How to Pick a Cruise Ship

Posted August 22nd, 2011

Picking the perfect ship for your next cruise can be tricky, as there are tons of cruises to choose from and each cruise line tries to convince you that they can offer you exactly what you are looking for. But, cruise lines have also recently been trying to carve out distinctive lifestyle niches for themselves, and even if lines and ships seem similar at first, they all have their own quirks and perks.

It isn’t always immediately obvious which lifestyle vibe a cruise line offers, so we have put together a list of personality types that are common onboard cruise ships, and tried to match these to the cruise lines and ships that would suit them best.

Action and Adventure Seeker

Royal Caribbean’s Voyage class – Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom class – Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class – Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Grab your action and adventure with the onboard rock-climbing wall, in-line and/or ice-skating rink, basketball and volleyball courts, dive and snorkel shop, mini-golf and the Challenger Arcade with virtual reality toys.

The Freedom and Oasis class ships also have onboard surfing and a boxing ring, while on Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas you will find onboard zip line.

To top it all off, these ships feature cruising’s first chain eatery, Johnny Rockets Diner, which offers fantastic burgers, onion rings and hot fudge sundaes until 1am. And, if you indulge in too many burgers and sundaes, the ship’s spa and fitness facilities are state of the art.

Alternatives:

If you don’t find your match in these Royal Caribbean ships, then have a look at Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Epic, which sport cruising’s first bowling alley, and also have rock-climbing walls and onboard Wii tournaments.

Utterly Romantic

Princess Cruises – Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Ruby Princess

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

As the model for the original “Love Boat”, Princess Cruises is serious about romance, offering onboard classes on rediscovering intimacy in your relationship and tear-jerker movies on the in-cabin TV. The romance carries on in the dining areas, and loved-up couples should definitely try the balcony brunch. And for dinner, the cozy Adagio Lounge is perfect for a pre- or post-dinner cocktail, while Sabatini’s, an Italian speciality restaurant, with its outdoor seating area is perfect for a romantic dinner.

For a bit of couples’ pampering, you can both head to the spa, where a rasul treatment includes a mud bath for two, or relax at The Sanctuary, the ships’ adults-only sun deck, an elegant, upscale respite from the crowds around the main pool area.

Alternatives:

If Princess Cruises’ isn’t your style, have a look at any of Windstar Cruises’ three ships.

Another alternative is Paul Gauguin Cruises’, which bases itself in the South Pacific – easily one of the most romantic cruise regions to go to. This line is a favourite among older couples celebrating elegant honeymoons and anniversaries.

For relaxed cruising on an uber-elegant scale, look at SeaDream Yacht Club’s two 110-passenger yachts.

Gourmet Guru’s

Oceania Cruises – Insignia, Nautica, Regatta

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Oceania Cruises excels with its multiple restaurants, inspired by celebrity chef Jacques Pepin. The Italian Toscana serves up Italian soups, pastas and entrees with inspired touches, while the Polo Grill steakhouse is perfect for meat-lovers with 32 ounce steaks in its top-ship setting. Slightly more casual, but still gourmet is Tapas on the Terrace, which does a small bites menu. And for afternoon tea, visit the Horizon Lounge where you will get white-glove service and delectable treats.

The lively Martini’s Lounge is the happy hour spot onboard, with its comfortable couches and faux fireplaces. And, to add to your overall experience, Oceania offers one of the cushiest, most dream-inducing beds at sea.

Alternatives:

Crystal Cruises offers superb Continental Asian fusion and Italian cuisine in a formal setting. And Seabourn Cruise Line also gets high marks for its onboard restaurants, whose menus were designed by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer.

Fitness Fiend

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class ships – Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

The fitness centres on these ships are humungous, measuring some 12500 square feet. They feature top-of-the-line cardio and weight training equipment, studios for Pilates, yoga, spinning, aerobics and circuit training, and 20x20 feet boxing ring and punching bags, as well as a rock-climbing wall, an ice-rink, sports courts, a surf simulator, and a jogging track.

