Picking the Right Cruise Line

a cruise ship in the water

Picking the right cruise line for you can be critical to maximizing your cruise vacation experience. “Which cruise line is right for me?” is one of most often asked questions in cruise. The answer to that question depends on a lot of variables, but surely a bad day on a cruise beats any day at work! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the right cruise line for anyone, but there are some tried and true basics that might help you pick the best cruise line for you.

harmony of the seas, harmony of the seas entertainment
Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

The mass market lines like Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean have a little something for everyone. From surfing simulators to rock climbing walls, you will find something to keep you entertained almost 24/7. Well-equipped gyms, nightlife, and good, if not necessarily gourmet food all add to the vacation experience. The majority of cruises guests sailing these lines are fall into the 20-something to 40-something range, many with families, depending on the itinerary and time of year. That said, you’ll find plenty of “senior citizens” on these lines who enjoy the vibe. In any case, if you are in the market for a short 3- or 4-night itinerary, you will almost always find a younger crowd than you will on a longer itinerary.

Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean
Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises are likely a better fit for ages 40 and up, with Holland America being in the mix too. Each of these lines is an “up market” division of their “mass market” sister lines, Royal Caribbean and Carnival respectively, and is positioned to be a step up. They may also share certain loyalty benefits so you’re not “starting over” with your climb up the cruise line elite status ladder. The evenings may be a bit more sedate, but you will find that each of these lines features a focus on finer dining and traditional cruise experiences. Again, the shorter the itinerary, the younger the age of your fellow cruiser is likely to be.

picking the right cruise line, cruise line loyalty
Celebrity Equinox – Image © 2015 Marshall Jackson

At the upper end of the cruising spectrum you’ll find lines like Azamara Club Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, or Seabourn. These cruise lines usually offer smaller, more intimate ships, lengthier itineraries, top end dining, and cater to a well-heeled, likely retired crowd. You won’t find many 72-night “circle South America” itineraries on Carnival or Royal Caribbean, but you very well may on Regent, Silversea, or Viking Ocean Cruises. These lines and others like them offer some of the most expensive cruises, but they’re also “all inclusive” meaning you don’t have to worry about counting your number of drinks for budget reasons.

Don’t Forget the Destinations

Picking a cruise line can be a lot like picking the right airline. Beyond the onboard life, the journey matters too. If you are into warm weather, you will want to focus on lines that feature lots of Caribbean and summer Mediterranean itineraries. Into nature? Alaska itineraries and the lines that specialize in them may be worth a look for you.