When Cruising, Price Isn’t the Only Thing To Consider
Everywhere you turn there’s someone or something promising to give you the lowest price. And let’s face it, everybody wants to save a buck. But when it comes to cruising, cheaper isn’t always better. Are there reasons to look past the price when it comes to cruising?
For example, booking a cruise closer to the sailing date will not only cost more, but you’ll also have a reduced selection of cabins. Most will be in an area you won’t want or a category that doesn’t please you. An example would be only being also to choose an inside cabin when you want an oceanview. Or perhaps getting an obstructed view when you want a balcony.
We are also not saying to forego discounts. J’s Dream Travel is always running specials purposely designed to save you money. Depending on the cruise line, we can get you free drinks all the way up to free drinks and free wifi, specialty dining, shore excursions, and wifi.
So when we tell you not to be blinded by a low price, we don’t mean ignoring ways to save money.
This article isn’t about that at all. We’re going to discuss the differences between the major cruise lines; what sets them apart from each other. And it’s these differences that affect price. Each one provides a different experience that caters to different age groups and interests.
Cruise Line Breakdown
Just about every cruise line shares similar things. Most have a buffet. All have a pool deck, spa, and main dining room. The larger ships all have specialty restaurants. Where things differ is in the details. So let’s take them cruise line by cruise line. We’ll start in alphabetical order so no preferential treatment is shown.
Carnival Cruise Line’s tagline is “Choose Fun”. And they live up to that. The story goes that Carnival’s first ship called the Mardi Gras was in port when the tide went out earlier than expected. To keep passengers entertained, they gave out free drinks. Legend has it that one passenger raised his drink and proclaimed, “Now this is a fun ship!” And thus the history of Carnival ships being known as “fun ships”.
Carnival is also very family-friendly (not that most of the others are not). In addition to places for teens to hang out and daycare for younger children (again, most all cruise lines have this), Carnival is partnered with Dr. Seuss. Life-sized characters entertain children and you’ll see them around the ship. There’s even a Dr. Seuss breakfast featuring items from the stories. And yes, that includes Green Eggs & Ham.
Celebrity Cruise Line’s mantra is “modern luxury”. That may seem like an odd description if you’re new to cruising. But as you’ll see when we discuss Cunard, there’s a very good reason why “modern luxury” is specified.
This cruise line has a modern and refreshed fleet that has some of the most interesting features on a cruise ship along with designs from some of the world’s top designers. The concept of Modern Luxury expands to the culinary experience, service, and accommodations.
It’s possible you’ve never heard of Cunard Cruise Line. But you’ve most likely heard of the QE2 (Queen Elizabeth 2). Their specialty is “traditional luxury”.
Think back to the glory years of transatlantic cruising, a time when everyone dressed in tuxedos and gowns for dinner, when high tea was served with crumpets and a string quartet played in the lobby. A Cunard cruise retains the traditions of those days.
This is the difference between Celebrity and Cunard. If you gravitate toward the image of sophistication and formality, then a Cunard cruise is for you. If you want luxury-level service and amenities but not strict formality, Celebrity would be the better choice.
Hopefully, you’re beginning to see that price in of itself isn’t the only thing you should consider when preparing to book a cruise.
MSC Cruises is kind of in-between Celebrity and Cunard. Luxury is definitely the name of the game. With Swarovski crystals embedded into the central stairway, MSC wants it known that they are all about luxury.
The difference is that it’s more casual luxury. The Galleria Meraviglia is a visual and technological sight to behold. Much like Celebrity, MSC could accurately be referred to as modern luxury leaning more to the casual side.
Another standout feature of MSC cruising is the food. Don’t take that to mean that the other cruise lines have inferior dining. To explain, we need to understand what MSC means.
MSC is really an acronym that stands for Mediiterain Shipping Company. Hence the food reflects its origin. Particularly at the buffet will you see this reflected. MSC makes it a point to have an international menu on the buffet.
Remember, cruise price isn’t just about the cost of the cabin. It’s also about the experience. If you only like “American food”, you might not enjoy the dining on an MSC cruise. Carnival, Celebrity, NCL and Royal Caribbean will probably be a better choice for you.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL)
NCL is unlike the other cruise lines we’ve mentioned so far. There are some very elegant places onboard NCL ships. Yet NCL’s focus is about relaxing. They call it “Freestyle Cruising”. That means do things your way, Particularly regarding dress codes. No official formal night. No dress code for dinner besides the usual shirt and shoes requirement. And it’s the dining that sets NCL apart from the others.
Basically the exact opposite of a Cunard cruise.
All the other cruise lines that we’ll discuss have first and second seating with regard to dinner. They have what they’ve coined “Anytime Dining”. Anytime Dining means exactly what it sounds like. But to get a true appreciation, we have to go into a detailed comparison between Anytime Dining and traditional dining.
Do What You Want, Not What You’re Told
With traditional dining, passengers choose whether they want late or early seating. Early seating generally starts around 6PM while late seating starts about 8PM. The exact times will vary by cruise line. But once you select a time, that’s your slot for the duration of the cruise.
Anytime Dining means you can eat anytime you want in any of the dining rooms on the ship that is not a specialty restaurant. Is there a show you want to see early so you can get to bed and be ready for that early morning excursion the next day? No problem. Came back late from that physically exhausting excursion? Take a nap and hit the dining room later.
True Anytime Dining allows you to dine just like you were on land. Just stand in line and wait to be seated. Just like a restaurant on land. Want a table for two? Just let them know.
Now if the thought of standing in line to be seated sounds unappealing, just remember that with assigned seating you’re still waiting in a line. And depending on how long it takes the staff to clear the early dinner (assuming you have late seating), you might be standing longer than you’d like.
With Anytime Dining, the lines aren’t a problem. They’re actually more efficient than traditional dining lines. There are also a sufficient amount of dining rooms to accommodate the guests onboard.
Before you drop down to the comments section to protest that other cruise lines have anytime dining, look at the details.
Most cruise lines that say they have anytime dining don’t run it as efficiently as NCL. Just like most land-based restaurants, those other cruise lines will take your name and then hand you a pager. Once your table is ready, your buzzer vibrates.
With NCL, simply stand in line. And that line moves pretty quickly. So if you don’t like dressing up for dinner and don’t like being told when to eat, NCL is probably the cruise line for you.
Cunard is all about old-fashioned luxury. As such, the price will reflect it. Celebrity offers a luxury experience with a more modern spin. Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean are more middle of the road. They’re more for the person who needs to get away from the daily grind, doesn’t want to go broke doing it but still wants to have a good time. The Dream Team representatives can help you determine which differences will resonate with you.
All these cruise lines we’ve mentioned are good companies. No one is “better” than the other. They simply cater to different preferences.
Younger cruisers will certainly like Carnival over Cunard. They are targeting different age groups who naturally have different interests. Someone who favors NCL will probably feel more confined in some respects on a Celebrity cruise.
Again, choosing one over the other isn’t “wrong”. You simply need to be honest with yourself as to what will make you happy on your cruise.
If you’re not really sure what questions to ask yourself, give us a call at 877-235-8061 and one of our agents will walk with you to help determine what’s best.
Whichever cruise line you choose, keep in mind that cruising is one of the best ways to vacation. Food, entertainment, travel between islands is all covered regardless of how much you pay.
We can get you booked on any of these cruise lines. And even set up payment plans to make your vacation easier to manage. And if you want to travel with a group, let us know. We’ll get the whole crew on board and do it at a discount.