My answer to this very simple question is – ABSOLUTELY! Last week I visited two very different size cruise ships in port – the Celebrity Solstice and Oceania Regatta – big and small.
So, how does one choose? Well, by simply deciding what amenities and services are onboard, as well as how many passengers you want to make as friends. There is no right answer and yes, you can like both big and small. The largest ship (Mega Ships) now carries over 6,000 passengers and the smaller ships carry up to 2,000 passengers with the most luxurious ships under 1,000 passengers.
Let’s start with my first visit to the “small” ship.
Upon embarkation, I immediately realized that because the ship is small I would not get lost and I could take the stairs to get anywhere – yippee! I can take the stairs (or elevators) up or down – go forward or aft and will be able to navigate to all public rooms and cabins easily. This small ship had many cozy, intimate and conversational lounge areas with bars located in each. The colors were warm – and the furnishings on the traditional side. The art on board however was very modern which through an interesting twist on the traditional. Outside was a good-sized swimming pool with cushioned lounge chairs plus there were cabanas which could be reserved as well.
After touring the “small” ship, I was treated to dinner with many wonderful choices on the menu. The choices were samples from alternative restaurants on board the various Oceania cruise ships. The presentation was lovely as everything was delicious. I was exceptionally impressed with the house wine of red and white that they served from a winery named Round Hill especially bottled for Oceania.
From my years of cruising experience on a small ship, I have found the passengers to be 50+, depending on the cruise company and ship; and that I sailed with experienced travelers who have seen a bit of the world. The food is typically better as well as the service. A big plus for the small ship cruising is that many of them can get into smaller ports of call where the big guys can’t therefore making their itineraries more interesting. Needless to say, the smaller luxury cruise ships are more expensive too. But, it’s important to do the math as some lines include all drinks, gratuities, airfare and even shore excursions.
Now for my “big” ship visit.
I have been to the port of Los Angeles many, many, many times! However, this was the first time I had to drive past the Los Angeles Cruise Terminal, past the Ports of Call and out to a new area of the port where the “big” ship was docked. There she is Celebrity Solstice – 17 decks high carrying 2850 passengers with a range of 40-75 years. Having sailed on Royal Caribbean’s’ mega ship the Oasis of the Seas, I was very curious what was going to make Celebrity better as I heard so many wonderful things about her. (And, btw, the ship was sold out!)
After jetting up 14 decks via a glass enclosed elevator past a real tree suspended in the atrium, I soon realized that this was like no other ship I have stepped foot on. First stop was the Hot Glass Show – the first unique feature of entertainment on this ship. Next, the real lawn croquet area, then one deck down and the beautiful pool area where fresh sorbet was being served. A basketball court around the bend and then the well maintained and structured kids and teens area (ages 3-17) followed by a large spa.
I was told that this was going to be an “experiential” tour of this “big” ship and that it was. There are several alternative restaurants on board and all congregated around the same area. With each stop, came a new taste – Asia, Italy, Healthy Spa Cuisine and more – all delicious bites! (These restaurants are an additional cost from $35 and up per person). I was most impressed with the main dining which showcased a glass wine tower encasing 2,000 bottles of wines rotated daily.
There was no shortage of bars and lounges on board. From the Master Wine Cellers atomizers and tastings to the Molecular Bar. Then the ice-topped martini and vodka bar – jazz lounge and Michaels Club. Entertainment is non-stop from the beautiful large theater which showcases headline entertainers to small intimate lounges and the very hip retro-chic nightclub Quasar.
The Celebrity Solstice “big” ship is grand for those who like many choices when they vacation, enjoy meeting people and socializing. And for those who love to eat, drink and be enveloped in an atmosphere of a contemporary lifestyle. Which do you prefer?