active family travel,  Travel

Small Ship Cruising Benefits

Small ship cruising is something that often doesn’t even make the radar when people plan their high seas adventures. With so many commercials featuring the massive amusement park ships, some people might not even KNOW that smaller ships exist, or they might not think of them at all. This is especially true of people who have never been on a cruise before. And while the huge ships can be a ton of fun, there are some major benefits to small ship cruising, as well.


Small Ship Cruising can Sometimes be a Better Fit

While cruising on a smaller ship may not be on your radar, there are times when it can be the right fit. Neither is better than the other necessarily, and they both offer wonderful cruising experiences. But each style of cruising is ¬†different with unique benefits. So let’s take a look at some of the benefits of cruising on a smaller ship, especially for first time cruisers.


A Perfect Introduction to Cruising

Small ship cruising can be the perfect first time experience. Small ships offer almost all of the amenities of those huge ships but without the ginormous theme park areas. It’s the perfect way to dip your feet into the cruising water and get a feel for the experience. Our first ever cruise was on the Carnival Pride, one of the older Carnival ships at the time. It was ideal for us on our first time at sea.

Easier to Navigate

When I refer to the large ships we all recognize from commercials as amusement park ships, it’s not an exaggeration. Those ships are absolutely massive. They are cities on the water, and they can be difficult to navigate. First time cruisers or those who are cruising with kids for the first time may find small ship cruising to be less stressful because it is so much easier to navigate the smaller vessels.

Less Anxiety

I know several people who can ONLY take cruises on smaller ships. The smaller size makes for less anxiety because they are easier to navigate and don’t feel quite so overwhelming. Because of that, they make the perfect cruising experience for people who have anxiety disorder. In fact, recently I noticed a huge difference in my girls. Our last cruise in January was a smaller boat and the kids found it super easy to find their way around and be more independent than they have been on previous cruises. As some of you recall my oldest has anxiety disorder, which sometimes leads to a lot of discomfort in new social situations. That is dramatically less on the smaller ships.

A Personal Feel

On large ship cruises, it’s easy to feel lost. The sheer number of people can leave you feeling like just another face in a sea of bodies. Small ship cruising offers a much more personal feel. You’ll get to know members of the staff and other cruise members just by virtue of there not being SO MANY people on the boat.

Staff to Passenger Ratio

That personal feel I just mentioned with small ship cruising can come down to numbers. On a small cruise ship, the staff to passenger ratio can sometimes be smaller. We have always had good service on ships, but on the two smaller Carnival ships we have had exceptional housekeeping and service. Sometimes on smaller ships, it feels like you get to know the staff and the staff gets to know you. Often times, they will end up knowing what you want before you even ask.

Our last cruise experience had the most amazing housekeeping ever. Viktor was always nearby. We loved that and appreciated his great suggestions about which meal to choose, or what to see or do in port.


A Different Port Experience

Small cruise ships can dock in smaller ports. You might be thinking, “big deal”. Well, it can be. Those massive, mega-ships need bigger, deeper ports in order to safely dock. When they don’t have that, they either have to skip that port or they have to ferry passengers from a location further off the coast to the port. Small ship cruising offers an easier port experience at the least and a unique experience you sometimes can’t get with other big ships.


The food is a huge draw on any cruise. Buffet is important for breakfast and lunch often. Dinners are fancier and typically by reservation or walk in. When you think about the massive number of people who cruise, especially on the huge cruise ships, it’s not hard to imagine the mad lineups at breakfast and lunch. Oh, there are still food lineups even on small ships. But small cruise ships sometimes have the luxury of bringing on better quality food. And if you’re on a European cruise, they have the advantage of bringing on FRESH local ingredients at the various ports.

Small Ship Cruising Offers Big Time Benefits

I love large and small ship cruising. My family has been on both, and they each offer their own unique benefits. For first time cruisers or cruisers who are sailing with kids for the first time, I recommend small ship cruising as a great introduction. With a smaller, easier to navigate ship, a personal feel, and just a less crushing crowd on the boat, it makes an excellent starter experience.

For a video on our latest cruise ship experience click here – Carnival Sensation.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Joely Smith

    I think a small ship is excellent for any first-time cruiser or older people who can’t navigate a huge ship. I was on a small ship cruise once and loved it! A LOT less difficult to figure out where everything is and you have more time to have fun!

  • Danielle Smith

    Well, this is something to definitely consider, when trying to decide what kind of cruise is more suitable for you and your family. Small Ship Cruising is something I’ve never heard about!

  • Jennifer Van Huss

    Interesting. I thought all cruise ships were the same (give or take a few sq feet). I have never been on one because I always felt overwhelmed by the idea of being on a floating theme park. I was too scared, I ‘d get lost and so would my children. This is great to know that there are small cruises available that offer similar options to their bigger counter parts.

  • Sarah Bailey

    I have to admit I often think about going on a cruise, but the size does worry me so hands up I would love to start with a small ship, but didn’t know they were offered so thank you for this.

  • Lee-Ann S

    That’s why I liked our cruise this passed July. It wasn’t huge and there were some places we went, up a fjord, that the bigger ships, which we did see in port couldn’t do.

  • Angie

    I want to go on a cruise, and a smaller one sounds like more fun honestly. We stayed on a house boat once, not even close to the same thing, but it was fun. I can only imagine a cruise would be way more fun.

  • Michele Brosius

    I have never been on a cruise. It looks like small ship cruising may be the best place to start. Thanks for all the tips. I am doing all kinds of research on what kinds of cruise to choose and this post helped a lot.

  • Marysa

    Before I got married, my husband and I took a cruise in the Galapagos Islands. The boat was small and the experience was incredible. We had great tour guides, got to know other people and the people working there. It was just overall such an amazing time. I think I prefer that to the massive ships for sure!

  • Laura

    I agree, a small ship for your first time with kids is the way to go! Cheyenne and I did a Mother-Daughter trip on a small ship and I didn’t have to worry about her exploring on her own or with friends. The staff gets to know you quickly and you quickly get comfortable on board.

  • Heather

    I’m hoping that we can go on our first family cruise by next year. I didn’t really consider a small ship until now. Thank you for this info!

  • Becky Willis

    I am going, to be honest, I have never gone on a cruise. After reading your post I would definitely like to try the small ship cruising first! I love that you had such a great experience.

  • Lisa Bristol

    Small ship cruising sounds like a great way to try cruising. I did not know this was an option. I have always wanted to try a cruise but I am afraid of the big boats.

  • Jennifer

    I was definitely thinking that a small ship would help with anxiety so I’m glad you mentioned that. Every time I see deck pictures of those large ships all packed with people I panic! Wondering though is small ship equals more motion? Hubby gets motion sickness.