The Long and Short of It – There are hidden bonuses to cruising with less.

Monday Mantra

I’m thinking small… I’m thinking small … I’m thinking small …

The Long and Short of It

There are hidden bonuses to cruising with less.

“I know what you mean about small ships,” the lady next to me at the bar said. “We sailed Holland America Line’s Westerdam last year and absolutely loved it.”

Well, with all due respect to Westerdam (and I confess that if I ever turn to a life of violent crime, Holland America’s pea soup and bread pudding will certainly be among the dishes that comprise my death row meal), when I said that I enjoyed small ships, I was talking a tad smaller than 80,000 tons and nearly 2,000 passengers. I was referring to ships like the sister yachts of SeaDream, Paul Gauguin’s Tere Moana, and the recently launched Pearl Mist, vessels with a guest capacity of 100 or 200 people — significantly less than the number of people you can stuff into a rush-hour subway car.

Small ships can pull things off that no big ship can, like slipping into uncrowded and unspoiled little ports that simply can’t support a megaship. Meals aboard a small ship are prepared “a la minute,” meaning dishes are not created en masse, but individually, and to order. On a small ship, you’ll likely find yourself on a shore excursion with only three or four other shipmates, rather than part of a 100-strong tourist parade.

There are other perks that go along with small ships, too. On SeaDream Yacht Club, for example, you’ll be able to sleep under the stars atop a Balinese sunbed outfitted with fine linens and a duvet, doing so while sporting the personalized SeaDream pajamas each guest receives. (NOTE: Specify the name you prefer or your passport will be SeaDream’s guide. Yes, I am now the owner of a fabulous pair of whimsical pajamas embroidered with the name “Judith Ann,” something I haven’t been called since second grade).

Do small ships have everything? Absolutely not, and often that’s the appeal. Don’t expect bowling alleys, bumper cars, lavish production shows, vast alternative dining options, or even a casino. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t expect an extensive onboard children’s program because the truth is that these very intimate, very upscale cruise experiences cater almost exclusively to adult cruisers.

The beauty of today’s cruise vacation is its vast options. Whether you prefer the grandest, biggest, glitziest ship afloat or demand the quiet ambience of a yacht-like vessel, you’re bound to find an option and itinerary that really floats your boat.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the size of it.


— Judi Cuervo

Photo: SeaDream Yacht Club

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.