Large Ship #: Msc Cruises
Nearly half of MSCs fleetnamely those ships in the Musica and Fantasia classesfalls into the large cruise category, with its newer builds firmly taking a bigger is better stance. The eight large vessels primarily sail in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, though they do offer itineraries in North and South America, Asia, and Northern Europe, too. The family-friendly ships skew on the upscale side, and theyre known for their incredibly international crowds.
Large Ship Line #: Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Lines is all about good family fun at a pretty affordable price point. The largest cruise line in the world in terms of number of annual passengers as well as fleet count, it has 24 ships that sail North America and Europe, with about half of them having a capacity between 2,500 and 3,900 guests. Carnival is known for its fun upper decks that are akin to an amusement park at sea, between water slides, ropes courses, mini-golf, and attractions like SkyRide, where guests pedal a hanging vehicle around a suspended track.
Crystal Serenity Crystal Cruises
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 1,070 to 655
About the Ship:Crystal Serenity offers a solid enrichment program that regularly hosts well-known authors, politicians and other experts and luminaries Anthony Zinni) as guest speakers. American Contract Bridge League instruction is available on all sailings, and many tournaments take place throughout the year. PGA golf pros are also onboard many sailings to share their expertise. Travelers get the sense that Crystal Cruises will do all it can to provide access to the most interesting and knowledgeable people in the world.
The ship also excels when it comes to its entertainment options. If you love listening to music in the lounge or enjoying a show, Crystal Serenity will thrill you. You’ll come across performers all over the ship — from a classical quartet playing during afternoon tea service to a jazz or Broadway singer in the lounge as you sip a pre- or post-dinner cocktail. After dinner, there’s karaoke and dancing at Pulse Disco. And if you love ballroom dancing, you can do so at Palm Court and even find a gentleman host dance partner if you’re traveling alone or with a companion that has two left feet. Broadway-style productions are staged at the Galaxy Lounge, and the casino — conveniently located on the way to the theater — has a respectable number of gaming tables and slots.
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Mega Ship Line #: Norwegian Cruise Line
Known for its colorful ships, Norwegian Cruise Line first broke into the mega-ship category in 2010 with the launch of Norwegian Epic, which can carry just over 5,000 passengers at full occupancy, and have since introduced five others in the Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus classes. The crowd aboard these vessels, which primarily sail in North America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, often consists of families who take advantage of amenities like waterparks, virtual-reality gaming, and go-kart racing, though the cruise lines newest ship, Norwegian Bliss, has a decidedly more mature atmosphere. In November 2019, Norwegian launched the newest member of its fleet, Norwegian Encore, which is the most luxurious of its mega-ships.
Types Of Cruise Lines
Before you can pick one cruise line, you should know there are a few categories of cruise lines to consider.
Just like there are different types of automobiles , there are different types of cruise lines that target different demographics and prices.
Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney and Norwegian are just a few of the mass-market cruise lines that appeal to all ages, and offer contemporary pricing that is affordable by most people. These cruise lines will see a good mix of ages, and offer activities and things to do for the young and old, and will sail to destinations around the world, although primarily focus on the major cruise markets, such as the Caribbean or Europe.
Premium cruise lines offer an elevated experience, and tend to offer a “plussed” version of what the mass-market cruise lines have onboard. Princess, Celebrity, Holland America or Oceania are good examples of these types of cruise lines, and they are still generally large ships with upgraded amenities. In addition, they may offer longer and/or more varied itineraries.
There are still other cruise lines that straddle the line between these major categories. The major differences between each of these cruise lines is primarily price, size of the ships, and where it sails.
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Medium Ship Line #: Azamara
Though Azamaras three 700-passenger ships are lovely, with top-quality dining and plenty of on-board activities to fill days at sea, passengers choose this cruise line for the experience at its destinations, which span all seven continents. Azamara not only offers personalized shore excursions , they also do a number of overnights, allowing guests to explore more destinations farther inland. The overnights also allow passengers to experience an evening out on the town in port cities, if they so choose.
