Choosing the right cruise can be a tough decision, with so many cruise lines offering a vast array of itineraries, how do you know if you’re going to like it? When you’re trying to book your holiday, you want to make sure that it’s the best it can be – that’s why now, more than ever before, is a great time to cruise.
2018 is the year of ‘Generation Cruise’, chosen by Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) as the theme for its annual conference, the term is being used to describe the wide-ranging appeal that cruising now has among so many different age groups. CLIA reported that the demand for cruising increased by 20.5% between 2011 and 2016, a significant rise, and experts predict that 2018 will see a growth in multi-generational cruising with more grandparents expected to cruise with their grand children without parents.
The beauty of cruising is that there are so many different cruise lines to choose from to suit different tastes and budgets, this is what makes the industry unique and sets it apart from other travel markets. The cruise lines have the opportunity to carve out their own niche to appeal to consumers. Many of today’s travellers are increasingly motivated to collect memories of experiences rather than material things and so cruise lines are competing to offer consumers the best experiences both onboard and ashore.
To illustrate the point that there is a ‘cruise line out there for everyone’ I decided to ask a group of cruise bloggers to tell me their favourite cruise line with their reasons. They all share a love of cruising but as you will see, they gave varied responses, even those who chose the same cruise line, did so for very different reasons.
Why bloggers love P&O
One of Britain’s most popular cruise lines is P&O, with 175 years of experience and seven ships currently in service (the new Iona is due to debut in 2020). It prides itself on being British, something that some of the cruise bloggers valued above other cruise lines.
Lisa Jane, a family travel blogger from Cruising with Kids particularly loves P&O’s Great British Sailaways. The music and flag-waving really brings out the patriotism in the Brits and sets a party mood. Lisa also looks forward to P&O’s formal evenings and of course a good cup of tea onboard. You can see more of Lisa’s recent visit to P&O’s Britannia.
Did you know?
P&O offers a choice of two teas onboard its ships: PG Tips and Tea Pigs – both are British brands, chosen to make passengers feel at home whilst on their cruise.
Gavin from Holidays at Sea also shared his love for P&O and its homely feel. He particularly favoured the onboard currency of pounds sterling and the policy of no service charges automatically being added to drinks prices. P&O has recently announced that daily gratuities will no longer be automatically added to sailings from May 2019, something that has already been widely welcomed by regular cruisers.
Rather than a good cuppa, Gavin enjoys heading to The Glass House, a food and wine venue, which can be found on board Aurora, Azura, Britannia and Ventura, where you can purchase wine by the glass. Read more about Gavin and Luke’s recent cruise on P&O’s Oceana.
Why bloggers love Royal Caribbean
Who better to ask about Royal Caribbean than Elizabeth Hill, the Godmother to Independence of the Seas! Elizabeth believes that Royal Caribbean truly encapsulates ‘Generation Cruise’ because they are designed to be inter-generational ships, aimed at families, holidaying together. “There is something to suit the youngest child to the oldest grandparent.” Elizabeth said.
The cruise godmother, who’s blog is aptly named, Cruise Like a Godmother, also praises RCL for the innovative activities on board and West End-style shows. Elizabeth also likes that the company has a social conscience and has many charitable projects that it organises and supports.
Did you know?
Royal Caribbean holds an annual G.I.V.E. Day, when employees and their families volunteer to help support community projects and communities. It’s the largest volunteer effort by a single company on a single day.
In terms of food onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise, Elizabeth said “The food is fabulous. You can either join in the formal nights or if you prefer casual you can eat nightly in the Windjammer.”
Royal Caribbean is known for its iconic promenades situated in the centre of its newer ships which give them a small high street feel with shops inter-spaced with cafes, and pubs. This makes their ships as much the destination as the ports themselves and is likely to attract new cruisers who may be worried about being bored on sea days.
You can read more about Elizabeth Hill, and how she became the Godmother to the Independence of the Seas.
Why bloggers love Princess Cruises
There is definitely a lot of love for Princess Cruises from the cruise bloggers, myself included.
Victoria Hughes a 24 year old cruise blogger who writes the blog Lost Ashore said “I’m such a Princess person!!” Victoria, who has cruised on four Princess ships loves Movies under the Stars and 24-hour cake from the International Café (who wouldn’t). She also rates the hot chocolate as “… best hot chocolate EVER.” The complementary pizza from Alfredo’s Pizzeria has been celebrated by USA Today as the ‘Best Pizza at Sea’ and the pizza is certainly worthy of this accolade. One thing that Victoria enjoys at the end of every Princess cruise is the Baked Alaska night, a tradition not to be missed. You can read more in Victoria’s review of the Crown Princess.
Sandra and Chris from Brits on a Ship also share their love for Princess Cruises. They both believe the quality of the food in the main dining rooms is outstanding, as well as the specialty Crown Grill restaurant, which serves delicious steaks. Another aspect that Sandra and Chris are impressed by is that Princess is the only mainstream US line with self-service launderettes.
Sandra said “We also like the loyalty scheme – more attainable than some others with great benefits.” The loyalty programme on Princess is called the Captain’s Circle, which starts cruisers on the Blue level and rewards loyal cruisers up to Elite level. I met Brits on a Ship on a ship tour of the Royal Princess earlier this year, you can read more in their Detailed Guide to the Royal Princess.
From my personal experiences of Princess Cruises, I think the cruise line gets so much right. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful, which I believe makes for a fantastic atmosphere onboard. I enjoy consulting the daily Princess Patter newsletter to find out what’s happening each day and the complimentary Zumba classes have never failed to get me out of bed on sea days. Activities onboard are influenced by the ports that the cruise visits and so a particular highlight for me was learning Hula Dancing on my cruise to Hawaii, you can read more about my Hawaiian cruise on the Grand Princess.
Why bloggers love Viking Cruises
The newest of the ocean cruise companies is Viking Cruises, which seem to be making waves in the industry (excuse the pun). Jamie Robins aka Travel Blogger Jamie enjoys cruising with Viking Cruises. “It has the most beautiful Nordic spa onboard where you are encouraged to follow a ritual of cold water bucket, sauna, the famous snow grotto, hot tub and repeat.” said Jamie. Yes, you read right, a snow grotto! Viking Cruises has a Snow Grotto situated in the spa, which is complementary for all guests to use. This is quite refreshing to see from a cruise line (referring to the complimentary spa access, although Jamie also confirms that the Snow Grotto is rather refreshing too!).
Jamie recently cruised on the Viking Sun and enjoyed the aft infinity pool “…for unparalleled views and the feeling you are on the edge of the world! Very cool.” You can learn more about Jamie’s sea cruise and tour on the Viking Sun.
Why bloggers love Seabourn Cruises
Richard from visitwith.us is a big fan of Seabourn, a luxury cruise line known for its ‘relaxed luxury’. Seabourn is true all-inclusive cruising with complimentary premium spirits and fine wines available to all passengers. Richard favours Seabourn for numerous reasons, including the all-inclusive offerings that mean there is no need to show your cruise card when ordering a drink as well as “…being able to order caviar all day every day with no extra charge (this is pretentious, unbelievably indulgent and ever so slightly wrong but SO GOOD).”
The personal service onboard a Seabourn cruise means that the staff know passengers by name, something that Richard thinks makes Seabourn extra special. Learn more about Richard and Helen’s Seabourn Secrets.
Why bloggers love Cunard
Gavin and Luke from Holidays at Sea love the history behind Cunard. “QM2 is a one of a kind and can’t be compared to any other ship. Afternoon tea in the Queen’s Room is an experience not to be missed while the string quartet plays, you are served finger sandwiches and treats.” says Gavin. Cunard has a long history of cruising and is best known for its transatlantic sailings. It currently has three ships in its fleet: Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth.
Did you know?
The Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth were both christened by Queen Elizabeth II. Find out about other prestigious cruise godmothers in my Top 10 Cruise Godmothers.
