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3 Important Steps To Choosing Your Cruise

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2012 Aaron Saunders

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.

Cruising since 1998, my colleague, Aaron Saunders, faced the same challenges.

Together, our aim is to fast-track you to a point of understanding the vessel, the itinerary and even the stateroom that best fits your needs. With more than 500 ships sailing the oceans and rivers, that’s a tall order but one that we’re up for.

To help you sort through the options, this page features links to cruise reviews for all cruise ships as well as Live Voyage Reports from many of the ships that we’ve sailed on. The Live Voyage Reports give you a sense of what it’s like to be traveling along with us.

We also review river cruisers on our sister site, River Cruise Advisor.

We also have a slew of port profiles. So while our 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, our Port Profiles help you find the right itinerary.

But you have some work to do before you begin reading those reviews and port profiles.

Ready? Let’s go.

Quick Link: If you already know the ship you want to cruise on, jump to a list of all ships that we review.

1. Decide On A Cruise Category

The launch of Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas, the worlds largest cruise ship. Aerial views off Miami. - courtesy Royal Caribbean

Not all cruise ships are created equal – they come in all shapes and sizes. Photo courtesy Royal Caribbean

In the cruise industry, we’ve come up with a way to categorize ships. There is certainly a blurring between the categories, but it may help you to think of cruises in the following categories:

Got money to burn? Go Luxury All The Way

One of the luxurious Category AB balcony staterooms aboard Crystal Serenity. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

One of the luxurious Category AB balcony staterooms aboard Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity. Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises

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.

See

You may also want to read Five Reasons Why I Prefer Cruising On Smaller Ships

Looking To Save A Bit But Still Go In Style? Go Premium

The Hydrotherapy Pool aboard Holland America Line's Eurodamis a great example of a premium cruise offering. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line

The Hydrotherapy Pool aboard Holland America Line’s Eurodamis a great example of an upper-premium cruise offering. Photo courtesy of Holland America Line

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

Big ships offer plenty of advantages, particularly for multi-generational cruisers. Photo © 2014 Ralph Grizzle

Big ships offer plenty of advantages, particularly for multi-generational cruisers. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

You’ll also find cruise reviews of such popular large-ship cruise lines as Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International. These cruise lines typically offer the best lead-in rates.

Families traveling together may want to look at Disney Cruise Line, although any of the big ship cruise lines mentioned in the preceding paragraph also do a great job with families.

Windstar Cruises' Wind Star off Portovenere, Italy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

Windstar Cruises’ Wind Star off Portovenere, Italy. Photo © 2013 Aaron Saunders

If you love the sensation of sailing, take a look at Star Clippers and Windstar Cruises. These companies offer intimate experiences that connect you with the wind and waves while providing a closer view of marine life and ship operations. It can be an exhilarating experience, feeling the power of the wind as it fuels your voyage.

Trollfjord in Kirkenes, Norway.

Ice Cruise: Hurtigruten’s Trollfjord in Kirkenes, Norway. Niche expedition cruising never looked so good! © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Niche Cruises offer some incredible vacation experiences, that are not only enriching but also potentially life-changing. Hurtigruten plies the Norwegian coast, and sails to Spitzbergen, Greenland and Antarctica. Lindblad Expeditions operates National Geographic expedition vessels in destinations that span the globe.

2. Decide Where You Want To Go

Seabourn Quest holds its position off Half Moon Island. © 2014 Yuriy Rzhemovskiy for Avid Travel Media Inc.

Decide where you want to go; even Antarctica isn’t out of the question! © 2014 Yuriy Rzhemovskiy for Avid Travel Media Inc.

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 we could recommend a few, we’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.

Still Undecided? See My Favorite Cruises.

We know that any vacation is a big investment, both financially and emotionally, although financially, cruising offers some of the best value vacations. Our mission is to always help you in any way that we can. Together, we have sailed on most of the ships you’re here to learn about and we’ve spent time ashore in ports of all shapes and sizes around the world. We’re here to help.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or comments. Keep in mind my responses may be slow coming back to you, but we will always try to help whenever we can.

Bon Voyage!

Cruise Review By Category

Cruise Reviews Of All Ships

Know the cruise line and ship you’re interested in sailing? Simply find it in the list below and click, view and cruise.

