I am always delighted to help people who want advice about cruises but there is one question I am always asked – and always refuse to answer. Which is my favourite cruise line?
There are two reasons for my reluctance. One is that my favourite varies depending whether I am travelling alone or with my husband or daughter.
On my own I prefer a small ship but with my daughter a big ship with lots of activities and dining options is great fun. My husband values his time ashore so we try to pick cruises with port calls every day.
The other reason is that what I like is irrelevant. Just as you should never buy a cruise on price, you should never choose one based on what others like because it is all about personal preference.
To give you two examples. I am not a fan of formal nights but other women love to dress up in their finery.
Likewise I love that so many cruise lines now allow you to dine when and with whom you choose, but plenty of folk like the old tradition of being allocated a table so they always have the same waiter.
So instead of writing about my favourite cruise line, here are my thoughts on a few ships I’ve sailed on recently.
Norwegian Breakaway: This Norwegian Cruise Line ships is like a land-based resort that happens to move so it’s great to do with the family, but it does have single cabins so it’s good also for a bunch of friends who want to holiday together but have some privacy as well.
I took my daughter and we had a ball. The ship has a fun vibe, with lots going on and loads of places to eat. So many that in a week we dined somewhere different every day (favourites: Teppanyaki for its theatrical presentation and the steaks in Cagney’s).
I was impressed by the quality of the food and service, and loved that the only dress code is whatever you want to wear.
Koningsdam: Holland America Line has a reputation for being a bit stuffy. This ship – HAL’s newest – most certainly is not, although there are formal nights and set seating for dinner (there is also an opt out for those who prefer to dine at a time of their choosing).
There are kids and teen clubs but it has an adult feel. One for couples rather than families.
Food and service were good, but what stood out was the range of entertainment, from pianists playing chart hits to classical music, and quirky touches such a place where you can watch cress growing (yes, really) and Blend, where you learn to mix wine.
Variety Voyager: I have included this to prove that there really is a cruise out there for everyone. Voyager holds just 72 passengers (and this is Variety Cruises’ biggest ship!) and is the height of casual; more private yacht than cruise ship.
There is only one place to eat but tables inside and out, and you can turn up in shorts, t-shirts, whatever you fancy. I was on board for a cruise around the Greek Isles in summer and ate outside for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On several mornings, the captain anchored in small bays and we were free to jump off the back into the water. Once everyone was back on board, we visited popular ports and some off-the-beaten track spots.
Viking Sea: This is Viking Cruises’ second ocean-going ship and a Scandinavian beauty. The décor is minimalist but cosy and there are some great touches, such as shelves of artifacts (books, ancient-looking scrolls) in the Explorer’s Lounge, a lovely room at the front of the ship, and an infinity pool at the back.
This is a ship for couples and as it is on the small side (just 930 passengers) it would work for people travelling alone, except there are no single cabins so there is a supplement to pay.
One of the best things – apart from the décor – is what is included in the price, from one excursion per port to drinks with lunch and dinner.
Image credits: Flickr Creative Commons – Authors: Jean, Roderick