After a workout, the solarium is the perfect place to unwind, with hammocks and two whirlpools, cantilevered over the sides of the ships for ocean views. You can also try the spa for a full selection of treatments, including acupuncture and teeth whitening.

Alternatives:

For fitness buffs who want a more upscale cruise, look at Crystal Cruises, who have introduced Tour de Spin indoor cycling classes and a Walk-on-Water healthy walking program which employs weighted vests and Kinesis equipment for 360 degree movement. Their onboard amenities include paddle tennis courts, golf driving ranges and putting greens, and a wraparound Promenade Deck for walking.

Water Lover

Windstar Cruises – Wind Surf, Wind Star, Wind Spirit

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

For great snorkelling, scuba diving, jet skiing, windsurfing and sailing opportunities consider any of Windstar Cruises’ ships, which have retractable onboard marinas. On their Costa Rica cruises, they carry onboard PADI instructors, offer ship-conducted dive trips through dive instruction teams, and run certification courses.

They are also motor-sail yachts, which means they have a full set of sails but can also travel by motor power like regular cruise ships. This makes the Sailaway much more exciting, as the sails are hoisted and the passengers gather on deck to watch.

Alternatives:

With onboard water sports equipment and marinas, SeaDream Yacht Club, Star Clippers and Seabourn Cruise Lines are also near the top of the list for water lovers.

Night Owl

Norwegian Cruise Lines – Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Epic

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

The Norwegian Gem and Pearl both feature the Bliss Ultra Lounge, which has a bowling alley, a trendy bar and dance club, and is a perfect late-night venue where you can hang out with drinks on the velvety lounge beds, or bowl strikes to a background of rock music.

They also feature Norwegian Cruise Lines’ signature Bar Central – three separate bars which serve up beer and whiskey, martinis and cocktails, and wine and champagne.

They are well known for their themed dance parties, including the Monte Carlo Night in the Casino, and the White Hot Night in the Spinnaker Lounge.

Norwegian Epic also features the Bliss Ultra Lounge, as well as two outdoor nightlife venues, an Ice Bar, a comedy club, a jazz club and a piano show.

To start a great night out on one of these ships, there are a number of great restaurants to choose from, including Teppanyaki, where the chefs juggle and perform as they cook your food tableside; Blue Lagoon which serves comfort food 24 hours a day; the French LeBistro and Cagney’s Steak House, which are intimate and upscale; and new to the Epic are the Manhattan Room Supper Club and O’Sheehan’s Neighbourhood Bar and Grill.

Alternatives:

Carnival Cruises’ nightclub district, with discos, piano bars, casinos, live music and karaoke, are also a winner for hardy Night Owls.

Sophisticated 40-Somethings

Celebrity Cruises’ Solstice class – Celebrity Solstice, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Eclipse

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Celebrity Cruises’ newest class of ships feel contemporary and sleek in style, feeling more like an upscale boutique hotel than a cruise ship. For culinary adventure, try the ships’ alternative restaurants – the Continental-influenced Murano; the steak-and-chop focused Tuscan Grille; the Mediterranean-inspired Blu; the innovative Qsine and the fabulous Bistro on Five.

The bars onboard are intimate and cosy, with favourites including the clubby Michael’s, the icy Martini Bar and the futuristic Quasar. The entertainment offered onboard focuses on small, intimate musicians and performances.

The two-level spa offers a barber shop for men, and a gorgeous relaxation room. And, don’t miss cruising’s first-ever at-sea glass blowing studio.

The cabins feature an entirely new design, with much of the thought and emphasis placed on transforming typically tiny cruise ship bathrooms into roomier ones.

