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Major differences between cruise lines?

#1
I was just wondering, what would you say are the major differences between the cruise lines? We are in our mid-30s, not overly huge party people, but would love to relax and just have fun. We saw 1 cruise on Royal that was cheaper than Princess, but then saw Norweigan even more expensive, but that Carnival was cheaper than everyone.

And since we have not been on a cruise yet, just wondering, what would the major differences be between the different cruise lines for us to consider when making our final decision?

Thanks again for the help!
Charlene
 

Jim

Well-Known Member
#2
There is are so many differences....

Quality of food
Focus of the cruise line..ie, older clients, quieter atmosphere, young clients, far more activities, the ports of call, the crew to passenger ratios. Importance or lack importance attached to major shows. Fee based restaurants versus Main Dining Room Dining (no extra charge).
Additionally, many cruise lines focus on families...ie, Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, while other offer some activities, these three put extensive emphasis on kids.

You might also consider who you want to cruise with....there are so many differences, it is darn near impossilbe to outline or pigeon hole one cruise line with one particular passenger base.
 

BSeabob

Forum Manager
Staff member
#4
I think The major differences in cruise lines is cost. You generally get what you pay for.
All the main stream lines have lowered "Their Costs" and it's a fight to fill on the Cabins at sea.
Some lines are living on their laurels of the past and others have brought themselves up the ladder to where there is little difference between lines now.

As other have said it's kinda hard to pin something down for you.
we all have our favorite cruise lines or some that we sail more than others so maybe have a look around at the cruise line forums and pick a line, ship, itinerary maybe and ask questions about it.
 

BruinSteve

Well-Known Member
#5
I was just wondering, what would you say are the major differences between the cruise lines? We are in our mid-30s, not overly huge party people, but would love to relax and just have fun. We saw 1 cruise on Royal that was cheaper than Princess, but then saw Norweigan even more expensive, but that Carnival was cheaper than everyone.

And since we have not been on a cruise yet, just wondering, what would the major differences be between the different cruise lines for us to consider when making our final decision?

Thanks again for the help!
Charlene
Charlene,
I have been cruising for a long time now...around 30 cruises on seven different cruise lines...So, perhaps, I can answer this as well as anyone...

Of course, first realize that we all have our different criteria, different standards, different expectations, etc. A lot of things I notice or that are important to me may not even be noticed by the next guy...

My explanations are, of course, colored by my own standards and beliefs as to what is important in a cruise...

I will try to detail the major cruise lines...and give you my experience with each one...
I will try to go line by line and explain...

First, there is a category of "luxury" cruise lines--Seabourne, Silverseas, Regent, Crystal, et al...I won't go into much detail on each of these except to explain in general...They are typically smaller ships, tend to include many extras--like free alcohol, free shore excursions at times, lots of upscale included items...of course they are WAY MORE expensive than most of the "mass market" lines, often three to ten times the price...They also tend to cater to a MUCH OLDER crowd--independently wealthy, retired...people with lots of money and lots of time on their hands...I, myself, have never cruised on any of these...likely never will...

Below that is a fairly new strata of "super premium" lines: Oceania and Azamara being the most notable...both are fairly similar...smaller ships, typically just under 700 passengers (though Oceania's newest carries 1,250)...No children's programs, open seating dining, no formal nights...small ships are fairly uncrowded, but also very quiet at night and lesser entertainment...The pluses include that they have more unusual itineraries since the small ships can fit into smaller ports...We've been on two Oceania cruises so far and have another scheduled for August...The crowd (due to slightly higher prices, longer cruises and no children's programs) tends to be a bit older...The food, at least on Oceania, is EXCELLENT...the specialty restaurants are at no additional charge...

Then we have the large ship, "mass market" lines...For all intent and purpose, the cruise prices are not all that different...it all really depends on when you book (how far in advance), when the cruise is, to where, what category cabin, etc. ...prices fluctuate up and down with supply and demand...cruise lines often run "sales" and travel agents may offer onboard credit or other promotions which may temper the net price...But, bottom line, though there may be small differences in comparing cruise to cruise, they differences are not all that big...and not necessarily the same accross all sail dates, itineraries or other factors...most are "competitive"...

That said, Carnival and NCL tend to be a little cheaper, Royal Caribbean, HAL and Celebrity maybe a touch more...
But, often, the little bit extra you may pay to cruise RCCL or Celebrity may, in fact, be well worth it...

Another issue to consider--usually most obvious in RCCL pricing, but true for all cruise lines-- is that the newer ships tend to cost a bit more, the older ones less...It's all supply and demand...everyone wants to go on the newest ship with the newest amenities...they have more trouble filling up the older ships...which some folks tend to think of as more worn or lacking in some way...Often, the best bargains are the ships that are just a few years old--still with a lot of amenities, but not quite the new kid on the block...

Okay...now to the lines themselves...
Each cruise line tends to market to a particular niche in the cruise market...and that is both due to and has an impact on what amenities they offer...

