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How to Choose a Cool Cruise

Choosing Cool Cruises

Cruising is a fun way to see a lot of the world in one cool trip.  You can visit multiple islands, ports, and countries in one week’s time.  Cruises range in length from quick 3 or 4 night jaunts to islands like the Bahamas, to upwards of month long voyages to distant lands.  And while the ports of call are countless, the choices of which to sail in the cruise industry is pretty easy to navigate.  Once you have an idea of what you want to get out of your voyage, you can hone in on which cruise line best meets your needs.

While some schools use 4 categories, we’ve found it more useful to put the cruise lines into 5:

  • Budget
  • Premium
  • Ultra Premium
  • Deluxe
  • Luxury

Those categories don’t really speak well to what you should expect.  So we’re going to break it down for you to give you an idea of which type of cruiser each line tries to appeal to and why.  The first three categories all have mass market appeal, and contain the largest ships, and fleets, in the industry.

Budget:  let’s call this Alotta Fun but Less Frills.  These cruise lines have many of the amenities the other categories have, but scaled down, more laid back, and with a crowd that is often young and / or informal.  Carnival is the biggie in this category, with ports all over the US — even in places you wouldn’t probably think of like Galveston, TX, and Charleston, SC.  They call themselves ‘The Fun Ships’, and they sail itineraries as short as 2 days and as long as 16.  The other biggie in the category is Norwegian, who coined the concept of ‘freestyle’ cruising.  They appeal to a cruiser who wants a floating hotel, but doesn’t necessarily want to have a set meal time or a need to bring a formal clothes along for the ride.

Premium:  this batch we’ll call Action and Adventure.  The cruise lines that appeal most to families have fantastic kids and teen clubs, innovative entertainment on board — like zip lining, wave surfing, fitness classes, and upgraded pools.  Look for Royal Caribbean — especially their Oasis Class of ship.  Some people will tell you RCCL is actually in the Budget category, but we disagree.  Better amenities, activities for kids, and appointments set it apart from the former.  The other ship we put in this category is Disney Cruise Line.  Disney can put a leg in both this camp and the Ultra Premium, but because of its family appeal and countless on board activities — including a water slide that floats out over the sea, we like it for Action and Adventure.  A great choice for big family or group cruise events.

Ultra Premium:  Refined but (mostly) Fun for Families.  About as fancy as you get in the mass cruise market categories, these ships offer upscale cabins, restaurants, wine lists, and spas.  You will have a minimum of 2 formal dining nights on cruises of 7 days or more.  Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America fall into this class.  While Celebrity and Princess both have outstanding kids club programming, Holland is definitely for a more mature cruiser – and not the best bet for vacationing families.  These ships offer a slightly less mass market feel, but still cater to families and large groups who want to get out and have an exciting cruise.

Deluxe: at this point we leave coach class and enter First Class.  While you won’t yet be boarding your private jet, you won’t see many children, and the atmosphere will suggest casual elegance.  The ships won’t be bustling with activity, but many port visits are a minimum of 1 night, up to 2 or 3, allowing you to get out and really tour the cities where you dock. Wine is typically included in your cruise fare, and the smaller ships are able to navigate into more ‘off the beaten path’ ports.  Azamara and Oceania fall comfortably into this category.  Great for a honeymoon, anniversary, or special celebration.

Luxury: this category is more like the Private Jet.  The luxury class of cruise includes Crystal, Paul Gauguin, and  Regent, to name a few.  These ships cater to the discerning traveler who expects the finest of everything, and is willing to shell out the bucks to have it.  Included in this ticket are smaller, almost yacht style ships with spacious cabins, inclusive tours,adult beverages, concierge service, and airfare is often part of the package.  These vessels are designed with a destination focus and the cruise experience is personal, with exotic ports — like Tahiti — abounding.

Cool trips can be found all over the seas, and this article gives you a glimpse.  For more information or suggestions about other cruise lines you’d like to read about, send questions,  comments, or cool ideas to Amy@PlanCoolTrips.com

Need a passport before you go?  Here’s some information to get you started: Passport Application

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