There are so many cruise lines and so much jargon. How do you decipher and how do you choose the right one? Cruise lines are like the company – Toyota, Ford, Hyundai and the ships like Regal Princess or Silver Spirit are like Toyota Camry, Ford Focus, etc.
Ship size does matter – can you imagine being on Symphony of the Seas (capacity of 5,500 passengers) during school holidays with lots of families and kids running around. Is that the kind of experience you would like?
With a passenger capacity of about 800 or less, these are great not only for Expedition and Nature cruises but also to get into ports where the larger ships cannot access. River cruise vessels typically have about 130 passengers, sailing vessels and yachts have less than a 100 passengers all fall within this category.
Advantages of small ship cruising: Access smaller quaint ports and offer interesting itineraries. Ability to offer more personalised service due to higher crew to passenger ratio.
Examples of cruise lines: Silversea, Ponant, Seabourn, Star Clippers, Hapag Lloyd, Oceania, Scenic Cruises, Avalon Waterways
With a passenger capacity of more than 800 and up to 2400 guests, these ships offer exceptional value for money and are most popular as they offer an extensive range of itineraries.
Advantages of cruising on medium sized ships is that the ships offer personal space without feeling crowded and interesting itineraries
Examples of cruise lines: Some Princess, Celebrity, Cunard, MSC, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America, Carnival and Royal Caribbean offer cruising on medium sized ships
These are floating cities/ resorts and cater to anywhere from 2,400 guests to 5,500 guests. You have to pre-book most on board experiences where passenger numbers go upwards of 3000 and by the end of it you may get sick and tired of smorgasbord meals.
Advantages of large ship cruising: Great for Broadway style shows if you can find seats and some on board activities like wave pool, basketball courts, rock climbing walls, etc
Examples of cruise lines: Some Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, Cunard but most prominently Royal Caribbean.
The best way to go about planning your cruise holiday is to decide on destination, cruise duration and budget. Think about your preferences of an all-inclusive luxurious experience versus paying as you go along. Do you consider yourself a connoisseur of fine food and enjoy fine dining, then check out the restaurants offered by the cruise lines you shortlisted. If you enjoy Broadway style shows then you must pick medium to large ships. Depending on your destination, see if the cruise offers any overnight stops – this is particularly handy if there is an event in town you want to attend and accommodation in city is frightfully overpriced, or you just need two or three days to explore the city – case in point is St Petersburg. This narrows down your options and you are left with one or two which makes picking one a lot easier.
Once you made your choice, always consult a cruise specialist who will help you with cabin availability and booking. In life, you get what you pay for and it is true in travel too. Yes inside cabins are way cheaper than balcony /veranda cabins but in my years in travel I noticed that people often remember how they felt / the experience and the price becomes irrelevant after a few months. Book early – for some cruises you can book 12 to 15 months in advance. One more tip book shore excursions early too otherwise you may miss out!!