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Friday, February 6, 2015

Sizing Up The Ships

Big truck or small car, mansion or cottage, sub or tea sandwich—size matters. And so it is with a cruise ship. Whether you choose a smaller one—like the Celebrity’s Constellation at 90,000 tons—or the world’s biggest, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas at 225,282—it will shape your vacation.

The biggest ship in the world
has 16 decks
Why should this be, you might wonder? After all, both ships have dining choices (free and otherwise), pools, theaters, shops, a library and casino. They both have a mind-numbing number of stateroom categories, room stewards to meet your needs, and plenty of public rooms and outside decks to hang out in. 

But there are differences and it helps to know about them when planning a trip. Consider these pros and cons:

Big Ship, The Pros

Wide variety of facilities and activities. Nothing beats the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship, Allure of the Seas, in places to be in and things to do. There are the three “neighborhoods” of the Promenade, Boardwalk and Central Park, with their eating places, shops and entertainment. The ship’s got onboard surfing, zip-lining, miniature golf, ice skating and rock-climbing.

Myriad food choices. More space means more room for restaurants, from fine dining to buffets, cafes and pubs. Some free restaurants on the Allure are so underutilized the ship actually promotes them.
Lots of exercise opportunities. If you don’t get enough exercise just walking to your room on a ship the size of the Allure, you’ve got other options. There’s a gym with plenty of machines and exercise classes. And a jogging/walking track that runs the length of the ship. Just do 2.4 laps and you’ve conquered a mile.  

Big Ship, The Cons

Lots of exercise opportunities. On a ship like the Allure, you’re going to get walking in—whether you like it or not. Even if your room is as close to the elevator as you can get. As on most ships, the theater’s on one end and the main dining room’s on the other.

After the parade on Allure's Promenade
Forget learning how to navigate the ship. Trying to find the same bar twice on the Allure is truly a challenge. At least there are lifelines—digital maps in the lobbies.   
Sometimes, crowds. Though the big ships have many more passengers, there’s also more room for them to spread out. But there will be times you’re woefully aware you’re not the only one on the ship. Like the muster drill. Parades on the Promenade. Disembarkation. Peak meal hours in the buffet. The Allure even has a crew member doing crowd control in the buffet at times.

Small Ship, The Pros

Mastering the ship is a short learning curve. Perhaps the best part of a smaller ship is that fumbling is at a minimum. You can have that baby mastered in a day.
Everything’s easier. Because there are few crowds, everything’s easier, from finding a parking space at your embarkation port to getting a seat in the buffet to getting off the ship.
You’ll know thy neighbor. There’s a more intimate feel on a smaller ship. Because there’s less room 
Cozy table for two in the Constellation's
Ocean Liners specialty restaurant
to spread out, you keep seeing the same people. Eventually, you start talking to them. Before long, you’re friends.

Doors are open at more ports. Some ports can’t accommodate ships the size of Oasis class. Smaller ships can get into more places.
There’s less to do, so you'll do more. Unlike a larger ship, you’re not likely to leave saying, “Oh, we forgot to try…” You take advantage of more of the ship.

Small Ship, The Cons

See Big Ship, The Pros above.
The bottom line? You’ll have a great time no matter what size ship you choose. And if you go with a small one, you’ve got a built-in excuse for booking your next cruise, and try a big one the next time around.