How to choose the right cruise
Throw out all those old assumptions about taking a cruise. They now come in lots of flavors. And this is the month to slip on your boat shoes: It’s National Plan a Cruise Month, an entire October of deals featuring the biggest names on the high seas. Don’t mind spending some cash? There’s a waiting list for the $139,999 per-person master suite on the 106-night Miami to Istanbul cruise aboard the Regent Seven Seas Navigator. Want to spend as little as possible? A Caribbean cruise on an older Carnival vessel sometimes dips to $50 per person per day. Can’t stand crowds? Cruise the Mekong River on a ship that holds just a few dozen passengers. Looking for action? Royal Caribbean’s new 4,000-plus-passenger Anthem of the Seas offers a skydiving simulator. New ships continue to hit the seas each year, and the possibilities keep expanding. So next time your brother-in-law pesters you about joining the family on that cruise, think about it. You may just find a good match.
1 Disney Fantasy: Caribbean
Disney Fantasy is Mickey immersive with musical shows, first-run 3-D movies, character meet-and-greets and a fireworks display a la the Magic Kingdom. Clubs entertain kids up and down the growth chart. The ship stops at the private Castaway Cay, a veritable theme park on an island.
2 Cunard Queen Mary 2: Transatlantic crossing
The oldest and noblest of Cunard’s three sisters is built for the ocean and cuts a fine figure on transatlantic crossings between New York and England. Passengers can fill their days with such refined diversions as ballroom dancing, lectures, bridge instruction, theater and proper afternoon tea. Or simply gaze at the infinite water and contemplate your next outfit for formal night.
3 Windstar Cruises: Mediterranean
The four-masted sailing yacht has room for only 148 guests, who sleep in staterooms with ocean views, queen beds and flat-screen TVs. Small doesn’t mean spartan, however. The ship features two dining venues, a spa, a fitness center and a pool. All guests are treated to a complimentary private event, such as a Greek dinner in Rhodes with music and dancing.
4 Norwegian Escape: Caribbean
This first ship in Norwegian’s Breakaway Plus Class, with room for 4,200 passengers, has several boast-worthy features for cruising pacesetters, including the largest at-sea aqua park, with prices starting at about $650 per person.
5 Carnival: Caribbean
With more than 250 Caribbean itineraries departing from more than a dozen ports, this “Fun for All, All for Fun” line offers perperson rates of as little as $40 per night.
6 Celebrity: Bermuda
With its Canyon Ranch Spa Club, a specialized martini bar and Bermuda as a destination, this cruise, which leaves from New Jersey, appeals to an upscale 40plus crowd who still likes a bargain. Prices start at about $700 per person for a seven-night cruise.
7 Regent Seven Seas: Mediterranean
This luxury line offers three allsuite ships known for service — one crew member for every 1.5 passengers — and an all-inclusive approach. No nickel-and-diming here: Airfare, booze, shore excursions, etc., are all included. But expect to pay upwards of $6,000 per person.
8 Avalon Waterways: Mekong River
This member of the Globus family of brands, which launched in 2004, has grown to 15 ships and branched from the tried-and-true rivers of Europe to more exotic waters. Expect to pay at least $3,000 per person for a sevennight cruise that explores Cambodia and Vietnam.
9 Viking: Danube River
Viking, with more than 50 ships (including a new ocean-going vessel) and an extensive advertising campaign, is arguably the best known of the rivercruising lines. And the Danube is the most popular river, especially for first-timers. Prices start at about $2,100 per person.
10 Royal Caribbean: Baltimore to the Bahamas or Caribbean
This family-friendly line operates the Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore. Launched in 1995, it underwent a $48 million refurbishment in 2012 that included installation of a rockclimbing wall and a 220-squarefoot outdoor movie screen. The Adventure Ocean program runs activities for ages 3-17.
11 Holland America: New York to
Once or twice a year, Holland America operates a cruise from New York in September (after the kids are back in school) that attracts a mostly older crowd of travelers more interested in leafpeeping and sightseeing excursions than in staying up all night.
12 Princess: Alaska
With a half-dozen ships plying the Alaskan waters and a long list of combo cruise/tours that visit Denali, Fairbanks, Anchorage and other Alaskan destinations, Princess is one of the key players in this popular locale. A favorite with multigenerational groups, the line this year added “Alaska Onboard,” featuring ship activities such as a Klondike Gold Rush Festival.