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Comparing Cruise Lines: Which One is Right for You?

Comparison of the cruise lines I’ve been on

This is just a summary of each cruise line. At the bottom of the summary will be a link to a more detailed article on each one. I include a general overview, description of cabins, description of what I did and didn’t like about the food, so that you can come to your own conclusion as to whether you would agree. I hear so many people say things like, “the food is bad.” But why? What was it about the food you didn’t like? If they say, “They didn’t have BBQ every night,” then I can make the determination that BBQ isn’t important to me, so I might actually like the food. I also described each cruise line’s private island so you’ll know what to expect there, and which one is right for you and your family.

Holland America

Ships I’ve sailed on: Koningsdam, Zuiderdam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Nieuw Statendam

SUMMARY: More expensive than Carnival or NCL, older crowd, no water parks or exciting thrill rides on these ships, but plenty of seating in the shade above deck. Good food, nice lounges with jazz, blues and classical music. Absolutely beautiful inside, lots of artwork and sculptures. Not great for families with children. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Ships I’ve sailed on: Epic, Sun, Escape

SUMMARY: NCL is known for its all inclusive drink package. You won’t find a better deal on any cruise line. Lots of activities above deck, like ropes courses, big water slides, rock climbing. Good food and service, but very pervasive smoke inside as the casino is not contained. Great for families.


Ships I’ve sailed on: Magic, Liberty

SUMMARY:  Carnival is truly known as the “fun ship” because there is always noise, loud music, and a raucous crowd. It’s the least expensive of the cruise lines (that we’ve sailed on), with plenty to keep you busy poolside. The food is nothing special, drinks are average. Their private island Princess Cays is great for snorkeling. The older ships are really showing their age. Great for young people (20s – 30s).

Royal Caribbean

Ships I’ve sailed on: Mariner of the Seas

SUMMARY: Very large ships with lots of outdoor activities on the pool decks, Flow Rider for surfing, giant slides, go karts, ropes course. Almost no seating in the shade. Small, crowded buffet area with no outdoor seating. Average food, but LOTS of dining options that cost extra. Very large interior cabins with excellent service. Private Island has lots of activities and a large pool with swim-up bar. Great for families with kids. 


Ships I’ve sailed on: Meraviglia

SUMMARY: Good value when they’re having a special. Spectacular interior design. Bland food. Shaded balcony cabins available. Really nice private island, but more natural than Royal Caribbean. Only a few activities on the pool deck: ropes course and slides.


Ships I’ve sailed on: Eclipse, Solstice

SUMMARY: Most expensive of the lines we’ve sailed on, with an older crowd. Sophisticated designed with spectacular artwork. Excellent food and service. Not great for families with kids.