The 8 Best Things About Small Ship Cruising

small ship cruising
Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s Black Watch

It’s been nearly a month since I first boarded Fred. Olsen Cruise Line‘s “Black Watch” so I thought it was about time I mention how my world cruise is going. Danielle ( and I boarded Black Watch on January 5th and we are currently out on the open seas making our way to Hanga Roa, Easter Island. As we enjoy small ship cruising, we have several sea days between ports, which gives us plenty of time to relax, sit back, and take in ship activities.

1. Disembarking Is So Easy On A Small Ship

When you arrive in a port, it takes literally no time to get off the ship and off exploring. That’s a definite plus when it comes to sailing around the globe. I want to see as much as I can and not another long line to stand in just to get off the ship.

Will I Be Bored On A Small Ship?

While some may think small ship cruising is boring because there are less things to do on one than the latest new ships, I have to disagree. I think the passengers that book this particular itinerary with this cruise line know exactly what kind of cruise they will get. They can participate in all, some, or none of the activities and still have a good time.

2. You’ll Always Find Activities Available

small ship cruising
Quiz time inside the Lido Bar

What kind of activities are there on a small ship like Black Watch? Here’s a sampling of a just a few from a sea day: Indoor shuffleboard, deck quoits, quizzes, ukulele practice, bingo, yoga, and Nintendo Wii. That’s enough to keep anybody entertained. I remember being told by somebody once, that taking part in these types of activities in a different language could be particularly important, especially if your cruise is heading to an exotic country. So, for example, my friend said that to learn Spanish, she decided to play juegos de bingos, or bingo games, to help her to grasp part of the language before she headed there. It’s a good idea if you ask me. And she also won some extra money too. There is enough to keep you occupied for the duration of the trip at least, and you can also turn your attention to online games if you need to. We heard that the quizzes and yoga were meant to be really good as well, so I hope we get around to it at some point.

3. Sea Days Are Your Days

small ship cruising
The view from Black Watch

As for me, my sea days are quite predictable, but that’s what I kind of love about them. I think it’s natural to look for some sort of schedule even when you’re at sea.

My Sea Day Schedule

I had been working out after breakfast on most sea days, but this week I decided to change it up. I now get up at about 6:30 am, get dressed and ready and I try to be out of the cabin between 6:45 am and 7 am. Then I do my Couch to 5K app, which is helping me increase my running time again after my injury when I did the Ragnar Relay in Cape Cod.

small ship cruising
Fitness Centre deck 10

Anyway — I spend a little over a half hour doing that outside on the deck amongst the walkers. Then I come back in and grab a soya cappuccino from Bookmarks Cafe before heading up to the Fitness Centre on deck 10 when it opens at 8 am. Between my ab workout and weights, I’m in there a good half hour or more. Either that or I get to the Fitness Centre around 8 am and just do an entire workout with weights and then use my app, Lolo, on the treadmill.

small ship cruising
Cabin 4044

After working out, then it’s time to return to our cabin on deck 4 and shower. We have an oceanview cabin that’s approximately 160 square feet in size. That’s probably enough room for just our shoes or our port shopping, so I’ll have to update you in April as to what our living arrangements are like. When I get back to the cabin, Danielle is usually up and getting ready and we make plans to meet up for breakfast.

If it’s a sunny day as most of our sea days have been, then after breakfast we sit in the sun for a few hours. But if it’s been like it’s been yesterday and today, which is all clouds and no sun, alternative arrangements go into play. Yesterday I got my GoPro out and filmed me walking all over the entire ship. Since she’s a small ship as compared to my YouTube video where I walked the entire Oasis of the Seas, it didn’t take very long.

Cloudy Days At Sea

So basically cloudy sea days aren’t everyone’s favorite. You can feel the vibe on the ship change as everyone definitely wants their fair share of Vitamin D. While there are many activities to get involved in, there’s still plenty of passengers who enjoy reading, either inside or outside, and of course, napping. All that fresh sea air does get to you and nothing beats a nap on a cloudy day. Not that I’ve done that, but it’s what I’ve heard.

4. The Crew Is What Makes This Cruise So Special

small ship cruising
Mr. Wilson and Travel Shop Girl

When it gets close to lunchtime, I hear my stomach and Danielle grumbling and we make our way down to deck 6 and the Glentaner Restaurant, which is the ship’s main dining room. Mr. Wilson stands ready at the entrance of the restaurant with a smile on his face and kind words to share with all of the guests.

A few weeks into our cruise and we’ve learned the names of many of the servers including some of our favorites like Paul, Joy, Raul, and Gordon. At breakfast, Mr. Wilson always has our large glasses of ice water waiting for us, Paul always grabs two boxes of Cocoa Pops and soya milk, and either Joy or Raul is always willing to refill my coffee cup. At lunch we can choose off the standard menu or grab food off the buffet. Since I’m eating vegan these days, Manny the Maitre d’ always collects my meal from the galley and acts as the liason between the chef and myself. I don’t know what I would do without Manny. More on my vegan experience with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines coming soon.

Who can forget all of the wonderful bar servers like Putu, Alvin, Annie, Pop, Anthony, Aaron, Tannu (Legs as we call him) and scores of others? From housekeeping to security to all those crew members that you may not even see, they all work so hard each and every day to accommodate us. Because of that, their professionalism and hard work never goes unnoticed.

