Cruise: Holidaymakers opting for mega-cruises could lose out warns expert

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When it comes to envisioning a typical “cruise holiday”, an image of a vast vessel sailing the ocean likely springs to mind. Cruise ships can come in gargantuan sizes; the largest of which is Royal Caribbean’s magnificent Symphony of the Seas.

This Oasis-class cruise ship boasts an impressive 18-decks and spans 1,188 ft in length.

At its fullest, it holds 6,680 passengers.

Perhaps this is why Conde Nast Traveller dubbed Symphony of the Seas the most popular “Mega Cruise” in the world as of October 2020.

Yet, while these huge ships promise a sizeable offering, holidaymakers who box themselves into this specific ideology could end up losing out.

While mega-ships suggest abundance to match, the lesser thought of smaller ships could promise hidden gems you won’t find when setting sail aboard a larger ship.

Nichola Absalom, director of global brand for Scenic Cruises certainly thinks so.

“Those new to cruise might not always be aware of the small-ship, boutique offering that’s available with brands such as Scenic,” she told Express.co.uk.

“When people think of cruising, they naturally think of large ocean-going ships.

“However small ships offer elegantly designed facilities with guests’ comfort and wellbeing front-of-mind.”

The largest ship in Scenic’s fleet, the Scenic Eclipse, comes in at 168 metres long and carries up to 228 passengers across 114 suites.

What’s more, by comparison, the Scenic Aura, which operates river cruises in Southeast Asia is just 65 metres long, with 22 cabins carrying a maximum of 44 passengers.

Scenic also boast a number of 135 metre-long ships, most notably for river cruising, which can carry anywhere between 163 and 149 passengers.

Though the numbers may be small when compared with some of the gigantic liners sailings the seas, their offering is mighty.

And according to Ms Absalom, the size might only serve to enhance.

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“At Scenic, we consider ourselves to be experts in small-ship cruising, with some of the highest guest-to-space ratios on the ocean and some of the most spacious suites on the world’s waters, be that river or ocean,” the expert explained.

“It’s akin to staying in some of the finest hotels in the world and offers a truly indulgent experience.”

This indulgence includes a five-star nights sleep still within a stone’s throw of the best amenities on board thanks to the limited number of rooms – something the big cruises simply can’t contend with.

“With many large ships, location is an important factor to consider when selecting a suite,” explains the cruise expert.

“Small ship cruising combats this perfectly, with less suites on board every room has easy access to the ship’s facilities. On board Scenic Eclipse we only have 114 suites, meaning guests are never far from the luxurious dining facilities, bars and spa while sailing.”

The sleeping quarters aren’t the only perk of small ship sailing, as Ms Absalom points out.

“It’s both personalised and intimate, with numerous fine dining options that are never crowded plus an extensive range of Scenic Freechoice and Enrich excursions which allow you to explore each destination in-depth in small groups,” she said.

Indeed, while larger ships might offer jaw-dropping stage performances and the like, smaller ships are able to offer incomparable excursions that only small groups can enjoy.

For example, take the Scenic Eclipse – the cruise line’s first luxury ocean yacht.

Cruise guests leave behind the more beaten paths of the Mediterranean and Caribbean and venture instead on explorative journeys to locations including the Arctic.

Here, a smaller vessel is absolutely a bonus.

“In the case of Scenic Eclipse, the fact it’s purpose built to sail to remote destinations like Antarctica, and features on board helicopters and a six-person submarine, some of the best travel experiences on this planet are in fact only achievable on a cruise of this style and size,” states Ms Absalom.

One of its newest intimate excursions promises a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like no other.

Small groups of passengers will be welcomed aboard Scenic Eclipse’s submarine to delve 300 metres below the ocean’s surface to explore long-forgotten sunken vessels.

“These sites have typically been unreachable to the ordinary traveller – but when the opportunity comes to experience these in the comfort of a state-of-the-art submarine such as Scenic Neptune, combined with a six-star luxury cruise holiday, people jump at the opportunity to visit in order to share their unique travel experience with their friends and families when they return home,” Jason Flesher, expedition operations manager told Express.co.uk.

Launching on a new Greek route in April next year, this special opportunity will allow passengers to get up-close-and-personal with a particularly famous ghost ship.

“This will be the first time we will take guests on an underwater discovery expedition through the local waters exploring several shipwrecks, including Titanic’s sister ship, Britannic,” Mr Flesher continued.

And lesser-crowds mean even more chances to lap up the amenities included in your cruise ticket price.

Ms Absalom pointed out: “If you’re on an expedition cruise with Scenic Eclipse, the limited number of guests on board means you can get in and of Zodiacs and kayaks quicker, and are able to spend more time at landing sites in places like Antarctica, so you’re really making the most of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences.”

It isn’t just unique experiences at sea that smaller ships can offer, even port excursions are elevated according to the experts.

“By choosing a small-ship experience, guests will truly get the most out of their journey,” continued Ms Absalom.

“Aside from there being more space to roam and relax on board, your small-group excursions will be far more personal and rewarding, with less waiting around and fewer crowds.

“Small ships can also access ports and landing sites larger ships can’t, including docking right in the heart of historic towns and cities.

“So you can step right off the ship and delve into exploring your destination right away – meaning more time to discover the places you visit.”

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