Most cruise lines have a particular niche that sets them apart from the others. The cruise line you choose is an important factor to consider when picking your cruise. The cruise ship is your hotel, restaurant and entertainment for your whole vacation. It is a package deal that is different from a traditional vacation.
You’ll want to spend some time and do your research to make sure you pick the right cruise for you. Cruise lines cater to certain age groups, singles, or families and their whole ship is meant to entertain and please that crowd. You’ll want to find the best rate on the right cruise for you, not just the cheapest rate.
Here is a comparison of the most commonly booked larger American cruise lines that sail from the east, west and southeastern ports of the United States to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean, Mexico, and Central and South America — Royal Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America. All of these also sail in other parts of the world for limited seasons such as Alaska, Europe, and Asia, although several cruise lines are building for, or have positioned ships in, Asia year-round for the Chinese market. Please note that within each cruise line, there are multiple varying types of ships with unique features so that with any cruise line, some ships may be perfect for you while others may not be right at all. Ask your travel professional for guidance about specific ships.
Disney Cruise Line — Primarily for Families with Young Children
Many of Disney’s activities take full advantage of the brand, from character meet-and-greets to themed playrooms, Broadway-style musicals (including “Toy Story” and “Aladdin,” and movie theaters that screen first-run and 3D Disney films. Still, these ships also have water slides (including one that is a “water coaster”) and impressive adults-only areas, both on the ship and on the private island Castaway Cay which is rated as the best cruise line private destination. The line’s deck parties and fireworks displays include stunts and special effects no other cruise line can match. Disney has, from the beginning, offered features that set it above other lines in terms of serving families. Case in point — their bathrooms are split into two, one with a shower and sink and the other with a toilet and sink, allowing families to speed through morning and evening rituals much faster. The line’s specialty restaurants include modern adults only French Remy, which frequently wins accolades for both food and service; and its signature innovation — your waiters move with you from restaurant to restaurant at night, guaranteeing smooth service and drinks on the table when you arrive. Soda fountains are free and self-serve throughout their ships. Attention to detail is superb on a Disney cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean — Innovative Activities
For four decades, Royal Caribbean has delivered global adventures with cutting-edge innovation. In between each port, you can discover a ship packed with firsts you won’t find anywhere else. Take on the rock-climbing wall while sailing past a glacier. See a Broadway show on the way to Jamaica. Hang ten on the FlowRider® 200 feet above the waves — on a ship that’s a destination unto itself. They’ve transformed the face of cruising again and again and now have interior cabins with floor-to-ceiling LED “windows” that serve as virtual balconies, but one thing remains the same —their commitment to giving you the seamless personal service that makes their vacations truly memorable. Being loyal to Royal means family vacations with value and many unique activities, though some of their smaller or older ships cater to couples. Sailing with Royal Caribbean gives you an “adventure in every sense of the word”.
Holland America — Premier Cruise Line to Alaska
Holland America’s Alaska cruises in 2016 consisted of the Amsterdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, Westerdam , and Maasdam which did mostly round-trip Seattle routes. The Line whose ships are mostly small to medium-sized just announced they will add an additional ship in Alaska in 2017 which currently sails in Europe. In addition to the last frontier, Holland America offers three cruises to Australia & New Zealand or Hawaii & the South Pacific which begin or end in Seattle; other areas of the world include the Panama Canal, Antarctica, South America, and Grand Voyages. In the past, the line was considered the retiree’s line of choice but today’s Holland America Line is classic, premium and energized with new ideas. You can see it in the growing list of new experiences they offer their guests and their new flagship, the Koningsdam. They have always been committed to service excellence and are now modernizing their personality and image to attract all ages.
Carnival Cruise Line — The Fun Ships
Carnival who’s mission has been to make fun, memorable vacations accessible to all, has always excelled at providing a party atmosphere, with big discos and packed piano bars. The line’s stand-up comedy acts — both family and adult-only shows — are also big hits, and Carnival launched a year ago a Live Concert series, featuring stars like Jennifer Hudson and REO Speedwagon, Tim McGraw and Jay Leno. For decades, Carnival has consistently built ships with roomy standard cabins, measuring 185 square feet or larger, with sizable showers and bedside reading lights. All ships in the fleet are being upgraded over a couple years time to include the Fun Ships 2.0 improvements which include the dining and cocktail venues such as Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina & Tequila Bar, the Red Frog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar and Cherry On Top candy store. The line has the most relaxed dress codes and regulations when it comes to beverages allowed to be brought aboard at embarkation. The new flagship, Vista, offers new innovations revolving around the Havana (Cuba) theme, a separate family cabin area, Family Harbor, with special access to gathering areas, an on-board brewery and the Sky Ride.
