Cruising on big ships vs small ships


By no means are any cruise ships small, but some are bigger than others. As someone who has taken cruises on both larger and smaller ships, I’m going to share the pros and cons of both options with you.

Also, keep in mind that not all cruise lines or ships are the same, each one is different in its own way, and this is my perspective based on the ships I have personally sailed on.

Big Ships

The Mardi Gras is the 3rd largest ship in Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet. She was launched in the year 2021, has 19 decks, is 1130 feet long, and weighs in at a casual 180,800 gross tonnes. 

One sure upside to larger ships that I can attest to is the amount of activities, there is trivia on one deck, a party by the pool on another, mini golf, and so much more going on all day.

Another thing about the newer and bigger ships is that they tend to have more food options available, just because of the sheer size of the ship and more square feet to put food options in. Some of the food onboard Mardi Gras includes Guy’s Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Cantina, Shaq’s Big Chicken, Pig and Anchor, Street Eats, and even more.

A possible con to larger ships is that there are so many more people onboard. Mardi Gras’ guest capacity is 5,282 people with a crew of 1735 people, compared to Carnival Freedom’s guest capacity of 2980 and crew of 1150.

However, having more people could also be a pro. The more people dancing and having a good time at deck parties, the better the vibe of the cruise will be.

Another con to large ships is finding certain locations onboard. While there are maps onboard and on Carnival’s mobile app, finding a certain restaurant or shop can be tedious considering some regions — like Grand Central — span over multiple decks.

Small Ships

The Carnival Freedom is one of the smaller ships in Carnival’s fleet. Launched in 2006, she is equipped with 14 decks, a length of 952 feet, and a smaller but still massive 110,000 gross tonnes.

One of my favorite parts of Carnival’s smaller ships is that they are not nearly as crowded as the larger ships in the fleet.

Another upside to the smaller ships is that they tend to take shorter cruises, which can be good for a shorter time period — like 4 days — instead of having to reserve a whole week for traveling on the ship, not to mention flights or driving time.

Another upside to smaller ships is that they are much more cost effective. For example, the identical itinerary on the Mardi Gras and the Carnival Freedom would cost more on Mardi Gras because of the operating cost of the ship.

Smaller ships are also easier to navigate, as getting to know where everything is located does not take as long unlike on a megaship like Mardi Gras. However, the food options onboard are not as extensive as larger ships but still of great quality.

A downside to a smaller ship is the activity level — things are going on, but not as much as the larger ships, and less people go. However, you can still have a great time on the smaller ships.

More information

Some things onboard can be viewed as neither a pro or a con. 

According to Cruiseline, “A small ship will get you closer to port — big ships often have to anchor offshore or dock farther from the main attractions.” 

Where the captain decides to weigh anchor also depends on the port. Some ports cannot fit a cruise ship or already have multiple cruise ships in port; these can become tender ports.

This isn’t really a pro or a con because tender boats are not a huge inconvenience, and the next port will likely be a standard port of call, at a dock.

Another thing that is neither a pro or a con is the quality of the food.

If on the same line — like Carnival for example — the food is usually extremely similar across the ships.

However, if you’re comparing different cruise lines, then the food is a consideration.

Another example of something that doesn’t play a huge role in the experience of the cruise is the comedy.

Personally, I enjoy going to the comedy shows on the ships, however, if you’re not into comedy, it’s not a huge consideration.

If you are into comedy, you can research and see what comedians will be performing during the duration of the cruise, and decide to go to the shows or not. Longer cruises may have 4 or 5 different comedians while shorter ones may only have 2 or 3.

Overall, picking a ship to take a cruise on is a big decision. But no matter the choice, you’re bound to have a good time and an experience to remember.


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