The Perfect Ship for You

I know a fancy Italian who tried to pooh-pooh cruising as something that's not for him. I asked what his favorite leisure activities are, and he replied "golf, basketball and fine dining."

It was a cinch: I pointed out that nearly all cruise lines offer golf packages in any port where golf is an option, including the Caribbean, Hawaii and Europe. Aboard the larger ships, such Royal Caribbean's Voyager- and Freedom-class vessels, he can not only play basketball on deck but also watch games in a sports bar with live ESPN. I pointed out that if the ship's normal culinary fare doesn't meet his aristocratic standards, he could dine each evening in an alternative restaurant with a higher quality of food and wine. And, there are luxury ships with outstanding cuisine and golf packages.

My friend proves that no matter what your interests or tastes, there's a perfect ship out there somewhere just for you. If the thought of traveling with thousands of people is a turn-off, you can even opt for a smaller ship such as Cruise West's and Oceania Cruises vessels.

Cruises are vastly different from other segment of the travel industry such as airlines and hotels. Finding the perfect ship is a lifestyle decision because, in the end, the ship IS the destination. Your fellow passengers, the dining program (which vary from one cruise line to another), the presence or absence of fitness facilities and nightlife will have an enormous affect on the enjoyment of your cruise.

Here are lifestyle factors to consider when narrowing down the selection process:

  • Do You Want To Dress Up? The diversity of ships means that you can choose to dress up a few nights per week or take only casual cruise attire. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line's "Freestyle Cruising" means that you may dress up as much or little as you please. Neither NCL nor Oceania Cruises has suggested formal attire; most passengers opt for "country club casual" on special evenings.
  • Dining Programs. While the majority of mid-priced cruise ships still have conventional assigned, two-seating dining, Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises both offer single, open seating restaurants for those who prefer to dine when and with whom they please. Another option is picking a ship that offers a choice between the conventional two-seating dining program and total flexibility. For example, both Princess Cruises offers the most options because one restaurant has assigned two seating dining or you can opt to dine in another restaurant where single, open seating is the rule. Add to that a Lido restaurant open 24 hours per day, which pleases those who like maximum freedom in dining whenever they like. However, even Royal Caribbean and Carnival offer cruisers the option of dining when they wish or booking an assigned table. For traditional assigned, two seating dining I recommend Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises.
  • Your priorities. For this cruiser, the quality of cuisine is very important so that I head for cruise lines which offer the best fare such as Celebrity Carnival and the luxury lines. But whenever I want an upclose look at mother nature, I'll head for a small ship. For example, in Alaska I'll opt for a Cruise West voyage vs. conventional cruise ships. If your passion is cooking, Holland America may be a good bet since all ships in the fleet regularly scheduled cooking classes and lectures. Golfers may be happies on NCL, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Crystal and Silversea, which offers extensive golf programs wherever they sail.
  • Active or Laid Back? Those seeking Las Vegas-style nightlife � lavish floorshows, myriad bars, hopping casinos � will love Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line. Aboard Queen Mary 2 you'll find a long roster of superb guest lectures and classes and Holland America gives you to improve your culinary skills in workshops with the ship's chefs. If you want to experience nature up close and make new friends Star Clippers, Cruise West and Windstar offer superb small ship experiences.
  • Families with children should check out the kids' facilities when weighing the pros and cons of various vessels, but don't forget to consider your own passions when picking a ship. You'll find the largest number of families aboard the ships of Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines. These ships offer the most comprehensive children's program and non-stop activities for the whole family.
  • Singles. Two cruise lines, Crystal Cruises and Cunard Line not only offer attractive singles rates but you'll also find the greatest number of solo cruisers and more planned activities to enable you to connect with each other. As a single cruiser I've thoroughly enjoyed the authentic tall ships of Star Clippers where I've met new friends and enjoyed the camaraderie of being under sail; this cruise line also offers attractive single rates.

    What is your favorite cruise line�.any why?

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