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Cruises: Tips for choosing your cruise ship size

When planning a cruise, choosing the right size ship that best meets your needs will be the difference on whether or not you enjoy the cruise! So it is THE most important decisions you will make. As cruise ships sizes range from Megaships to very small vessels and luxury yachts, CruiseCompete has researched the benefits of each size.

Serena Williams of the USA poses for a photo as she travels down the Brisbane River on a cruise boat during day four of the 2014 Brisbane International at Queensland Tennis Centre on January 1, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia.
Serena Williams of the USA poses for a photo as she travels down the Brisbane River on a cruise boat during day four of the 2014 Brisbane International at Queensland Tennis Centre on January 1, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia.
Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

CruiseCompete six categories of cruise ship sizes and basic tips of each type of ship:

XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL

Extra Small Ships (XS) - 1-499 passengers

Very small ships offer:

  • Private, exclusive ambiance,
  • Personalized service
  • Advantage of being able to port almost anywhere
  • Get a feel for the water
  • Experience destinations in a very close-up, personal way

Example XS ships:

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Navigator
  • SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream I, SeaDream II
  • Silversea Cruises: Silver Galapagos, Silver Discoverer, Silver Explorer, Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper
  • Seabourn Cruises: Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Spirit
  • Windstar Cruises: Wind Surf, Wind Spirit, Wind Star, Star Pride
  • Paul Gauguin Cruises: m/v Tere Moana, MS Paul Gauguin
  • Variety Cruises: M/Y Pegasus, M/S Galileo, M/Y Harmony V, S/C Panorama, S/C Panorama II, M/Y Variety Voyager
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Xpedition
  • Swan Hellenic Cruises: MV Minerva
  • Voyages to Antiquity Cruises: MV Aegean Odyssey
  • Star Clippers Cruises: Star Clipper, Star Flyer, Royal Clipper

Benefits of XS ships:

  • Immersive experience - Very small ships allow an in-depth exploration of nature, culture, history and learning not possible on larger ships.
  • Interesting Cohorts - Passengers tend to be a well-traveled, worldly crowd who enjoy the pursuit of education and exploration of the destinations they visit
  • Personalized - Very personal attention from the crew; with luxury cruises this translates to personal attendants that see to your every need
  • More solitude and the opportunity to relax and pursue your own interests
  • Seating is usually open, with no set tables

Small Ships (S) – 950 passengers or less

Small ships offer:

  • more in-depth exploration of the regions visited
  • Visit ports that are inaccessible to larger ships
  • Exotic itineraries are the standard

Most river cruise ships and almost all of the luxury lines have ships that fall into this category.

Example S ships:

  • Holland America Line: HAL Prinsendam
  • Princess Cruises: Ocean Princess, Pacific Princess
  • Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Mariner, Seven Seas Voyager
  • Oceania Cruises: Oceania Insignia, Oceania Nautica, Oceania Regatta
  • Silversea Cruises: Silver Spirit
  • Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Voyager
  • Viking Cruises: Viking Star
  • Voyages of Discovery Cruises: MV Voyager

Benefits of S ships:

  • Space - Most cabins are suites and have balconies
  • Luxury and service are frequently a focal point of a small ship voyage
  • Quality- Amenities, while limited, tend to be very high end, including dining, shore excursions, spas and enrichment activities.
  • All-inclusive - Small ships trend toward a truly all-inclusive fare
  • Lively Cohorts: Smaller dining and shared areas lend themselves lively conversations and closer relationships with fellow passengers.
  • Itineraries tend to be 10 days or longer

Medium Ships (M) – 951 to 1,999 passengers

Medium ships offer:

  • A slower pace than their large counterparts
  • Fewer crowds
  • Less noise
  • More modest offerings when it comes to activity and entertainment options.

Many cruisers prefer this size of ship for its “relaxation” vibe. Many of these ships tend to be more luxurious with more personal service than their larger counterpart.

