What You Need to Know
about Each Cruise Line
How do you choose which cruise line to sail? There are many options, and each is different. With a little insight, the decision will not be as difficult. While cruising may not be for everyone, most people love it.
Budget or Luxury?
We have divided ocean cruise lines into three categories: budget, moderate, and luxury. In each section, the cruise lines are listed alphabetically.
Budget cruise lines offer great value. Even though they are budget, most are still nice. You will pay extra for many things like soda, alcohol, tours, some shows, and upgrades to dining.
Luxury cruises are more like an upscale resort at sea. Almost everything is included. Oftentimes, this will include airfare, a night in a hotel, and shore excursions.
Budget cruise lines generally offer a lot of activities at low price. They focus on onboard activities for the entire family. The ships range from large to huge: 3000 – 6000 passengers. The exception is Holland America with smaller ships and a traditional atmosphere.
Carnival is generally the most affordable cruise line. Their ships have a reputation as party barges. Passengers tend to be younger: families with children, young couples, and groups. Adults have a casino, lounges, discos, buffets; you name it. DJs blare dance tunes. Kids programs abound. Many Carnival Cruise ships have Dr. Seuss at Sea. They tend to live up to the carnival-like atmosphere.
Holland America delivers a very different experience from the other budget cruise lines. Their cruises have a more traditional, formal feel. Holland America provides a classic, Titanic-type experience (minus the sinking) at a lower price. The clientele is made of predominately older adults. While there are casinos and kids activities, persons who prefer relaxation choose Holland America.
MSC cruises are a fairly new option to North Americans. It is a popular budget cruise line in Europe, though. Even cruises leaving U.S. ports will have a lot of Europeans and South Americans aboard. MSC cruises have a party vibe and everything has a European feel. Whereas Carnival DJs play U.S. dance music, MSC more often will deliver Latin favorites. Families, couples, and singles who like a lot of diversity might find MSC a good fit.
Norwegian is not known as a party cruise line, but they do offer plenty for passengers of all ages. I rarely hear anyone either criticizing or greatly praising Norwegian. Everything seems to be good but not great. Norwegian appeals to all ages, kids included, who neither want too much party nor too much peace. They do have probably the best Hawaiian cruise tour.
Royal Caribbean is known for having huge ships with endless onboard activities. One ship even has an ice skating rink. No one gets bored with activities for all ages. There is something for everyone in the family aboard Royal Caribbean. Kids can meet DreamWorks characters like Kung Fu Panda and Shrek. People who are not bothered by the size and crowds generally like Royal Caribbean.
Whereas three of the four budget lines focus on activities and target the same demographics, each of the moderate cruise lines fill a specific niche. For the higher price, you get a little larger room, higher quality dining, and a more upscale feel. You will be nickel-and-dimed less. The ships are a little smaller: 2000 – 4000 passengers.
Celebrity boasts some of the top rated dining and service in the cruise industry. The decor and atmosphere are upscale, modern European. Passengers consist of adults of all ages. While there are activities for children, there usually aren’t many kids onboard. Even though its fares are in the moderate range, Celebrity cruises are consistently rated as being a great value.
Cunard is the quintessential British sailing experience. You will find large libraries, educational lectures, tea time, and a formal feel. Expect to see mainly adults with a predominance from the UK. Their iconic ships, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2, and Queen Victoria, deliver an upscale experience that beckons the golden age of cruising.
Disney cruises are dream vacations for many families. Their original entertainment ranks as best in the cruise industry. There are definitely lots of kids onboard, but you will also find adults of all ages. Disney has two unique distinctions from other moderate and budget cruise lines: fountain drinks are included and there are no casinos. Of coarse, Disney characters can be found roaming the decks. Disney lovers of all ages love Disney Cruise Line.
Most of us know Princess Cruise Line from the “Love Boat” TV show. While that ship has been retired, Princess Cruise Line is still a favorite of cruisers. Like the budget cruise lines, Princess has something for everyone: kid’s programs, discos, casinos, onboard games and shows. The experience is just more upscale American. Cruisers of all ages with families and children will join you on Princess cruises.
Luxury cruise lines focus more on the destination than the ship. The ship serves as a floating designer hotel. More hours are given to explore each port. The ships are smaller, less than 1200 passengers. The dining, service, and room quality are generally top notch. Most everything, including shore excursions are included in your fare. Do not expect kids programs, casinos, or lavish evening entertainment.
Azamara is one of the more casual of the luxury cruise lines. North Americans, British, and northern Europeans share the cruise. There are no kids programs and onboard entertainment is sparse, but dining and service are excellent. Fellow cruisers will generally be affluent, older couples.
Oceania cruises are appreciated by well traveled adults, mostly American. There are very little onboard activities and no kids programs. Long shore days to smaller, more exotic ports and fine dining draw patrons to Oceania.
One of the newer cruise lines sailing the seas is Viking Ocean Cruises. It has also quickly become one of the highest rated. Travel & Leisure magazine has rated it the Best Cruise Line for 2016 and 2017. Viking boasts that it is not geared for children. It offers larger rooms, fine dining, site specific entertainment, and a more formal feel.
As you can see, the variety of cruise lines fit the lifestyle and budget of almost everyone. I hope our synopsis helps you choose the perfect cruise line for you amazing cruise vacation.
Do you have a favorite cruise line or cruise experience?