What floats your boat - choosing the right cruising category
When it comes to travel trends, nothing has exploded with quite the same magnitude as cruising. Catering for multi-generational getaways, romantic couple’s retreats or adventurous solo expeditions, cruise lines have capitalised on demand from a diverse customer base by crafting voyages for all budgets and preferences. Setting off to sea can be done in style and sophistication, venturing downriver doesn’t have to break the bank. Jump aboard this travel trend, see what the fuss is about and pick a cruise category that suits you.
Mainstream cruising, also referred to as the ‘contemporary’ category, refers to the mass-market, resort-style ships, generally with the capacity for upwards of 3000 guests. The consequences of these big numbers include smaller average cabin size and decent but not exceptional service. The onboard vibes are busy, energetic and potentially noisy; there is always something going on and the climate is communal and social. Activities and facilities generally include pools, waterslides, ice-skating rinks, rock-climbing, Broadway performances, comedy nights, movie theatres, bars, lounges, clubs, gyms and spas. The onboard entertainment, affordable rates and special package deals endear these lines to families.
Good for: a convenient budget holiday with extended family and active kids, where shore excursions are not a priority. Mainstream cruising is popular for a reason – there truly is something for everyone, and the idea of unpacking once and having everything you need nearby is certainly appealing.
You can expect: competitive and affordable rates (but additional onboard costs), lots of families and young people, and a lively nightlife
Lines: Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line
Premium and deluxe-level cruising also offers a myriad of diversions, although facilities and service are of a distinctly higher quality. State rooms are more spacious, the food and dining options more varied and the décor more refined. Some lines like to provide a more traditional cruising experiences with suggested dress codes and assigned dining, but usually you will find a very relaxed atmosphere with some extra perks like excellent Internet access and more privacy. The differentiating factor between premium and deluxe is typically the size of the boat and its capacity; the more intimate and personalised the experience, the more you can expect to pay.
Good for: a little bit of glamour on a multi-generational trip that caters for everyone. Impressive, professional standards are a guarantee, although you should do your research as there is some variation between lines.
You can expect: families and couples, great service, extra perks and a spectrum of interesting activities and workshops like movies, cooking demonstrations and snorkeling
Lines: Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises
With top of the line, luxury cruises, you get what you pay for. This means high staff to guest ratios (there are often more staff on board than guests), low capacity (guests can be as few in number as 50) and larger rooms (sometimes all cabins are suites with balconies). Sleek, smaller-sized vessels with beautiful interiors promise peace, privacy and an intimate, personalised experience. The necessary bi-products, however, are fewer onboard activities and no large-scale entertainment activities; the focus is instead on demonstrations, lectures and port excursions in interesting spots inaccessible to mainstream cruises. All-inclusive costs cover gratuities like alcohol with meals, and the special extra touches like fresh flowers, quality tableware, bath products, branded linens and sometimes even butler service.
Good for: ticking off those bucket-list destinations in supreme style and comfort and spending relaxed, leisurely time with a loved one.
You can expect: intriguing, well-crafted shore excursions in lesser-known locations, faultless service from attentive and professional staff and plenty of inclusions
Lines: Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Sea Cruises
Whatever floats your boat can be found in the wide array of lines and packages on the cruise market. Ocean cruises aside, there are also niche lines, river cruises and sailing ships to test out. All you’ll need is to pick a destination and duration and cast away!
Hear from an expert and read this interview with our Cruise Queen, Linda