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Best cruise line for...

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Goofy with Disney cruisers (Photo: Disney Cruise Line)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 8, 2007. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, cruise, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Disney Cruise Line, Erica Silverstein, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises, Windstar Cruises.

I'm often asked which cruise line is the best, and I always give the same answer: The best cruise line is the one that fits your interests and travel style. The key is in finding the one that delivers everything you want in a vacation. To that end, here are the best cruise lines for...

Families

These days it seems as if every line wants to be known as family-friendly. Your kids will likely enjoy any mainstream or premium line. However, Carnival and Disney Cruise Line stand out for their exceptionally comprehensive children's and teens' programs.

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Disney Cruise Line is no surprise winner in this category, for obvious reasons. The Disney Magic and Disney Wonder have entire decks dedicated to kid-friendly activities and separate family and adults-only pools. Cabins are designed to accommodate families with extra beds and split bathrooms, and Disney characters make appearances throughout the sailing.

Camp Carnival offers age-specific, supervised activities for kids ages two to five, six to eight, nine to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17. Its ships offer extensive children's play areas, as well as the Club O2 teen lounge. Children do not need to be toilet-trained to take part in Camp Carnival activities.

Active travelers

Cruising is no longer solely about playing shuffleboard or frying by the pool. Thanks to innovative cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Princess, the cruise industry has taken onboard entertainment to new heights.

There's never a dull moment on a Royal Caribbean cruise. Its ships, particularly the Voyager- and Freedom-class vessels, offer onboard rock climbing, ice skating, mini-golf, surfing, and boxing. Whether your definition of active is working up a sweat in the fitness center, working out your credit card in the ship's shops, enjoying family fun in a water park, or spending evenings watching Broadway-style shows, Royal Caribbean will keep you busy morning 'til night.

Princess may not have the facilities of Royal Caribbean, but its onboard programming is extensive. Taking its cue from reality TV, Princess pits guests against each other in competitions such as the Ballroom Blitz dance competition, Princess Peer Factor team challenge, and the Bee at Sea spelling competition. The cruise line offers kids a chance to learn to cook in the ship's galley and runs various educational programs for adults.

Nontraditional cruisers

If you've seen The Love Boat or Titanic and decided formal dinners and forced socialization are not for you, try Norwegian Cruise Line before you give up on cruising. Norwegian's "Freestyle Cruising" concept aims to give cruisers more choices and freedom as to how to structure their time onboard. Dress is always resort casual, and guests can dine whenever they want in about 10 different restaurants. A variety of lounges and bars lets cruisers choose the atmosphere and drinks that suit them, and the ships' funky decor states clearly that these cruises are neither stodgy nor traditional.

Seniors

You'll find the 55-plus set on any cruise line, and most companies are vying for baby boomer vacation dollars. But, seniors looking for the company of their peers (rather than a boatload of kids) need to be a little more discriminating.

Luxury lines have the highest average ages due to their hefty price tags. You'll find plenty of seniors on Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and Silversea. The exceptional service and spacious cabins on these ships make traveling easy and comfortable, and small and mid-size ships eliminate the need to walk long distances from your cabin to the dining room or pool. Plus, the wealthy, educated, and well-traveled people who sail these lines make for plenty of interesting conversations over dinner or on the bus to a shore excursion.

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