What do you picture when I say "cruise vacation?" Most people imagine a large ship full of screaming children, harried parents, buffets, and rushing through port cities. But I am here to tell you that cruising has changed! Cruises come in many sizes and categories. There is something out there for everybody. They are divided into five categories but bear in mind that some cruise lines fit into more than one category. For instance, most expedition cruises are also very luxurious; the main difference between expedition and luxury is the destination. Don't automatically assume that taking a cruise wouldn't work for you; there is a cruise out there for every couple.
Contemporary Cruise Lines
Best for Multi-Generation Travel and Couples with Children
I'm going to start with the Contemporary Cruise Lines. These are your mass-market cruises that cater to young and old alike. These ships have all the bells and whistles. You will find roller coasters, ice skating, Broadway-style shows, zip lines, and so much more. They come at great prices also, but that doesn't mean that luxury isn't available. Anyone lucky enough to stay in one of their suites can attest to that fact!
Contemporary Cruise Lines include Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean.
Cons: The ships are enormous, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. If you travel during peak seasons, you will undoubtedly face crowds and long lines all during your trip.
Premium Cruise Lines
Best for Couples That Desire a Higher Level of Service than Contemporary
When you choose a premium cruise line, you will still find large ships with tons of amenities. The significant difference between them and contemporary lines is that premium caters more to people that emphasize quality. You will discover larger staterooms, enhanced dining experiences, upgraded service levels, and more personal enrichment opportunities; many premium lines incorporate wellness and spa into daily activities. These lines offer discerning passengers a more sophisticated vacation that is still appropriate for diverse crowds.
Premium Cruise Lines include Oceania, Celebrity, Princess, and Disney. Note: Many travel advisors put Disney ships into the mass market category because it caters to families with young children. I believe the level of service and attention to detail is generally better than the Contemporary Cruise Lines.
Cons: While the ships are still large, they don't come with quite as many amenities and things to do as contemporary lines. So please don't go on Oceania thinking that your kids will busy themselves in teen clubs and water parks because the ships don't offer those kinds of activities.
Luxury Cruise Lines
Best for Couples that Demand the Quality & Expert Service
Luxury Cruise Lines are high end; they are the epitome of indulgence. But these aren't the stuffy cruises of yesteryear! You will find vast staterooms and world-class culinary experiences. The itineraries are more exotic since smaller ships can go into ports that premium and contemporary lines can't access. Luxury cruise lines focus on barefoot luxury; think seasoned travelers who want to have their every desire fulfilled while wearing yoga pants.
Luxury Cruise Lines include Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Paul Gauguin, Silverseas, and Sea Dream Yacht Club.
Cons: Luxury comes with a higher price point, but the price does include more. Usually, luxury cruise lines are all-inclusive, and port excursions are part of the cost.
River Cruise Lines
Best for Couples that Want to Explore Smaller Less Traveled Destinations at Leisure
River Cruise Lines sail directly into the heart of a destination. Spend less time getting there and more time exploring. Small and intimate river cruises offer a boutique hotel experience. Perfect for the well-traveled and well-heeled adults, but many river cruises are tailoring products to families. For instance: Ama Waterways has partnered with Adventures by Disney to curate unique family experiences!
River Cruise Lines include Ama Waterways, Viking, Tauck, and Uniworld.
Cons: The boutique ships do not offer a ton of amenities. River cruises design their itineraries to get you more time in each port. They do not expect that you will spend days on the ship so that you won't find casinos, clubs, or huge pools.
Expedition Cruise Lines
Perfect for Couples that Love Exotic Locales and Luxury Amenities
Expedition Cruises are for anyone that wants to explore unique and challenging locales like the Galápagos Islands, Antarctica, and Greenland. During an expedition cruise, you will get up close and personal with unusual wildlife and scenery. I have wanted to meet a Blue Footed Booby since I found out they existed. On an expedition cruise, I could play with the boobies (yes, I know how that sounds, but go with it) in port while enjoying unparalleled luxury on the ship.
Expedition Cruise Lines include Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Uncruise, and Ecoventure.
Cons: Expedition Cruises travel to exotic locations, and you will often find that the trip is not the most comfortable. There is a reason not many people go to Antarctica; it is freezing, and the ocean waters are very rough and choppy.
Cruises have come a long way since "The Love Boat" went off the air! (Which, if you didn't know, was a Princess Cruise Line Ship.) If you haven't considered a cruise, you might want to give them another look. You are sure to find something that will interest you because there is a cruise for every couple. Have you ever cruised? Which of these categories of cruises appeal to you?