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How to pick a cruise: What size cruise ship is best for you from P&O to Royal Caribbean?

Author: Lucy Abbott

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Cruise ship capacity is a key factor to consider when booking onto a cruise; find out what advantages smaller and larger capacity cruises hold.

Cruising is known to be the perfect social base to discover new friends and reunite with old ones, but there is more to consider when it comes to thinking about your fellow passengers onboard.

With countless ships to choose from, and more making their way onto the water in 2022, it is important to think about what your ideal cruising atmosphere is like. Do you thrive in a busy, energetic environment or do you prefer to relax in a quiet, intimate atmosphere?

Saga Cruises’ Spirit of Adventure, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Bolette and Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambience make up cruise ships with a smaller capacity whereas mid-sized ships include Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Silhouette, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess.

Lastly, large capacity cruise ships include Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and P&O Cruises’ Iona - all that’s left to do is find your ship soulmate.

Luckily you have stumbled upon this ultimate guide with ROL Cruise on what cruise capacity is perfect for you alongside stunning itineraries for the ultimate holiday inspiration - what more could you want?

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Saga Cruises' Spirit of Adventure holds 999 guests. Credit: Saga

Small ships

Saga Cruises - Spirit of Adventure

This small but mighty ocean cruise ship offers a capacity of only 999 guests, accompanied by an impressive staff to guest ratio of 517 staff.

Not only are smaller ships perfect for solo travellers, being less overwhelming, easy to navigate alone and benefiting from individualised attention, but Saga Cruises’ Spirit of Adventure offers 100 cabins designed for solo travellers, a rare find in the cruising world.

- READ MORE: A complete guide to Barcelona’s skyline – what to do and who to cruise with -

What’s more, Saga Cruises’ cruise package includes unlimited select drinks, gratuities, complimentary Wi-Fi and more, and the generosity doesn’t stop there. With Spirit of Adventure’s rooms bragging an average size of 215 square feet, you can enjoy more space on this small capacity ship.

Yet the only thing that can be described as small is the capacity, as restaurant offerings onboard are extensive, with seven dining venues including two speciality restaurants serving Nepalese cuisine and Italian fare.

Take your time to enjoy this on Saga Cruises’ 15 night ‘The 2022 No-Fly Classic Canaries’ itinerary, departing January 5, 2022, from Southampton onboard Spirit of Adventure.

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Fred. Olsen's Bolette gives you more space with a premium feel. Credit: Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines

Visiting eight ports of call, including the mountainous landscape of Funchal in Madeira, the never-ending beaches of Tenerife and the cobblestoned streets of Lisbon, Portugal, you can explore these beautiful ports knowing you have an intimate base to return to.

Fred Olsen - Bolette

With a 1,338-guest occupancy, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ Bolette also offers the classic small ship feel, offering you the benefit of more personal space and a premium feel.

With 615 crew, 11 bars and lounges and six restaurants, this small ship weighs in at 62,735 gross tonnage.

Bolette features an all-weather swimming pool equipped with a retractable roof dome, a two-tiered theatre and spa facilities such as a hydrotherapy pool. With a smaller capacity, you can enjoy all these amenities with the luxury of space.

Fred. Olsen’s seven-night ‘The 2022 No-Fly Norwegian Fjords & The Olsen Home’ itinerary departing September 14, 2022, from Dover onboard Bolette, allows you to take advantage of all the amenities onboard while visiting stunning locations such as fjord-filled Olso, Norway and mountain-clad Flåm, Norway.

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Ambassador Cruise Line accommodates around 1,400 passengers. Credit: Ambassador

Ambassador Cruise Line - Ambience

Another smaller ship is Ambassador Cruise Line’s Ambience. New and to be launched on April 6, 2022, Ambience accommodates an average of 1,400 passengers.

At a length of 811ft with 11 guest decks, nine lifts and a gross tonnage of 70,285, the ship offers a crew to guest ratio of 2.15.

- READ MORE: Discover the most popular cruise destinations for 2022 and beyond -

Ambience delivers big on entertainment, with a casino, a bridge and card room, a large screen for outdoor films and multi-tiered venues The Palladium and the Observatory, which host everything from cabarets to late-night discos.

With two swimming pools and a staggering four hot tubs, you can be sure to grab a spot in this bubbling paradise while taking in the passing scenery.

Explore Ambience and more on Ambassador’s 14-night ‘The 2022 No-Fly Land of Ice & Fire’ itinerary departing June 7, 2022, from London on which you can explore cultural Reykjavik and mountain-rich Grundarfjordur in Iceland.

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Celebrity Silhouette has a larger capacity of 2,886. Credit: Shutterstock

Mid-sized ships

Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Silhouette

Is bigger better? Well, Celebrity Silhouette certainly exemplifies innovative touches and memorable public spaces onboard at a larger capacity of 2,886 passengers.

At 1047ft long and a gross tonnage of 122,400, it is clear to see that Celebrity Silhouette accommodates the additional passengers onboard.

Get your sweat on at the basketball court and jogging track before heading down to the whirlpool or solarium to relax - you can easily plan your whole day out onboard.

- READ MORE: Why you should book a cruise through a travel agent -

Feel like a, well, celebrity as suite passengers are given a personal butler, in-room lunch and dinner service and well as complimentary hot drinks in the comfort of their suite - maintaining the level of personal service you would typically expect to find on a smaller ship.