Alternatives:

If Celebrity Cruises’ isn’t for you, have a look at Crystal Cruises. Their mid-sized ships offer a lovely balance of superb dining and service, with the advantage of more big-ship amenities than typically available on smaller upscale vessels. This is one of the few lines where passengers still sometimes dress up in black ties and gowns.

Oceania Cruises and Azamara Cruise Club both operate 700-passenger mid-sized ships, but sport a more casual vibe than Crystal Cruises while still having an elegant ambience and intimate dining.

Poker Player

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Jewel-class ships – Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Jewel, Norwegian Pearl

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ poker tournaments are some of the most lucrative at sea, and the Texas Hold ‘Em games featuring live dealers instead of machines, making for a more intimate experience. The Norwegian Jade has also introduced a themed Monte Carlo party, held in the casino, to add to the glitz and glamour.

Alternatives:

Royal Caribbean Internationals’ Freedom- and Oasis-class ships have the largest casinos at sea, while the Celebrity Solstice-class ships have gone high-tech with wide-screen HD slot machines, dealer-less Texas Hold ‘Em tables and a completely coinless operation.

Carnival Cruises offers annual slot, blackjack and poker tournaments, in which winners of preliminary onboard tournaments get free balcony cabins on sailings hosting finals.

Families with Young Kids

Disney Magic and Disney Wonder

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Disney Cruise Line caters to kids from as young as three months up to the teenage years. Babies and toddlers can play on swings and bouncy chairs in Flounder’s Reef Nursery, while toilet-trained and older kids can enjoy the expansive kid’s centre or take part in activities like cookie-making, pizza parties and computer games.

Mickey and Minnie, and their cast of cartoon characters, make appearances throughout the ship and on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. There are multiple Disney-themed dining areas with kid-friendly menus, as well as family-friendly staterooms with split bathrooms and pullout couches or Pullman beds.

As kid-centric as Disney Cruise Line is, the adults are not forgotten. There is an adults-only pool area with hot tubs, an outdoor bar and a coffee shop, and the Route 66 entertainment zone lets adults play while the kids sleep. The Palo Italian restaurant is also great for adults, as an elegant reservations-only eatery with ocean views.

Alternatives:

Royal Caribbean International has teamed up with Fisher Price to offer Aqua Babies and Aqua Tots programs for kids aged 6 – 36 months, designed for parents and kids to play together. From ages 3 – 17, the kids are broken up into five groups with age-appropriate kids’ lounges and activities.

Families with Teens

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class – Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas.

Oasis Class – Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

Your teenagers will be able to chill out in teen-only venues, such as Fuel, a dance club with a “mocktail” bar; Living Room, a posh lounge for hanging out; and Back Deck, a private, teens-only sun deck area. Those between the ages of 12 and 17 can learn to DJ with the onboard Scratch DJ Academy. And there is a large video arcade for endless hours of fun.

Teens and their families will also enjoy the active onboard amenities such as the FlowRider surf simulator, the ice-skating rink, the zip line and mini golf.

Alternatives:

Carnival Cruises’ Conquest-, Splendour-, and Dream-class ships. The Carnival Conquest, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valour, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Splendour and Carnival Dream. These ships excel in teen programming, and cater for teens with the 02 Teen Club, which has an arcade, a dance club and lounge areas. They also offer teen-only shore excursions that allow 12-17 year olds to continue the fun offshore.

Mature Traveller

Voyages of Discovery’s MV Discovery

Quirks and Perks Onboard:

The MV Discovery offers destination-focused voyages in which enrichment and learning is as important as the ports visited. They offer longer-than-average cruises to exotic places, but typically carry only 500 – 650 passengers on their 800 capacity ships, so it never feels crowded on board.

Alternatives:

Holland America Lines’ beautiful ships offer relatively roomy cabins and activities that are typically of interest to older passengers, such as afternoon tea, big band music and classic movie showings.

What factors do you consider when choosing a cruise ship for your next holiday?

For more information on a cruise line or a specific cruise ship you may be considering, visit our website.

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