What line is best?
Are you thinking about taking your first cruise or booking another one,?
This is my guide based on personal experience that has helped in choosing which Cruise Line to select for heading out to sea.
First, you really need to consider the answer to some of the following questions, as we believe this will aid in the selection process for the right cruise line for you. These are in no particular order.
1. Are you travelling with children, if so what are their ages?
No matter whether you are travelling with children or not, some lines are more suited to children while others are adults only. There are also lines that are in the middle ground where they offer adults only areas on their ships while kids are free to roam and enjoy the other areas of the ship. A simple google search reveals some of the best lines that are suitable for children of all ages. My recommendations would be Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, MSC or NCL depending on your destination choice.
2. How long are you able to take for your holiday?
Duration is a big diver for us that determines the line which we cruise as we prefer to do cruises over 10 nights. This does depend on if we fly to the departure port or it is a local departure. If you have less than this, I would think that you try and locate a departure port close to your home city / country as adding travel time to a far off destination may limit your choices of cruise lines, number of ports visit of locations in general.
3. Time of year that you are wanting to cruise?
Similar to the length of holidays that you have available, the time of year you are able to take your holidays will also determine pretty quickly the departure ports and or cruise lines that are available for you. For example, if you are in the US and want to cruise around New Zealand and you can only take time off in your Summer, which is winter in the southern hemisphere, you might not be able to do so as there would not be cruise lines doing those routes in the southern winter.
4, Where do you want to go?
When considering a cruise, we always like to pick the destination first (unless it is a new vessel and we just want to sail on the ship). Again when you factor in time of year, duration of the cruise you want to take, this will probably inform which lines are available or not. For this I would generally use a search site similar to https://www.cruisecritic.com/ (no affiliation) which can be a great source of information and cruises available.
5. What budget do you have?
If you do not have a set budget in mind already, should you answer the above questions and do a little hunting on a comparison site like https://www.cruisecritic.com/ then you will hen for sure. I always try to book well enough in advance (12 - 24 months) to make sure that one, I have a cabin secured and two, there is plenty of time to pay for the cruise. In general terms you will find that cruise companies will take a small deposit and only require a final payment 90 - 120 days prior to sailing.
It is worthwhile mentioning that whilst food, accommodation and entertainment is included, there are always hidden costs like gratuities, drinks, premium coffees, speciality restaurants and internet to name a few. What I am seeing more and more often now is package deals that are also available and on-board credits are a great incentive also being offered a lot these days. When we sail, I like to make sure there are no surprises and will opt for the inclusive package. Such as Celebrity Cruises Go Big, Go Better or Go Best. I will always take Go Best as this covers premium beverage package, WiFi, gratuities and an on-board spend. I then use the on-board spend to purchase speciality restaurants and then my entire costs are covered. As I generally do not do shore excursions with the Cruise Line, we know that we will walk off the ship without a big, unless something spots our eye in the boutiques that is or want to use the on-board SPA.
6. Is there a type of cabin that you would like?
Not sure if this should come before budget or after. It is kind of a chicken and egg scenario really. Budget and dictate the type of cabin you can get where as the type of cabin you want will dictate the budget you need. On this front, just bear in mind that there are multitudes of choice from inside studio cabins for the solo traveller right the way up to private villas with their own pools.
7. Are you a social person?
One of the biggest misunderstood things about cruising I think is that you have to be social as there are to many people on the large ships these days not to be. This is actually not true at all. Whilst I have not sailed on the 6,000 capacity ships, the largest ship I have been on so far, had a capacity of 4,900 (at full capacity). Whilst I did not actually like that ship in particular, we were able to always find space on it where you did not feel like it was to crowded at all. Also, for the most part, the ships are big enough that you will probably not see the same people twice unless you actually engage with them and make plans to do so.
8. Do you need to take formal wear?
Well that is an interesting question. Generally you do not have to be in a full on tux these days, though this really does depend on the line. The old traditional lines such as Cunard still have formal nights on their cruises so the answer would be yes. Though on a line such a Celebrity Cruises they do an Evening Chic night which is open to personal interpretation and others like Carnival which do not at all.
That being said, on the lines that I have cruised, there are still the traditional sailors that are in gowns and tuxes and at the other end there are also those in jeans and t-shirts, so it is not really mandatory anymore and open to personal interpretation.
Once you have booked your cruise, you can ask around formal wear, though I can assure you through my personal experience, it is not a huge concern anymore.