Luxury Cruise Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Cruise LineShip ReviewLive Voyage Report
Crystal CruisesCrystal Serenity Review
Crystal CruisesCrystal Symphony Review
Cunard LineQueen Mary 2 Review• Eastbound Transatlantic Crossing
Cunard LineQueen Victoria Review
Cunard LineQueen Elizabeth Review
Hapag-Lloyd CruisesEuropa Review
Hapag-Lloyd CruisesEuropa 2 Review• Greece to Malta
• Istanbul to Kusadasi
Hapag-Lloyd CruisesHanseatic Review
Hapag-Lloyd CruisesBremen Review
Paul Gauguin CruisesPaul Gauguin Review
Paul Gauguin CruisesTere Moana Review
Regent Seven SeasSeven Seas Mariner Review
Regent Seven SeasSeven Seas Navigator Review
Regent Seven SeasSeven Seas Voyager Review
Regent Seven SeasSeven Seas Explorer Preview
Silversea CruisesSilver Cloud Review
Silversea CruisesSilver Wind Review• South African Safari
• Rome to Athens
• Rome to Malaga
Silversea CruisesSilver Shadow Review• Exotic Alaska
• Bali to Singapore
Silversea CruisesSilver Whisper Review
Silversea CruisesSilver Spirit Review• Athens to Barcelona
• Eastbound Transatlantic
Silversea CruisesSilver Explorer Review• Antarctica
• British Isles
Silversea CruisesSilver Galapagos Review• Western Galapagos Islands
Silversea CruisesSilver Discoverer Review• Christening Ceremonies
• Australia's Kimberley Coast
• Russia's Far East
SeabournSeabourn Legend Review
SeabournSeabourn Spirit Review
SeabournSeabourn Odyssey Review
SeabournSeabourn Quest Review• Antarctica
SeabournSeabourn Sojourn Review
SeabournSeabourn Encore Review
SeabournSeabourn Ovation Review
SeaDream Yacht ClubSeaDream I Review
SeaDream Yacht ClubSeaDream II Review

Mainstream Cruise Reviews

Big ships offer a multitude of features that really are designed to please everyone. But not all big ships are created equal. To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Cruise LineShip ReviewLive Voyage Report
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Breeze Review• 8-Night Eastern Caribbean
• Inagural Season First Impressions
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Conquest Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Dream Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Ecstasy Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Elation Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Fantasy Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Fascination Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Freedom Review• Western Caribbean from Galveston
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Glory Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Imagination Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Inspiration Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Legend Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Liberty Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Magic Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Miracle Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Paradise Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Pride Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Sensation Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Spirit Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Splendor Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Sunshine Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Triumph Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Valor Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Victory Review
Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Vista Review
Costa CruisesCosta Atlantica Review
Costa CruisesCosta Deliziosa Review
Costa CruisesCosta Diadema Review
Costa CruisesCosta Favolosa Review
Costa CruisesCosta Fascinosa Review
Costa CruisesCosta Fortuna Review
Costa CruisesCosta Luminosa Review
Costa CruisesCosta Magica Review
Costa CruisesCosta Mediterranea Review
Costa CruisesCosta neoClassica Review
Costa CruisesCosta neoRomantica Review
Costa CruisesCosta neoRiviera Review
Costa CruisesCosta Pacifica Review
Costa CruisesCosta Serena Review
Costa CruisesCosta Victoria Review
Disney Cruise LineDisney Dream Review
Disney Cruise LineDisney Fantasy Review
Disney Cruise LineDisney Magic Review
Disney Cruise LineDisney Wonder Review
MSC CruisesMSC Armonia Review
MSC CruisesMSC Divina Review• Eastern Caribbean from Miami
MSC CruisesMSC Fantasia Review
MSC CruisesMSC Lirica Review
MSC CruisesMSC Magnifica Review
MSC CruisesMSC Musica Review
MSC CruisesMSC Opera Review
MSC CruisesMSC Orchestra Review
MSC CruisesMSC Poesia Review
MSC CruisesMSC Sinfonia Review
MSC CruisesMSC Splendida Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Breakaway Review• Christening Ceremonies in New York
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Dawn Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Epic Review• Eastern Caribbean from Miami
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Gem Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Getaway Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Jade Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Jewel Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Pearl Review• Alaska & Glacier Bay from Seattle
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Sky Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Spirit Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Star Review
Norwegian Cruise LineNorwegian Sun Review
Norwegian Cruise LinePride of America Review
Princess CruisesCaribbean Princess Review
Princess CruisesCoral Princess Review• Southbound Alaska - Whittier to Vancouver
Princess CruisesCrown Princess Review
Princess CruisesDawn Princess Review
Princess CruisesDiamond Princess Review
Princess CruisesEmerald Princess Review
Princess CruisesGolden Princess Review
Princess CruisesGrand Princess Review
Princess CruisesIsland Princess Review
Princess CruisesOcean Princess Review
Princess CruisesPacific Princess Review
Princess CruisesRegal Princess Review
Princess CruisesRoyal Princess Review
Princess CruisesRuby Princess Review
Princess CruisesSapphire Princess Review
Princess CruisesSea Princess Review
Princess CruisesStar Princess Review• Alaska from San Francisco
Princess CruisesSun Princess Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalAdventure of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalAnthem of the Seas Preview
Royal Caribbean InternationalAllure of the Seas Review• A Day on the Boardwalk With Kids
Royal Caribbean InternationalBrilliance of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalEnchantment of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalExplorer of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalFreedom of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalGrandeur of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalIndependence of the Seas
Royal Caribbean InternationalJewel of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalLegend of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalLiberty of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalMajesty of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalMariner of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalNavigator of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalOasis of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalQuantum of the Seas Review• New York Inaugural Preview Cruise
Royal Caribbean InternationalRadiance of the Seas Review• Royal Advantage Makeover in Esquimalt, BC
Royal Caribbean InternationalRhapsody of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalSerenade of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalSplendour of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalVision of the Seas Review
Royal Caribbean InternationalVoyager of the Seas Review

