A cruise can be the ultimate vacation experience. However, selecting the right cruise for you can seem overwhelming at times. There are dozens of cruise lines each offering their own view of a perfect cruise, some with over a dozen ships for you to select from. Those new to cruising often look to the destinations as the first factor in selecting a cruise vacation. Many experienced cruisers will look at the ship's features as the most important selection factor. Who you are cruising with and what are your service expectations are factors you need to also consider. As an example, Some ships are better for families than others. Those expecting five star service may be disappointed with some cruise lines and absolutely thrilled with others.
A cruise is an outstanding choice for a family vacation. Most cruise lines have programs that are focused on providing entertainment and activities for various age groups of children onboard. These programs allow the parents time to relax and do as they please knowing their children are being well look out for. Cruises are also great for multi-generation vacations. Families tend to frequent shorter 3 or 4 day cruises, as well as 7 day cruises. Cruises longer than 7 day will generally have a more mature passenger. Here are a few cruise lines that are very popular with families:
The name “Disney” brings a feeling of family fun and for an adult an excuse to enjoy being a child again. The Disney  Cruise line brings the magic of the theme parks to a cruising vacation. Passengers will enjoy entertainment that is based on Disney themes including frequent meet and greets with well-known characters. The line has four ships with a couple more on the way. The 3 and 4 night cruises that depart from Port Canaveral will have a port call at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. While being with family is great, sometimes you need a little adult me time. The ships all have areas that are for adults only.Explore Disney Cruises
Royal Caribbean has the largest ships at sea. This means there is ample space for family recreational activities. You can  find zip lines, the tallest water slide at sea, golf, surfing and even ice-skating. Families can enjoy a buffet meals with special children delights or an sit down diner in the main dining room. They offer a program called family time dining for children 3 to 11. The family eats together at the first sitting and after 40 minutes the children are taken to an evening activity. This allows the older children and adults to extend their dining time and to move on to evening activities. Their Adventure Ocean youth programs has programs that are divided by age groups and include fun educational activities. There is a teen disco and a late night program so the parents can drop off younger children, so they can have some date time for themselves.Explore Royal Caribbean Cruises
The name “Carnival cruise lines is the pioneer line for family cruising. There were among the first to offer programs  designed for children. They also offer age bracket activities for children as well as activities for families. Carnival cruise says that kids can enjoy all the best parts of summer camp and family vacation at the same time. Camp Ocean is their Children's Program for 2-11 year olds. This program is broken down to three age groups and provides interesting activities for the children. Teens ages 12-14 have the Circle “C” program, while those ages 15-17 have Club O2 program. Each of the programs have separate areas. Evening and late night programs are available.Explore Carnival Cruises
Norwegian Cruise line's complimentary youth programs – Splash Academy (ages 6 months to 12 years old) and  Entourage (teenagers) provide a wide assortment of activities in different age groupings. In the Splash Academy children can learn circus skills which they can perform in an end of cruise show called “Splashtacular Extravaganza”. The Guppies program in Splash Academy is for children from 6 months to 3 years. The program requires a parent to be present but offers sensory play as well as other activities. NCL has a new program called Guppies Nursery which is slowly being introduced across the fleet. It allows parents to drop off their children of Guppy program age. Port play and late night zone are other programs that allow parents the freedom to enjoy themselves while the children are having supervised play time. Norwegian Cruise Line also has scheduled workshops for the children and their parents.Explore Norwegian Cruises
While MSC is one of the leading cruise lines in Europe, it is not as well-known in North America. However, with their  recent expansion in the Caribbean market and the establishment of Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve that is changing. The line is well-known for their family programs having been recognized as "Best Cruise Line for Families" in the Cruise Critic UK Editors' Picks 2019 and "Best Family Cruise Line" at the Wave Awards 2018. MSC's children programs has age groupings from babies to the age of 17. The baby club program for 0 to 3 year olds allows parents to drop off their children. There is family dinning times as well as a supervised program where the children can eat with their new-found friends. The selection of staterooms aboard feature those designed for family groups. Children age 7 to 17 can also have their own pre-paid onboard card allowing them freedom to buy as they wish within a limit set by the parents.Explore MSC Cruises
This Italian themed cruise line has Costa Fun@sea Program for the children onboard. Younger children will enjoy  the Squok Club which is divided into age groups: the Mini, with special Peppa Pig-themed activities for 3 to 6 years, and the Maxi Club, from ages 7 to 11. Older children have the Teen Club Junior (ages 12-14) and Teen Club (ages 15-17). The Squok Club is open from 9am to12:30am allowing time for parents to enjoy themselves. The Teen clubs have schedules evening activities including theme dinners, midnight swims and discos.Explore Costa Cruises
“Set a course for romance and adventure aboard The Looovvve Boat” That was a theme that replayed in millions of peoples minds in the early days of vacation cruises. The Love Boat series aired on the ABC television network from 1977 to 1987 with most of the filming on the luxury cruise ship S.S. Pacific Princess. It helped break the image that cruises were for the rich and introduced cruising to singles and couples.
