By Jason Cochran, dealnews contributor
Just like cars, houses and universities, the cruise deal you choose for your vacation is as much a reflection of your lifestyle and expectations as it is of your budget. Thirty years ago, cruising was more or less a one-size-fits-all proposition, but now, it's a $30 billion-a-year industry within the travel deal industry, with various lines jockeying to command its particular niche.
Experienced cruisers know that the line you choose can define the quality of your holiday. So which one should you pick? Here are 10 considerations a vacationer might have, paired with the line that answers them best.
"I want to feel like I'm in Titanic."
Sinking aside, the grand liner experience is one worth cherishing, and it lives on in just one brand: Cunard Line, which has been sailing since the 1830s. In the summer, it makes regular five-day runs between New York City and England aboard the Queen Mary 2, which was designed and constructed just for the task. Its other two ships usually sail farther afield than the North Atlantic, going as far as Australia, but all three strive to offer elevated, dignified diversions including lectures by university professors, the largest libraries at sea, and always a smattering of black-tie-only evenings. All of that means it tends to attract an older, educated, more experienced crowd that can appreciate the trappings that Cunard's long lineage provides.
"I want to see Europe."
Most of the major lines (including Princess, and Disney) and Royal Caribbean with deals like this 10-night 2-for-1) make summer forays into Europe, but my advice is to stick with ships that are on the smaller side. Why? Europe's medieval back streets were not meant to handle the simultaneous disgorgement of thousands of American tourists, so smaller ships will yield more copacetic day trips. Smaller ships can also venture to smaller ports, which Europe has plenty of. While seeing the great coastal cities of Europe in six-hour shifts aboard a traveling hotel will never be ideal, Costa Cruises has generally modest-sized ships and it has been a player in the region for decades. It's also mainstream enough to please Americans who are used to a few bells and whistles on their vessels, but not so rarefied that it's daunting. For a similar, sensibly-sized experience in Asia, there's Star Cruises.
"I wanna party!"
Belly up to the casino bar on a Carnival ship, my friend. Most of the vessels in the Carnival fleet, while jammed with opportunities to drink and eat yourself into a stupor, are fairly indistinguishable from each other thanks to being dominated by long-time designer Joe Farcus. Count on twinkly signage, neon tubing, lots of brass and faux pink marble, piles of crowd pleasing grub in restaurants with unchallenging names such as Grand Buffet, Chic, and Taste of Nations. Each ship comes equipped with a signature water slide (its ships being family-targeted, kids are well served with arcades and activities), and the cabins are a notch more spacious than those of most of its competitors, but it's still not a line that bears snobs comfortably. Because of its mass-market predictability, Carnival is the Burger King of the seas, but there's no judgment in that: Sometimes you just want a Whopper. [Full story]