Premium Cruise Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Cruise LineShip ReviewLive Voyage Report
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Century Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Constellation Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Eclipse Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Equinox Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Infinity Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Millennium Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Reflection Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Silhouette Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Solstice Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Summit Review
Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Xpedition Review
Holland America LineAmsterdam Review
Holland America LineEurodam Review
Holland America LineKoningsdam Preview
Holland America LineMaasdam Review
Holland America LineNieuw Amsterdam Review
Holland America LineNoordam Review• Mediterranean Explorer - Rome to Barcelona
Holland America LineOosterdam Review
Holland America LinePrinsendam Review
Holland America LineRotterdam Review
Holland America LineRyndam Review
Holland America LineStatendam Review
Holland America LineVeendam Review
Holland America LineVolendam Review
Holland America LineWesterdam Review
Holland America LineZaandam Review
Holland America LineZuiderdam Review

Upper Premium Cruise Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Cruise LineShip ReviewLive Voyage Report
Azamara CruisesAzamara Journey Review
Azamara CruisesAzamara Quest Review
Oceania CruisesMarina Review
Oceania CruisesNautica Review
Oceania CruisesRegatta Review
Oceania CruisesRiviera Review
Viking CruisesViking Star Review

Niche Cruise Reviews

To read a review of a particular ship, click the link under "Read the Review." If applicable, our Live Voyage Reports offer a day-by-day overview of an actual cruise onboard. In some cases, there may be more than one report, to be sure to see if your favorite destination is represented.
Cruise LineShip ReviewLive Voyage Report
Celestyal CruisesCelestyal Crystal Review
Celestyal CruisesCelestyal Olympia Review
Celestyal CruisesLouis Aura Review
Fred.Olsen Cruise LinesBalmoral Review
Fred.Olsen Cruise LinesBlack Watch Review
Fred.Olsen Cruise LinesBoudicca Review
Fred.Olsen Cruise LinesBraemar Review
Hebridean Island CruisesHebridean Princess Review
HurtigrutenFinnmarken Review
HurtigrutenFram Review• In the Land of Penguins: Classic Antarctica
HurtigrutenKong Harald Review
HurtigrutenLofoten Review
HurtigrutenMidnatsol Review• Winter Coastal Voyage: Bergen to Kirkenes
HurtigrutenNordkapp Review
HurtigrutenNordlys Review
HurtigrutenNordnorge Review
HurtigrutenPolarlys Review
HurtigrutenRichard With Review
HurtigrutenTrollfjord Review• Winter Coastal Voyage: Kirkenes to Bergen
HurtigrutenVesterålen Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Endeavour Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Explorer Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Islander Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Orion Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Sea Bird Review
Lindblad - National Geographic ExpeditionsNational Geographic Sea Lion Review
PonantL'Austral Review
PonantLe Boreal Review
PonantLe Lyrial Review
PonantLe Ponant Review
PonantLe Soleal Review
Quark Expeditions50 Years of Victory Review
Quark ExpeditionsOcean Diamond Review
Quark ExpeditionsOcean Endeavour Review
Quark ExpeditionsOcean Nova Review
