Choosing a cruise can be overwhelming, especially since there’s such a huge price difference between some of the mega cruise ships that appear to be offering the exact same cruise to the same destination. So is there really a difference between cruise lines? And how do you choose?
Peta-Gaye Daniel, founder of the travel blog, My Cruising Family, says there are definite differences between the different lines.
Daniel often cruises via MSC Seaview because they frequently offer a “kids sail free” promotion (she has three children) along with beverages included in some room categories. But, she occasionally splurges with a Disney Cruise.
“The only children’s club that our 8-year-old has stayed in for a significant portion of the day is Disney’s Oceaneer’s Club,” Daniel says. “Disney undoubtedly offers the best childcare and interactive children’s activities that we’ve seen at sea, which allows for parents to have alone time.”
Disney also charges a higher upfront fee but includes non-alcoholic beverages in that fee (most other lines charge for everything except lemonade, water and iced tea). Alcoholic beverages on Disney aren’t included, but they’re reasonably priced when compared with other cruise lines, Daniel says.
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Those without children may also profit from a more expensive ship, however.
Holland America is a premium line that’s geared less toward kids as it is toward couples and older adults. There are relatively larger cabins and a higher level of service than you might expect on a lower-priced cruise, says Erik Elvejord, spokesman for Holland America.
He compared the lower-end cruise lines to Holiday Inn and Motel 6 hotels, which are geared toward the mass market. Then comes the Sheraton, Marriott and other hotels in this mid-range which are premium. At the top, there’s the Ritz and the Four Seasons, which are the luxury lines.
The general rule is that the more expensive the line, the less crowded the ship will be, the more space you’ll have to yourself and the better the quality of the food and entertainment. But it’s not always the case—and sometimes, the seemingly inexpensive cruise lines can become more expensive very quickly once you add on all the a la carte items.
Before looking at the initial bottom line and shrugging off seemingly expensive cruises, it’s important to examine all costs. Each cruise line has its own gratuity policy: most mainstream cruises add about $14 per person to your cruise in gratuities per day. But some, like Marella Cruises, don’t charge extra for gratuity.
Then, there are the drink packages which can cost up to $100 per day plus gratuity, though some cruise lines will throw this in for free.
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Room service can also be an additional fee on some cruises, though many luxury brands like Holland America, will throw the room service in at no extra cost.
Singles will typically be expected to pay extra for the single supplement fee – unless they cruise via Holland America, where there are single accommodations plus roommate matching services.
So before taking a cruise, it’s important to decide which features are important to you, and then examine the different cruise lines to see what is being offered for an additional fee to see which works out better price-wise.
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