How to choose your perfect cruise in 2023: Which cruise line is for you?
Whether you’re a first time cruise newbie or a seasoned cruise aficionado, there’s an art to choosing the perfect cruise.
What makes the perfect cruise?
Even though you watched your friend’s South Pacific cruise in awe, their idea of a perfect cruise might be totally different to yours. It’s important to know what you want in a cruise holiday so you don’t end up stranded at sea in sub-optimal conditions.
We’ll take you through how different cruise lines stack up when it comes to:
- Age range – Some cruise lines are geared towards older markets, while others are packed with family entertainment. Keep in mind that cruising during school holidays will always add more children to the equation!
- Destinations – If you’re looking to go somewhere specific, make sure it’s covered on the itinerary of the cruise line you’re looking at. Some cruises might offer longer stops in fewer locations, while others might pack in the port days - it’s all about what you want to get out of the cruise.
- Price range – Of course, cruises come in at all different prices. While they can be quite costly, these fares do include your accommodation, travel, entertainment and food (and sometimes alcohol and internet as well!). You will want to find a cruise that suits your budget!
- Activities – Cruise ships are a great way to entertain a whole family, but if there’s a specific range of activities you’re after, you’re going to look to certain cruise lines. Some cruises offer kid magnets like bumper cars and rock climbing walls, while others might lean towards ballroom dancing and cooking classes.
- Size – There’s a big difference between an intimate cruise with under 1,000 passengers and a floating resort where you’re unlikely to see the same face twice. If you prefer some anonymity and a bit of bustle, a bigger cruise might be more your thing, but if not? You may lean towards smaller ships.
So which is your perfect pick? Let’s look at some of the main options in the Australian market.
If you’re attracted to the more classic style of cruising, Princess Cruises might be up your alley. The home of the original (and re-tooled!) Love Boat, this is a firm favourite with mature cruisers and families spanning multiple generations.
The Italian-inspired piazzas that act as central areas on their ships give a grand, traditional feel to Princess vessels, the perfect backdrop for champagne towers and fruit carving demonstrations. You’ll be sure to find something to do with a jam-packed schedule, world-class dining and a roster of impressive performers. Partnerships with The Voice and the Discovery channel make for crowd pleasers across all ages.
Princess Cruises span all seven continents and more than 330 different ports, whether you fancy the Alaskan glaciers or the Caribbean islands.
Celebrity Cruises aim to bring the luxury of a resort experience to the high seas, which is especially popular with couples. They are the only “resorts at sea” to receive Four-Star and Recommended ratings by the Forbes Travel Guide.
Depending on which ship you sail on (from the Solstice series to the ultra-modern Edge series), Celebrity pays attention to the little details that let you relax: a real grass lawn to lounge on, adults-only pool areas. You’ll find the usual cruise entertainment (song and dance performances of the highest standard) alongside some much more unique offerings (Solstice, Eclipse, and Equinox ships all offer glass blowing classes).
The kids are catered to as well, despite the distinctly adult feel of a Celebrity ship, with kids clubs right up through to teens - but there are no splash zones or water slides here, so be wary if you’re planning a family trip!
Celebrity has ports of call in over 300 locations and 79 countries, including 3 ships permanently based in the Galapagos Islands.
Royal Caribbean is the biggest cruise line in Australia, and a major winner when it comes to the family market. They are all about bringing new experiences to sea, which means they’re the place you can find bumper cars, ice skating, rock climbing and surf simulators on deck.
Since these ships are so popular with the all-ages crowd, you might be happy to know that there are also plenty of nightlife and adults-only options on board. That means there’s space to unwind, no matter your holiday goals.
Royal Caribbean boasts the largest cruise ships in the world, like the Icon of the Seas with 7 pools and 6 record-breaking water slides, and the Wonder of the Seas which houses 8 unique neighbourhoods.
With the wide range of taster and short cruises, P&O is many people’s first experience with cruising. For those looking to maximise on their budget, there are great deals to be had if you keep your eyes peeled.
P&O veers younger than many other cruise lines because of their more affordable options, which may strike you as a pro or a con. They also have a wide variation of ship sizes and even themed cruises, so they’re a great option to look at if you’re looking for something specific. Look at an 80s Cruise, a Comedy Cruise, a Pride Cruise, or even an Elvis Tribute Cruise if you’ve got a specific interest or are looking for a party at sea.
Classic cruise experiences aren’t completely absent from P&O - you’ll still find comfortable bars, fine dining options, and major entertainment. Yes, plenty for the kids as well - if flying foxes and rock climbing walls are up their alley, they’ll be spoilt!
The biggest cruise line in the world, Carnival moves more than 5 million passengers per year. They’re another option that’s great for families, with several ships showcasing major water slides and Dr Seuss-themed Seuss At Sea activities for kids.
Because of the sheer size of Carnival Cruises, there are plenty of more affordable options available, and you are able to tailor your experience to make it as simple or as luxurious as you’d like.
While most cruises cater to accessibility requirements, Carnival goes the extra mile - it is the first cruise line to be certified as “sensory inclusive” by accessibility and inclusion non-profit KultureCity. This is a big deal to guests who may care for - or themselves have - a neurodivergence or sensory condition like PTSD, ADHD, Autism, and more. Guest-facing staff are trained to understand and interact appropriately with people who have sensory needs, and Sensory Bags are available on request.
There are other cruises in Australia depending on what you’re after. You might be more inclined towards the childlike wonder of a Disney Cruise, or the traditional splendour of a Cunard vessel. Soon we can also expect Virgin Voyages in Australia, who will offer an Adults Only cruise experience.
Meanwhile, if you prefer your resort experience to be firmly on solid land, there are plenty of other travel options available. Explore Booking.com or HotelsCombined to plan the holiday of your dreams - no cruise ships required.