Quark ExpeditionsSea Adventurer Review
Quark ExpeditionsSea Explorer Review
Quark ExpeditionsSea Spirit Review
SeaCloud CruisesSea Cloud Review
SeaCloud CruisesSea Cloud II Review
SeaCloud CruisesSea Cloud Hussar Review
Star ClippersRoyal Clipper Review
Star ClippersStar Clipper Review
Star ClippersStar Flyer Review
Swan HellenicMinerva Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresLa Pinta Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresS.S. Legacy Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresSafari Endeavour Review• Alaska Discoverer's Glacier Country
Un-Cruise AdventuresSafari Explorer Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresSafari Quest Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresSafari Voyager Review• Mexico's Sea of Cortes
Un-Cruise AdventuresWilderness Adventurer Review
Un-Cruise AdventuresWilderness Discoverer
Un-Cruise AdventuresWilderness Explorer
Variety CruisesChristiana VI Review
Variety CruisesGalileo Review
Variety CruisesHarmony V Review
Variety CruisesHarmony G Review
Variety CruisesPanorama Review
Variety CruisesPegasus Review
Voyages of DiscoveryVoyager Review
Windstar CruisesWind Spirit Review• Sailing the Baltics: Stockholm to Oslo
Windstar CruisesWind Star Review• Yachting the French and Italian Rivieras: Rome to Nice
Windstar CruisesWind Surf Review
Windstar CruisesStar Pride Review
Silver Spirit en route to Kusadasi, Turkey, as the sun sets on the Aegean Sea. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Silver Spirit en route to Kusadasi, Turkey, as the sun sets on the Aegean Sea. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Happy Sailing!

– Ralph Grizzle & Aaron Saunders

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  • Rui de Castro Guimaraes

    OMG That was a year ago LOL

  • Rui de Castro Guimaraes

    Call Mary in Lisbon +351-938 234 054 References from Ralph and others on Trip Advisor! :D

  • Rui de Castro Guimaraes

    Thoroughness

  • http://www.facebook.com/matteo.fabbi1 Matteo Fabbi

    If any of you wish to know more about the cruise industry, check my papers at http://www.grin.com/en/e-book/180656/royal-caribbean-cruise-line-rccl-a-brand-portfolio-analysis

    ….an examination of the nature, the typology and the management of a well known corporate brand operating in the Tourism industry: Royal Caribbean Cruises Line Ltd (RCCL).Adam Weaver in his article Complexity at sea: Managing brands within the cruise industry(2008), stresses how in the late eighties, corporate consolidation within the cruise industry, had as a result many cruise brands to be a part of a brand portfolio. In the complexity of the cruise industry, culture, languages and country of origins represent a major challenge for managers when adapting their brands across an international environment and portfolios are always bigger (Weaver, 2008).Originally Royal Caribbean Cruise LTD’s strategy to overcome the complexity of this issue has been to opt for a Global brand strategy instead of a multiple decentralized local brands strategy, which on the other hand, has been Carnival Corporation’s main strategy, also main RCCL competitor, as well as market leader for the global cruise industry (Weaver, 2008).

  • Norneee

    Hello:

    We are cruising on the Grand Princess Oct 21,  29 days from Southampton to Ft. Lauderdale.  We will be stopping at:  Cadiz, Alghero, Rome, Florence, Cannes, Brcelona, Gibraltar, Zeebrugge, Paris, Vigo, Lisbon, Ponta delgada and Bermuda.  Any suggestions on any of these ports for tours we should take.

    Thank you for your help