Lorie and I went on our first cruise in 2011, and just recently got back from our 22nd cruise! I guess you can say we have developed quite a love for cruising. Along the way, we have gained quite a bit of knowledge of the in's & out's of cruising and this article hopefully will help you gain some insights that you can use with your planning and enjoying a cruise!
Choices - Where to begin!
Your choices in a cruise line are immense. Let google be your friend with this. However, we will focus on our experiences which will hopefully help you to narrow down your choices. We have tried several of the major cruise lines, and will just be downright honest in our opinions. Understanding that they are just that; our opinions! Cruise critic is a really great source for everything regarding cruising. More than likely as your reading this your going to think that we work for Royal Caribbean cruises, or are being compensated by them for this article. Let me assure you that we are not. We just simply love them that much, and will never stray from them again! Our very first cruise was a Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Royal Caribbeans "Mariner of the seas" in 2011, which at the time was one of the larger cruise ships in the world. Now it is considered to be on the smaller side. Hard to believe I know! That's how far cruising has come in the past ten years in terms of popularity and the overall size of the ships.
Cruising is such a great vacation option because of the incredible amount of choices! They come in all shapes and sizes for any type of traveler, from the activity-filled mega-ships to the smaller more elegantly appointed luxury vessels. Including intimate river cruises which we have yet to try, but will be soon! Hopefully, the following will help you out more in understanding your options.
Cruises cross the entire globe while visiting thousands of diverse locations. From Europe to Antarctica, and Tahiti to Alaska – a world of choices awaits you! Most itineraries come in a wide range of styles and lengths, so your destination experience can be anything from an exciting quick glimpse to a more in-depth immersion. The best part? No matter where you go, you only have to unpack once!
Amazing & impressive ships
Modern cruise ships feature every amenity you could find in a land-based vacation resort, plus they transport you to new destinations while you sleep! You’ll find full-sized movie theaters, multiple swimming pools, diverse dining venues, Broadway-style performances, expansive spas, plush staterooms, and unparalleled personal service. What is perfect for one cruiser may not work for another, so there are plenty of options.
Cruising provides several delicious complimentary dining venues, plus a few specialty restaurants for an extraordinary experience. These compliment the buffets, delis, dessert stands, coffee bars, and 24-hour room service to guarantee that you’ll never want for anything. Many cruises even source their food locally during the cruise so that guests can sample fresh-made regional favorites. You could cruise through Europe's wine country and try the best wines in the world! Honestly, for Lorie & I, it just does not get any better than this!
Activities for everyone
Cruises are also a great vacation option because of their diverse onboard activities suitable for all ages. Many ships feature thrilling waterslides, sky-high rock climbing walls, outdoor sports courts, buzzing arcades, interactive game shows and much, much more. Even the smaller vessels are not without their activities. Participate in enriching seminars, culinary workshops, lawn games, aerobic classes and spa therapies, all minutes from the accommodations of your personal stateroom.
From Broadway-style productions to laugh-out-loud comedy shows, cruise vacations come loaded with tons of unforgettable onboard entertainment. Kids will enjoy family-friendly entertainment, and adults will marvel at the multi-talented dancers, musicians, and singers performing throughout their vacation. Best of all, it is included in your base price!
Best of all, cruises are super convenient. You’ll visit multiple destinations while unpacking just once. You won’t have to worry about finding transportation from port to port, island to island and country to country. Tasty meals are prepared for you from extensive menus. Remarkable entertainment and onboard activities are just a short walk away from your bedroom.
From the moment you step onboard, in many cases to a champagne greeting, it’s clear that cruising is a totally different vacation experience! The entire experience is designed to please, in order that no needs go unmet. Thirsty? Your drink is already coming. Sleeping in? Room service is complimentary!
Safe & affordable
Cruise ships are remarkably safe vacation options. Incidents are extremely rare, but expertly trained officers and security personnel are on hand to resolve any issues. All ships are designed, operated and frequently re-inspected to ensure safety. Security plans and protocols are in place to guarantee efficient emergency procedures, with sufficient lifeboats for everyone on board. Unfortunate events in recent history have misrepresented the true level of cruise ship security in my opinion, but cruise lines have responded by going beyond safety requirements. Considering everything that’s included in your final cruise fare, cruise vacations are among the most affordable vacation options available.
Our take on cruise lines
You can find plenty of opinions here, we are simply going to give you ours based on our experiences. We may end sounding like cruising snobs after you read the below! Not our intention at all, we just want to give you our honest opinion.
Carnival - We have been on 2 of their ships, one a smaller one, and in 2016 we did a transatlantic cruise on their newest ship the Vista. This review is going to be short. Carnival is an extremely budget cruise line. We found that everything you are looking for in a cruise line was sub-par. Sadly on every level.
Norwegian - Only tried them once. It was enough. Comparable to Carnival in every way.
Princess - Tried them once for a California coast wine cruise, mainly due to the ports we wanted to visit. Princess, in general, tends to attract an older clientele which we did know beforehand. We would not hesitate to try them again. Overall it was not really the cruise line for us simply because we enjoy a lot of different activities. There was not a lot to do overall. The food was very good, however, along with the service.
Celebrity - Two cruises with them in the past 10 years. They are owned by Royal Caribbean, and you can tell. Every bit as good in every way!
MSC - One horrific experience with them on a Mediterranean cruise in 2017. The "Meraviglia". At the time it was the newest and largest cruise ship in the world. The service was just downright terrible. Rude and uncaring. They really appeared clueless about how to run the ship! Not to mention this is the ship where it made the news that the dining room ceiling collapsed right next to where we were dining! Most recently in June of 2019, this is the cruise line that ran into the dock in Naples, Italy.
Royal Caribbean - We have now cruised with them a total of 15 times in the past 8 years, and we will never stray from them again! We have not had one bad experience with them to speak of. We have been on a few of their smaller ships, but most of all we enjoy their newest mega-ships! We have been on just the Allure and Oasis of the seas alone, a total of three-time each! Every aspect of cruising we have found to be superior to the other cruise lines we have tried.
Now as you can see, we have not tried them all. We do however know that we will most likely never cruise on another line again. And not just because we recently hit diamond status with them. Free booze now on every cruise!! Not a bad perk! Seriously though they are just that much better.
Could go on and on ...
I could go on and on telling you everything we enjoy about Royal Caribbean, but it really is a lot more simple than that. It is just everything in general. The service, food, entertainment, ships, destinations and value we have found to be second to none. Be sure to check out our most important cruise tips article!
Scattered throughout our other travel articles you will find many locations we go into more detail about areas we have explored while in ports via a cruise. Be sure to check them all out!