Gavin and Luke from Holidays at Sea have sailed with Cunard on three occasions and took a Christmas markets cruise on Cunard’s Queen Victoria.
Why bloggers love MSC
MSC is the favourite cruise line of Flavia Gray from Ships and Champagne who believes that the cruise line is going from strength to strength. “Now all ships have their announcements made in English first, but they still cater for other nationalities. The coffee, gelato and pizza is out of this world. Their kids clubs are second to none.” says Flavia.
“Family owned, Mediterranean passion and Italian glamour makes it tick all the boxes for me. To top it all off, they achieved the Best Cruise Line For Families, Cruise Critic UK Editors Pick Award in 2017 as well as Best New Ship for MSC Meraviglia. Then you have the amazing Seaside Class which has the highest ratio of outdoor space than any other cruise ship, they have the youngest fleet at sea and more cruise ships currently on order than any other cruise line. I think the drinks packages are fantastic value compared to other cruise lines, and last but not least, they do great reductions for children unlike many others.” said Flavia.
Keeping a young child occupied onboard an MSC Cruise is not a problem either. Flavia likes that MSC has introduced the Lego concept on their ships as this enables children to communicate through the use of building blocks, regardless of their nationality.
Read more about Flavia’s cruise on MSC Magnifica.
Why bloggers love Marella Cruises
Marella Cruises, formerly known as Thomson Cruises, is the UK’s third largest cruise line and a favourite of Paul and Carole from Paulandcarolelovetotravel.com. The cruise line currently has six ships in its fleet with a seventh due in 2019 (Marella Explorer II).
Paul and Carole like that there are no hidden costs on a Marella cruise, with gratuities and drinks included in the cruise price on most of the ships. “We love that it caters really well for the Brits, simple things like proper bacon and afternoon tea. Very informal, anytime dining and great entertainment that caters for the warped British sense of humour!” says Carole.
You can read more about Marella Cruises in Paul and Carole’s review of Marella Dream.
Why bloggers love Celebrity Cruises
For advice on cruising with Celebrity Cruises, Marcus Adams is the cruise blogger to ask. “Celebrity is my go-to cruise line (although I like Royal and Viking for other reasons). Celebrity has comfortable, chic and well-designed ships, great entertainment and awesome food.” says Marcus.
Design is very important to Celebrity, with plans for all ships to be redesigned in-line with their new ship, Celebrity Edge, debuting in December 2018. Just recently, Celebrity Cruises announced that the sister ship to Celebrity Edge will be christened in Southampton and will do a number of cruises out of the port so that British cruisers will be the first to enjoy the new Celebrity Apex in spring 2020.
The cruise line has enlisted the expertise of interior designer, Kelly Hoppen MBE, to design the suite accommodation. Speaking about the re-design of the fleet, Kelly Hoppen said “I think we created something that will be unique in the cruise industry.”
There is no doubt that Celebrity Cruises’ vision of a Celebrity Revolution for its ships will bring with it style and sophistication.
To discover more about Celebrity Cruises, you can read Marcus’s post about why you should try a Celebrity cruise.
Why bloggers love Fred.Olsen
With 170 years of experience in the industry, Fred.Olsen prides itself on offering passengers cruises with a personal touch. It’s small ship cruises provide opportunities to take guests closer to the destinations – something that larger vessels are unable to compete with.
Danielle Fear, better known as Cruise Miss, believes that Fred. Olsen offers passengers excellent value for money.
“Fred. Olsen’s all-inclusive is probably the best value at sea! £15pppd, you really can’t go wrong with that even if you don’t drink alcohol! I can easily go through my £15 per day on a few glasses of pineapple juice – and that’s before anything alcoholic is even mentioned.” said Danielle.
Danielle is certainly an expert when it comes to Fred. Olsen, having recently completed a 108-night world cruise on Black Watch, one of Fred.Olsen’s four cruise ships. The friendly and attentive staff on Fred. Olsen ships are what makes a cruise with the Fred. Olsen extra special according to Danielle. To learn more about cruising with Fred. Olsen you can read about Danielle’s Fred.Olsen world cruise.