Heres A Sample Of The Luxury Cruise Lines And Their Vessels That Visit Australia
Crystal Cruises operates Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity both around 1000 passengers plus the new 62-passenger Crystal Esprit yacht and five river vessels in Europe. Crystal is regularly voted the best cruise line in the world and its easy to see why. Theres lots of space, the service is excellent and the food superb, especially in Nobus Silk Road Restaurant. The two aforementioned ships will be in Australia over the next two summers.crystalcruises.com
Ponant operates four ships carrying up to 226 passengers each and the 32-stateroom sailing vessel, Le Ponant. Ponant recently announced plans to add four new ships over the next few years. Fine dining, stylish decor and French sophistication match the exotic and adventurous destinations Ponant visits. The French line has a strong Australian presence. LAustral will be visiting Australia this summer and next. au.ponant.com
Regent Seven Seas
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has the 700-passenger Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager as well as the 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator. The service and cuisine are wonderful and theres an atmosphere of relaxed luxury on board. RSSC boasts an impressive array of inclusions within the cost of the voyage: free WiFi, unlimited shore excursions, fine wines and premium spirits, and gratuities. Voyager and Navigator are regular visitors to Australia.rssc.com
Seadream Yacht Club
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How To Pick A Cruise Line
When picking between the cruise lines, you want to determine what they offer to ensure it matches with what you want in a vacation.
While it is true that most cruise lines have more in common than not, there are some substantial differences when it comes to the onboard experience overall. Cruise lines may market themselves as offering something for everyone, but each line has its own strengths that can sway the decision depending on the person.
The decision of which cruise line to pick usually boils down to three major factors: price, where it sails, and what the ship offers.
Picking a cruise line is less important as picking the right ship for you. Most cruise lines have quite a few ships in their fleet, and they are not carbon copies of each other.
If you take Royal Caribbean International for example, they have 26 ships in their fleet that are of various sizes and pricing and stateroom options that run the gamut of choices. Whether you are cruising as a family, looking for an empty nester getaway or spring break college vacation, there is something to be found for each group.
If you are looking for cruise ships that pack a lot into the onboard experience, where the ship is the destination, then the mainstream cruise lines and premium cruise lines are great choices.
If you are looking to splurge and want to see the world at the same time, a luxury cruise line will take you there and personalize the trip along the way.
Seabourn Ovation Seabourn Cruises
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 600 to 450
About the Ship: Seabourn‘s newest ship, Seabourn Ovation, is the second in the line’s Encore Class, the next generation of Seabourn’s popular Odyssey-class. The ship is practically identical to Seabourn Encore, and both are one deck taller than their little sisters and carry 150 more travelers for a complement of 600.
Beautiful interiors and intuitive spaces that are designed for the way people want to gather and relax are hallmarks of Seabourn Ovation’s indoor and outdoor public areas, which were created by renowned designer Adam D. Tihany. All 300 suites have balconies that are perfect for enjoying breakfast, drinks or dinner alfresco.
The ship is notable for its many dining venues, including a restaurant by Thomas Keller , a sushi venue, new and upscale alfresco dinner option on the pool deck, plus the main restaurant and buffet/casual dining venue. As with all Seabourn ships, Champagne and caviar are available, gratis, at all times and in any spot onboard.
Who Sails This Ship: Repeaters. Seabourn cruisers know a good thing when they see it, and many remain loyal to the line. Ovation’s passengers are generally well off, well traveled, social and between the ages of 40 and 70.
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Large Ship Line #: Cunard
For those longing for the romantic nostalgia of bygone transatlantic sailings, Cunard is your go-to. The legendary cruise line was established in 1840 and has had dozens of ships in its fleet, though today, there are just three active vessels: the Queen Mary 2, the worlds only true transatlantic ocean liner, designed specifically for ocean crossings, as well as the worlds only pet-friendly ship the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Victoria. Activities havent changed all too much in the last 180 yearstheres still a proper afternoon tea, black-tie dinners, and galas in the ballrooms. Its quite like a step back in time, with all the modern safety measures, of course. Cunards next ship is scheduled to be christened in 2022.
