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Small-Ship Cruises Are Summer’s Hottest Escape

Cruise bookings are surpassing pre-pandemic numbers, and the smaller ships are taking in their share of 2024’s cruise craze: Small luxury cruise lines say “volume is overflowing” this year.

Some small-ship companies are even opening bookings all the way into 2026 to accommodate demand.

Luxury lines like Viking Cruises and Silversea offer adults a way to explore in style. These ships cater to the passenger seeking a deeper dive into cultural adventures. The lower capacity limit and adult-only vibe delivers an intimate atmosphere and personal touch that, purely from a volume standpoint, the big ships can’t pull off.

Dealing with less guests means that smaller ships tend to execute a higher level of service. When the ratio of passengers to crew is much smaller than on the big ships, it becomes a major factor in a staff’s ability to make each guest’s experience very special.

Take the Viking ships, for example, that average a passenger to crew ratio of 1:1. That means for every one passenger, there is one crew member on board to service their needs.

Substantial passenger support resources, along with state-of-the-art accommodations, accounts for a costly voyage. So in order to keep charging luxury prices, these small ships have to keep up the luxury experience. They also have to prove to passengers that they will have a great time despite the lack of space and excitement the big guys have.

Read on to discover the secrets behind smaller ships’ success – and their sophisticated brand of adventure.

What’s onboard

Although small ships don’t boast roller coasters, water slides, or Broadway-sized stages, they do offer quality details that make a lasting impression.

Small yacht clubs like SeaDream offer ship interiors with features like televisions, stocked fridges, and marble accents that make any journey a comfortable one. If guests want to relax with a good book, they can check out their fully-stocked library, or entertain themselves in the Piano Bar with a drink and a song.

A significant number of small cruise ships have retractable marinas that allow passengers to kayak, paddleboard, or enjoy other water sports with ease, wherever they anchor. They can even stock bicycles for when passengers want to explore on land.

VIP adventure

Having all the onboard bells and whistles is great – but it means nothing without fancy adventures off the boat.

One of the benefits of a smaller group of guests is a staff’s ability to accommodate individual requests. A passenger’s wish is a crew member’s demand when it comes to small-ship luxury. The lack of casinos and sequin-clad magicians means entertainment happens in unique – and heightened – ways.

Smaller ships can get passengers closer to Mother Nature’s finest creations. Crew members can arrange special access to landmarks like waterfalls and ancient caves, and often arrange for VIP cultural experiences wherever they anchor.

The best part? If passengers change their mind or activities need to be rearranged, it’s not a problem. Passengers can enjoy a flexible schedule that suits their mood, whatever it may be.

An experience worth every penny

Cruising is booming right now, and travelers are more concerned with experience than saving on their travel price tag.

American Express released their 2024 Global Travel Trends Report, revealing that 8 in 10 Millennials and Gen Zers “care more about the right travel experience” than about what they pay for it. The majority of respondents from each generation said they would even sacrifice daily indulgences like their expensive morning latte and food delivery fees to put extra money towards their upcoming travel.

Travelers are not only caring more about quality and less about the price tag when planning trips – they are “planning big.”

More than 6 in 10 respondents show more interest in taking a “major trip” in 2024 than any other year before. In fact, 72% of those polled in the American Express research would rather put their money towards a big, meaningful trip than spending it on “going out with friends.”

Small-ship cruise lines deliver exactly this type of big, one-of-a-kind trip, and their inclusive packages and travel planning provide it all with convenience. This next-level travel trend will continue to flourish, and is going to become even more popular in the years to come.