Cruises are very popular as a honeymoon. The freedom to select your own schedule, romantic hideaways and luxurious treats create a perfect setting to start your life together. Weddings onboard a cruise hip or on a cruise lines private island is also a popular choice. If all your friends can not come along, the wedding can be live streamed online. Here are some popular choices for couples.
Keeping with the “Love Boat” tradition, The “2016 Cruise Critic Editors Picks Awards” chose Princess Cruise lines as  the “Best Cruise Line for Romance”. While the line is family friendly and does have children programs, it does have fewer families onboard on most sailings. The selection of dining venues allows for the couple to have quality time over a meal. Programs and classes onboard allow the couple to experience things together or to have some me time by themselves. For an extra special touch there are packages available for couples to experience be it a romantic getaway, renew wedding vows, even getting married. Here something to think about, a survey sponsored by Princess showed that 26% of those surveyed would prefer to receive a trip or vacation for Valentine’s Day. https://www.princess.com/downloads/pdf/Onboard_Experience/romance-infographic.pdfExplore Princess Cruises
What can be more romantic than spending time with the one you love on a private beach in the south pacific away from  large crowds? The Gauguin gives you the choice of sailing French Polynesia, Fuji, the South Pacific or Tahiti. Carrying only 332 guest she will take you to places no other cruise ship can. It is a luxury ship but with warm, friendly feel, and informal setting.Explore Paul Gauguin Cruises
Their slogan “180 degrees from ordinary” and the fact they have won many awards for the best small ship experience  many times from a number of different organizations, gives you an indication what this cruise line is all about. Windstar has two class of ships, “Wind” and “Star”. The three “wind” ships: Wind Surf (322 guest), Wind Spirit (148 guest), and Wind Star (148 guest) are all under sail. The “star” class ships: Star Pride, Star Breeze and Star Legend are being modified under a program the line is calling Star Plus Initiative. When completed, the ships will each carry 312 guest in an all suite arrangement. The Windstar has been repeatedly voted “World’s Most Romantic Cruise Line” by readers of Bride’s magazine, Porthole Cruise magazine and CruiseCritic.com.Explore Windstar Cruises
This is the luxury upscale line owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises. Azamara Cruises has three mid-sized ships: Azamara  Journey, Azamara Quest, and their most recent addition the new Azamara Pursuit. The line prides themselves saying “You’ll love the genial club-like atmosphere and the way our staff and crew get to know you. And you’ll feel the same friendliness with your fellow voyagers.” The majority of the sailings for this line are longer than 10 days and can be combined with land packages. Their Grand Voyages cruises can last as long as 69 days.Explore Azamara Cruises
The SeaDream I & II are 344 foot long, twin mega-yachts that carry a crew of 95 and 112 guest in 2 suites and 54  staterooms. Named “Best Small Luxury Cruise Ship of 2015” in ForbesLife, they are intimate boutique ships that provide a unique traveling experience. The small number of guest and the high crew to guest ratio make you feel that you are on a private yacht. SeaDream’s slogan “It’s Yachting, Not Cruising” defines the company's mission. The small size allows the SeaDreams to visit ports that other cruise ship can not.Explore SeaDream Yacht Club Cruises
This is the premium line owned by Royal Caribbean. It's latest accolades include Winning Travel Weekly’s Best Premium  Cruise Line award for the 12th consecutive year in 2019, as well as the Best Cruise Line in Europe for the 10th consecutive year and winning the Best new ship award for the Celebrity Edge. Celebrity Cruises has 14 different ships giving you many options for finding the perfect destination and departure point.Explore Celebrity Cruises
Solo and single cruisers are separate groups but share many of the same likes and needs. The solo passenger is one who is traveling by themselves. Generally they will be single, however, it is becoming more common for married couples taking separate vacations due to time constraints. Traveling alone a solo traveler often has to pay a single supplement which can be as much as 100% of the cruise fare. Some cruise lines do have lower supplements and often you can find under booked sailings that will offer a special solo rate. A 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study, revealed that 24 percent of people surveyed traveled solo on their most recent international vacation.
A number of cruise lines recognize the potential sales of solo cruises and have studio or solo staterooms which are generally priced less than an interior with 100% surcharge. Singles traveling with a friend will find that many lines offer special get together for them to meet other singles. Here are some lines to consider.
