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What Are the Different Types of Cruise Ships?

By Marisa O'Connor
Updated: May 23, 2024

There are many types of cruise ships available for any traveler. The ships vary depending on their passenger capacity and destination. Large, small, and mega cruise ships are attainable for intimate to extravagant cruise experiences. Ocean or river cruises are also available. Other types of cruises are for specific niches, such as remote destinations or ultimate luxury. There is a cruise ship experience available for everyone.

Mainstream cruise liners, also called large cruise ships, are the most popular and common type of cruise lines. These ships can hold 850 to 3,000 passengers. They are commonly referred to as floating resorts because of the various amenities and services. Most of them offer restaurants, arcades, and shopping. Casinos, libraries, and spas are also fairly standard features of mainstream cruises.

Mega ships include any ship that holds more than 3,000 passengers. Some of them can accommodate as many as 5,000 people. These are the largest and most technologically advanced ships in the world. Mega cruise liners provide all the standard amenities of mainstream cruises as well as some added features. These features vary with each ship. Some examples of added features are ice-skating rinks and museums.

Small ships provide a more intimate experience for travelers. The smaller ships are usually motor or sail powered. Again here the difference in the classification largely depends on the passenger capacity. The small ships usually hold no more than a few hundred people. They generally offer fewer amenities but are also less crowded. Often, these ships offer a niche service, such as conventions, singles cruises, or hard-to-reach destinations.

Ocean cruise liners include any size ship specifically designed for ocean travel. These ships do tend to be on the larger end of the scale. They are built to be sturdy enough to provide a relaxing and enjoyable experience for passengers, even in rough ocean conditions. They are also built for long-distance cruises, such as world cruises.

River cruise ships, as their name suggests, are cruises that travel along rivers and other inland waterways. These ships are always smaller than ocean cruises. Designs vary from high-tech, exciting vessels to relaxing paddleboat ships. Some of the most popular rivers to take a cruise on are the Amazon, Siene, and the Mississippi.

Luxury cruise liners are high-end vessels. They are designed for maximum comfort and entertainment. Luxury cruises cater to passengers who can afford to spend more on higher quality comforts, longer voyages, and more exotic destinations than more standard cruise lines.

Adventure cruise ships are available for adventurous travelers. These cruises are set apart by their access to remote destinations. They are generally small and sail-powered, which allows them access to the hard-to-reach destinations. They also tend to provide high-quality comforts and an intimate atmosphere.

Expedition cruise liners are similar to adventure ships, except that they access slightly more isolated destinations. They visit ecological and biosphere reserves, as well as other remote regions of the world, such as the Antarctic or the Arctic. These ships are frequently taken to research remote places of the world. Inflatable motor boats and sometimes helicopters are on the ships to access the shore. They tend to be less luxurious than the standard cruises, but they do provide basic comforts and services.

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Discussion Comments
By Grivusangel — On Feb 18, 2014

I've heard enough horror stories about norwalk viruses that tend to spread on large ships that I would be more interested in a small cruise ship, I think. I don't have children, I don't gamble and I don't need a Broadway show to keep me entertained. A book and some crossword puzzles will do very well for me, thank you.

Also, there is less crime on board a smaller cruise ship. There are fewer instances of theft and sexual assault, probably because it is harder to hide with a hundred people than in the middle of a couple of thousand people.

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