Family Cruise Travel Planner, 2019 Edition

2019 Family Cruise Travel Planner

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Chapter XV- What’s Your Ideal Cruise Ship Size?

What’s Your Ideal Cruise Ship Size: XS, S, M, L, XL, or XXL?: The Differences Between Cruise Ship Sizes and What They Mean for You

One of the most important decisions to make when planning your cruise is choosing the ship that best meets your particular needs. Ships sizes range from megaships (over 4,000 passengers) to very small vessels and luxury yachts whose passengers number in the mere dozens.

Sea-going ships comprise the largest portion of the cruise industry, with a very wide range of passenger capacities and amenities. Below is information on the benefits each type of ocean-going ship provides to cruise travelers.

Extra, Extra Large Ships (XXL) – 4,000+ passengers
These megaships boast unparalleled options in entertainment and amenities. They truly give the impression of being on board a floating city, and provide endless choices in dining, activities, and shopping (some are so large that they 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.

Some benefits of XXL ships:

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

Exemplary XXL ships:

  • Royal Caribbean International: Allure of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas; Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas
  • Disney Cruises Line: Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy
  • Costa Cruise Line: Costa Diadema, Costa Venezia, Costa Smeralda
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Virtuosa; MSC Grandiosa, MSC Bellissima, MSC Seaview, MSC Preziosa, MSC Divina
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Escape

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 on board. There is something for everyone, and many cruisers enjoy their time on board 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

Exemplary 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, Majestic Princess, Ruby Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess
  • Carnival Cruises: Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Dream, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, Carnival Vista
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Silhouette
  • MSC Cruises: MSC Poesia, MSC Divina, MSC Fantasia, MSC Preziosa, MSC Splendida
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Fortuna

Large Ships (L) – 2,000 to 2,999 passengers
Large ships offer many of the same amenities as XL ships, but on a slightly smaller scale. They don’t necessarily require a ship map to navigate entertainment and activity options, and tend to have more personal touches.


Some benefits of L ships:

  • A large number of cabin options in varying price ranges
  • Numerous dining options, ranging from very casual to formal
  • A popular favorite with families due to the extensive children’s amenities and programs
  • Also popular with older cruisers, as the pace onboard is not as frenetic
  • A variety of activities, including casinos, gyms, and spas (often there are even bridge instructors on longer itineraries)
  • Entertainment options may include firework displays, outdoor movies, and stage shows
  • Onboard lecturers are often more cerebral, with topics like history, politics, and geography

Exemplary L Ships:

  • Royal Caribbean International:  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, MS Koningsdam
  • 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 Edge, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Solstice

Medium Ships (M) – 951 to 1,999 passengers
Medium ships generally offer a slower pace than their large counterparts, with fewer crowds, less noise, and 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 and offer more personal service.

Some benefits of M ships:

  • Many of the premium cruise lines have ships that fall into this category
  • Several dining options
  • Medium-sized ships still tend to have amenities like casinos, pools, and spas
  • Entertainment options tend to include more enrichment activities
  • Attract a more mature crowd focused on relaxation and enjoyment of the voyage
  • The smaller size of the ships opens up more itinerary and port options
  • Itineraries are likely to be ten days or longer

Exemplary 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

Small Ships (S) – 950 passengers or less
Small ships fill a niche for cruisers who are looking for more in-depth exploration of the regions they visit. They can visit ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, and exotic itineraries are the standard. Most river cruise ships and almost all of the luxury lines have ships that fall into this category.

Some benefits of S ships:

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

Exemplary S ships:

  • Princess Cruises:  Pacific Princess
  • Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Mariner, Seven Seas Voyager
  • Oceania Cruises: Oceania Insignia, Oceania Nautica, Oceania Regatta, Oceania Sirena
  • Silversea Cruises: Silver Spirit
  • Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest
  • Costa Cruises: Costa Voyager
  • Viking Ocean Cruises: Viking Star, Viking Sea, Viking Sky, Viking Sun, Viking Orion

Extra Small Ships (XS) – 1-499 passengers
Very small ships offer a private, exclusive ambiance, along with personalized service and the advantage of being able to port almost anywhere. Passengers get a feel for the water and experience destinations in a very up-close and personal way.

Some benefits of XS ships:

  • The most important benefit of extra small ship cruising is an immersive experience in the destination. Extra small ships allow an in-depth exploration of nature, culture, history, and learning not possible on larger ships.
  • Passengers tend to be a well-traveled, worldly crowd who enjoy the pursuit of education and exploration
  • Very personal attention from the crew; with luxury cruises this translates as personal attendants who 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

Exemplary XS ships:

  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Navigator
  • SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream I, SeaDream II
  • Silversea Cruises: Silver Galapagos, Silver Discoverer, Silver Explorer, Silver Cloud, Silver Muse, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper
  • Seabourn: Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Ovation
  • Windstar Cruises: Wind Surf, Wind Spirit, Wind Star, Star Pride, Star Breeze, Star Legend
  • Paul Gauguin Cruises:  MS Paul Gauguin
  • Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Xpedition
  • Swan Hellenic Cruises: MV Minerva
  • Voyages to Antiquity Cruises: MV Aegean Odyssey
  • Star Clippers: Star Clipper, Star Flyer, Royal Clipper

River Cruise Ships

Perhaps a river cruise is better suited to your needs. These ships, too, come in a variety of sizes and with a wide range of amenities. River cruise enthusiasts looking for unusual, warm, and exotic destinations will enjoy a voyage along the Yangtze River in China or the Mekong in Vietnam. History and culture buffs will thrill to the experience of Paris via the Seine, Budapest via the Danube, or London via the Thames.

