Cruise vacations are a type of vacation that many people enjoy. They allow for an all-inclusive style of vacation where you can partake in your favorite activities on the ship and off, with selected excursions. In addition, it is easy to indulge in gourmet cuisine that seems to be ever-flowing and never-ending for meals.
Types of Cruises to Consider
Many different types of cruises vary in cost, from river cruises to mega-ship cruising to yacht cruising and beyond. Ocean and river cruises, for example, have some similarities yet lots of differences and target different ages and types of travelers.
For this post’s purposes, we will focus on the best cruises on larger ships, which are the most readily available and approachable for families and couples overall. These ships have thousands of passengers (upwards of 1,000 to 4,000 guests depending on the cruise line and ship).
Cruise Capacity: Health and Safety
If you are concerned about the number of people on a cruise ship in pandemic times, we would argue that cruising is one of the safest ways to travel during a pandemic and beyond. That was true pre-pandemic and will remain true afterward.
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) issued a statement supporting this in December 2021. We have always appreciated the measures cruise lines take to ensure it is the safest way to travel. That includes sanitization of the ship, cleaning all areas of the vessel, and the lengths they go to reporting these methods to the public. No other travel industry sector does so much, so publicly for its guests.
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Ports to Consider for the Best Cruises
The United States Embarkation Ports
One of the benefits of going on a cruise from the United States is that you can potentially drive to the port or quickly fly there from within the country. (Don’t forget to check if you need a passport if your cruise heads to other ports outside the USA.)
US cruise ports are plentiful! There are dozens of ports over the coastal United States, from California and Florida to Maryland, New York, and South Carolina.
Five of the most popular ones that are all near major airports and highways are the cruise ports of:
- Seattle, Washington
- San Diego, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Miami, Florida
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
All major cruise lines have a cruise leaving from one of the ports above.
Destination Ports of Call
Suppose you are interested in a cruise that goes to a particular region of the United States, North America, or the world. In that case, you will want to search by destination or embarkation port.
- For a cruise to Baja California (which sails into Mexico), leave Los Angeles.
- Do you want to cruise to Alaska? Search for cruises that leave from Seattle, Washington.
- If you want to sail to the Caribbean, you’ll likely depart from the Port of Miami, Tampa, or Fort Lauderdale. These are all Florida ports.
- Are you cruising to the Great Lakes? You’ll want to leave from the Midwest or Northeast, including Chicago and Boston.
- If you want to sail to the Mediterranean, in Europe, search for a cruise that leaves from Barcelona, Spain.
Best Cruise Lines to Consider
The best cruise lines are all names you’ve likely heard, even if you’ve never been on a cruise. However, if you’re starting to look into the world of cruising, some may be new to you!
Here are some of the best cruise lines to look into for your next cruise vacation:
- Celebrity Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Viking Ocean Cruises (they have a popular river cruise line too)
- Holland America Line
- Virgin Voyages
Cruise prices will vary based on the following factors:
- Length of the cruise.
- Cruise destinations (or ports the cruise visits).
- The season you’re sailing.
- The number of guests in your cabin or stateroom (Most cruise lines allow two adults and two children, maximum.)
- Category of stateroom you book: inside, outside view, balcony or suite, for instance.
Additional Factors to Consider when Deciding what Cruise is for You
Some other factors may influence your decision of what cruise you book, which you may not have previously considered.
It’s important to decide what amenities or bonuses you desire before booking your cruise. The following few sections will provide helpful tips when considering a cruise vacation.
Travel Agent Kickbacks and Perks
If you book a cruise with a travel agent, there is potential to get an onboard stateroom credit to use on the ship. Many people use the credit for cocktails, dining reservations, or spa treatment.
If you like loyalty rewards, consider cruise lines that reward repeat cruisers.
For example, Disney Cruise Line has its “Castaway Club,” and Princess has its Captain’s Circle. Some enrollment is automatic after your first cruise, and others are not.
The ship-within-a-ship cruise category is for cruisers who want a large ship’s amenities, activities, and entertainment but the exclusive treatment of smaller cruises.
These are clubs, of sorts, within a cruise that you book before you reserve a suite, for instance, with access to a concierge level. In addition, you’ll gain privileged access to private pools, restaurants, and services like a butler 24/7.
Ship-within-a-ship cruises will cost you a little more than another category room, of course. But that’s because of the added services you’re receiving with it.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has The Haven, and Princess has its MedallionClass.
Some cruise lines have private islands that are cool to visit.
Only that cruise line’s ships will visit them. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Caribbean itineraries go to their island, CocoCay. Disney Cruise Line’s Caribbean sailings go to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.
These islands are ideal for cruiser vacationers. They are complete with memorable excursion adventures, waterslides, rides (like zip-lines), bars, restaurants, and more.
Some cruise lines are more friendly towards multi-generational groups.
Disney Cruise Line has repeatedly gets voted the best cruise line for families, which is not a surprise to anyone! Other cruise lines aren’t necessarily known for their “youthful” activities. Rather than wave pools and rock-climbing, they focus on fine dining and casinos.
More children and families will be on cruises when kids’ school breaks occur, regardless of the cruise line. You can expect that during spring break, summer break, and winter break.
There are things to keep in mind to determine if a cruise is a right fit for your family, especially if you have young kids:
- Activities onboard, like laser tag, go-karts, ice-skating, and more.
- If there is childcare onboard, including what ages it covers. Onboard childcare means that you can check your kids into a “babysitter” service. They can be supervised and play with other children their age while you enjoy the cruise as adults-only for a few hours. Some cruise lines require additional payment for this service.
- Bathtubs: It may seem like a silly thing to consider, but if you have a young toddler who doesn’t bathe in a shower and you need a tub for bath time at night, you will want to check to see what the bathroom situation is in the cabins before you book. Some cruises have cabins with standing showers only, and others have tubs.
- Kids sail free: Sometimes, to entice you to book a particular cruise, a company will have promotions for “kids sail free,” as long as two paying adults are in the cabin.
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The Future Of Cruising is Bright
No matter the year, cruising is on a constant upward trend, with more people wanting to go on cruises each year. That is why the future of cruising is bright, with new ships sailing every year.
Going on one of the best cruises will only feed your desire to keep on cruising!
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.
Mikkel Woodruff co-owns and operates Sometimes Home and Sometimes Sailing travel websites with her husband, Dan. They call the east coast of the United States home and travel domestically and internationally, motivating people to seek new experiences and explore new places through inspirational content.