When it comes to cruising, choosing the best cruise line for you can make the difference between feeling you are stuck on a boat and having the best vacation ever!!
Before you choose a cruise line, you will want to decide where you want to go. Not all cruise line itineraries are created equal. If there is a particular city you want to visit, there may be only one or two cruise lines that have it as a port. If you are looking at a specific region like the Mediterranean or Alaska, there are cruise lines that excel over the other. On a traditional Bahamas or Caribbean cruise, the ship has become the destination, and you can have a great time without ever disembarking. Once you have decided on your priorities, you can use these comparisons to pick the best cruise line for you.
In this post, I am just comparing the most popular mid-level cruise lines. I like to shy away from budget cruise lines as I find the ship quality and experience to be inconsistent. You can find a much better value on one of these lines often for about the same price. Once I open up to luxury cruise lines, the possibilities become endless with themed and specialty cruises for any interest!!
If you would like to discuss which one of these cruises may be best for your family or want more information on luxury or specialty cruises schedule a time to chat I would love to hear from you!!
Holland America has a classic old time traditional feel. The ships are great if you just want a relaxing, tranquil, and quiet cruise. Their entertainment is more low-key with most passengers heading to bed on the early side.
Cost: Low, moderate
Activity Highlights: free movies in a real theater, impressive cooking classes, and the best combination Internet café/onboard library at sea.
Food Highlights: Poolside lunch buffets are impressive for the price. Canapes before dinner are abundant.
Low Points: Sleepy nightlife
Demographic : Most of the passengers on the Holland America reserved, dedicated to the line and happy to bypass a floating amusement park in favor of quieter activities
Celebrity is owned by Royal Caribbean and is slightly more elevated than its sister line. Here you will find an older crowd, more traditional features, onboard activities focused on education. The cruise line offers excellent food and service but may be too sedate for younger cruisers looking for a lot of activity.
Cost: Moderately Priced
Activity Highlights: Unique offerings like art tours on ipads, Apple stores onboard, and outdoor lawns with real grass.
Food Highlights: Big focus on molecular gastronomy. Specialty restaurants are known for their creativity. This is the best cruise line for foodies.
Low Points: Lots of things cost extra
Demographics: With its fleet of upscale ships, Celebrity Cruises attracts a mixed bag of millennials, middle-age people and seniors who tend to be great fans of the fun and food Celebrity provides. Passengers are likely to be better-traveled.
Disney redefined the cruise industry when they brought families to the market. Kid’s clubs, family activities and broadway style shows are where this entertainment juggernaut excels. They also have the largest staterooms in the industry making it comfortable and fun to cruise with the whole family. With one of the smaller fleets the high demand keeps the cost higher but unlike other lines there is very little upcharging once you get on the ship.
Cost: Moderate, expensive
Activity Highlights: Themed kids clubs with activities for every age group and visits from familiar characters, adult only spaces allow Mom & Dad to relax too, the Broadway style entertainment is the best in the industry
Food Highlights: Three restaurants are included in the unique rotational dining with some of the best food you will find included in the cost of the cruise. The only specialty restaurants are adults only.
Low Points: Traditional cruisers may miss having a casino, not much to keep teens entertained, the pool gets crowded with kids
Demographics: Families with young children there to see the Mouse.
Norwegian seems to be competing with Royal Caribbean to bring you the biggest and best at sea. The newer ships feature luxury villas, martini and champagne bars, interconnecting cabins, and bowling alleys. Their aggressive discounts make it a great value. Norwegian is a great option for multi-generational families with lots of options for everyone. The new studio cabins make this the best cruise line for single travelers.
Activity Highlights: improvisational comedy and family-friendly shows like Blue Man Group, Nickelodeon characters, water slides and trampoline for active passengers.
Food Highlights: Flexible dine times, Dining options galore most ships feature 10+ specialty restaurants
Low Points: Standard cabins are among the smallest at sea, older ships are run down and don’t have nearly as many features
Demographic: The cruise line continues to attract a lot of first-time younger cruisers, couples and friends sharing staterooms.
MSC is an Italian cruise line known for catering to low budget cruisers in the Mediterranean. They have recently tapped into the American market and are blowing everyone away by their beautiful ships and low costs and has made its way to the 4th largest cruise line. Service and food are fair compared to others in the industry but exceptional for the cost. Year round Mediterranean cruises allows you to visit popular ports in the less crowded off season.
Size: Medium/ Large
Cost: Low – Moderate
Activity Highlights: Entertainment is mostly music and dance to avoid language barriers for its multilingual clientele.
Food Highlights: Focus on locally sourced and produced food
Low Points: Smoking seems to be allowed in more places, announcements get long when they are in multiple languages
Demographics: Just about everyone. Europeans + Americans. Retirees + Young Couples. Single Travelers + Families with young children (children under 11 sail free)
Royal Caribbean has one of cruising’s most famous, and most over-the-top fleets. Ships range from mid-sized to state-of-the-art mega-ships. Known for bringing innovation to sea including indoor skydiving, bumper cars, surf simulators, circus school, and rock climbing walls. While not gourmet, Royal Caribbean’s food is usually good enough to please most of their passengers.
Activity Highlights: Climbing walls, ice skating rinks, and zip lines keep kids and grown-ups busy. Broadway productions include “Chicago,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and “Hairspray.”
Food Highlights: Flexible Dine Times, Many Specialty Restaurants
Low Points: Cabins are tight, especially on the older ships; food in main dining rooms can be underwhelming, a lot of things require an up charge, older ships show their age.
Demographic: Royal Caribbean, the world’s second most popular cruise line, attracts a wide swath of cruisers. During the summer you’ll see lots of families, especially on Caribbean voyages. The rest of year you’ll find a mixed bag.
Princess Cruises are a wonderful option for travelers of any age. Their ships feature expansive facilities, with spacious spas and fitness facilities, amazing kids club serving ages 3 to 17, and quality entertainment venues including casinos, discos and nightclubs. Princess’s food is good for their tier, offering a mix of culinary themes and different specialty restaurants varying by ship class.
Activity Highlights: The Scholarship at Sea program allows cruisers to learn anything from Photoshop to cooking while at sea, big screens on the pool deck for movie nights and wii tournaments
Food Highlights: Some of the better complimentary food with excellent buffet spreads at breakfast, lunch and dinner; pizza made from scratch by the pool
Low Points: The tiered balcony design eliminates verandah privacy, entertainment seems lacking next to competitors
Demographics: You’ll find every type of passenger on Princess Cruises — from wide-eyed first-time cruisers to those who already know the maître d’ and have sailed with the company dozens of times. The line’s big ships offer endless activities and options and a popular shore excursion program.
With all the joy of Disney magic combined with an exciting new destination every day – there’s something for everyone on a Disney Cruise. Disney Cruise Staterooms are some of the biggest and best designed sailing the seas, and selecting yours should be next on your list after choosing your ship and itinerary. But with so many to choose from, how do you know which is right for your family? The ‘Disney Cruise Line, Guide to Choosing the Best Stateroom’ covers everything you need to know about each room – including budget, size, category and more – to ensure that you really do get the most out of your cruise!
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