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Do You Have A Favorite Cruise Line?… I do (Sort of)

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On my Blog last week I answered one of the questions I’m most often asked. I thought I’d continue in that vein this week with the question I hear all the time…What’s Your Favorite Cruise Line?

No doubt the only reason anyone cares to hear my opinion is they see that I write for CruiseMates. Honestly, I don’t see where my opinions bear any more weight than anyone else, so I’ve never really tried to answer this question before. Recently someone asking it told me that my opinion would be helpful to them mostly because I’ve had the opportunity to sail on many different cruise lines that they haven’t. And they’d like to do their utmost to choose the line that’s right for them, and that they feel my opinion may help them… so here it goes.

The short and direct answer is I don’t think any of the cruise lines are consistent enough throughout their fleet to warrant my devotion… or yours. To my view that’s a bit of a problem that the line’s themselves could do a better job of addressing. That’s not to say they all have bad ships within their fleets. But almost all have ships within their fleets that in my opinion do better jobs than others. Sometimes it has to do with my preference of such simple things as floor plans, and other times it’s the differences in cabin size between some of their different classes of ships, and sometimes it’s service or staffing issues that seem to be handled better on some ships than others. Therefore I’m going to switch gears for a bit and talk about my favorite ships.

Of course over the 15 years I’ve been cruising, my favourite ship has changed many times… and that’s one of the things I love about cruising.; the industry keeps itself interesting enough to keep me interested.

Early on, the first ship that WOWED me was Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas. Crossing the gangway, the shear beauty of the ship was enough to take my breath away.

After that we tried to experience several other cruise lines with good results on several Carnival ships. But it wasn’t until Carnival brought out their Spirit Class ships that I became a real fan. Though the décor was still typical Carnival over the top, the layout made the typical Carnival “fun ship” experience that much more enjoyable.

Then Royal Caribbean won be back when they introduced the Radiance Class of ships. To my mind they are still the best designed and most beautiful ships Royal Caribbean has built. It was when I tried Explorer of the Seas, I knew I’d pretty much reached my limit to the “bigger is better” theory. That was my first and only cruise on any Royal Caribbean ship larger than their Radiance Class ships.

I’ve sailed on both the Grand and Golden Princess, and hated the layouts, but awhile later sailed the Island and Diamond Princess and thought they were outstanding. In fact for some time our 15 day Island Princess Hawaiian islands cruise was my favorite memory.

Next to make my list of favorites was the Celebrity Millennium Class ships. And over time, I sailed the Millennium 3 times because she had taken over as my favourite.

We’ve also sailed on three luxury brands; Seabourn, Regent and Silversea. Of those three luxury brands it was my most recent on Silversea Silver Shadow that most impressed me. There was nothing much missing from that cruise in any department, so if you’re considering a luxury brand, Silver Shadow gets an unqualified recommendation from me.

Over the years we’ve enjoyed our cruises on RCI, Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, Regent, Silversea, Celebrity, and Norwegian Cruise lines…which takes us to the present, and the answer to the question I began with.

At the moment my favorite is Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer ships; Dawn, Jewel, Jade, Pearl and Gem. They were built specifically for “FreeStyle Cruising”, which I originally thought wouldn’t suit me at all. However, to my surprise, at the moment “FreeStyle” suits me perfectly. All the other mass market lines are thinking it suits their clientele perfectly as well, because they’ve all been racing to come up with some sort of copy of NCL’s “Freestyle”. There’s now Anytime Dining, YourTime Dining, and many such variations trying to attach silly names to what NCL started, and has perfected. The difference between NCL and the other lines is their “Freestyle Dining” offers a wide variation in restaurants, with different styles and menus that supplies a choice unavailable on all the other cruise lines.

I love the fact they were so forward thinking and innovative, and the results of their innovation are now delivering a product that suits my cruise style perfectly.

Is it a perfect cruise they’re delivering? No, definitely not! On those ships I like NCL is offering a product that allows the flexibility to create a cruise to fit your own style and timing. Not everyone likes the surcharge on many of the restaurants onboard, but I look at the final price tag, and I feel they are giving outstanding value for the amount of the final tab, while taking advantage of all the choices.

That said, of course, I’ll continue to sail on other lines, to continue my search for the perfect cruise, and try to enjoy each one I’m on during the search. And lord only knows which is going to be my next favorite.

OK… I’ve told you mine, now it’s your turn to tell me your favourite cruise line or ship, and tell me why! Maybe you’ll succeed in adding a new ship to my cruise bucket list.

– A View From The Kuki Side of Cruising –

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Comment from Paul Motter
Time April 29, 2009 at 4:30 am

I have also sailed on many different ships. When I think about it I have to say I enjoy the experience of very small ships most of all, such as river boats or an expedition cruise we took on American Safari in Alaska.

But I think that is partly because I have been on so many ships (110 cruises at least). I still like big ships. For my wife the Emerald Princess in the Mediterranean is a standout, and I agree. I took that first 12 years my first time and loved it.

Celebrity Solstice is a beautiful new ship with many spectacular dining options similar to NCL. I think they have seven restaurants on that ship – four for alternative dining. It makes for a nice change. The new Holland America Eurodam is a beautiful ship, small but diverse.

I think for me destination makes or breaks a cruise. I have had it with the Caribbean having sailed on probably 50 such cruises. But I always enjoy Europe and I would like to see Asia and New Zealand.

Comment from MagnoliaBlossom
Time April 29, 2009 at 7:37 am

I would have to say that NCL is our preferred line because of Freestyle. While it is nice to have a waiter who knows you need extra cream and will always order two deserts, it’s nicer to dine when and where you want. 2.0 has really kicked the quality aspect of NCL a notch, too.

