About two years ago I took my family for a day cruise along the Thames in a boat called The Spirit of Chartwell. This day out was fabulous for all sorts of reasons; I learnt that there was a sister ship called The Lord of the Glens operating on the Caledonian Canal which appeared to be very similar in style and standard. The Spirit of Chartwell was chosen for the Queen to travel along the Thames during her Diamond Jubilee trip, so I think you can get an idea of the standard we are talking about here.
The Spirit of Chartwell was superior in appearance to the Lord of the Glens as it had a full colonial-style top deck with lovely canopies and wooden furniture, plus it had a baby grand piano inside. Boarding the Chartwell was a delight in itself - the Captain's personal welcome dressed in white jacket with gold epaulets - it just carried on like that from that moment. The Lord of the Glens didn't match up all that well on first arrival. The boarding steps are a bit cramped and uneven and the boat does not have that colonial look. The small welcoming party of staff was, however, lovely and struck a friendly note straight away. This is, in fact, a very friendly ship, as we were to find out.
The size of the cabins and the single staircase are somewhat dictated by the fact that the ship's overall size has to conform to the dimensions of the locks which it has to enter: it is at the maximum possible size! If the cabins were twice the size, there would be half as many paying passengers so the price would double ! If the cabins were half the size or less - Brittany Ferries style - the cruise would be a lot cheaper due to economy of scale, but everywhere on the ship would be uncomfortably packed with people. There is clearly a balance to be made and we found it very well-judged.