And all those with the hearts of wanderers will appreciate the ability to disembark and re-embark at leisure—an option not available on sea-faring cruises. Vacationers agree that the appeal of a river cruise is underscored by the fact that most are all-inclusive voyages, offering countless amenities.

The choice, then, comes down to the type of river ship that most appeals to you. The ships range from very private eight-person barges all the way up through very large (for a river cruise) ships with more than 400 passengers.

Extra-Large River Cruises: 300+ passengers
American Queen Steamboat Company: American Queen
Avalon Waterways Cruises/Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: Century Legend, Century Paragon

Large River Cruises: 225–299 passengers
Imperial River Cruises: m/s Dnieper Princess, m/s Russ, m/s Chernyshevskiy, m/s Dnieper Star, m/s Rachmaninoff
Viking River Cruises: Viking Emerald

Medium River Cruises: 150–224 passengers
AmaWaterways: MS AmaDagio, MS AmaLegro, MS AmaLyra, MS AmaBella, MS AmaVerde, MS AmaCerto, MS AmaPrima, MS AmaReina, MS AmaSonata, MS AmaSerena, MS AmaKatarina
American Cruise Line: Queen of the Mississippi, America,
American Queen Steamboat Company: American Empress, American Duchess
Avalon Waterways: Avalon Expression, Avalon Illumination, Avalon Impression, Avalon Panorama, Avalon Passion, Avalon Vista, Avalon Tapestry II, Avalon Poetry II
Emerald Waterways: Emerald Sky, Emerald Star, Emerald Sun, Emerald Dawn, Emerald Destiny
Imperial River Cruises: m/s Lavrinenkov, m/s Anton Chekhov
Scenic Cruises: Scenic Pearl, Scenic Emerald, Scenic Sapphire, Scenic Diamond, Scenic Ruby, Scenic Crystal, Scenic Jewel, Scenic Jade, Scenic Amber, Scenic Jasper, Scenic Opal
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: SS Antoinette, River Beatrice, S.S. Catherine, River Victoria
Viking River Cruises: Viking Helvetia, Viking Legend, Viking Prestige, Viking Rurik, Viking Aegir, Viking Alsvin, Viking Atla, Viking Baldur, Viking Bestla, Viking Bragi, Viking Buri, Viking Delling, Ciking Eistla, Viking Embla, Viking Forseti, Viking Freya, Viking Gullveig, Viking Heimdal, Viking Hermod, Viking Idi, Viking Idun, Viking Ingvi, Viking Jarl, Viking Kvasir, Viking Lif, Viking Magni, Viking Njord, Viking Odin, Viking Rinda, Viking Skadi, Viking Tor, Viking Var, Viking Hlin, Viking Kara, m/s Kandinsky, Viking Sun, Viking Akun, Viking Helgi, Viking Ingvar, Viking Truvor, Viking Neptune, Viking Pride, Viking Spirit, Viking Gefjon, Viking Kadlin, Viking Lofn, Viking Mani, Viking Mimir, Viking Modi, Viking Vidar, Viking Vili

Small River Cruises: 75–149 passengers
AmaWaterways: MS La Marguerite, MS AmaVida, MS AmaLotus, MS AmaCello, MS AmaDolce
American Cruise Line: American Star, American Spirit, Queen of the West, American Constitution, American Constellation
Avalon Waterways: M/V Santa Cruz, Avalon Artistry II, Avalon Poetry II, Avalon Scenery, Avalon Visionary, MS Kasr Ibrim, Avalon Felicity, Avalon Luminary, MS Mayfair, Avalon Affinity, Avalon Creativity, Avalon Imagery II, Avalon Tranquility II, Avalon Illumination,
Emerald Waterways: Emerald Radiance, Emerald Liberte

Imperial River Cruises: m/s Fidelio
Scenic Cruises: Scenic Tsar, Scenic Gem, Scenic Azure
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: River Tosca, Queen Isabel, River Ambassador, River Baroness, River Queen, River Countess, River Duchess, River Empress, River Princess, River Royale, Prince Abbas
Viking River Cruises: Viking Hemming, Viking Torgil, Viking Fontane, Viking Sineus, Viking Schumann, Viking Douro

Extra Small River Cruises: 8–74 passengers
AmaWaterways:  MS Zambezi Queen
American Cruise Line: American Glory
Avalon Waterways: Aria, Avalon Angkor, Isabela II
Scenic: Scenic Aura, Scenic Spirit

Viking River Cruises: Viking Mekong, RV Indochina, Viking Mandalay
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection: River Orchid