Choosing the right ship: part two

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Despite the fact that the economy has been on a roller coaster ride towards recession, the cruise industry looks set to remain remarkably buoyant. Thinking of taking the plunge and booking a cruise in 2012? We’ve teamed up with travel guide publisher Berlitz to tell you everything you need to know on how to choose the right cruise ship

Today: the pros and cons of mid size and boutique ships

Mid-Size Ships (600–1,600 passengers)
These suit the smaller ports of the Aegean and Mediterranean, and are more manoeuvrable than larger ships. Several operate around-the-world cruises and other long-distance itineraries to exotic destinations not really feasible aboard many small ships or large resort ships.

There is a big difference in the amount of space available. Accommodation varies from large “penthouse suites” complete with butler service to tiny interior (no-view) cabins. These ships will generally be more stable at sea than “small ships,” due to their increased size and draft. They provide more facilities, more entertainment, and more dining options. There is some entertainment and more structured activities than aboard small ships, but less than aboard large resort ships.

Mid-Size Ships: Advantages
* They are neither too large, nor too small; their size and facilities often strike a happy balance.
*It is easy to find one’s way around.
*They generally sail well in areas of bad weather, being neither high-sided like the large resort ships, nor of too shallow draft like some of the small ships.
* Lines seldom form, except for ships approaching 1,600 passengers; if they do, they’re likely to be relatively short.
* They appear more like traditional ships than most of the larger vessels, which tend to be more “boxy” in shape and profile.

Mid-Size Ships: Disadvantages
* They don’t offer as wide a range of public rooms and facilities as the large resort ships.
* Few have large show lounges for large-scale production shows, so entertainment tends to be more of the cabaret variety.

Boutique Ships (50–200 passengers) and  Small Ships (200–600 passengers)
Choose a boutique or small ship for an intimate cruise experience and a small number of passengers. Some of the world’s most exclusive cruise ships belong in this group – but so do most of the coastal vessels with basic, unpretentious amenities, sail-cruise ships, and the expedition-style cruise vessels that take passengers to see nature.

Select this size of ship if you don’t need much entertainment, large resort ship facilities, gambling casinos, several restaurants, and if you don’t like to wait in lines for anything. If you want to swim in the late evening, or have champagne in the hot tub at midnight, it’s easier aboard boutique or small ships than aboard larger ships, where more rigid programs lead to inflexible, passenger-unfriendly thinking.

Boutique/Small Ships: Advantages
*They’re more like small inns than mega-resorts.
*It’s easy to find your way around, and signage is usually clear and concise.
* At their best in warm weather areas.
* Capable of true culinary excellence, with fresh foods cooked individually to order.
* Most provide an “open seating” in the dining room; this means that you can sit with whomever you wish, whenever you wish, for all meals.
* Provide a totally unstructured lifestyle, offering a level of service not found aboard most of the larger ships, and no – or almost no – announcements.
* Provide an “open bridge” policy, allowing passengers to go to the navigation bridge when safe to do so.
* Some small ships have a hydraulic marina water-sports platform at the stern and carry equipment such as jet skis, windsurfers, a water-ski powerboat, and scuba and snorkelling gear.
* They can visit the more off-beat ports of call that larger ships can’t get into.
* When the ship is at anchor, going ashore is easy and speedy, with a continuous tender service and no lines.
* Less crowded ports mean more exclusivity.

Boutique/Small Ships: Disadvantages
*They don’t have the bulk, length, or beam to sail well in open seas in inclement weather conditions.
* They don’t have the range of public rooms or open spaces that the large resort ships can provide. Options for entertainment, therefore, are limited.

The extract Choosing the right ship is from the Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships by Douglas Ward, £17.99 (

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , ,