The majority of people who go on a cruise and dislike it have fallen prey to the first mistake of booking a cruise: They chose the wrong cruise line and ship.
Most people have heard the stereotypes of cruising: buffet-style food, too many kids, feeling trapped on board, seasickness, subpar entertainment, no young people on board and jail-like accommodations.
While it’s true you can find those things on some cruise lines, it’s actually easier these days to find a cruise that has none of them – plus many more appealing aspects that are a good fit for your personality type and vacation style. The secret is doing your research and knowing which cruise line is going to best suit your personality. Let’s take a look at some common aspects desired in vacations and what cruise lines deliver them – you’ll find some debunking of the above cruise stereotypes in the process.
Think cruising just involves a lot of eating and lounging around on board? You may want to check that line of thinking and fill your thoughts with icebergs, penguins and polar bears instead.
Several small-ship cruise lines are navigating their way around the sea, delivering passengers to some of the most exotic and animal-heavy wilderness in the world. Sail to the Galapagos, Antarctica and Alaska on an expedition cruise ship that gets you right into the thick of the great outdoors. The ships often have smaller boats on board to take you out into the water and maneuver around the sea and inlets to get you closer to the beauty and animals of the region.
Popular adventure cruise lines include Abercrombie and Kent, Lindblad Expeditions and Celebrity Cruises’ Xpedition ship.
Cruise ships aren’t just for seniors anymore and there are entire cruise lines that base their whole fleet around kid-friendly activities. Two such cruise lines are Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line.
With rock-climbing walls, wave-simulator machines, ice-skating rinks, water parks and even ziplines on board some of their ships, Royal Caribbean keeps kids entertained. Younger kids can also enjoy activities in the kid zones segmented out by age group (3-5, 6-8 and 9-11) to ensure prime fun for every kid no matter their age. Teens also have a cool and safe place to unwind at special teen-only hangouts. There’s even a babies and tots program and nursery for parents looking for some alone time.
Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters are a big plus for kids who travel aboard a Disney cruise ship. On top of being able to have breakfast with Disney characters and see them walking around the ship, kids will delight in the massive pool and waterparks on board plus the Broadway-style live shows starring their favorite characters.
It’s no secret that you can eat a lot of food while on a cruise. It’s always available somewhere on board and all-you-can-eat-lobster nights are a famous and popular buffet night on many cruise ships. However, if you’re looking for high-end dining and are worried you won’t be able to find that in a cruise ship’s buffet line, you’ll be happy to hear that buffet-style dining – particularly for dinner – is becoming a thing of the past for most cruisers.
Main dining rooms on board have upped their ante by offering gourmet and inventive choices every night. Some cruise lines are even hiring celebrity chefs to create the menu items for their ships, such as Master Chef Jacques Pépin for Oceania Cruises.
Cruise lines that put a special emphasis on food include Celebrity’s Solstice-class of ships, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class of ships, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Oceania Cruises.
Check out the best cruise itineraries for food and wine lovers
Worried about getting bored on a cruise ship? You won’t need to be if you choose a ship with numerous entertainment options.
Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice-class of ships has sophisticated entertainment. The Solstice-class ships’ claim to fame is the Lawn Club, an area that is covered in real grass and great for playing bocce ball on or having a picnic. Adjacent to the Lawn Club on board the Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Eclipse is the Hot Glass Show, where passengers can watch the art of glass blowing and view vases and other glass creations transform before their eyes. Celebrity also has their CelebrityLife program on these ships, which offers wine tastings and other interesting activities to help you learn new things while on your cruise.
The newest cruise ship of Norwegian Cruise Line, the Norwegian Epic, offers a Vegas-like vibe. For starters, the onboard casino is one of the largest at sea. There is also Vegas-style entertainment, such as the Blue Man Group, an ice bar and a massive pool area with waterslides. The entertainment continues onto the dining. Watch your food be prepared at Teppanyaki, an Asian restaurant where your food is cooked right in front of you – with some pretty cool utensil twirling and food tricks. At the Cirque Dreams and Dinner theater, you can enjoy being served a decadent meal while watching daring acrobatics.
Carnival went all out for their latest ship to set sail, the Carnival Breeze, which has numerous ways for you to pass your days at sea. During the daylight hours, you can spend time soaking up the sun and getting wet at Waterworks, the onboard water park, or become a daredevil at the SportSquare ropes course. Once the evening sky appears, you’ll have so many choices you may not ever want to go back to your stateroom to sleep. Laugh out loud at the comedy club, catch a Broadway-style show, sing along at the Piano Bar, or visit one of the several other lounges, bars and clubs on board.
While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cruise line that is 100% adults-only, you can choose a line and itinerary that is less likely to have a bunch of children on them. Luxury cruise lines such as Oceania Cruises and Silversea Cruises don’t offer much at all in terms of kids activities so most parents shy away from them. Instead, on board, you’ll find sumptuous lounges, fine china, gourmet five-course specialty restaurants and butlers. If a luxury cruise line price tag isn’t quite in your budget, choose a premium cruise line such as Holland America or Princess Cruises in Europe or Asia during September through May kids-are-in-school months (avoiding school holidays) and you’ll increase your chances of sailing around while barely seeing anyone under the age of 18.
From urban-style lofts to multi-room suites and balconies with Jacuzzis, accommodations on cruise ships are anything but standard these days.
Silversea Cruises is a luxury line that boasts an all ocean-view suite fleet, and many of those suites have private balconies. The rooms have Egyptian-cotton sheets and you get to pick from nine different pillow choices to make sure you sleep as well as if you were at home. All suites have walk-in closets and a spacious seating area. Plus, each suite comes with a butler who, upon your arrival, will present you with your choice of different bath product brands – and you get to pick which one you want.
A balcony doesn’t necessarily mean a panoramic ocean view on board the World’s Largest Cruise Ships, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas. Some rooms instead overlook the ships’ tranquil Central Park neighborhood, or the fun and entertaining Boardwalk area, from which you can also watch the evening water show. For some added luxury on board, the Loft Suites offer a kitchen and living room along with a loft-bedroom and a two-story ocean view.
Having an inside stateroom used to mean feeling boxed in due to lack of windows. Disney Cruise Line changed that by adding ‘magical portholes’ on its newest ships, the Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, that give a televised view of the outside plus glimpses of other Disney ‘magic’ as well, delighting children and making inside staterooms desirable and parents traveling on a budget happy.
Even singles have a chic way of traveling these days. Instead of paying a singles surplus for a room that accommodates two, travelers cruising alone can stay in one of the singles Studio staterooms on the Norwegian Epic, which come equipped with mood lighting and a porthole looking into the club-like hallway. There’s even a lounge just for Studio guests, making it easy to meet and mingle with other solo travelers on the ship.
Time Off Ship
An important aspect of cruising are the ports-of-call and for travelers worried about being stuck on the ship too much, there are plenty of itineraries to choose from where you’ll spend so much time in-port you may want a day at sea by the end to just relax. Italian-based cruise lines MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises offer many 7-night Europe itineraries that stop in a different port every day. Azamara Club Cruises puts a focus on the destination as well by spending a lot of time in port, including a couple overnight stays in port on many of their itineraries, giving you a chance to see a destination in the sunlight and at twilight.
Other cruise lines that offer destination-centric itineraries include Oceania Cruises, Seabourn Cruises, Princess Cruises and most river cruise lines.
Browse Viator’s selection of shore excursions around the world
For those who feel a bit daunted at the thought of being out in the middle of the deep blue sea or don’t want to risk big waves to trigger seasickness, a river cruise is a great alternative. Europe sailings are especially popular river cruise itineraries as they sail along scenic routes such as the Danube and Seine rivers with frequent stops in small towns and villages along the river that larger cruise ships aren’t able to access. It’s a tranquil way of seeing a lot of Europe in a luxury setting on board with fresh food for meals and frame-worthy views from every window – plus you’ll only have to unpack once.
Popular river cruise lines include Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Viking River Cruises, AmaWaterways and Avalon Waterways.
Learn more about river cruises in Europe
One of the great things about cruising now is that there is such a wide variety of cruises to choose from, so be sure to choose a cruise line and ship wisely before booking a cruise and get ready for a memorable, ideal vacation.
- Gina Douglas Tarnacki