Cruises are a great way for couples, families and singles to travel in style and experience an unforgettable trip to some of the most beautiful parts of the world.
We scoured the internet and picked apart the ships. After reading travel reviews, looking at awards and focusing on ship safety records and complaints, we’re proud to present you with our list of some of the best cruise lines and ships on the high seas.
We only focused on the bigger ships and this time, left out river cruises and yachts. All of the ships we considered were owned by lines and not privately, to ensure that they committed to exacting standards. We then factored in the costs, amenities, features, excursions, accommodations, accessibility, cuisine, shopping, alcohol and locales to pick only the top performing fleets. Finally we considered guest reviews, critic reviews and awards. Then we looked at safety records, maintenance issues and how well the ships performed including the response in the event of issues. Then we broke the ships and the lines up into categories. Here are our findings:
Luxury Cruise Ship
One of the largest ships in its fleet, the Silver Whisper has a passenger capacity of just shy of 400, but more important, a crew to guest ratio of 1:1. The ship claims to offer the highest degree of service and the guest reviews online don’t disagree. The Silver Whisper is home to some of the most resplendent cabins available on the water. With Pratesi linens, a full bath and twin to queen convertible beds, the cabin size ranges from 287 to 1435sf and all of them are suites. Most of the suites come with private balconies and the ship is home to numerous activities and services from fitness classes to afternoon tea. There’s a full casino, four restaurants including Relais & Châteaux and Le Champagne as well as the Viennese theatre which offers shows in the evening. Complete with various cocktail lounges and other facilities, this is as close to an experience as you’ll get to the treatment the first class passengers received on the Titanic; just hopefully without the same fate.
Sven Raphael Schneider has also had very good experiences at Seabourn.
Disney Dream by Disney Cruises
Aside from recent incidents of measles, Disney isn’t just the highest ranked cruise ship for families, but the highest overall ranked cruise line by critics and passengers alike.
The Disney Dream ship is really the ship of dreams and the line’s largest. With accommodations for 4000 passengers, it’s like a trip to Disney World for the kids with a range of services and amenities reserved for adults. Focused on classic Disney which is evident by the bronze statue of Admiral Donald in the lobby atrium, the ships most popular feature for the young ones is a 765 foot water coaster that wraps through four of the decks and over the edge of the ship. In addition to the Disney characters paying children visits throughout the ship, another highlight is Goofy’s Sports Deck with basketball courts, mini golf, Foosball and a virtual sports simulator. The entire ship is focused on family fun but there are activities and areas for various age groups from infants and toddlers to teen nightclubs. Parents will also be relaxed as there are designated adult-only facilities and an entire section of the ship that transforms into an adult amusement park at night with five nightclubs, cocktail lounges, spa and fitness facilities, adult only restaurants including fine dining and nine family restaurants. Cabins are geared to families of four or five with pullout sofas and relaxation areas that can be converted to private sleeping quarters. Even the smallest stateroom can comfortably fit a family of three. Of course one benefit is the many outdoor activities such as pools and fitness areas. However, it’s important to remember that this is busy ship and it can feel crowded. For families it’s a great time, but if you’re traveling with your significant other, this is not the ship for you. Go to Disney World instead.
If you don’t like Disney, other cruise lines like Celebrity or Royal Caribbean also offer a range of children and teenager entertainment, whereas children are rarely seen on smaller, upscale ships like at Seabourn.
Crystal Cruises offers children a broad choice of organized activities and entertainment options such as scavenger hunts, pizza baking or Karaoke…
Make sure you check out different offerings before you commit.
Crystal Symphony by Crystal Cruises
The Crystal Symphony is a ship like no other for couples wanting a romantic getaway. Consistently ranked high by critics and customers alike, it is one of the most serene cruise experiences you can have on the open seas. Specifically designed to offer a feeling of privacy in public areas, the ship has a range of couples spa treatments that can be ordered both in the spa or in your stateroom. With butler service available and a range of dining options, this ship is geared for those traveling without children and looking for a refined and elegant experience. Although it is an older ship having been built in 1995, it did just recently undergo a $15 million renovation which puts its facilities and services on par with newer cruise ships. The staff to passenger ratio is very low and the level of attention each passenger receives is phenomenally high. It’s a perfect choice for a honeymoon, anniversary celebration or a last minute getaway.
Riviera by Oceania Cruises
It’s not the biggest ship, but it’s been named the best for those traveling alone and especially those looking for fun. With a focus on nightlife and experiences, the ship is home to some really incredible entertainment facilities. There’s a huge number of bars, nightclubs and lounges spread throughout the ship each offering specialty services like martini bars, poolside bars and even a wine tasting bar. There are nine restaurants to choose from on board and one can even take a culinary course. Staterooms are made for relaxation and small, but big enough should you meet someone special on the trip. Of course, there are always suites available which go as big as 2000sf. There are many activities from art classes to spa services and everything is geared to mature, single passengers. This is not the ship for kids. Stick with Disney for that.
