise. Several of the cruises listed on http://www.10luxurycruises.com sound interesting, along with a few I have seen here on the forum. My wife wants a European river cruise that takes us through wine tasting areas. (She keeps reminding me that I have promised her a European vacation for years and never delivered.)

What is my point? I am curious about two things.

1. How many of you prefer smaller adventure cruises compared to large cruise liners?
2. Can you suggest any great European river cruises?

I am looking into a Thames River cruise in the UK, or a cruise on the Auxerre River, but would listen to any suggestions. It looks like the Auxerre cruise provides more of the wine tasting opportunities my wife wants.

Since you have read this far, I want to ask the cruise experts one other question. I want to take an Antarctica tour in the next few years. Can you recommend any great cruises, especially if they are on smaller ships? I want the opportunity to climb onto an iceberg, take pictures of penguins, see whales, and satisfy my adventure lust for going to Antarctica. It is one more of the places that I see on the Discovery Channel that stirs my imagination.

Just one more point, if you have never gone on a small cruise ship, do yourself a favor and try it. The difference of being onboard with less than 100 people, compared to thousands, is immense. We keep in contact with several of the other couples we met onboard the Amazon cruise, but do not remember any names from our Caribbean, Alaskan, or Bahamas cruises. We shared an adventure on the Amazon, not a floating hotel. When you stand beside another man and both of you get nipped by a piranha, you tend to remember each other. Especially after you share a few recuperative drinks, back onboard the ship.

What is your opinion? Are massive cruise ships your idea of a great time, or do you prefer unusual destinations on small ships?
PeterBertrand is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2013, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,038
While I would NEVER go on a cruise (unless offered a million dollars to do so), I would choose a small boat experience. My daughter went on one in the Far East with Smithsonian and really enjoyed it. They are going on another next Sept, again with Smithsonian, from Rome to Barcelona with only 45 passengers.

I think you may be being lured by the Viking River Cruises ads on TV. I'd look here on Fodors for the review of them. The people weren't too pleased.
Bedar is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2013, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 159
We did a Viking River Cruise last spring. We thought that it was great. The food, excursions and all were good. Better than any large ship that we have been on. The Viking people were very helpful. On virtually any line there are going to be some who are unhappy. We have taken several Holland America cruises and they were enjoyable and even great, but we did have some issues, which makes me prefer river cruises.
Reme is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2013, 12:32 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,287
We have gone on several small expedition boats, 60-70 passengers and loved them. Alaska was spectacular, chasing whales, kayaking in coves, hiking in rain forests. I don't think I could ever go on one of those huge cruise ships with the crowds, lines and glitz.(nor do I ever want to return to Las Vegas.)
We did a Hurtigruten cruise , 300 passengers,90% Northern Europeans, up the coast of Norway. It was all about the scenery. No entertainment other than a keyboard in the bar area,table for two at all meals.We liked it.
We have gone on four river cruises and liked them as they dock right at the towns and you can be as independent as you wish. 140 passengers at most. I just received an ad from AMAWaterways for a series of wine cruises in Europe which may fulfill your wife's requirements. Favorite river cruise was the Mekong River from Cambodia to Vietnam, around 100 passengers, 50/50 Americans and Australians. Lots of options for you!
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Nov 4th, 2013, 07:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,154
Hi PB,

My Lady Wife and I think that the Prinsendam and the Insignia are the right size ships.

The former does an Antarctic voyage, which I've been told is verrrry good.

Have you signed up with www.cruisecritic.com?

ira is offline  
Nov 13th, 2013, 09:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,974
We started off on the 30,000 ton cruise ships and continued to enjoy the 70,000, then 90,000 and even 100,000 ton ships. But the current crop of 140,000 ton and larger ships are too large for us.

We wouldn't care for the intimacy of a small ship so we'll stick with the major cruise lines but on the 100,000 ton and smaller ships.
Frank is offline  
Nov 13th, 2013, 12:25 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 19,814
The smaller the ship, the higher the price, right? This is why we can only do the "monsters".
Dayenu is offline  
Nov 13th, 2013, 03:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,318
DH and I like the bigger ships. People who have not been on the larger ships might be surprised that, depending on the lay-put of the ship, it can actually feel empty at times, certainly not crowded, as people might think. People forget that space is usually proportionate to guests, so the larger ships may have just as much or even more space per person than smaller ships.

We found Crown Princess and Caribbean Princess to be especially nice. With so much more space, large public areas and huge outside decks, it never felt crowded. Often on afternoon and evening walks around the promenade, we didn't see more than a half dozen other people walking. I also liked that there were several pools, etc. to choose from, so they were never crowded, and there was more opportunity to meet other people whose company you might enjoy. I liked that there were adult only pools. I liked being able to sit with different people if you choose for meals. I do not like set seating for dinner. I like that there were a big variety of cafes, etc. something open 24/7, since I like very late night meals.

