By: Michelle Woodson Howell, MCC, Luxury Travel Advisor
I often hear people refer to cruising like it’s one big, giant category. It’s not. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you know that cruise lines and ships are not created equally.
There are cruises for every segment of the population. In fact, cruise vacations routinely rank very high with guest satisfaction and repeat travelers. If you’re considering a cruise vacation, which should definitely be at the TOP of your travel list, take into consideration that cruise lines appeal to different types of travelers.
Think of it like a pyramid. The largest lines at the bottom have the most amount of ships carrying a large number of people. At the top are cruise lines with the least amount of ships, carrying the least amount of people with more crew.
The further up the pyramid you go the cruise experience gets better along with the cuisine, service, amenities, off-the-beaten path ports and much more.
There are four categories of cruising you should consider before making your selections, and the pros and cons of each.
Mass Market/Contemporary Lines
Mass market cruise lines, also known as contemporary lines, are the largest ships carrying the most passengers (5K+) and crew. These ships have Vegas style shows, lots of onboard activities and supervised children’s programs.
It’s quite common for cruise lines in this category to offer a ship within a ship for a higher level of service, comfort and cuisine similar to The Haven on Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Cruise lines in the mass market/contemporary category are great for some first-time cruisers, families with small children, multi-generational families, singles and some couples.
Some cruise lines in this category are: Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
Premium cruise lines carry fewer passengers than mass market lines (2K-3K +/-), have more crew per guest, offer better cuisine, service and amenities. They will often have a concierge level for more enhanced services like a separate onboard check-in, complimentary champagne upon arrival and a specialty restaurant reserved for passengers in that category. They also offer a supervised children’s program which makes them ideal for families, multi-generational travelers and weddings.
Some cruise lines in this category are: Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line.
Upper Premium Lines
There is a big gap between premium and luxury cruise lines. Enter upper premium cruise lines. The lines in this category bridge the gap very nicely between the two categories.
Similarly, cruise ships in the upper premium category carry much fewer passengers (usually <1K), and have a higher guest-to-crew ratio than lines below them. As you can imagine, the cuisine, service, amenities and shore excursions are also at a much higher level, including butler service in suite categories. Upper premium cruise lines visit more off-the-beaten path ports. Overnight and late stays in port are also typical in this cruise category allowing for a more immersive experience.
These cruise lines often feature very interesting guest speakers onboard to compliment the sailing, and provide their knowledge and perspective of the region or cruise theme.
These cruise lines are not well suited for children and younger travelers as they do not have an activities director or children’s program. The exception is during Thanksgiving, and the Christmas and New Years holiday season.
Upper Premium cruise lines offer around the world cruises where you can also do partial segments. Some of the best small ship cruises are found in the upper premium and luxury categories.
Some cruise lines in this category are: Azamara Cruises (formerly Azamara Club Cruises) and Oceania Cruises.
The last ocean cruise category is luxury. Can you hear that? It’s called peace and quiet. Some of the best luxury cruise lines in the world are found in this category. The staterooms, service, amenities, cuisine, custom shore excursions, guest speakers and experience will be at the highest level on board these ships. Luxury cruise lines also offer around the world cruises where you can also do partial segments.
Some of these cruise lines are not well suited for children and very young travelers. The exception is always the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holiday season.
Some cruise lines in this category are: Crystal Cruises (#1 in the world), Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea to name a few.
A cruise is a vacation that takes you to land, can be all inclusive, is a LOT of fun and absolutely worth it. Hopefully this guide will help in selecting the best cruise vacation that meets your travel needs. MH Signature Journeys specializes in river and small-ship ocean cruises and tours. Please give us a call today for your next – or first – cruise vacation. We are happy to help!
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