July 20, 2024

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Traveling with family, or maybe looking for adventure? There’s a cruise line for that

5 min read

David Stewart and his family have chosen different cruise lines for different stages of life.

When his two kids were younger, the Long Island, New York-based 55-year-old’s family sailed with Disney Cruise Line, but when the kids hit their teen years, Stewart picked Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International – which he felt had the best blend of offerings for adolescents and adults, from teen programming to the casinos.

The itineraries and ships the lines offer also influence their choice, said Stewart, who has been on 10 cruises both on family trips and with his wife, Susan. “You have to also know what your family and your kids like,” he added.

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Knowing what you want out of a trip is an important part of choosing a cruise line and voyage. And while many lines have something for everyone, they are distinct.

“Every cruise line is different,” said Mike Harris, director of sales at travel agency The Cruise Web. “They have different personalities.”

Here is a guide to cruise lines for each vacation type:

Best cruise line for family vacations

Michelle Fee, CEO of the travel agency franchise network Cruise Planners, recommended Norwegian Cruise Line for families, as they have “an array of things to do on board,” such as go-kart tracks, bowling alleys or and virtual reality experiences. She noted, however, that “not all ships are created equal,” and amenities and programs can vary, so be sure to check those when you book.

Norwegian’s The Haven, the line’s luxe ship-within-a-ship concept that has a dedicated restaurant and bar, among other perks, also makes the line particularly well-suited to multigenerational families, Fee said. Grandparents, for instance, could stay there, while the rest of the family stays elsewhere, and they all can meet for dinner in the evening.

Royal Caribbean also has plenty to offer families, Fee added, both on board and at its destination in the Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, where passengers can ride water slides and take in views from a helium balloon as well as relax.

Other family options include Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line. Contemporary lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC Cruises also have kids programs that are generally included in the fare, said Harris.

Bruce Powell, CEO and lead travel adviser at BWP Travel, also recommended Princess Cruises for families. While he said the brand is not always marketed to families the way some others are, they do feature offerings like kid-friendly shows. He said, “it’s like a little bit of everything, so it’s great for multi-generational families.”

Best cruise line for adventures and thrills

Travelers looking for adventure may want to consider expedition ships and lines that offer sailings to less common destinations, such as Antarctica. Fee recommended lines such as Viking, Silversea Cruises and Celebrity Cruises, which has a vessel designed specifically for the Galapagos Islands.

“You go to the Galapagos, it’s a completely different experience on Celebrity than it is taking a Celebrity cruise to the Caribbean,” she said.

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However, you can choose your own adventure on any number of lines in the form of excursions. When ships stop at different ports in Alaska, for instance, Fee noted, travelers can take a helicopter ride and land on a glacier, or go dog sledding. Harris also said that thrills can be relative to the person seeking them out and take different forms, even going on a giant water slide.

Best cruise line for letting loose

If you are looking to let loose, Fee noted Virgin Voyages offers adults-only sailings and a different kind of onboard experience, with late-night parties on deck. There is also no main dining room, with a focus instead on a variety of different food and drinks.

Guests can also find a party atmosphere on other lines, such as Carnival. But the length of the sailing and the time of year play a role in a cruise’s vibe, Harris said.

“If you’re going on a shorter cruise, a three, four-day cruise out of Florida, that’s going to tend to have more of a party atmosphere on board,” he said. A cruise during spring break will also have a different atmosphere than if a traveler sailed the same itinerary in November, Harris added.

Parties can take different forms too.

Cunard, Powell noted, hosts formal gala nights. “Cruising is all about having fun, and you’ll find that each ship kind of tailors the events around their key demographic,” he said.

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Best cruise lines for rest and relaxation

When it comes to a more relaxing trip, Fee said, travelers may want to consider a more upscale line. Guests will likely find a focus on immersion into destinations, with menus that may be from acclaimed chefs, rather than rock-climbing walls or ice-skating rinks.

Silversea, Viking, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises are all in that category, according to Fee.

However, Harris noted that contemporary lines also have adult-only areas where grown-ups can get away, and luxury and contemporary lines alike have “pretty high-quality amenities” like spas and salons.

Best lines for river cruising

River cruising offers a more intimate way to travel. Fee said guests can get up close and personal with villages and cities along the water in a different way. “You’re not walking off a ship with 5,000 of your closest friends,” she said. “You know, it’s a couple hundred people.”

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Harris said river cruising is “very small-scale and destination-focused,” and the latter is likely to be reflected in the onboard experience. For example, lines may bring local wines and beers on board, he said. Fee recommended lines such as Viking, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld.

What type of cruising do you prefer? Why?

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Taking a vacation? Your guide to cruise lines for every kind of trip

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