Have you ever asked yourself how to choose a cruise? Where to even begin the decision process? It can be intimidating, especially for those first time cruisers. The sheer volume of cruise lines, cruise ships, and itineraries is often reason enough to scare one into staying away from cruising.
The good news however, is the process of choosing that right itinerary, cruise line and cruise ship, doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating. For us at Prep4Travel, planning is part of the fun! We would like to take some of the headache out of the planning process for you. As planning is the first step to your cruise vacation, you should feel confident in your choice, so all that’s left is to sit back and count down the days until your cruise starts.
We often advise to start simple by picking one of the basic 3 steps:
1) What is your Budget?
2) Do you have a particular Destination in mind?
3) What is the Desirable length of cruise you would prefer?
Knowing any of these or all of these is a big step in answering that ‘how to choose a cruise?’ question. We then recommend you take a look at the below cruise category list. If you can find the right category that lines up with any or all of the 3 basic questions, you might just have a winner!
We have broken cruising down into the below categories:
1) First time cruiser
2) Honeymoon cruiser/romance
3) Cruising with little children
4) Cruising with older children
5) Cruising because your a foodie
6) Best cruise lines for the budget conscious
7) Best cruise lines for splurging
8) Best cruise lines for seniors
9) Best cruise lines for solo travelers
10) Best cruise lines for the adventure seekers
Best For First Time Cruisers
While this category by itself can be further broken down, we recommend trying a smaller 3-5 day cruise for first time cruisers. If you have apprehensions about cruising in general, this will give you a wonderful taste of what cruising is like, and by the end of your cruise you will certainly know if cruising is for you.
Carnival Cruise Line is our first choice for the first time cruiser. It’s a very well balanced cruise line for a little bit of everything (entertainment, itineraries, food, excursions, and so on). Carnival offers a wide range of 3-5 day cruises that leave out of Miami.
Best for Honeymoon/Romance
Our first pick is Celebrity Cruises. As a honeymooner you likely won’t want to deal with lots of children running around the ship. Celebrity cruises won’t break the newlywed bank, but also provide that luxury, amenities and service a newlywed couple wants on their honeymoon. Celebrity also offers a wide range of itineraries, which might be perfect for those honeymoon memories.
Our second pick is Princess Cruises. They offer intimate romantic private balcony dinners, adult only sun decks, and fantastic spa packages for honeymooners or couples. While Princess has a wonderful children’s program, they are not known for having throngs of littles running around their cruise ships.
Best for Cruising With Young Children
We certainly don’t want to say this is a no brainier, but Disney Cruise Lines is 100% tailored for the child experience. With nurseries that will take children as young as 6 months, to childproof balcony locks, Disney Cruise line is meant for your child to have the time of their lives, while catering to parents as well. There will certainly be plenty of Disney character interaction, which will bring smiles to your children(s) faces from the start to the end of your cruise.
Another less expensive option is Carnival Cruise Lines. Their kids program starts as young as age 2, and has a dedicated play time for parents with infants. They have endless activities for young children in their camp carnival. Most cruise lines close their childcare during meal times, however Carnival (and sister company Princess) offer a few times in a week long cruise, where they will actually take your children to dinner. This is a double bonus, allowing for a more peaceful dining experience for the parents, while knowing your child(s) are being fed as well. This is something we have certainly taken advantage of in the past.
Best for Cruising With Older Children
It’s hard to compete with Royal Caribbean (our first choice) for cruising with tweens and or teenagers. Their mega cruise ships offer so many activities that teens love (rock climbing, surfing, zip lines, gaming, mini golf). With ample space to explore an activities to tackle, your kids will stay busy so you can lounge by the pool with a cold drink.
Another great option is Norwegian Cruise Lines. Their freestyle approach has been a huge success for families. No set dining times, no strict dress codes, while offering ample food an entertainment. Norwegian offers teen clubs that have gaming stations and host exclusive parties, while the ships are also known to have video arcades, water parks, an outdoor sports courts. We certainly advise to research a specific ship in advance to see if they have the amenities you are looking for.