Example M Ships:

  • Holland America Line: HAL Maasdam, HAL Ryndam, HAL Statendam, HAL Veendam, HAL Amsterdam, HAL Rotterdam, HAL Volendam, HAL Zaandam, HAL Oosterdam, HAL Westerdam, HAL Zuiderdam, HAL Noordam
  • Princess Cruises: Coral Princess, Island Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess
  • Crystal Cruises: Crystal Serenity
  • Oceania Cruises: Oceania Marina, Oceania Riviera
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Classica, Costa Victoria, Costa neoRomantica
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Sinfonia
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Century
  • Celebration Cruise Line: Bahamas Celebration

Some benefits of M ships:

  • Premium cruise lines have many ships that fall into this category
  • Several dining options
  • Medium-size ships still tend to have amenities like casinos, pools and spas
  • Entertainment options tend to include more enrichment activities
  • Attracts a more mature crowd that is focused on relaxation and enjoyment of the voyage
  • Smaller size of the ships open up options as far as itineraries and ports
  • Itineraries are likely to be 10 days or longer

Large Ships (L) – 2,000 to 2,999 passengers

Large ships offer:

  • Many of the same amenities as the XL ships, on a slightly smaller scale.
  • They don’t necessarily require a ship map to navigate to entertainment and activity options
  • Have more personal touches than a XL ship

Example L Ships:

  • Royal Caribbean International: Legend of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas, Enchantment of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas
  • Princess Cruises: Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess, Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess
  • Cunard Cruises: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2
  • Holland America Line: HAL Eurodam, HAL Nieuw Amsterdam
  • Disney Cruises: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder
  • Carnival Cruises: Carnival Elation, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Pride, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Conquest
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Opera, MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Musica, MSC Orchestra, MSC Magnifica
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Mediterranea, Costa Luminosa, Costa Deliziosa, Costa Serena, Costa Fascinosa, Costa Favolosa, Costa Pacifica, Costa Magica
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Solstice

Benefits of L ships:

  • Cabin choices - A large number of cabin options in different price ranges
  • Dining options - Numerous dining options, ranging from very casual to formal
  • Children options - A popular favorite with families due to the extensive children’s amenities and programs
  • Pace - Also popular with older cruisers, as the pace onboard is not as frenetic
  • Activities - A variety of activities, such as casinos, gyms and spas and often there are bridge instructors on longer itineraries
  • Entertainment options may include things like a fireworks display, outdoor movies and stage shows
  • Onboard lecturers are often more cerebral with topics like history, politics and geography.

Extra Large Ships (XL) – 3,000-3,999 passengers

These extra-large ships are a destination unto themselves and are especially good for families and multigenerational cruises due to the many amenities found onboard. There is something for everyone, and many cruisers enjoy their time onboard as much as they do the destinations they visit.

Some benefits of XL ships:

  • An abundance of cabin options in many different price ranges
  • A variety of dining options, ranging from ultra-casual to very upscale and formal
  • A popular favorite with families due to the extensive children’s amenities and programs
  • Round-the-clock facilities and activities, such as casinos, water parks, gyms and spas
  • Excellent entertainment options and Broadway-quality shows like Royal Caribbean’s productions of Chicago, Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever

Example XL ships:

  • Royal Caribbean International: Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas
  • Princess Cruises: Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess
  • Carnival Cruises: Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Dream, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Poesia, MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Fortuna

Extra, Extra Large Ships (XXL) – 4,000+ passengers

These Megaships offer:

  • Unparalleled options in entertainment and amenities
  • Give the impression of being on board a floating city
  • Endless choices in dining, activities and shopping (some are so large as to even incorporate a “mall” area with brand name stores).

If you desire a resort-type feel from your cruise or worry about sea-sickness, this may be your best option.

Example XXL ships:

  • Royal Caribbean International: Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and the Oasis of the Seas
  • Disney Cruises: Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Diadema

Benefits of XXL ships:

  • Cabin options - A large variety of cabin options in every price range
  • Dining options - Dining options that range from small, informal cafes to 5-star restaurants
  • Entertainment - Over the top entertainment options that include Broadway-quality shows, 3-D movie theaters, large casinos, extensive waterpark areas and more
  • Children options - Extremely comprehensive children’s programs and amenities
  • Increased ship stability; little sea motion

No matter what your ship size, the cruise experts at CruiseCompete are there to assist you in finding the right destination and ship for your cruise vacation. Simply visit www.CruiseCompete.com for more information.

CruiseCompete is an Iowa limited liability company and is not a travel agency nor owned by a travel agency.