Medium Ship Line #1: Norwegian Cruise Line
Until it launched Norwegian Epic in 2010, then the Breakaway and Breakaway-plus classes in 2013 and 2015, respectively, Norwegian primarily focused on mid-sized ships that carry around 2,000 passengerswhich still make up the majority of the fleet. A colorful atmosphere pervades the ships, as guests enjoy everything from water slides to silly pool contests like synchronized swimming to everyones favorite: bingo night. Norwegians ships have itineraries all over the world, with many focusing on North America.
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Small Ship Line #: Australis
Some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world can be found in Patagonias Tierra del Fuego, and Australis takes its passengers right into the heart of them aboard the all-inclusive Ventus Australis or the Stella Australis. Each day, passengers disembark their ship and navigate the icy waters in zodiacs, getting up close and personal with glaciers and penguins along the way. It doesnt get more off-the-beaten-path than this.
Large Ship #1: Costa Cruises
Italian cruise line Costa Cruises, which operates under parent company Carnival, has quite a history: It was founded in 1854 as a cargo shipping company, transporting olive oil and textiles around the world. Transferring to the leisure cruise side of the business in 1959, Costa now operates 17 shipsthe majority of which accommodate between 2,800 and 5,300 passengersthat sail all over the world, with two more scheduled to join the fleet by the end of 2021.
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Large Ship Line #: Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity Cruises currently sails around the world with a fleet of 14 ships, ranging in size from its petite Xpedition-class vessels, which carry 16 to 100 passengers, to its large 2,800- to 3,100-passenger Solstice class and 2,900-passenger Edge class, which debuted in late 2018 with Celebrity Edge, an edgy ship designed to appeal to a non-cruising clientele with innovations like Eden, a three-story hybrid experiential restaurant, craft cocktail lounge, and performance venue and Le Petit Chef at Le Grand Bistro, a dinner restaurant that features a 4D animation projected on your plate throughout the course of your meal. Celebrity Edge will be joined by three sister ships in the next five years, starting with Celebrity Apex as soon as this year.
Medium Ship Line #: Crystal Cruises
While many cruises are notorious for charging guests for alcohol and specialty dining options, Crystal practices a generally all-inclusive fare structure covering all drinks , one specialty dining reservation per passenger , 24-hour room service, and a Wi-Fi package. The line has just two ocean-going vessels, Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, which both have capacities of fewer than 1,000 passengers and sail global itineraries.
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Small Ship Line #: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Sailing with only 490 guests, the Seven Seas Navigator takes its all-inclusive promise seriously, offering unlimited shore excursions, open bars with premium wines , unlimited Wi-Fi, and dining in specialty restaurants. The ship sails all over the world, spending time in Asia Pacific, North America, and Europe on week-long to three-month-long sailings.
Medium Ship Line #: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
As far as all-inclusive cruises go, Regent Seven Seas is the real deal. Everything from specialty excursions to meals and alcohol to airfare is included in the rates. Even the mini-bar is free! The only things youll have to pay for are spa treatments, laundry, and the casino. The cruise lines five ships each carry 750 passengers or fewer, but the ships are actually quite large, offering each guest plenty of personal space, especially in their cabins. Regent Seven Seas specializes in round-the-world itineraries.
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Large Ship Line #: Royal Caribbean International
Though Royal Caribbean is perhaps best known for its mega-ships, it has quite a number of large ships, toothe 3,100-passenger Voyager-class ships, for instance, were once the worlds largest, until Royal Caribbean debuted the larger Freedom class and subsequently the Oasis class. Each class had its own series of firstsVoyager of the Seas was the first ship to have an ice rink and a rock-climbing wall, while Freedom of the Seas introduced the first FlowRider surf simulator at sea.