Step into the refined lawn club onboard and forget you are floating across the ocean or alternatively head over to the action at the Wet Zone with firing water jets - perfect for kids or the children at heart.

Explore all Celebrity Silhouette has to offer on the 10-night ‘Ultimate Southern Caribbean’ itinerary departing January 14, 2022, from Fort Lauderdale Florida. Take in the white sandy beaches of Castries, St Lucia before learning about the exotic plants of Basseterre in St. Kitts.

Cunard: Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth is Cunard's second-largest ship with 2,081 guests. Credit: Cunard

Cunard - Queen Elizabeth

What better ship to cruise on than one christened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II herself? Cunard’s second-largest ship holds 2,081 guests alongside 1,005 crew members.

Stepping onboard is like stepping into a classic Hollywood film with sparkling chandeliers, marble flooring and sophisticated furnishings - this ship was built for socialising.

And mingling is one of the main benefits of sailing with a higher number of fellow passengers. Meet a whole host of people while surrounded by lavish decor.

Food and drink offerings are where Cunard goes above and beyond with a massive 27 different restaurants, grills, lounges and bars, including a typical British pub, the Golden Lion Pub and the Empire Casino Bar.

Look forward to sampling each eatery every night onboard Queen Elizabeth’s ‘The 2022 No-Fly Spain and Portugal’ itinerary departing March 6, 2022, sailing from Southampton across 12-nights. Wander around fascinating Cadiz, culture-filled Malaga and historic Cartagena in Spain.

Sky princess
Sky Princess is a mid-sized cruise ship at 3,660 passengers. Credit: Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises - Sky Princess

As one of the newest additions to the Princess fleet, Sky Princess classifies as a mid-sized cruise ship, holding 3,660 passengers alongside 1,346 crew members.

With a gross tonnage of 141,000, length of 1,083 and 19 decks, Sky Princess is a good mid-sized option for cruising.

- READ MORE: What you might not know about life on a cruise ship full-time -

As well as boasting a jogging track alongside a fitness centre, Sky Princess offers four pools to relax in during the day and the only jazz theatre at sea to enjoy in the evening, with a live trio performing pieces from jazz legends throughout time.

A worry about embarking on a larger ship is perhaps the lack of personal service, yet the wearable Princess MedallionClass means you can request food and drinks, book entertainment and navigate the ship all with the help of the medallion, with can be worn however you like.

You can experience this new way of cruising with Princess’ 14-night ‘The 2022 No-Fly Baltic Heritage’ cruise departing May 14, 2022, from Southampton onboard Sky Princess. Visiting Poland, Sweden, Estonia, Russia, Denmark and Norway, you can explore exactly what the Baltic has to offer on this extensive, exciting itinerary.

Anthem of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas is a large capacity ship at 4,905 passengers. Credit: Royal Caribbean

Big ships

Royal Caribbean - Anthem of the Seas

If you didn’t think it could get bigger - it can. Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas holds 4,905 passengers with 1,500 crew members.

A gross tonnage of a staggering 167,800 and measuring 1141ft long, Anthem of the Seas is definitely not short on space. The large capacity of this ship is certainly warranted by the extensive amenities, entertainment and restaurants onboard.

As the eighth-largest cruise ship in the world, you can marvel at robotic bartenders and virtual balconies and truly feel as if you have stepped into a sci-fi film.

If you enjoy technology and experiencing every thrilling activity onboard in an exciting atmosphere, such as skydiving and surf simulators, then you may be suited to a bigger ship like Anthem of the Seas.

The SeaPlex is a highlight onboard; this futuristic space includes the first-ever dodgems at sea, a circus school with flying trapeze as well as a full-sized sports court where you can play with newfound friends. At night, this space doesn’t go to waste as it transforms into a disco haven.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas will sail ‘The 2022 No-Fly Spain & France’ itinerary departing September 4, 2022, from Southampton across seven nights. This itinerary visits the architecturally stunning city of Bilbao, Spain and iconic Paris, France.

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Iona powered by LNG and boasts 17 restaurants. Credit: P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises - Iona

Last, but certainly not least, for those who thrive when surrounded by like-minded cruisers, P&O Cruises’ Iona is the perfect ship.

Holding a massive 5,200 guests and 1,800 crew, this is the biggest of the bunch, weighing in at – drum roll please – a whopping 184,700 gross tonnage.

Cruise with conscience as Iona is the first British cruise ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) which is a greener way to travel. Iona doesn’t stop there when embracing the environment, as the whole design of the ship is built around bringing the outside in.

- READ MORE: Cruise lines to keep on your radar for 2022, from P&O to Princess -

Enjoy a film at Ocean Studios on Deck 6 where four cinema screens will show a wide variety of classic and recent films with surround sound. The SkyDome is a highlight of Iona and features a beautiful roof, pool and retractable stage to come alive at night, showcasing immersive shows.

For fun-filled schedules, plenty of choices where to eat and drink, 17 restaurants, and pools coming out of your ears - larger ships are the place to be.

P&O Cruises’ Iona offers a seven-night ‘Norwegian Fjords’ itinerary departing August 20, 2022, from Southampton, visiting the magical fjords of Olden, Stavanger and Nordfjord.

So, have you made up your mind yet? Neither have we - can we try all of them?!

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