Which fleet is best? What’s the best ship? Those are questions cruisers invariably ask, and almost impossible ones to answer since everyone’s tastes and priorities are so different. That said, we could help you pick your perfect cruise vacation by showcasing the main features of the major cruise lines.
Nine of the top 20 fleets are alphabetically listed below. Keep in mind that cruise lines attempt to please a wide range of people and all provide some common amenities. However, after a little research you’ll likely narrow your choices down to a couple fleets depending on your lifestyle, budget, and interests.
Azamara Club Cruises may only enlist two ships, but their itineraries reach far across Europe, Asia, and South America. You’ll find a country club atmosphere on these medium-sized, ultra-premium ships, in part due to the more casual dress policy and wood-paneled lounges. Expect exceptional cuisine and service, outstanding itineraries (with an overnight stay in port on every cruise) and upscale accommodations.
Carnival Cruise Lines is not only the world’s largest cruise line, but also the most popular. Hallmarks of this fleet include the cruise industry’s most vibrant nightlife, above average food, and large cabins. If you love Las Vegas, these ships will certainly fit the bill since the entertainment is dazzling and the casino is lively throughout the day and night. Families also flock to the “Fun Ships” because of Camp Carnival’s supervised activities, the spiral waterslides, and other kids’ facilities. Best of all, the super-low prices on Carnival make the fleet a hit with families, singles, couples, groups... just about everyone!
Celebrity Cruises offers an upscale cruise experience with a focus on food and service. These award-winning ships have a casual European atmosphere, with a great selection of modern art and contemporary design. You’ll find more newlyweds, couples celebrating anniversaries, and families with older children here. The fleet’s newest vessels offer plenty of balcony staterooms, gourmet restaurants, posh spas, glass-blowing demonstrations, and a real lawn for picnics, putting, croquet, or bocce ball.
Holland America Line offers a sophisticated style of cruising aboard medium-sized ships with larger-than-average staterooms and a rich history of premium service. These classically designed ships cater to cruisers who like a more tranquil cruise experience with refined entertainment, fine art auctions, and immersive enrichment classes. Holland America is a natural choice for many multi-generational families, travelers over 55, and couples marking special occasions.
Norwegian Cruise Line is best known for “Freestyle Cruising”, a big hit for those seeking an unstructured seagoing vacation. Eat whenever you want, with whomever you want, without a dress code in the main dining rooms. Small surcharges expand your options to seemingly countless specialty restaurants. Highlights on the newest ships include an ultra-chic lounge with plush beds and bowling lanes, a lounge made of ice, Blue Man Group performances, Second City comedy shows, and a Cirque du Soleil dinner theater. With all this for some of the most affordable fares at sea, the industry’s youngest fleet is popular with families, singles, and couples.
Oceania Cruises says it isn’t a luxury cruise line but the experience is close to it. Oceania’s food is overseen by Jacques Pepin and is among the best in the cruise industry. The 640-passenger ships fill up quickly with loyal guests (many of them retired) who enjoy single-seating dining in four restaurants, very polished service, and staterooms boasting down comforters, high-thread European sheets and, if you’re in a suite, personal butlers.
Princess Cruises has a loyal following of travelers who love the ships’ dining program where you may choose assigned seating or dining whenever and with whomever you please. The fleet has come a very long way since earning fame on the 1970s “Love Boat” TV show. Today, Princess’ ships feature contemporary design and stylish amenities alongside very good food, nice staterooms, friendly service, and superior shore excursions. While there are families aboard every cruise, these floating resorts primarily attract couples of all ages.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises provides a true luxury cruise experience with large staterooms, superb dining, exceptional service, onboard experts, and worldwide itineraries. Both ships host less than 700 guests, showcase Scandinavian décor, and offer extraordinary spas operated by Carita of Paris. Fares include opulent accommodations, roundtrip airfare, gratuities, all beverages, and unforgettable shore excursions.
Royal Caribbean International is among the most innovative fleets in the industry, boasting the world’s largest cruise ships and arguably the most with a real “wow” factor. Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas each offer an unprecedented set of onboard experiences: 2 surfing wave pools, high-diving shows at an outdoor amphitheater, scuba lessons in a pool, zip-line rides, a boardwalk carousel, street performers, loft suites, an outdoor grass park with sidewalk cafés, and much more. Previous ships in the fleet introduced the first rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, mall-sized promenades, and other onboard thrills. Endless options for dining, accommodations, and activities, plus amazing values make Royal Caribbean a favorite for families with kids, couples, singles, groups, and cruisers of every kind.
by: Anne Campbell