Carnival Vista – Havana cabin exterior, Family Harbor shared lounge, Havana pool area
Norwegian Cruise Line — Investing in Upscale Modernizations
Norwegian has created some innovative choices as of late — New studio cabins for singles have access to a private lounge, while the suites in The Haven concierge-level area get great amenities, including a private pool, hot tub, gym, and butler. And the line’s spa cabins get free access to the thermal suite. When Norwegian rolled out its groundbreaking Freestyle Cruising program more than a decade ago, fixed dining times and assigned tables were scrapped — and eating on a cruise ship hasn’t been the same since. Most ships in Norwegian’s fleet have more than 10 dining choices, some free and others with extra charge. Cabins on this line, especially on the older ships, are some of the smallest in the industry. Norwegian has a fireworks show on its newest ships and puts a lot of thought and effort into its shows fleetwide —the funny and family-friendly Blue Man Group and Second City performances get raves. The newest vessels have climbing walls, ropes courses, sports courts, and bowling alleys for a more active experience.
Celebrity Cruises — Premium Cruise Line
Celebrity Cruises is a refined premium line (think painting classes and croquet on grass lawns) and caters to the seasoned cruiser who is focused on food served in elegant surroundings, from an alfresco steak house to classic French fare in an ocean liner-themed restaurant. Celebrity’s standard cabins start at a respectable 170 square feet and feature robes, minibars, and bathroom toiletries that include hair conditioner (many lines just offer shampoo and body wash), but also offer a variety of suites and specialty cabins, including the two-bedroom Reflection Suite, with its glass shower stall cantilevered over the side of the ship, and the AquaClass cabins, which provide complimentary access to the spa’s steam room and their own specialty restaurant. Celebrity can claim several cruise ship firsts — glassblowing demos and real-grass lawn clubs for bocce. Classes range from jewelry making to wine pairing. Celebrity also brings various types of entertainment aboard while in some ports. Although there are three levels of children’s programs and facilities, they are not considered a family-specialized cruise line. One thing that sets Celebrity apart from the mainstream U.S. cruise lines is their expeditions to the Galapagos Islands where they will soon have three ships (considered all-inclusive) sailing several itineraries.
Princess Cruises — Come Back New
Princess is a mainstream cruise line which has something for everyone at every age. From relaxing pursuits and enriching activities to world-class entertainment and gourmet cuisine. When you step aboard, you are setting a course for a world of wonderful new discoveries. Watch amazing shows by a Broadway legend, enjoy incredible cuisine by world-famous chef Curtis Stone and enjoy chocolatier Norman Love’s creations as well as explore the world in a new way with their Discovery at Sea™ enrichment programs brought to you by Discovery Communications™. Enjoy their shore excursions which are very competitive in Alaska with Holland America and they also have excellent cruisetour programs for a pre- or post exploration of Alaska’s Great Land. Culinary Demonstrations & Wine Tastings with selections from regional vineyards, as well as varietals from around the globe are offered. Various types of ballroom dancing classes are available as well as professional dance demonstrations around the ship when at sea. Also new on board each Princess sailing, they are bringing traditions and celebrations from around the world alive. Experience a colorful celebration of unique heritages and cultures – everything from Mardi Gras to Oktoberfest. They have also launched a new craft beer series starting with their award-winning West Coast IPA, special 50th Anniversary blend and have since added the Alaska Denali Red Ale, East Coast Blonde Lager and the Australian Gold Ale. We recommend Princess for first-time cruisers as their sailings can frequently be booked for a very reasonable price and sailings feature popular destinations.
Princess Cays; view from aft pool; and Ruby Princess in Monte Carlo
Photos of Royal Caribbean ships courtesy of Royal Caribbean International; photo of Disney Wonder courtesy of Disney Cruise Line; Carnival Vista photos courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line; photos of Margaritaville and the Norwegian Escape from Norwegian Cruise Line; and the featured image and photos of Celebrity and Princess ships and Princess’ private destination by Mimi Auchter.
We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel Getaway Dreams Come True Travel will be happy to assist in finding the right cruise line and ship for your lifetime memories experience. To schedule your personalized Vacation Planning Session, please call 724.752.2655.
You may wish to view our blog posts on specific ships: