3 Steps To Choosing Your Cruise
So you want to go cruising but you’re confused by itineraries, stateroom categories, the differences in ships and in cruise lines? I know it can be daunting. When I first started in this industry more than two decades ago, I scratched my head for a few years before I began to understand what distinguishes one cruise line from the other and one destination from the other.
Quick Link: See a list of all ships that we review.
My cruise reviews are designed to help you make informed vacation decisions so that you end up on the right vessel and in the right stateroom. My Port Profiles help you find the right itinerary. There’s a lot to sift through, but let me make it easier for you. My hope is that you will be able to click, view and cruise. I know that any vacation is a big investment, both financially and emotionally, although financially, cruising offers some of the best value vacations.
1. Decide On A Cruise Category
In the cruise industry, we’ve come up with a way to categorize ships. The lines are certainly blurring between the categories, but it may help you to think of cruises in the following categories:
- Luxury Cruises
- Big Ship Cruises
- Sailing Ships
- Premium Cruise Lines
- Upper Premium Cruise Lines
- Niche Cruises
- Family Cruises
- River Cruises
Got money to burn? Go Luxury All The Way
If you feel comfortable budgeting $300 to $1,000 per day per person, look to the luxury cruise players such as Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line (grill class), Hapag Lloyd, Paul Gauguin, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and Seabourn. Actually, though these cruise lines command higher fares than the rest of the cruise lines on this page, luxury cruises can be a great value.
Looking To Save A Bit But Still Go In Style? Go Premium
For a bit less investment than luxury cruises, you can cruise on the upper-premium ships operated by Azamara Club Cruises and Oceania Cruises, as well as the mid-sized premium-class vessels that make up the fleets of Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line (often erroneously called, Holland American).
Big Ships Can Offer Big Value
You’ll also find cruise reviews of such popular large-ship cruise lines as Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, NCL, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. These cruise lines typically offer the best lead-in rates.
2. Decide Where You Want To Go
After you’ve figured out your ship style, you’ll want to start scanning a world map to decide where you want to cruise. Cruising can take you just about anywhere from the vast oceans of the world, pole-t0-pole, to rivers that cut through the heart of continents. Port Profiles is designed to help you explore the various regions where cruise ships operate.
3. Find A Good Travel Agent
There are lots of good travel agents, and though I could recommend a few, I’d prefer that you rely on the recommendations of friends or scour the web to find a travel agent that best suits your needs. You won’t pay more using a travel agent than you would going to the cruise line direct, so take advantage of this great, and free, resource.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I want you to know that I am invited to cruise on the ships that I review, meaning that I do not pay to cruise. Press trips, however, are typical in the travel industry, and those invitations, and the special treatment that journalists often receive, can create bias (as in journalists writing glowing reviews when they are not merited). I don’t claim to be unaffected by the courtesies that cruise lines extend to us, but thanks to years obtaining a journalism degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I try to mitigate any bias as much as possible from my reviews. My obligation — and editorial mission — is to be the consumer advocate, to help you make the right choices.
Also, you should know that some cruise lines support Avid Cruiser and River Cruise Advisor — or hire me for projects, such as to produce videos or photography. Truthfully, I couldn’t run this site any other way. Advertising revenues would never support the travel or the operational costs required to keep these sites going.
Luckily, most cruise products that I report on are good cruise products. They merit high satisfaction rates among their passengers, and guests repeat again and again. Primarily what I do is relate the experience and look for points of differentiation between the various cruise lines and ships.
My mission is to help you in any way that I can. I’ve personally sailed on most of the ships you’re here to learn about and I’ve spent time ashore in a lot of the destinations you’ll visit.
I hope I can help you with your big decision. Please feel free to contact me* if you have questions or comments.
Bon Voyage, Ralph Grizzle
* P.S. Though you are welcome to email me, I’d prefer that you add to the discussion by using the comments section under each post so that all can benefit from the exchange. For example, if you have questions about Silversea, leave your comment at the bottom of the Silversea Cruises page. I receive all comments in my email inbox and respond to each one.
Undecided? See My Favorite Cruises.