First cruise? If you have never taken a cruise vacation and are thinking about it but just can’t zero in on where and on what cruise line you want to travel, no worries, here’s a guide, compiled from years of nautical experience, to help you match the right ship with your seafaring personality. While it may sound subjective, these are tried and true from years of sailing the seven seas on ships of every size and style, even freighters (well that was way back in the day, today I’m mostly into the luxury variety). So read on:
- Cruising for millennials and younger If you’re young and active you certainly don’t want to go on a cruise with the motorized scooters or wheel chair crowd. And if you happen to be of the senior set, you may not want to be surrounded by raucous high-energy extremists who engaged in rock climbing and other testosterone-driven activities. Ditto for any culinary proclivities. Do you favor caviar or hot dogs; do you like beer or fine wine.
- Generation Xer seeking constant activity, action, adventure should look no further than Royal Caribbean www.royalcaribbean.com with its two youth-driven mega-ships: Oasis of the SeasSM and Allure of the SeasSM featuring seven neighborhoods that include the Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness with 158 pieces of modern workout equipment, kick boxing, yoga, spinning, spa treatments and more; a pool and sports area complete with an aqua park forf kids, a Zip line solarium bistro, wipe out café (get the picture); and entertainment place with a casino, ice shows, theater; a youth zone with an adventure ocean, and more actually. The line has nearly two dozen ships to choose from.
- Well-heeled 30-somethings with a penchant for sailing and nautical activities should look no farther than: Wind Star, www.windstarcruises.com, a trio (and soon to be five with the purchase of two Seabourn ships) of exquisite sailing vessels (with less than 320 passengers). The sleek-bodied ships sport teak-lined decks, towering white sails, great food and service and exotic itineraries that include Europe, Greek Isles, Caribbean and Costa Rica. The ships feature a marine deck where you can dive off and swim go scuba diving, snorkeling, jet ski and other nautical activities. There’s also spas and workout facilities.
- More sophisticated seafarers feel at home on Crystal Cruises chick and super sleek Symphony or Serenity where passenger pampering rules the deck with a truly “never say no” attitude (we’ve put it through the test many times) and everything operates seamlessly from check-in to disembarkation. Life on board these classy ships is a dream for the somewhat older, mostly repeat passenger, crowd who appreciate fine dining and a more traditional cruise experience. What’s more the fares include just about everything from your gratuities to wine and spirits. The penthouse decks manned by skillful butlers is unequaled in the industry.
- Young seafarers on a budget blend in well with Carnival Cruises mega ships. All its recent bad luck aside (engine fires and broken down vessels), the company dishes out activities from water works to pulsating discos, adult-only tanning areas and plenty of fun (after all they aren’t called “The Fun Ships” for nothing. The typical passengers tend to tipple at the bars night and day, take shore excursions and burn the midnight oil.
- For more mature world travelers looking for more intimate and upscale seafaring experiences the Silversea will fit the bill on any of its small luxury liners. Seamless service, excellent cuisine and gorgeous accommodations are the trademark of this innovative line that almost single-handedly introduced sophisticated cruises when it debuted decades ago.
- Also for mature audiences with money to burn, Seabourn has a lot to offer from its top-notch onboard service to fine food and free wines and spirits. The company also includes gratuities in the fare and definitely gives plenty of bang for the big bucks it charges.
- Rich and discerning divas and jaded seafarers can also find happiness on any Regent Seven Seas, another upscale fleet of sister all-suite, all-balcony, 700-guest ships that include the Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner; and the all-suite, 90% balcony Seven Seas Navigator. They will be joined in the summer of 2016 by the most luxurious ship ever built, the all-balcony, all-suite 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer. This is the only cruise line with a truly all-inclusive fare basis that picks up gratuities, shore excursions, wines, spirits, in some cases WiFi and Internet charges and more. These ships are operated by Prestige Cruises which also the holding company for Oceania (see below) and caters to discerning tastes of passengers from food to service.
- For a foodie’s dream cruise few beat out Oceania Cruises, a company dedicated to dishing out top quality food on all its ships. On its 1,250-passenger Marina there are 10 dining venues, eight with no surcharge, all offering the most amazing cuisine afloat.
- Everybody loves Princess with its one size fits all quality. The line attracts young and old, rich and middle class, many repeaters, who love the spirit of its fleet of feisty, yet sophisticated ships. The service is excellent across the fleet of 18 mega ships, the food sometimes inconsistent (they really need to do something about the coffee at the breakfast buffet which is pretty bad) except in the alternate dining venues where for the most part the surcharge is well worth it. Princess ships all have large spas, casinos, top-drawer entertainment, fitness centers, several dining venues, large decks, and big pools and Jacuzzis.
Yes there are other lines out there as well as very popular river cruises which we haven’t listed here on Viking Cruises, Uniworld, Avalon Waterways and others. River cruises are more cerebral than sybaritic and active with bicycling and other heart-pumping activities. Ships are small and without all the glamour of luxury liners like spas, casinos and fitness centers, but the experience is priceless.
One last tip: not all staterooms measure up equally on many ships so you when you do find the cruise you want to take be sure to check out the deck plans and room sizes on the web site. You really will enjoy a stateroom with a private veranda and as high up in the deck plan as you can afford so you’re close to the pool and outdoor action.
Choose wisely my friends and bon voyage.