Celebrity Constellation did seem more crowded to me because, though there are lots of public spaces, they are divided in ways to make them seem more intimate, sometimes just beautiful, long flowing white curtains, but I preferred the openness of the Princess ships. Having that experience and being on a couple of day trips on river boats where I felt confined and couldn't wait to get off, I wonder if I would feel trapped in smaller boats/ships. That (and the cost) is why we have not done a river cruise.

We have not been on the newer gigantic ships like Epic. They are a bit un-nerving, plus I do not like having to be tendered. I like to dock and walk off, onto the pier, so I guess there is a limit to size that is appealing.
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 13th, 2013, 03:43 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,318
Peter, I do love your report on your trip to the Amazon, so much that it made me think it might actually be something to try.
Sassafrass is online now  
Nov 13th, 2013, 04:44 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9,428
We have been on one smallish ship, the 30k ton Tahitian, now Ocean Princess and though it has its pluses like a more intimate atmosphere we like em big and glitzy. We want the "wow" experience and for us it's the bigger ships.

We've thought about river cruises but wonder if they would be too laid back. We like the variety offered by the large cruise ships and above all the service.
jacketwatch is offline  
Nov 14th, 2013, 09:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 2,758
We love the Windstar crafts, the Paul Gaugin, and the Regent, as they are all smaller and more intimate
justwishin is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2013, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 90

This is an interesting conversation, thanks for starting it. We love the smaller ships, too. We take cruises to see and experience the world, not to go to a big amusement park/entertainment center/floating hotel. We like the culture, the food, meeting the people who live in these ports - we like to live and experience local life. Our favorite cruise lines have been Princess to Asia and circumnavigation of Australia, Europe river cruises to Christmas markets, Regent to Alaska. We don't like to travel with 4,000 of our closest (not!) friends. However, I am a lifelong Disney girl and now, mother of a 2 year old daughter, but I don't feel like the Disney ships are too huge and impersonal with 2500 guests or so, we find lots of quiet corners. Disney will be the largest ships we cruise, otherwise we will do family-friendly cruises on Regent, Crystal, Uniworld and Tauck river cruises. We wander off alone and see the port for ourselves, follow our feet.

Have a great day!
juliae_mei is offline  
Dec 4th, 2013, 01:10 AM
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 2,723
We have cruised on both mega ships and much small ones. The largest being 6000+ passengers (tonnage 243,000) and the smallest being 100 (tonnage 4,000), plus most sizes in between.

The different sized ships offered different cruise expereinces and different destinations so it really is to each their own. For us, the itinerary is probably the most important part of cruising. Other than once, we always pick itinerary over ship.

I couldn't imagine the behemoth ships cruising the Amazon River nor are they allowed at or near the Galapagos (100 is the maximum capacity there).

We travel based on destinations so the ship doesn't matter unless they both go to the same places, then we will have to pick one.

We preferred the more personal service and the itimacy of a smaller ship but we also enjoy the variety on a bigger ship. On some of the larger ships, there are many features that we never used and areas that we never ventured into. It really depends on the mood and what we feel like at the time, just like picking a car to drive through the rockies ... a sedate floater of a sedan in quiet comfort or a sporty bouncy convertible with wind in the hair. They are totally different experience.
Eschew is offline  
Dec 7th, 2013, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 402
I love being on the water.....any water. We have been on every kind of cruise and love them all for very different reasons and experiences. Our favorite is Oceania Cruises for the best general cruise experience. The really big ships are lovely if you don't care about the ports - like in the Caribbean when you are just looking for sun and warmth. I love river cruises when you want to see a lot of countryside easily and close-up - by the way, I do not see them as "laid back" - you can be very, very busy every day if you choose with lots of walking and sightseeing, no "sea" days.

I didn't think there was more than a day cruise on the Thames, I didn't think you could go beyond Tilbury. We enjoyed a cruise on the Seine from Honfleur to Paris.
Enjoyed this thread, as I said, love cruising!
charli is offline  
Dec 9th, 2013, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 198
We too sail all manner of ships. I love each of them for different reasons. My favourite size is the 300- 600 passenger ships.
I havent been to Antarctica but I have done some research and would only go in one of two - the Prince Albert ( Silversea expedition ship) or the Quark expedition ships. All of these land on the continent and have tours included. My DD when on a Quark ship to the Arctic and she found the quality very good.
emdee is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2014, 09:03 AM
Join Date: Dec 2013
Posts: 9
I've always liked Azamara. For the price (which isn't bad) they give all these extras for no charge:

Complimentary AzAmazing EveningsSM event on every voyage (except Transatlantic voyages)
Select standard spirits, international beers and wines
Gratuities included
Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas
English Butler service for suite guests
Self-service laundry
Shuttle service to and from ports, where available
Concierge services for personal guidance and reservations

A lot of times you may get a better 'deal' on a bigger ship but when you get your final bill, you end up paying way more. The service level on Azamara is world class (they are part of the RCI line but only operate two small ships).

elizabethgbecker is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:13 PM.