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Which Cruise Should You Choose?

Big or Small Ships?

The decision between big and small ships somewhat naturally segregates into river or ocean cruises and budget versus luxury lines, but small ships “don’t have to be only river cruising; that’s a misnomer,” Rosenberry said.

Islands in the Sun went to Antarctica last year with the cruise line Hurtigruten, and there were only 200 passengers aboard. The company also uses Windstar Cruises quite a bit and did a 15-day cruise last year from Dublin to Reykjavik, Iceland, that included the Orkney and Faroe islands. An advantage of smaller ships “is getting into places other ships can’t,” Rosenberry said. “We saw a tunnel that was built for an island where like nine people live.”

Though a typical river cruise ship has fewer than 200 passengers, oceangoing ships don’t always have to be the kind that can carry 3,000-plus people. An Azamara ocean cruise might have 650 passengers on board, and a Viking ocean cruise may carry about 950 people, Davis said. Still, the smaller oceangoing vessels could be better compared with the larger ocean cruises, except for the level of service and amenities, she said.

With large ships come big amenities: full-size pools that are nearly full-on water parks, as opposed to small rooftop pools on river cruises, and a large, fully equipped gym instead of a small room with a treadmill and some weights, found on a smaller ship.

“They’re so different; you’re talking about peanut butter and jelly,” Davis said.

Big versus small ships comes down to amenities and experiences, Rosenberry said.

“That’s an important consideration when selecting venue,” he said. “Do they like the casino? Is that really important to them? Or do they like more of an immersion?”