Which Cruise Line Is Best for You?

Jan 1, 2017

Not all cruise ships are the same. Think of them as floating hotels -- each are thoughtfully designed to cater to different types of travelers. To help dispel some of the mystery, we’ve created a guide noting the standout features of major cruise lines so you can figure out which one is best for you.

Celebrity Cruises

Ranked among some of the top ships in the world by Conde Nast Traveler readers, Celebrity ships offer gourmet restaurants, chic bars and lounges and amenities such as the “lawn club” -- a half-acre grassy spot on the top deck designed for picnics, games and exhibits. Although this is more of an adult cruising experience, kids and teen clubs are available year-round. Average capacity: 2400 passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line

Whether you’re traveling as a couple or with friends and family, Norwegian ships cater to people of all ages. Innovator of the Freestyle Dining concept, guests don’t have to stick to assigned tables or meal times. Entertainment ranges from Broadway-style shows to karaoke bars and intimate lounges. A variety of kids clubs are complimentary, organized by age group. Capacity ranges from about 2000-4500 passengers

Princess Cruises

Aboard Princess, you can expect an elegant, refined cruising experience. Instead of waterslides and all-night dance parties, guests can look forward to bustling piazzas with cafes and low-key bars, outdoor movies under the stars, and full daily schedules of onboard activities and games. Though there are plenty of kids programs on board, you’re likely to find more couples and friends than families with young children. Average size: 2700 passengers

Holland America

The experience onboard Holland America is very traditional – from ballroom dancing to afternoon tea -- attracting an older, more sophisticated traveler. Most ships feature multimillion-dollar art collections and enrichment programs like cooking and fitness classes, educational lectures and photography lessons. With a 2:1 guest to staff ratio, service is personalized, yet ships are still spacious with plenty to explore. There are complimentary programs for kids and teens, but most shore excursions are designed for active adults. Average capacity: 1550 passengers

MSC Cruises

Sailing more than 1,000 routes around the world, MSC is known for unique itineraries, with ports that other cruise lines rarely visit. With a proud Mediterranean heritage, Italian ambiance can be felt throughout the ships – even to dining specialties such as tiramisu and handmade pasta and authentic pizza. The ships most standout décor feature is winding staircases that sparkle with Swarovski crystals. Known as a family company, MSC Cruises adheres to a “kids 12 and under sail free” policy, and offers complimentary programs for kids and teens. Average capacity: 2800 passengers

Royal Caribbean

With one of the most diverse and largest fleets in the industry, Royal Caribbean has mid- to mega-sized ships, including two of the biggest in the world (Oasis and Allure of the Seas). Families flourish on these new, technology-driven ships that boast surf simulators, indoor skydiving and bumper cars. Adults can sneak away for some alone time at a Vegas-style show, in an upscale Italian steakhouse or at cocktail lounges where robotic bartenders mix drinks. With more than 20 ships in its fleet, capacity ranges from about 2000 to nearly 5500 passengers


If you’re looking for a 5-star river cruise experience, this is for you. Everything aboard Scenic is included: airport transfers, tips, all meals and drinks (in-room mini bars too) as well as shore excursions. You even get mini Mac computers in each cabin to take advantage of the ship’s free Wi-Fi. Service is highly attentive, and food and wine highlights local flavors. A whopping 84% of Scenic’s cabins are balconies. Capacity: Maximum of 171 passengers

Azamara Cruises

Guests looking for a luxury experience and interesting itineraries are the perfect Azamara candidates. Azamara ships are intimate and Azamara itineraries feature ports in the heart of major cities that larger ships could never reach. Kids are welcome aboard, but there’s no planned programming available to keep them busy. Capacity: Maximum of 700 passengers

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