What I Need To Know About Cruises – As Cruise Team Lead, Gene Sloan oversees cruise content at TPG and also writes many of TPG’s flagship cruise guides. He has spent nearly 30 years writing about cruise ships and cruising and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the subject.

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What I Need To Know About Cruises

What I Need To Know About Cruises

First, let me say you’re going to love it. I’ve been cruising on almost every line out there for over 30 years, and I can tell you it’s a wonderful way to travel.

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It’s not for everyone, of course. Many people have tried it once or twice and are not fans. The world is also full of “never cruisers” – people who, for various reasons, never even consider going on a ship for vacation.

However, as survey after survey has shown, most people who try a cruise for the first time give it high marks—and many end up cruising again. Odds are high you’ll rate it high, too.

However, before you get to the point where you’re excited about your life exploring the world by sea, you have a big decision ahead of you: which line should you book?

It is not an easy decision. There are dozens of cruise lines, and no two are alike. Some operate only large ships. Some operate small vessels. Some sail only in North America. Others travel around the world. Some offer ships designed for family fun. Others do not even allow children to sit in the board.

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Additionally, you’ll find cruise lines all over the map relative to price points. Like land-based resorts and hotels, there are cruise lines for those on the tightest budgets and cruise lines that cater to people for whom money is no object.

In short, there exists a cruise line for everyone. However, depending on your preferences, not every line will do. The trick is to find the perfect cruise line for you.

As noted above, dozens of cruise lines operate ships all over the world. At last count, I’d sailed with 41 different cruise companies, and I still hadn’t hit every major brand — despite my full-time job for years testing cruise ships.

What I Need To Know About Cruises

One thing to understand is that the list of cruise lines you’ll find here on TPG and other travel sites includes companies offering incredible experiences.

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When you think of “cruise ship,” you might think of the huge floating megaresorts you see in television commercials operated by the likes of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines—ships of all kinds that carry thousands of passengers. Gee-whiz entertainment on their top deck.

But the cruising world also includes companies that operate much smaller, more intimate ships that carry anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred people. These ships have a completely different vibe. They are like small boutique hotels that float from place to place.

Additionally, you’ll find adventure-focused “expedition” cruise companies that offer an entirely different type of cruising—including going to off-the-beaten-path places like Antarctica on small, rugged ships designed to be explored. Some cruise companies specialize in ships that travel on rivers, while others operate ships.

If you hear someone say they’ll never take a cruise because the ships are “too big” or “too crowded,” you’ve met someone who doesn’t know what’s out there.

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You can go on a big, booming ship that carries 6,000 people or a small, yacht-like ship that carries 60 people and everything in between.

The cruise industry likes to divide its offerings into oddly named categories like “contemporary” and “premium” lines. But for me, it’s all marketing talk. Ignore it when you see it. After three decades of covering the industry, I like to break things down into the six categories you’ll find below, and (in a few cases) several subset categories—each of which appeals to a different type of vacationer.

Seven major lines account for the majority of cruises taken by North Americans. They are in order of size (when measured by passenger capacity):

What I Need To Know About Cruises

If you’re taking a cruise for the first time, you’ll likely travel with one of the above brands—if only because they dominate the market for cruises in North America and, indeed, the world. As you can read in our ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean, this single brand accounts for about 20% of all cruises taken worldwide. Add in the next three biggest players — Carnival, MSC Cruises and Norwegian — and you have more than 50% of the cruise business.

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Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Norwegian Cruise Lines | The Ultimate Guide to Carnival Cruise Line | The Ultimate Guide to MSC Cruises

The cruise industry prefers to label these seven lines as either “contemporary” (the first four on the list) or “premium” (the next three on the list). The idea is that the latter three brands offer a “premium” product to the first four. Such nomenclature is a throwback to the early days of cruising which I believe no longer has much relevance.

All of these brands have changed over the years, and the old distinctions no longer apply. You can get a “premium” experience in the exclusive The Haven area on Norwegian ships, for example, which will be over the top of anything you’ll experience on many so-called premium ships. An experience aboard a Royal Caribbean ship can be just as grand – or more so – than an experience aboard a Princess ship.

What all these brands have in common is that they operate relatively large, mass-market vessels with starting prices that are relatively affordable. Just keep in mind that the word “big” is relative. These brands vary widely in their vessel sizes. The largest Holland America ships, for example, are less than half the size of the largest Royal Caribbean ships and carry far fewer passengers.

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Indeed, while Holland America’s ships are “large” compared to many of the luxury, expedition, and river ships that I’ll talk about later in this story, the brand is often labeled a “midsize” ship operator in the industry to distinguish it from the largest ships. Conducting lines.

You’ll also notice that the size of the vessels in each of these brands’ fleets can vary significantly. For example, Royal Caribbean’s largest ships are three times the size of its smallest ships.

The main thing to know about the seven “big ones,” as I call them, is that the type of experience they provide varies greatly. If you’re booking a cruise for the first time, know that the seven lines aren’t necessarily interchangeable—even in cases where they offer the same price on the same itineraries. Depending on your taste and preferences you may like one of these brands but not the other.

What I Need To Know About Cruises

Are you a fan of big, bustling megasorts with every amusement known to man? You might want to gravitate toward Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises. These three brands are what I call “floating megaresort lines”—lines that offer unusually large ships that are the equivalent of land-based megaresorts like Atlantis in the Bahamas.

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We’re talking ships with a seemingly endless array of deck-top fun zones, from water parks and surfing pools to go-kart tracks and laser tag courses, as well as restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, spas, casinos and more. . These ships can accommodate 5,000 or even 6,000 people including crew.

Royal Caribbean ships like Harmony of the Seas are packed with entertainment, from surfing and pools to giant slides and zip lines. Royal Caribbean

These are brands designed to appeal to a wide demographic, including families with children of all ages. They offer cabins for $100 per night, cabins for $1,000 per night, and everything in between. The best way to describe them is that they are like a large Las Vegas resort, except they float.

As noted above, each vessel operated by this brand varies in size. Typically, the newest ships in their fleet are the largest, most megaresort-like ships.

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If a cruise ship topped with the cruising equivalent of an amusement park doesn’t sound like your idea of ​​fun, then Princess, Holland America and Celebrity are your best bets. This is what I call an “anti-floating megasort line”.

Filled with water parks, rock climbing walls, surfing simulators and all the other things that are hallmarks of the floating megaresort line. This is a more traditional cruise ship for those who don’t want a floating theme park or Las Vegas resort experience.

Instead of lots of entertainment, the top decks of Princess cruise ships offer a more traditional array of pool and lounge areas. Princess Cruises

What I Need To Know About Cruises

Instead of bustling attractions, the top decks of the ships operating these lines offer plenty of peace and relaxation.

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