Small Ship Line : Quasar Expeditions
The first luxury line to sail the Galápagos, Quasar Expeditions is best known for its in-depth trips aboard its two intimate ships that carry fewer than 32 passengers each. Yet note the street cred of said ships: One of the two, the Grace, is the former yacht of Princess Grace of Monaco. The other, the Evolution, will allow you to retrace Darwin’s footsteps in the Galápagos. Book the Baltra Island itinerary, where you’ll work your way from San Cristobal Island to Baltra, and explore all the central and southern islands of the archipelago in between.
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A Cut Above: The Difference Between Premium And Luxury Cruises
Back in the old days sorting out the differences in cruising was easy. Either your servant carried your steamer trunks to your suite or you were shovelling coal into the boiler of the African Queen with Humphrey Bogart.
Today, the introduction of experiential cruises means you can spend about $30,000 per person for a two-week cruise to the North Pole on a Russian nuclear icebreaker that is comfortable but not luxurious. That amount would buy you absolute luxury in lower latitudes.
To understand top-end cruising, we need to distinguish between mainstream, premium and luxury ocean cruises and premium areas aboard mainstream cruise ships.
In mainstream cruising, bigger ships have become destinations in their own right. They are great for family holidays and the fares can be very reasonable but expect to pay for anything that can be classified as an extra. Its well-run, assembly-line cruising and the food is mass produced unless you pay extra to dine at the onboard signature restaurants. Think fun rather than sophisticated.
A recent development in cruising is, in fact, a step back to a shipboard class system. It was only in the 1970s that one-class cruising was introduced. Now you may be offered a premium-class section on a mainstream vessel, effectively a ship within a ship. Your keycard unlocks the chance to escape the crowds and queues, find some peace and quiet, and dine in a private restaurant.
Medium Ship Line #: Cunard
While Cunards Queen Mary 2 fits more than 2,600 passengersand a number of cats and dogson board, her sister ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria only have a capacity of about 2,000 passengers. Though theyre quite similar in layout, the QE and the QV differ in design. Both nod to the historic ocean liners of the early 20th century, but the QE takes on a bolder Art Deco vibe, while the QV features more subdued yet equally elegant decor. Guests on board both ships are likely to partake in afternoon tea before donning a glamorous gown for dinner.
Medium Ship Line #: Viking Ocean Cruises
Originally a river cruise line, Viking has launched six ocean-going vessels since 2015, the most recent being the brand-new Viking Jupiter, whose maiden voyage took place in February 2019. The ships are nearly identical, carrying 930 passengers each, housed in balcony staterooms. Though not all-inclusive, Viking Ocean guests do receive one free excursion in each port , beer and wine with lunch and dinner, and an unlimited Wi-Fi connection.
Crystal Esprit Crystal Cruises
About the Ship:Esprit is Crystal‘s first yacht, and while it’s not new, the line did an amazing job refurbishing the ship before launching it in 2015. It’s now one of the most contemporary and comfy ships at sea, feeling much more like a boutique hotel than a yacht. Even the smallest suites — which range from 223 to 280 square feet — feel spacious, and all accommodations feature an interactive bedside iPad that lets you set an alarm, order room service, learn about the ship and more. Even though the ship only caters to 62 passengers, there are several dining venues, including The Yacht Club, Patio Cafe and Terrace for alfresco breakfasts. Each restaurant offers dine anytime open seating.
For sun worshippers, Esprit offers a beautiful sun deck as well as a retractable marina that’s stocked with water skis, wakeboards, paddleboards, ocean kayaks , Skidoo Jet Skis and snorkel gear.
About the Cruise Line: This foray into ultra-small ship cruising allows Crystal to focus on some of its strengths: customized but unobtrusive service, and incredible cuisine paired with the world’s finest wine. They’ve translated the traditional Crystal experience and improved upon it for individuals that love attentive service on a very small ship. Esprit is getting rave reviews and it paves the way for Crystal’s first new-build yacht, Endeavour, which will start sailing in 2020.
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