How To Pick The Best Cruise Ship

How To Pick The Best Cruise Ship

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Cruising is one of our favorite ways to travel! Why do we love it? OMG, there are SO many reasons! How do you find the best cruise ship? We are here to help!

Last updated: July 21, 2022

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I wanted freedom, open air, and adventure. I found it on the sea.

Alain Gerbault

With cruising, there is something for all ages and family members to enjoy! We love the all-inclusive principle, making traveling more relaxing and enjoyable – no fighting over where to eat or what to do for entertainment. Picking the best cruise ship, however, can be daunting. This prompts the question:

How do I pick the best cruise ship? Which ship is right for me?!

First off, you have to decide between an ocean cruise or river cruise. They have there pros and cons, depending on your preference. In general, river cruises are smaller which allows you access to ports unaccessible by larger ocean cruises. This being said, river cruises are not as equipped with all of the entertainment options.

Ocean cruises are typically more often talked about; therefore, that is what I will be referring to when talking about picking the best cruise ship. That doesn’t mean one is better than the other – just a matter of personal preference.

Ocean CruisesRiver Cruises
-> Larger ships-> Smaller ships
-> Many passengers-> Fewer passengers
-> More variety of entertainment-> Low key entertainment
-> More time on ship -> Cultural experience
Ocean vs River Cruise Comparison

Why Cruise?

Cruising is a great way to see multiple places without having to organize hotels, dining, transportation, etc. Some cruise itineraries have multiple sea days, while others cruise at night and are at port daily. Some cruise ships are known for entertainment, cuisine, and/or spas. Others are known to be the “party” boat.

Depending on your personal preference, knowing what you are looking for in a trip and which cruise ship caters to your interests could make a difference in the trip being a positive vs negative one!

For example:

  • I love the shows and the endless activities
  • Josh enjoys relaxing by the pool all. day. long.

Cruising works well for us because we can both find things we love to do without the other one having to make a sacrifice. Win, win!!  

Point to ponder

Before setting out to book your next vacation, think about this: What do I value in a trip? What’s important to me? Do you want a cruise that’s laid back, quiet, and calm OR one that has stellar nightlife entertainment…?

No matter how you answer the question above, there is a cruise ship for you!

Husband and wife stand in front of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship after a day of exploration: the best cruise ship!
First cruise together. Enjoying time together in the Caribbean aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Entertainment

Each cruise line is recognized for different things. I’ve highlighted below the most popular cruise lines to help you get started with your trip planning!

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines have a reputation for great nightlife entertainment. They are usually fairly inexpensive and it is not uncommon to see bachelor and bachelorette parties aboard these vessels. If you want relaxation and calm, this would not be the ship for you. Carnival is also, currently, the only major cruise line to depart from Charleston, SC. So if you live in the Carolinas it’s an easy drive for a Cruise departure.

  • Bottom line: Not the perfect cruise line if you are seeking quiet, calm, and/or solitude.

Royal Caribbean Cruises

On the other hand, if you are looking for a family-friendly cruise with plenty of activities to keep all ages occupied then Royal Caribbean may be the ship for you. They are known for very large ships, allowing for a wide variety of entertainment options. Some ships have ice skating, rock climbing, Flowrider, water slides, and/or a zip line! They also have a great kids/teen program.

  • Bottom line: Not the perfect cruise line if you are seeking a kid-free vacation.

Holland America

We traveled on Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam to the Mediterranean. Their ships tend to be themed and all activities, from my experience, are related to that theme. The Nieuw Statendam was music-themed so there was a variety of music genres from Jazz to R&B playing. If you love music, this would have been an awesome ship for you!

  • Bottom line: Not the perfect cruise line if you are seeking an action-packed cruise.

Cuisine

The food is another reason Josh and I love cruising. Who wouldn’t enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffets and sit-down dinners in the dining room?

The beauty of cruising is that there is something for everyone. If you consider yourself a foodie, Celebrity is devoted to the specialty dining scene. In addition to the cruise ship’s main dining room or buffet, Celebrity choices range from delectable gelato, an upscale Tuscan steakhouse, a sandwich venue, etc.

Age

No matter your age, I believe you can have fun on any ship. Heck, you’re on vacation! Each cruise, however, may cater to a certain age demographic. If this is something that concerns you, I would educate yourself on the best cruise line for your age bracket. Age can also be skewed by the destination and time of year. To minimize being on a ship with lots of children, try to avoid vacationing during holidays, summer, Spring break, etc.

To minimize being on a ship with lots of children, try to avoid vacationing during holidays, summer, Spring break, etc.”

Typically, you will find the younger crowds and families aboard Disney, Carnival, and/or Royal Caribbean. This is mainly due to the price and variety of entertainment. Cruise lines like Holland, Celebrity, and Norwegian tend to cater to a slightly older crowd. This does not mean you will not find anyone younger cruising these lines! We cruised to Europe on Holland America’s Nieuw Statendam, and, while we may have been one of the youngest, had a fantastic time!

Age Limitations

** No cruise line, except Europe’s Costa Cruises, accepts babies younger than 6 months of age on board (some set the limit at 1 year old). Many luxury cruise ships do not allow children under 14 years old.

CostCuisineEntertainmentAvg Age
Royal Caribbean$*********40-50
Princess Cruise Line$$*****45-55
Carnival$******40-50
Norwegian$$*******50-60
Holland$$******55-65
Celebrity$$$********50-60
Major Cruise Ship Lines Comparison (Not an all-inclusive list)

What is your favorite cruise line to travel?!

I hope that this information was helpful. No matter what you choose to do, I am sure that you will have a wonderful vacation! Happy and safe travels! 🚢

And please do me a little favor and share this article with others, for there’s a good chance that it will help them with their travels!

Need help planning your next trip?

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Sara & Josh

While Sara and Josh may be new to the travel blogging world, that doesn't mean they lack knowledge or experience in booking bougie vacations. With a talent for finding travel deals, Sara and Josh are here to teach YOU some of their tricks to traveling "bougie on a budget." Learn more about their story and please reach out with any questions or comments via e-mail at: [email protected].

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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Peter

    Love Princess Cruises! Always have had a great time. Food is fantastic and ships are very clean and nice.

    1. Josh & Sara

      We love Princess too!

  2. Beauty Fashion

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    1. Josh & Sara

      Thank you! I am glad you found it helpful! 😊