I have been on three cruises: one with a traditional, large cruise line and two with small ship companies. Yes, big ships offer swimming pools, rock climbing walls, and teen lounges. But I strongly prefer the more intimate experience of being on a smaller ship.
Here are 8 reasons why I think that your family should consider a small ship cruise.
1/Up-close encounters with wildlife
Small ships get to go to the more interesting, more untouched locations where you see more wildlife.
During my most recent UnCruise voyage, I witnessed a remarkable sight. During the evening in the Sea of Cortez, tiny bioluminescent creatures rise to the surface from the depths of the ocean. When disturbed, they glow like fireflies. But here’s the crazy part: a huge pod of dolphins swam through those bioluminescent waters in order to ride our ship’s bow. As they did, the dolphins picked up these organisms and appeared to glow in the dark!
The staff on small ships are really accommodating. For example, I have a healthy, teenaged appetite and found some of the meal portions on our UnCruise to be small. I just had to ask for extra food once, and then the waiters would always offer me seconds and even thirds from that point on. Thirds on cinnamon churros dipped in chocolate ganache? Yes, please!
3/Fewer passengers and less waiting
Standing in line is not my idea of a vacation. On my big ship cruise, it seemed like we were always in a line; with small ships, there are virtually no lines. And your activities aren’t overrun with people either. Excursion groups are typically fewer than ten people.
Unlike on larger cruises where you have to pay extra for off-boat excursions, all your activities are included in a small ship trip, typically two per day: hiking, mule rides, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, birding, and skiff rides to spot wildlife.
On my most recent cruise, I got to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, in the waters near La Paz, Mexico. The experience ranks among my favorite of all time. Watch here. (YouTube link below)
One of the best things about small ship cruising is the flexibility. Large cruise ships have to arrive at a certain port by a certain time. If there are whales in the distance, the crew doesn’t reroute the ship to follow. But that’s exactly what happens on a small ship.
Not every minute of the day needs to be scheduled. Every day, I’d spend a couple of hours playing games with my family or reading a book. Yes, an actual book! In fact, on my last cruise, I finished Ron Chernow’s 818-page biography Alexander Hamilton.
7/Chance to learn something
I know that some teens are drawn to the dance parties and glitzy shows on large cruise lines; there’s nothing wrong with that. But I actually appreciated the opportunity to learn something on my small ship cruises. In the evenings, UnCruise guides gave interesting presentations on species that we were likely to see.
8/More time with family
At the end of the day, vacations really are meant to be a time to reconnect with your family away from the daily pressures of life. Parents don’t have to check work emails; kids don’t have to be posting on social media. On our most recent cruise, my dad taught my brother and I how to play Euchre; he said that I needed to know before going off to college. As my mom reminds me, we don’t have many of these vacations left.
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