Why bloggers love NCL
Norwegian Cruise Line is popular with Theresa Russell, a cruise blogger at Essential Cruising.
Theresa particularly loves NCL’s Freestyle Dining concept. “I like to eat when and where I want and with whom I want. For those who plan spontaneously, or find something interesting to extend their time on shore, there is no need to rush back to the ship to get ready for dining at a set time.” said Theresa. Norwegian was the pioneers of flexible dining on cruise ships and more cruise lines are now offering passengers this relaxed option in addition to traditional set dining times.
“I should also mention The Haven, their ship-within-a-ship concept. A special enclave with access for Haven guests only. Perfect for multi-generational families or any group that have different budgets and different preferences. The newer ships have dedicated restaurants for Haven guests. The newest have a fabulous private Observation Lounge.” said Theresa.
Excitement around the Norwegian Bliss’s race track at sea along with other new features such as the laser tag and aqua park, suggest that Norwegian Cruise Line is wanting to appeal to younger cruisers and those young at heart. The cruise ships are becoming as much the destination for cruisers as the ports that they visit. Read about Theresa’s experience on Norwegian Bliss’s race track.
Related post: Is the future of cruising all-inclusive?
Why bloggers love Carnival
The distinctive whale tail funnel of Carnival Cruises is not the only thing that sets its ships apart from others. Sanna Burns, aka Vegan Cruiser, took a 10-day Mediterranean cruise on Carnival Horizon, which she admitted “…was the most fun I have ever had on a cruise.” Sanna’s experience certainly supports Carnival’s campaign called Choose Fun. Sanna particularly noted Carnival’s outdoor activities, water park, rope course and Skyride as well as the onboard comedy club that includes adult comedy shows. “Just a relaxed fun cruise.” said Sanna.
Technological features were also praised by Sanna “The Hub app is the best I’ve used, I didn’t touch the paper copy of Fun Times at all. You see your photos and can buy them via the app. They also have great value WiFi out there ($6 per day) perfect for us social media fiends.”
As you might expect from the Vegan Cruiser, it’s important that the cruise line is able to cater for people’s dining preferences. Carnival offers a vast choice of restaurant venues on its ships. “Great food choice. Fab MDR too, even for vegans.” said Sanna, who’s written blog posts about the vegan options available on Carnival Horizon. During her cruise there were two formal nights but there was no pressure for passengers to dress up; an aspect that is likely to appeal to cruisers wanting a relaxed holiday without the need to pack a tuxedo or evening gown. Speaking of relaxing, Sanna loved the beds onboard Carnival which “…rival the new Princess beds” for comfort and a good night’s sleep.
So there you have it, 18 cruise bloggers have given their opinions on their favourite cruise lines. It’s certainly evident that people look for different elements, features and qualities when choosing a cruise; whether that be the onboard facilities, service, food, entertainment or atmosphere. If you’re new to cruising, or looking to cruise with a different cruise line, check out the cruise blogs featured in this post to help you decide the one that’s right for you.
I’d like to thank the following Cruise Collective bloggers for contributing to this post; without their comprehensive knowledge and experience of cruising, it would not have been possible:
Lisa Jane from Cruising with Kids
Gavin Phillips and Luke Kenniford from Holidays at Sea
Elizabeth Hill from Cruise Like a Godmother
Victoria Hughes from Lost Ashore
Sandra Hall and Chris Rail from Brits on a Ship
Laura Pedlar from Cruise Lifestyle
Jamie Robins from Jamie’s Holiday Channel
Richard and Helen Chalu from Visit With Us
Flavia Gray from Ships and Champagne
Marcus Adams from Sparkx
Paul and Carole Morgan-Slater from Paul & Carole Love to Travel
Danielle Fear from Cruise Miss
Theresa Russell from Essential Cruising
Sanna Burns from Vegan Cruiser