Why take a cruise on an older ship?  You’re missing out if you overlook cruise ships that were built 15 or 20 years ago.

Here are the best reasons to book a cruise on an older ship and why it can offer an even better vacation for some people.

Grandeur of the Seas at Perfect Day at CocoCay. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

The term “old” is quite relative in terms of cruise ships.   Out of the mainstream cruise lines, the oldest cruise ship is Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas which was built in 1996.  But it only seems old because of the drastic innovations made by cruise ships in recent years.

Once a new cruise ship is built by a cruise line every other ship in the fleet suddenly feels just a little bit older.  Don’t let the glamour and glitter of brand-new ships blind you to the perks of sailing on older vessels.

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When I was booking my very first cruise almost 14 years ago, I just HAD to book the newest and greatest ship.

As a total newbie to cruising I had the same misconception that many rookie cruisers deal with: assuming that only new ships offer a great cruise experience.

But older cruise ships offer a few things newer ships can’t.  Here are the best reasons to book a cruise on an older cruise ship:

1. They are much more affordable

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

We’ll start with the most obvious reason, which is also the biggest reason for some travelers.  A cruise on an older ship can cost 30% – 50% less than a newer ship with a similar itinerary.

Because there is so much hype and demand for cruise ships that are fresh out of the shipyard there is a premium cost to go with it.  But if you want to cruise more often and are on a limited budget, older cruise ships are the way to go.

You can also find last-minute deals on older cruise ships more easily than on newer ships, so if you can be flexible with your schedule even better.

2. Fewer people means smaller crowds

Top deck of Celebrity Infinity just above the pool deck. Infinity is the 2nd oldest ship in Celebrity’s fleet, built in 2001. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Most cruise ships built around the year 2000 and earlier hold about 2,000 passengers at double capacity.  Compare that with the 4,000 and 5,000 passenger capacity on some cruise ships built in the past few years.

Whether it’s crowds during embarkation, debarkation, tendering, or simply at the buffet, a newer and larger cruise ship can feel crowded in certain spaces.

A smaller number of passengers an on older vessel can make for a more relaxed cruise with more personalized service.

Much of the feeling of “crowdedness” comes down to the design and space on the ship as well.

We detailed this in our post which compared the space/guest ratio for every cruise ship in operation.  It’s a fun read if you want to see which ships have more space per passenger than others.

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Related:  12 tips to avoid crowds on a cruise ship

3. A more intimate atmosphere

Theater on MSC Poesia. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Cruise ships in the 65,000 to 90,000 gross tonnage range are beloved by regular cruises.   And older ships are commonly found in this small to medium size range.  The spaces are smaller and more intimate.

This also means less walking forward and aft.  Sure, elevators help with going up and down a few decks, but so far there are no people-movers on cruise ships for walking the length of these floating resorts.

From lounges and pool decks to dining rooms and atriums, a cruise ship built decades ago can often provide a cozy atmosphere that seasoned travelers who don’t care for the bells and whistles of modern ships just really enjoy.

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4. Unique spaces and features

Aft pool on Caribbean Princess. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

There are features on some older ships that simply can’t be found on recent ship builds.  When sailing on the 20-year-old Caribbean Princess I was enamored by the aft part of the ship.

High above the aft pool is a very unique lounge that gives the ship its distinctive look.  Skywalker’s Nightclub lounge on deck 19 offers fantastic views and is a quiet place to relax during the day.   It also offers some shade over the aft pool, creating an inviting space.

Another iconic space is the Viking Crown Lounge on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, which have been a staple of the cruise line since the 70’s.

This top deck lounge shaped like a saucer offers wonderful panoramic views and is one of my favorite places from which to watch sailaway.

The lounge has been done away with on newer ships, however, so you will need to book a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship at least 15 years old to enjoy it.

5. A nod to nostalgia and tradition

Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Older cruise ships embrace nostalgia and tradition, and this is quickly seen in the design of some of these timeless vessels.  They are a perfect choice for those passengers seeking a connection to the golden age of maritime travel.

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These vessels often feature classic designs reminiscent of ocean liners from the past, with elegant lines, prominent funnels, and a distinct profile.

The interior decor showcases art collections, ornate detailing, and grand staircases.

6. More flexibility with destinations

The truth of the matter is that the mega ships of today cannot visit certain locations because of their size.  Older, smaller ships can navigate some destinations that are inaccessible to large ships.

They fit under bridges that others cannot and can sail narrower waterways.  Some older ships can even use piers that larger ships cannot.  These larger ships must use tenders to transport passengers which can be a time-consuming process.

There’s also a factor that newer ships need to generate lots of revenue and will tend to sail to more common itineraries instead of going off the beaten path.

You can often find more exotic and rare itineraries on an older ship.

Related: Most popular cruise destinations by month of the year

7. It could be your last chance to sail on that older ship

Majesty of the Seas when it was still owned ad operated by Royal Caribbean International. Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Once a cruise ship hits a certain age, its days are numbered.

I had a chance to sail on Carnival Imagination (a Fantasy-class ship) right before it retired and also on Royal Caribbean’s beloved Majesty of the Seas shortly before it was removed from service.

These ships have loyal fans that love the more intimate atmosphere and unique spaces.  Sailing on these older ships gives you one last chance to enjoy an iconic cruise ship before it is removed from service and sent to the scrapyard.

8. Rank up your loyalty rewards faster

This goes back to the first point about saving money on each cruise.  The more money you save on a cruise the more often you can afford to take a cruise.

Taking shorter cruises on older ships is the most economical way of getting your loyalty points up to the next level.  And this means more rewards and benefits for each cruise you take thereafter.

Related: 8 cruise line loyalty programs compared

Bottom Line

Booking a cruise on an older ship holds a lot of advantages. These ships offer a unique charm and nostalgia that newer vessels may lack. From the timeless elegance to personalized service, there’s something special about these ships.

Exploring lesser-known destinations, enjoying a taste of classic luxury, and immersing yourself in the rich history are just a few reasons to consider sailing on an older ship. So why not embrace the chance to step back in time and create lasting memories that will make your cruise experience something to remember.

Read more: Inside cabin cruise hacks: 14 tips to make the most out of your interior cabin

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