A small ship cruise port-of-call in Lisbon Portugal

A small ship cruise port-of-call in Lisbon, Portugal

We recently posted about the Belize government refusing to allow ships carrying over 250 passengers to land along their SE coastline. After this, there were protests in Venice: No Big Cruise Ships! Defend the City! One of the top ten biggest cruise ships in the world was in port that day. The protest group of Venetians take it as an insult to the city to have the gigantic ship pass through their canals.

Venice has always been a hot tourist stop, but now the number of cruise ships visiting has quadrupled. Of course, there is a Cruise Venice Committee that encourages the cruise ships to visit Venice, to support the local economy. The protestors are concerned that, while certain economic support has been felt, the ancient city is being trampled. The protestors began by blocking the road to the passenger terminal. Then they took to small boats and rafts, with signs that said, “No Big Ships” (in Italian). The protestors did not say how they felt about the small ships, but the “No Big Ship” message is clear. At USA River Cruises, we prefer small ships over the giant ships.

Here’s a few reasons why to choose a small ship cruise:

1. Destination-Based: When you cruise on a big ship (600+ passengers), your vacation is all about being on the ship. They have casinos and pools and bars and spas, so you don’t have to get off the boat. Small ship cruises on the other hand, are all about the destination. If you want to take an Alaskan cruise, it should be because you want to see Alaska! That’s why small ship cruises spend more days in a port – so that you can get off the boat and explore.

2. No Lines: From getting dinner to getting off the boat, it’s much easier to go through a line with only 100 people than 5,000. A small ship is usually considering anything under 500 or 700, but we have ships with as few passengers as 6. Even when you are onboard with 100-150 passengers, it’s still quite quick to move about. Imagine if 5,000 people were trying to get dinner.

3. Small ships can get to the port: Sometimes they can get even closer!  Small ships are built to get closer to the shore, especially the ones that cruise on rivers. Some allow you to walk from ship to shore – which is fantastic for getting close to exclusive beaches and more!

4. All-Inclusive Pricing: Small ships include more in their fare price. When you book onboard a large ship, you’re paying for your room, and maybe access to some amenities. But you’ll be charged onboard for everything from bottled water to shore excursions.

A local fisherman sharing his catch of the day.

Small ship cruises are destination-based, and what better way to enjoy the destination than indulging in local cuisine?

5. Personalized Service: On a large ship, the crew cannot learn your names, customize their service to your needs, or get to know you. Small ship crews get to know you and are ready to work with you to make your cruise experience the best!

6. Local Cuisine: Small ship cruises are destination-based, and what better way to enjoy the destination than indulging in local cuisine?  Not only will you be able to try local food items, but you will also be able to eat local dishes that help you experience the region. Lobster bakes in New England, French Onion Soup made with Walla Walla Sweet Onions on the Columbia River, Donauwellen Cake in Bavaria, Green Papaya Salad on the Mekong River – the options are endless!

7. Educational: Small ships are especially good at providing educational opportunities – because that’s how you learn about the destination! Park Rangers, Naturalists, Historians, Riverlorians, Museum Guides, musicians, dancers, and locals – you’ll be integrated into the region as a local would, by knowing the cultural and physical history, the layers of culture and people that have grown over time to create the port of call as it is today.

8. Cruise for Every Type of Traveler: Adventurers, hikers, paddle boarders, and kayakers can explore in more physically challenging ways. Art-appreciators, shoppers, small-town lovers can indulge in the little shops that can be found in smaller ports of call that only small ships can get to. Historians, learners, and investigators will love the education programs and tour opportunities at museums, forts, and other great historical shore excursions. Foodies, wine or beer drinkers, and chefs will taste their way through the region, discovering local nuances in cuisine. Spa-visitors, sauna-enjoyers, and hot-tub-relaxers are looking for the ultimate luxury experience for their vacation. And in most cases, all of these travelers will be found on one cruise! No matter what type of vacationer you are, there is a small ship cruise for you.

9. Supports Local Economies: When a big ship dumps 4000 people on a city, it better be a large city that can handle the load, or that city will be trampled. But when a small ship brings 150 people to a small river town, it supports the local economy! It creates tourism industry in towns that didn’t have it before.

10. Smaller Environmental Impact: Smaller ships are better for the environment, in that they are smaller in size, use less gas and resources, and produce less waste. For U.S. river cruises, there’s also the added benefit of ships having to meet U.S. regulation standards. The big ships are not based in the U.S., because if they were, they would have to comply with U.S. standards and pay U.S. wages. To avoid this, they register their ships in other countries. Most of our ships are registered in the US, so they do comply with US standards, and they do pay their employees US wages.

This is just a sampling of why we love small ships. What it all really comes down to is VALUE! If you’d like to read about what one of our agents learned about the small ship difference on his big ship cruise, read here.