This season I have been running a cruising series here. I know it’s fun to plan holidays as soon as the cool weather hits and some of us are big travel planning junkies. (WINK) I write a fair bit about travel and one of the things first time cruisers ask me most is what cruise line should I choose?
That’s a hard question to answer for another person without a few basic facts. Do a bit of brainstorming about your needs and your travel style before you start searching in earnest. Asking yourself these seven questions before you choose your cruise line vacation will help you have a successful experience.
Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing A Cruise Line:
How big is too big?
Listen, cruise lines can vary from 2000 on a ship to 4500 or more and 21 floors. Last year we opted for the Norwegian Escape and we loved it – but a cruise ship that has 21 floors and 4500 people is not a place where little people can be left unattended. Think about that when booking. The size of the cruise impacts everything – from how long it takes to board to port excursions, lineups and dinner time. If you hate to wait, then I think you should never choose a cruise line with 4500 people on it. The Norwegian Escape was more than efficient and great for our cruise in 2015, but that size cruise would not be very romantic in my opinion. And, although we loved so much about the activities on board, my teen rescued multiple lost children every day at the waterpark. She is a sensitive gal and she would see some little person suddenly begin to panic every day when they looked up and saw that Mom and Dad were missing. We would then contact activities staff who would circulate the info around the ship and wait for panicked Mom or Dad to show. If I had a toddler I would use the kid’s clubs as opposed to risking losing them even for a short time.
What kind of cruise vacation you want?
There are as many cruise ships as there are types of travel – maybe even more actually. So where to start? Romance? Family travel? Party cruise? LGBTQ? Multi-generational? Special needs? Well, we do family travel so I can tell you that Norwegian and Carnival do family travel very well. Obviously Disney is family and multi-generational travel as well. Celebrity clients skew a bit older in my experience and there are a lot of diehard return cruisers on Celebrity. MSC and Holland America also skew older so if you are traveling with teens maybe that’s not the right one for you this year. Royal Caribbean is marketing to a younger demographic. They really don’t seem to want young families, but love millennials and teens. So if that’s your crowd then maybe that’s the best choice for you. This is the one we are choosing to cruise with next. Their ships have some fun activities for kids in my age range 12-15. That’s one of the reasons I decided to choose Royal Caribbean this season.
Where do you want to go?
Some cruise lines are experts in the Caribbean and some are experts in European cruises. A few are both. Disney has a stunning Caribbean itinerary and they also have a gorgeous Alaska cruise option. I am confident that with the Disney service either option would be a great vacation choice. I am excited to hear how a very good friend and her family enjoy Disney’s Alaska MSC for instance has some smaller ships with a more intimate feel and they tend to do more European cruising.
Who are you traveling with? Is this a family cruise?
Is it a two week Mediterranean or European Cruise that’s just you and your partner? All the various cruise lines have a reputation and an expertise as well. Each cruise ship caters to a different demographic and some lines are more accustomed to handling people with various special needs and mobility issues than others are. Some are all about activities and some are all about entertainment. The high ropes activities on the Norwegian Escape last year and the waterslides on board were the thing that tipped the scales for me. WE LOVE that kind of stuff on board.
What is your budget?
Yes cruise lines vary in cost wildly. Royal Caribbean for instance is more expensive that Carnival. Decide how high you can go and then stick to it remembering too there are always extra fees on a cruise ship. Carnival is one of the more economical options. Also if you have already cruised once with several of these cruise lines there are incentives to return year after year.
Are there food allergies in your group?
How does each of the major cruise lines manage on board allergies? Disney is brilliant at handling allergies. I suspect most cruise lines are now sensitive to many dietary needs and allergies too. BUT if you have a family member with allergies this is one that you really need to check.
What are the ports like?
Some cruise lines offer 4 and 5 ports on a cruise that is port intensive and 7 days long. If that is your style, then know that you can find that on Norwegian, Royal and also Carnival.
I have not been a passenger on all of the cruise ships out there. I am still really itching to try Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity cruise line too because I have heard a lot about them. Plus Royal always looks like a lot of fun. And Disney Cruise lines have not yet proven affordable for us. One more thing – don’t forget to check with your network of friends, families and neighbours. Their previous experience with a cruise line is one of the most valuable ways to inform your decision.
Which cruises have you taken and what was your experience like?