Cloudy Sea Day Afternoons

With our bellies full of food, I usually return to the cabin to get some work done. If this was a short cruise, say under 2 weeks, I’d probably wait to edit pics and write until I returned home. But since I’m here for 4 ½ months, there’s no way I’ll remember everything unless I write it down immediately.

small ship cruising
Trying to get a little work done

So I hide out and try to write and post on a regular basis, both to my website and to social media. Since WiFi on a cruise ship can be considerably slower than on land, what typically takes me no time takes far longer at sea. But I’m not complaining as I’m on a world cruise after all.

small ship cruising
Deck 7 outside the Lido Bar

I usually end up on deck 7 or deck 8 for a little while chatting with people before returning to the cabin to prepare for dinner. Every day involves multiple changes of clothes, makeup, and hair. I mean I keep all of my hair and it’s all real, but you know what I mean. Before dinner, Danielle and I usually make our way to the Lido Bar for a quick drink. Sometimes we’ll play a little roulette, an escape room game on Danielle’s phone, or talk with each other or other guests.

5. Sometimes There Are Activities Involving The Crew That You Just Have To See

small ship cruising
Crossing The Line Ceremony

I’d never heard about the Crossing the Line ceremony that’s held at sea when you cross the Equator, but I’m so glad I got to experience it firsthand.

Little did I know that it would involve “kissing the fish” and getting thrown into the pool, but yeah – I loved it.

Or like today, guests were treated to a full on game of tug-o-war between the crew, including senior officers and the captain. I sort of get into seeing some pent up aggression as it plays out in front of you. Too many sea days perhaps?

The Planner

small ship cruising
Glentaner Restaurant

A certain someone I know, let’s call her Danielle, likes to plan dinner in advance and usually has looked at the dinner menu while we’re at lunch. That will determine if we eat in the MDR or at the Brigadoon Buffet. If we eat in Glentaner, we have a table at first seating, which is 6:15 pm. While that might sound early, we generally don’t depart the restaurant for about an hour after we arrive. If we eat in the buffet, we can definitely get out quicker, but it’s smaller and has fewer choices. But sometimes you just want to get in, sget your food, and go, right?

6. Meals Are More Than Just Eating

Whether you want to eat quickly and go or if you want to sit back and enjoy the conversation at your table, meals are definitely more than just eating. Try something new on the menu that you might not order at home. Or order two entrées and a dessert tonight. Why not? You’re on vacation after all.

7. Sea Day Evening Entertainment – The Options Are Limitless

After dinner many of the passengers prepare for the evening show in the Neptune Lounge on deck 6. I have to admit that on the many cruises that I have been on, I’ve probably gone to less than a dozen shows. I’m a little too fidgety for all that sitting still in a seat and being forced to pay attention. Doesn’t mean I won’t go to a show, but I’m definitely not going every night. You will, however, find me enjoying a cocktail and yes, talking some more with everyone.

small ship cruising
Looking over deck 6 aft

Some nights, if the conditions are right, you’ll even find us playing Cards Against Humanity. Other nights I’ll call it an early evening and go back to the cabin to yes — do more work. And then the cycle starts all over again in the morning of another sea day.

Is That All You Can Do On Black Watch?

small ship cruising
Pool games

There are loads of other things that I can do on a sea day like visit the Atlantis Spa and get a facial or maybe even a manicure. I can always visit the Bookmarks Cafe and enjoy a tea or specialty coffee and admire all the chocolates in the case. There are always great lectures offered in the morning, craft and music classes throughout the day, and yoga and other classes in the fitness centre. You can basically schedule something for every minute of every day if you wanted to or do nothing at all. Want to lounge all day in the pool? Sunbathe? Go ahead — it’s your time to do whatever you want to do.

8. You’ll Meet Some Amazing People

small ship cruising
Tony and Helen

That’s what’s so great about cruising. It’s all up to you what you do. It’s like the lovely friends cruising together that I met, Helen and Tony. They play all of the competitive games and they are on a winning streak. That’s their thing to do and when you cruise, you find yours and enjoy yourself. As I always say, life’s too short not to have fun.

Difference Between Small Ship vs. Large Ship Cruising

The biggest difference to me about cruising in a small ship vs. a large ship is that you really do get to know everyone and it feels far more personal. Click To Tweet

The biggest difference to me about cruising in a small ship vs. a large ship is that you really do get to know everyone and it feels far more personal. You have the time on a small ship to find new friends with common interests and these friends can become lifelong friends. Additionally, the staff is so focused and dedicated to service that they often know your wants and needs before you do.

I’ve cruised on large ships and somehow managed to never see any of the the same people again. If you’re social, finding like minded people is possible, but definitely not as easy as on a smaller ship.

Adjusting Your Expectations

As with any kind of travel that I do, I think it’s important to adjust your expectations and to not compare what you’re experiencing in the moment with other experiences. It’s like the planets all lining up and in the exact moment that you are experiencing whatever it is that you’re experiencing, you’ll never be able to replicate that again in the future. Between your location, the ship, the crew, and other passengers, you’ll never have this exact experience again. If it’s not perfect, only you can change it. Is the glass half full or half empty?

In the end, I’m so happy to be on a world cruise with my friend and sailing to new ports of call and new adventures. My cruise ship is my home and transportation and Black Watch is more than exceeding my expectations at the moment.

Have you cruised on both big and small ships? Do you have any suggestions on how to make your time at sea more fun? Leave your comments below. Discover some other great destinations and travel ideas here on the Travel Shop Girl website .

On my new SPONTANEOUS TRAVEL SCALE of 1-5, with 1 being super easy and spontaneous and 5 being you better plan far in advance, small ship cruising scores a 3 for spontaneous travel since you might be able to book a last minute cruise, but you should probably book in advance.