All cruise lines share a number of common qualities. The big three; unpack once and visit multiple destinations, the more inclusive nature of a cruise vs. land vacation and a comparatively wonderful value are pretty much universal. Big ships will also probably have a good children’s program, multiple dining venues, numerous drinking places, shore excursions for sale, a casino and a spa of some kind. Still, each line has its unique cruise features; elements of what they do that no other cruise line does.
- Cunard Line’s Planetarium is the star of an October 2017 Transatlantic voyage that will feature a number of interesting speakers and also take advantage of an uncluttered top deck, perfect for stargazing. They also have kennels so you can bring your dog.
- Royal Caribbean International’s Ice Skating Rinks have been thrilling cruise travelers for decades and remain a solid differentiating factor and top entertainment choice
- Carnival Cruise Line’s Guy’s Burger Joint has turned the standard poolside grill into a place that has cruise travelers lining up all day.
- Princess Cruises Love Boat tag has brought the most extensive array of wedding and renewal of vows ceremonies offered at sea.
- MSC Cruises brings an Italian flavor to Caribbean cruises as well as a fleet of ships that sail around the world, all at discount prices
- Seabourn brings top chef at sea Thomas Keller to their food service operation, setting a bar so very high that no cruise line is apt to come close any time soon
- Norwegian Cruise Line’s freestyle dining absolutely takes the formal out of dining, an attractive way to go especially for those who must dress up for work.
- Celebrity Cruises Concierge Class accommodations bring luxury at a value oriented price and include perks offered only to top tier passengers on other lines.
- Viking Ocean Cruises brings a new “thinking man’s cruise” experience to the ocean as they did on rivers around the world with Viking River Cruises
- Costa Cruises lives in the Mediterranean while other cruise line simply visit there on a seasonal basis.
Are any one of these features good reason to sail with a particular line? Maybe, if these features are of particular interest or there is concern that some other element of the experience might be affected by unknown factors. The weather and the exact mix of other travelers come to mind. Even the best planned itineraries and our most diligent research can’t rule out disruption to onboard services due to weather. If we happen to book on a sailing that has a large group of passengers who all know one another, their mere presence onboard can affect our experience.
One reader told me recently that while other entertainment options were not exactly what they prefer, the ice skating show on their Royal Caribbean cruise is one option they can always count on. Another could care less what is offered in the dining room on their Carnival Cruise as long as they get their daily fix of Guy Fieri. One more missed lobster on formal night and always-available shrimp cocktail on their otherwise favorite cruise line but liked the new casual atmosphere and not having to dress up.
At the end of the cruise, we want to look back and say we had a good time. If one or more features unique to a certain cruise help deliver that great cruise experience, that’s a solid factor to consider when booking.
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