You’ve decided to find out what cruising is all about. You have friends or relatives who now mostly take cruises for vacation and you like the fact that your hotel will take you to your destination, while feeding and entertaining you. But there are so many cruise lines, how do you decide which one to take??
Cruise lines have personalities and there is at least one that will match your personality and lifestyle. Cruise lines target specific demographics. The industry term for value cruise lines is Contemporary. If you like vacations in Vegas, traveling with the family and are younger, Carnival’s fun value package will be for you. Carnival has Early Saver prices for those who plan ahead, so think 5 to six months out for your vacation! Do not underestimate Carnival, they have excellent food, and are more than party ships. Carnival does an excellent job of providing value for the cruise dollar!
Don’t like to color between the lines, and don’t want to be told when or where to go to dinner? Norwegian Cruise Line has the resort feel at sea, and is the “ non conformist” cruise line. Also good for families, Norwegian will often offer discounts for seniors, military and teachers. The newer Norwegian ships are moving out of the value level up to the premium level, with suites and higher prices. Entertainment ranges from improv comedy from Second City to the Blue Man Group.
At the higher end of the value lines is Royal Caribbean. It’s two larger ships, Oasis and Allure are destination resorts. If you have family and the Disney prices scare you, look at Royal Caribbean. The kids programs are excellent, with programs divided by two year increments. If you are active, and sports minded, you fit the keys for Royal Caribbean.
The next step up is the Premium category. Celebrity is modern, smart luxury. Luxury at a value price. If you appreciate world class cuisine, and a higher level of service, you will appreciate the hip quality of Celebrity. The high staff to guest ratio means you will be pampered more than on the contemporary lines.
Azamara is the sister company to Celebrity and offers smaller ships. In addition to the intimacy of a smaller ship, Azamara is all about the destination. Stays in port might be two days and the smaller ships can go where the larger ships cannot. Azamara would be at the value end of the small ship experience. Ages tend to be in the 40-50 range because you will be hanging out with people making $200,000 a year plus.
Princess sets the standard for Premium cruise lines in my opinion. Princess is the Consummate Host, offering Comfortable elegance in their ships, and sailing to 330 ports in the world. The Princess Alaska cruise and cruise/tour program is consistently one of the best in the industry. Princess allows you to “Escape Completely” on your vacation. You will have an intimate feel on a large ship, with entertainment and excellent dining and educational opportunities.
Holland America is Princess’s sister company and offers medium sized ships with a traditional feel. If your brands are Fairmont Hotels, Lexus and Ralph Lauren, Holland America is for you. The wide teak decks and marine artifacts appeal to lovers of tradition and the classics. Holland America has an excellent kids program, so is an excellent choice for multi-generational vacations. Holland America offers a package that satisfies cultural and sight seekers, romantics, relaxers and extended family vacations.
Straddling Premium and Luxury is Cunard, the true ocean going vessels designed for ocean crossings. The Grills level is at the Luxury level and the entire experience is more formal than most cruise lines. Appealing to worldly sophisticated travelers who enjoy an affluent life style, Cunard presents the opportunity to “dress up” and be pampered with luxury. For travelers with the time, it is often less expensive to sail on Cunard than fly economy to Europe, and with a much nicer experience!
Disney fulfills the Disney affinity for both kids and adults, although if you are not a big Disney fan, you may not enjoy the cruise as much as the kids. Staterooms are 25% larger than the industry standard. A Disney cruise is the ultimate family vacation. if you plan to sail at spring break of other popular times, try to plan a year in advance for best cabin selection. For Disney fans, the ships are often also a Honeymoon destination.
Also straddling the Premium/Luxury line is Oceania. Fellow guests will be, on average, 50+, have a higher education and have an income of $150k+. Like the luxury level, the experience is more all inclusive, no extra charge for specialty dining, or specialty coffees. You can buy a wine package for $49 per day. Foodies will love Oceania. The older ships have 700 passengers and the new ones 1000. An attraction is the fact that Oceania calls on the most desired ports in the world. One of the attractive promotions for Oceania is their 2 for 1 air promotion. Watch for it.
Seabourn fits the Luxury and small ship category. The older ships have just 104 suites and while they do not have verandahs, the ships offer an exceptional level of service. The newer ships have 225 suites, many with verandahs. Seabourn targets the retired rich and the working wealthy CEO. If you expect to be wowed on your vacation, Seabourn can do it. A true luxury level experience, only the shore excursions are extra. Ports are unique destinations that the smaller ships can access.
If you plan to sail in a suite, the best luxury value in my opinion is Regent, even the shore excursions are included. Included is air, pre hotel, alcohol, shore excursions and gratuities . The ships are smaller and do not offer the level of entertainment found on the larger ships. If you like the 4 Seasons, Regent fits your life. If you love entertainment, go to Crystal.
Silversea caters to an international clientele at the luxury level. The ships are elegant and intimate with an almost one to one crew to guest ratio. Being at the luxury level, all is included. The ships are all suites with 85% private verandahs. If you desire luxury on the way to your destination, Silversea will make you happy.
If you want a luxury level cruise and the entertainment and dancing you can only find on a larger ship, Crystal Cruises with their “large” 900-1000 passenger ships will fill your need. Fellow cruisers will on average have been on several cruises and are there for the destination. The 89% return rate says it all about how satisfied they were. The brand pillars for Crystal are: Service, Space, Quality, Choices.
The questions to ask yourself before a vacation are: do I want to get away and just relax, or am I looking for a destination that will give me an experience. Do you want an active vacation with thrilling activities like zip lining, or soaking up sun and reading. Do you want to experience other cultures, view historical architecture, sample regional cuisine?
Does the sound of only unpacking once while the ship moves you to port to port in an overview of the area appeal to you? Talk to your travel agent who can find the sailings that meet your meets at the best price through the ability to leverage the agencies’ pricing abilities. Cruises can be complicated and dealing with a travel agent rather than a discounting boiler room will give you someone to go to for answers to your questions.