Here we go:

Carnival: IMHO, the absolute bottom of the cruise market...though it has its loyal customer base who tend to love it...Of course, what is not to love in any cruise: They feed you, entertain you, take you to exotic ports, watch your kids, clean up after you and you don't have to work...Carnival advertises LOW PRICES and "FUN"...and, sure enough, it is...IF you are looking for their kind of fun...They tend to drum up fun with a lot of "participation" activities...the amenities are simple--pool, jacuzzis, lounges, spa, buffet...their major "claim to fame" is a water slide going into the pool...the MAJOR, MAJOR negative to Carnival, in my book, is OVERCROWDING...quite simply put, they put far more people per gross ton onto each ship than everyone else in the industry...which results in poorer service, lines and waits for things like shows, tenders to the pier in tender ports (ports where they have to shuttle you in rather than docking right at the pier), etc. Most Carnival cruisers never notice how substandard things are...very little to compare it directly to...We've taken three Carnival cruises, the third and last being when we cruised the Carnival Liberty and Royal Caribbean Lierty of the Seas "back-to-back"--that really made the differences stand out...

NCL: NCL's niche is "Freestyle"--no formal nights, no dinner seating assignments--all seating is like going to restaurants--you show up, you may wait for a table, etc.--but, you do it on your time...Traditionally, cruise ships worked on assigned dinner slots--you were assigned either main (6:00 pm) seating or "late" (either 8:30 or 9 pm, depending on the ship) seating...same table, same waiters every night, a long 2 to 2.5 hour window in which to eat...some of us like that system, others, apparently, don't--but most cruise lines now give you a choice...NCL doesn't...it's all open...NCL also tends to advertise low prices, though the "Freestyle" thing really is the gist of their marketing...aiming at a younger--or, maybe, less cruise-savvy, clientele--people who don't think they'd like the traditional notions of old style cruising...I've done one NCL cruise and they didn't impress me to where I ever wanted to go back...

Costa: This cruise line caters to a "European" clintele...English is not necessarily the top language, entertainment is often geared to an Italian or French speaking audience...My sister cruised them once and was not impressed with food, service or amenities...we're staying away...

Disney: I haven't taken the "new" Disney...We did cruise on its predecessor, the Premier Big Red Boat, which used to do the Disney packages under License with Disney--with the costumed characters on board and all...nice cruise...and the new Disney is supposed to be nicer...Obviously, they cater to families with very young kids...but, in Disney fashion, do it very well...Of course, they tend to be a bit pricey as well...

Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean markets to "Adventure" ...their key difference is in the amenities and the entertainment...We've been on 13 RCCL cruise thus far and #14 is coming up in about a month on the brand new Allure of the Seas...This is the state of the art megaship--5,400 passengers (but twice the size of the last Carnival ship we were on which sailed with almost 4,000)...this ship has...get ready...two rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, miniature golf course, golf simulators, two wave-generating surfing pools, a carousel and a zip line...the entertainment options include the Musical "Chicago", a figure skating ice show, a water show, a comedy club and more...This is a great cruise line for the younger, very active crowd or for families with kids...The ship is pretty lively...and a bit classier than Carnival...

Princess: This is the old "Love Boat"...fairly traditional...in my book, fairly ordinary cruising...We found their ships to be a bit crowded (We've done two Princess cruises), the showroom undersized...and we though their dining room (half the ship traditional reserved, half open seating) was considerably mismanaged...but the cruise and clientele are classy enough, the trip was pleasant...I would cruise with them again if the itinerary was right--and if I had no RCCL or Celebrity option...

HAL (Holland America): Very traditional, upscale cruise line noted for service and food...but also known for catering to an older clientele...ships have very spacious space-per-passenger ratios...I have not been on one personally...but would love to go when the opportunity presents itself...

Celebrity: Hands down, my favorite line...best value for the money...Best space-per-passenger ratios of all of the mass market lines, best food, by far the best service...elegant, adult...Sister line of Royal Caribbean...but, where RCCL devotes so much space to sports-related amenities, Celebrity uses that ample space for bars, lounges and open space...ships are big enough to provide quality entertainment (though not to the level of the bigger RCCL ships--nobody matches that), still enough to make for a very comfortable and relaxing, yet entertaining cruise experience...

Somewhere in that long-winded explanation, hopefully you will find the right cruise line for you...
Oh, and let me make it clear: Do NOT choose your cruise by price alone...It is worth a little more cash to be on the RIGHT cruise for you...and rremeber that you do "get what you pay for"...

Remember, also, aside from cruise line, the ship itself may account for some major differences...and the itinerary should be of paramount importance (at least for many)...

Good luck...
 
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travlDR

Well-Known Member
#7
BruinSteve--- Wow, it's llike I wrote that myself. I soo agree with all your opinions! Celebrity is my total favorite too. Every cruise, it seems like at least some little thing surprises or impresses me- some little something I wasn't expecting! Finally made it to Elite with Captains Club, and it's so nice that you can transfer that level over to RCCL.
 

bluefin

Active Member
#8
BruinSteve - Great report and well put together. If I were a teacher I'd give you an 'A' for all of your input. :clap:

With that said I'm still a novice with just 3 cruises - 2 Carnival and 1 Royal Carib.

Our 4th cruise will be with....NCL. LOL It was the only one I could find that did a 7 day to Greece within our limited timetable.