Just over a decade ago there really were not too many Mega-Ships* in the world to choose from. In fact Royal Caribbean Cruise Line were having a competition with themselves to progressively build a bigger ships than their previous one. They virtually had a monopoly on the ‘floating’ resort and everybody else’s ships looked medium-sized by comparison.
Today (2016) Royal Caribbean wears the crown for operating the world’s biggest cruise ships. Their ‘Oasis’ class at around 227,000 gross tonnes are still significantly bigger than everybody else’s ships, In terms of gross tonnage/internal volume.
The worlds biggest cruise line, Carnival gave up playing the “my ships bigger than yours” in 2004 after their Queen Mary 2 entered service.**
However in June 2015 carnival announced that they had ordered four new 180,000gt ships, so only 47,000gt short of the Oasis class size. I say “only” but 47K would have been considered a pretty big ship a few decades ago. The Titanic was around about this size. However these new Carnival ships will have the world’s highest capacity, carrying up to 6,600 passengers.
Until the birth of the Queen Mary 2, there were no mega-ship operating form the UK’s premier port, Southampton
However times have changed. There are now mega-ships everywhere: RCI, NCL, Princess, P&O, Cunard, Costa, etc. There are also many new ones in the shipyards order books to be delivered in the next five years: MSC, Carnival, Aida, Virgin etc.
So are mega-ship good news? Well ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
Mega-ships: The range of facilities, dining options, accommodation, bars, retail spaces and entertainment choices on-board mega-ships is often amazing.
It is a myth that mega-ships all feel crowded. Big ships can actually offer more space per passenger, than many smaller ships.
Mega-ships do of course accommodate an ever increasing number of passengers.
However you are unlikely to be aware of all those people when on-board, apart from during embarkation, disembarkation, possibly in the ports of call and possibly when trying to find a sun lounger.
There is of course some very good food on-board mega-ships, but you are unlikely to get a truly brilliant meal in a dining room that accommodates 1,000 people or more.
Mega- ships have been responsible for keeping the price of cruising static, which makes it effectively cheaper than a few decades ago.
However mega-ships are limited where they can dock and all those passengers could double the population of some islands for the day!
Small Ships: In contrast, small ships offer a friendliness and intimacy that big ships cannot hope to emulate. O.K, you don’t get the choices of dining rooms, bars and entertainment that is available on-board mega-ships. However if the food is good in the main restaurant, do you need any more. How many bars do you really need?
Small ships often have a much better ‘connection with the sea’ in terms of views and promenade decks. Big ships may be more internally focused, with some public rooms not having sea views at all.
Small ships can also berth at ports and navigate waterways that big ship cannot be accommodated at.
Personally I like big and small ships, in the same way that I use both the corner shop and the hyper-market. They both offer a very enjoyable, but different experience.
*I’m sure some of my more pedantic readers out there are thinking “what size does he call a mega-ship”? Well, it does of course gets bigger over time, but for this piece I will pick the arbitrary size of 100,000gt and over. For a small ship, I’d pick 45,000gt or less. Why? Because I’m the author!
**In June 2015 Carnival announced four 180,000gt ships. They are back in the game!