Cunard is one of the most trusted and prestigious cruise lines in the world. And they love the solo and single cruiser.  The Queen Mary, Queen Victoria and the new Queen Elizabeth all have stateroom for solo travelers, as will a fourth ship to be introduced in 2022, their 180 anniversary. The social host onboard have many events that are designed to get singles to meet each other. Many of the workshops and seminars are also excellent to meet your fellow cruisers. Singles can request to be seated at a large table with other singles.Explore Cunard Cruises
This is one of the premium lines owned by Carnival cruises. Their two newest ships have solo staterooms with single  supplements available for other staterooms. They have a Single Partners Program that will match you with a same gender roommate at the regular double occupancy rate. Most cruise will start with a single meet and greet and have up to 40 single orientated activities per week. Longer cruises attract a higher percentage of single older women and on many of these cruise the line will have gentleman as dance partners and dinner escorts.Explore Holland America Cruises
Silver Seas has a fleet of 10 small ultra-luxury cruise ships including 4 expedition style. The ships have between 50 and  304 suites. You will have personalized butler service in your suite with everything included. Single supplements on this line is the lowest in the industry at just 10%. Singles are invited to a welcome aboard cocktail party to get those traveling alone or other singles to get together.Explore Silversea Cruises
Crystal Cruise is a luxury cruise line that has ships of different categories. They have Ocean cruises, River cruises,  yacht cruises and expedition cruises. The two ocean cruise ships carry only 980 passengers. The four all suite river ships carry only 106 guest. Their expedition ship carries only 200 guest with an equal number of staff. The yacht Crystal Esprit has only 62 guest in 31 suites with a staff of 90. The line has been Awarded TRAVEL & LEISURE World's Best Awards for Best Small-Ship Ocean Cruise Line for 23 Years and Awarded CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER (U.S.) Gold List World’s Best 26 Years. Many cruises offer a low 10% single supplement.Explore Crystal Cruises
A number of the cruise lines in the list above will fit the luxury class however, there are a few more that deserve to be mentioned.
The newest cruise line is off to a great start receiving many awards. This cruise line is a sister line to the well revered  Viking River Cruises considered by many as the best river cruise line in the world. Viking Ocean cruises has seven sister ships each carry only 930 passengers placing them in the small ship category. All the suites on the lines' ships have a private veranda and king-size beds. There are no extras on Viking Ocean Cruises everything is included. Children are not allowed on board.Explore Viking Ocean Cruises
Seabourn Cruise is an ultra-luxury small ship line. Currently the line has five ships that have either 229 or 300 suites.  Each ship has all ocean-front suites, an open-bar policy serving premium wine, champagne and spirits, and a world-class dining experience. Seabourn will be adding two new expedition ships in the next two years. These ships will be rated for polar cruises and will have 132 all veranda ocean-front suites. There will be enough zodiac boats for all passengers can explore at the same time. Additionally, there will be two submarines on each ship.Explore Seabourn Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises is an ultra-luxury line is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line. The line has five ships that range  in size from 450 passengers to 750 passengers, all in balcony suites. The cruise lines covers most of the worlds destinations and has both Grand voyages and World tours.Explore Regent Seven Seas Cruises
As you read the information in this article, you can clearly see that a cruise is not a one size fit all vacation. The ships themselves range from under 100 passengers to well over 3,000. While all ships have comfortable accommodations, some reach the ultra-luxury level complete with a butler. Cruise fares can be under $50 a day per person to thousands of dollars a day.
Many of the cruise lines, especially those listed in the family section, are considered mass market cruise lines. These lines provide a cruise that will appeal to a wide range of potential passengers. The quality of service is high, likely above what you are used to. Cruise ships are known for their outstanding food. You can eat as much as you like and on most ships at any time of the day or night. There is an old joke that says you come on as a passenger and leave as cargo. It might seem like that for you as well. The quality of the food on the mass market cruises is very good on par to a good four star restaurants. Cuisine on the ultra-luxury lines will be of Michelin star quality.
Staterooms or cabins on a cruise ship fall within a few categories. While each cruise line will have their own names and may have different price ranges in each category they all are similar. While suites often have additional services, all other categories receive the same level of service. Some general staterooms are:
This is almost a chicken or egg type question. Cruise lines spend millions of dollars on each ship adding features to keep passengers entertained and as important coming back. Their advertisements highlight all the ships have to offer. They offer features like pools, hot tubs, casinos, rock climbing, water slides, theaters, clubs and a dozen or so restaurants in some cases. However, you will spend about half of your waking hours on board the ship. So the port calls, where the ships visit is also important. So select a itinerary that includes places you want to see. If you are a beach lover, remember that many of the cruise lines own private islands with great beaches.
If you are like most people who try a cruise, you will be back for another. Cruises have the highest satisfaction rating of any type of vacation.