It is really hard to make recommendations in this category because it all depends on your personal preferences. For example, if you value small ships, a high level of service, great food, small tenders and all you can drink Champagne, Seabourn is a great company to look into. Be prepared to spend about $1,000 a day plus airfare to sometimes tiny islands.
On a bigger ship like the ones from Celebrity, you have more entertainment and sports options. The common areas are much bigger, and there is more choice and more buffets. Drinks are extra unless you get drink packages. Depending on the route you take you pay about $100 a day or less if you take an inside cabin. The value you receive here is very, very good compared to Seabourn, but it is also less luxurious, with more people on board.
Last but not least, you have the gigantic ships such as the Quantum of the Seas. It’s a huge ship with just about everything anyone could ever ask for onboard. The entire focus of this ship is fun in the sun, but with so many people on board, getting on and off, the ship is a much bigger hassle and takes much longer than on other ships. Also, you cannot go into many smaller ports or the ships have to anker way outside the city making bus transfers a necessity.
So you see, there is no clear winner – it all depends on your tastes and budgets.
Dress Code on Ships
Generally speaking, the dress code is more relaxed than it was 30 years ago but you can still wear black tie or a dinner jacket, although white tie is not really seen anymore today. Even the smaller upscale ships often have a casual dress code, and black tie is not even required at all, which is rather disappointing.
Wouldn’t it be fun to have a cruises for clothing aficionados where everybody would get dressed up every night? At the Gentleman’s Gazette we really hope that a cruise line will offer something like this some day.
Allure of the Seas by Royal Caribbean
It may be the world’s largest cruise ship, but it’s also one of the least expensive. Capable of accommodating over 6000 passengers, Allure of the Seas offers all of the signature amenities from Royal Caribbean from the standard rock climbing walls and skating rinks to casinos and nightlife. The ship is sectioned off into ‘neighborhoods’, each of which offers its own style of living. The seven unique neighborhoods have a variety of restaurants, shows and activities. There’s a zip line that ascends down nine of the decks, surf simulators and a water show at the AquaTheater. One highlight of the ship is its floating Central Park with more than 12,000 trees, art galleries, wine cellars and fine dining restaurants. Since many families travel on this ship, there are a wide range of activities for children of all ages from interactive science exhibits to scavenger hunts and game centers. The ship plays host to 25 different restaurants from the family themed Adagio where kids can eat breakfast with their favorite DreamWorks character to the upscale 150 Central Park where adults are treated to small plates prepared by Chef de Cuisine Molly Brandt.
As far as staterooms go there are four categories from the basic to the sublime. Eighty percent of the cabins offer ocean views with 72% of all the rooms having balconies. For passengers wanting more space, there are a selection of suites available with private sitting areas. If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive cruise with huge entertainment you’re in luck. However, if you’re looking for dedicated attention from staff or a refined and relaxing trip, this is definitely not the ship for you.
If you are on a budget, it pays to compare prices and destinations, you will definitely find something for $500 a week where you get a great value. Anything less than that, and chances are the food quality goes down.
Also bear in mind regional differences. An Italian Cruiseline like Costa will serve more pasta and pizza with steak only being offered once a week, whereas you can eat Filet Mignon or Strip Steak every night on a Celebrity cruise, if that’s what you want.
The Award Winners for 2014
Every year Cruise Critics sends a team of editors on hundreds of cruises to find the very best ships of the year.
While that is subjective, it provides a good insight into what you might or might not like and hence we wanted to list the winners from 2014:
Best new ship: Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas
Best ship refurbishment: Oceania Cruises (R-Class)
Best for luxury: Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions
Best for families: Disney Cruise Line
Best itineraries: Princess Cruises
Best for adventure: International Expeditions
Best value for money: Carnival Cruise Lines
Best dining: Oceania Cruises
Best entertainment: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best suites: Celebrity Cruises
Best inside cabins: Royal Caribbean International
Best standard cabins: Holland America Line
Best shore excursions: Azamara Club Cruises
Best for romance: Windstar Cruises
Best cruise ship bar: Celebrity Cruises’ Martini Bar
Best North American home port: New Orleans
Best new river ships: Emerald Waterways’ Emerald Sky and Emerald Star
Best river cruise line: Viking Cruises
Top three U.S. News winners in each category:
Best luxury cruise lines
1. Crystal Cruises
2. Silversea Cruises
3. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Best cruise lines for the money
1. Royal Caribbean
2. Disney Cruise Line
3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Best cruise lines for romance
1. Silversea Cruises
2. Crystal Cruises
3. Azamara Club Cruises
Best cruise lines in the Caribbean
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean
3. Carnival Cruise Lines
Best cruise lines for families
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean
3. Celebrity Cruises
There are many ships sailing around the world, with a wide range of offerings, benefits and drawbacks. Stay tuned as we feature ships in different regions, focus on various cruise lines and even cover smaller river cruises and yachts.