How to choose the right cruise

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - — Carol Sot­tili

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

New Eng­land/Canada

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.

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