We really enjoy Princess as well, particularly since we can opt for Personal Choice dining. But since Princess no longer sails from NO or Galveston we don’t sail it as often as we like.

We do two types of cruising, need-to-get-away and wanna-go-to-that-place. For the first we just need to be on a ship – need our fix! – and for that we enjoy sailing out of somewhere we can drive to, which usually leaves us with NCL or Carnival. NCL has usually won out because their credit card program made it possible for us to sail for almost nothing (alas those days are gone with their new program) and Carnival offers some low season rates that are very attractive.

For the specific itinerary cruises we look at all the lines, itinerary specifics, cost, perks, etc. But all things being equal, a line that offers anytime dining will win out over fixed dining. This is especially true of port intesive, long excursion days. Who wants to have 30 minutes to get from your excursion bus to the dining room?

I enjoy experiencing the different “flavor” of various cruise lines and while I prefer some, I’m not married to any of them.

Comment from Blueliner
Time April 29, 2009 at 7:49 am

I am still a big fan of RCI, and my favorite ship is still the Vision of the Seas. I’ve sailed her twice and both cruises were very memorable. The Vision OTS is not a megaship, just the right size and a great ship layout.

Comment from Debshomespun
Time April 29, 2009 at 12:01 pm

I have only sailed on 5 of the cruise lines. Each cruise line is unique unto itself. They each have their own little niche that makes them a great cruise while we are on their ships. There are alot of things I love about cruising, the food, the entertainment, the service, the destinations, and these are very similar on all the cruise lines.

My favorite cruise to date has been on the HAL Ryndam, which was a 30 night cruise to Hawaii and Tahiti. I think on this particular cruise, it was more the itinerary than the ship, but nonetheless, it has been my favorite!

I love the RC ships for their entertainment, and their desserts. They seem to do the best at the desserts!

We are sailing again on NCL in Nov. to take our first repo cruise. What appealed to us is the 14 nites, and the ports, along with the incredible price.

We are always searching for a great itinerary, and price to go along with it. We love to cruise, and love the differences in all the cruiselines.

Comment from Mike Lawson
Time April 29, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Kuki, I am a big fan of the Radiance class ships and I like the Princess Sun class also. I am concerned that RCCL is building ships that are to big, but most likely they will prove me wrong. Funny when I think about my best cruise experience I think about the people we have met. I do enjoy visiting new and different ports, but I think the interaction with the people we have met is what keeps us coming back to cruising. I agree with your other comment regarding the different experience on different ships within a cruise line. I hope to try them all before we are done cruising. Mike

Comment from Mike M
Time April 29, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Once again we are very similar. At this time NCL’s Freestyle designed ships are my favorite because I truly enjoy the Freestyle experience. I also like the Azamara and Oceania “R” ships with their open seating and smaller sizes.

My first favorite was Mercury because of it’s size and the Celebrity experience of service and fine dining. I enjoyed the Millennium because the Olympic Restaurant is the BEST specialty restaurant I’ve been to but the overall ship didn’t really impress me.

I too think the Radiance class of ships are beautiful but I have never found the same feeling of service, food quality and overall atmosphere on an RCCL ship that I have found on other lines. The Voyager class of ship was too big for me and I have no real desire to sail on one like it or larger again.

I do believe that in, at least, my case is that the open seating and Freestyle type of cruising fell into my “cruising evolution”. At one time I enjoyed the pomp of formal night. Now I enjoy a good meal without dressing to the nines. It just isn’t a “fun” anymore. I never did like the regimentation of fixed dining times and open seating and the choices of Freestyle came along at the same time I was beginning to tire of the traditional way of cruising. It reinvigorated my wife’s and my love of cruising.

That is what I love about cruising. They are constantly improving and even reinventing major parts of the product. The secret to a successful industry.

Take care,

Comment from Linda
Time April 30, 2009 at 2:19 pm

I may be one of the few that in no way enjoys Freestyle dining. Although on rare occasion having to meet a set dining time is inconvienent, the enjoyment of having the same tablemates throughout the cruise far outweighs that. It has in many cases been the highlight of the cruise aside from the ports of call.

Comment from bigapple
Time April 30, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Have to go with celebrity line with the little extras that make my cruise seem special such as glass of champagne upon boarding and personally escorted to my room by one the room attendants or staff, cold towels brought to your chair by the pool on sea days,and sorbet by the pool again brought to your chair.The Olympic dining room on the Millennium one of the best with the interior coming from the Olympic which was the sister ship to the Titanic.All food is served at the exact moment to all at your table by very professional European waiters that are the best from this line.They are very attentive and in particular make you feel like someone special.Have noticed that this line has become a little more expensive than the other main line cruises and the above might be part of the reason.

Comment from louise walters
Time August 23, 2009 at 2:15 pm

We have sailed on NCL but never tried the freestyle due to a lot of negative feedback from friends @ family. We do a lot of cruises every year and so far prefer RCCL. I too love the Radiance class maybe a little better. But love them all. Of all our trips one stands out as a nightmare. Carnivals Glory. The decor is extremely tacky and food was terrible.
The worse thing was that the cabin door always slammed shut. It caught me off guard once going into the cabin and slammed me across the hall requiring 8 staples to close the gash in my head. Even worse no one ever inquired about my well being the whole trip. It was like they didn’t care weather I was dead or alive. No one on the ship was friendly. Good thing I was traveling with friends. Won’t ever sail on Carnival again. Don’t ever want to have my life flash before my eyes on a cruise ship again. Laying in the cabin afterward recuperating I thought I was hallucinating. The walls were orange and the trim was pepto bismol pink. Cruising is still my favorite vacation. Just not on Carnival.

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