Best Cruise Line for the Foodie
While many people cruise just for the all you can eat buffets, we like Celebrity cruise lines for the particular foodies. Known for their very wide variety of catering to all, Celebrity offers anything from comfort food specialties, to grill your own meat and bake your own pizza. Celebrity cruises also offer an artisan sandwich station, build your own gelato dessert, sit down dining, and the ever impressive buffets. Celebrity also offers up to a dozen specialty restaurants, so you will never have to worry about eating the same thing over and over. On top of this, Celebrity has an entire culinary cruise program that includes culinary workshops, and wine appreciation. These programs are meant to bring the real foodie out of you.
Best Cruise Line for the Budget Conscious
We actually have two picks for this category. While we believe Carnival Cruise Line is your most budget friendly, Norwegian Cruise Line is a very close 2nd. Carnival has always been known as the ‘fun’ ship or ‘fun’ cruise line, where you will certainly get decent value for your money.
Norwegian Cruise Lines has the past few years added bonus perks, such as included alcoholic beverages, free wifi, or free/included dining upgrades. If you calculate these into your final cruise package price, there will be little difference between the two. At this point it’s probably more a preference of itineraries, shore excursions, and which cruise line offers the better deal for the time of year you prefer.
Best Cruise Line for Splurging
Our choice is Regent Seven Seas. This cruise line just screams luxury in all aspects. Their final ticket price includes just about everything from air fare to most shore excursions. Most other cruise lines will charge extra for fine dining in one of their specialty restaurants, however, Regency of the Sevens Seas includes this. If this is your once in a lifetime chance to spoil yourself, you would not go wrong with choosing this cruise line.
Another fantastic option is Seabourn Cruise Lines. Their ships are much smaller in relation to most (450 to 600 passengers), but are known as havens of luxury. Fewer passengers means less times waiting in line, and more time for relaxing or cruise ship fun. Ship cabins are designed with luxury in mind, where you can even do a course-by -course in cabin dining if you prefer.
Best Cruise Line for Seniors
Holland America Line is a fantastic choice for seniors or the more mature cruising patrons. Their ships are more mid range size, meaning less walking to get to cabins, dining, and entertainment. They also offer such amenities as afternoon tea, comfortable cabins, and do a good job of tailoring their excursion program for a more in depth experience of the local culture. Holland is also known as a cruise line that is one of the best for being disability friendly.
We also recommend Cunard Cruise Lines as a great choice for seniors or retirees looking for a more unique and classical experience. Cunard offers transatlantic cruises where there is ample time for rest and relaxation before any busy port days. Formal dinners, ball room dancing, an afternoon tea are all offered through Cunard.
Best Cruise Line for Solo Travelers
We like Norwegian Cruise Lines for any solo cruisers. Their much acclaimed Studio Cabins prove that solo cruisers are not left behind. Norwegian’s largest ship the Epic offers 128 single cabins equaling about 100 sq ft size. Solo cruisers also have access to shared social spaces that include large screen TV’s, coffee making facilities, an a bartender. With space for this many solo cruisers, there is plenty of opportunity to meet others cruising alone.
Holland America Line also offers a great package for the solo traveler. It has a Singles Partner Program which is designed for solo cruisers to meetup with other solo travelers through activities and events. They have social hosts that serve as greeters and dance partners for women upon request. If desired, Holland America will even arrange for you two share a cruise cabin with another same sex solo cruiser to help save you money.
Best Cruise Line for the Adventure Seeker
We have another two choices for this category. Our first being Celebrity Cruises. Their goal is to sail to every continent, so if you like seeing new places, you will have plenty of opportunity to sift through their itineraries for something fresh, new, an exciting.
Our other choice is Viking Ocean Cruises. They include a least one shore excursion in the cost of your booking, to get the ball rolling on exploration. Viking cruises tend to be port heavy itineraries, so you will have plenty of opportunity to get off the ship and explore. This also helps you appreciate those days at sea with ample time for rest, recuperation, and relaxation.
We at Prep4Travel hope this has helped you in your decision making. If you are still unsure and would like to explore, please take a look at www.cruisedirect.com. We have had great success using this website for past cruises, and whether a first time or experienced cruiser, they have options and itineraries worth checking out. Bon Voyage!!
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