A cruise is a great vacation, provided you choose the right line and ship for you. Looking for luxury plus value? U.S. News & World Report rates Celebrity Cruises as the best for the money. Traveling with kids? Disney tops the list for family cruises and U.S. News ranks Crystal Cruises as the best for couples.
Although useful, it’s wise to regard any survey as a guide and not gospel. Crystal might rate best for couples according to U.S. News’ standards, but the line is pricey. For most of us, cost cometh before all. Also consider the destination, the ports visited, the length of the cruise and the ambiance. We recently ruled out a voyage on Cunard’s Queen Mary because the preferred dining room attire was jackets for men.
And how do you feel about formal nights? Many lines don’t care whether passengers don gowns and tuxedos for designated formal evenings but other lines require the inappropriately attired to dine in casual eateries only. If traveling with children, be sure that the ship offers appropriate children’s programs for your age kids. If traveling without children, do you want an adult-oriented ship or one that also attracts kids?
U.S. NEWS: BEST CRUISE LINES 2017
U.S. News evaluated 15 cruise lines on three criteria:
· Reviews by Cruiseline.com’s travelers
· Experts’ ranking of the ships’ cabins, activities, atmosphere
· The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) health ratings
BEST CRUISE LINES FOR THE MONEY
1. Celebrity Cruises: U.S. News praises the line for its combination of large-ship experiences with the service and standards of smaller lines. Cons: Like most all ships, there are add-on charges.
2. Royal Caribbean International: Onboard, depending on the ship, you can surf, go ziplining, ice skate and rock climb. Cons: Crowds on high-capacity ships.
3. Norwegian Cruise Line: Choose from a large variety of eateries and enjoy dining where and when you like. Cons: Many specialty restaurants cost extra.
BEST CRUISE LINES FOR FAMILIES
1. Disney Cruise Line: Disney pioneered larger-than-average family cabins. The line delights kids with thoughtful children’s programs and encounters with Disney characters. Cons: Few adults-only activities.
2. Royal Caribbean International: The ships offer good children and teen programs as well as abundant adult activities. Cons: Crowds.
3. Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival provides a “festive atmosphere and versatile entertainment” that includes comedy acts, night clubs and various bars as well as offers engaging children’s activities. Cons: Crowds on larger ships.
BEST CRUISE LINES FOR COUPLES
1. Crystal Cruises: The ships’ elegant décor sets the line apart as does the low passenger-to-crew ratio which allows for more personalized service than on other lines. Cons: As on most lines, there are add-on charges.
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises: The ships feature all-suite accommodations and the fare covers specialty dining as well as most drinks and some shore excursions. Cons: Cruise fares reflect the onboard luxury and the ships tend to have limited or non-existent children’s activities.
3. Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara provides upscale cabins and offers extended hours in port that include overnights as part of its destination immersion program. Cons: Limited onboard activities compared to larger cruise lines.
Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips