Cruising with MJ – A Word on Picking the Right Cruise Line for You

Cruising with MJ – The Series

Cruising with MJ – Setting Sail on Your Own the MJ Way

Cruising with MJ – A Word on Picking the Right Cruise Line for You

Cruising with MJ – You’ve Booked Your Cruise So Now What?

Cruising with MJ – Let’s Get Packed

Cruising with MJ – It’s Almost Time to Cruise! What Do I Do Now?

Cruising with MJ – Three Days Until Sail Away

Cruising with MJ – Embarkation Day (It’s Time to Play)

I get a lot of questions on cruising, none more so than “will I be happy if I purchase a cruise with XXX cruise lines?” My first answer is usually that it’s important to remember that most any cruise beats a day at work. Then I get into a few details about the individual I’m talking to, and usually give them a few options. What I am about to write is my opinion, and my opinion only. But that opinion is based in either actual experience, or real conversations with people I trust. As always, you should do some research and reach your own conclusions about what is right for you. Finally, There are no hard and fast rules, but I expect the following is pretty close to workable for most people.

The mass market lines like Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean have a little something for everyone. From surfing simulators to rock climbing walls, you’ll find entertainment. Well-equipped gyms, nightlife, and good (not necessarily 5 star) food all add to the vacation experience, and these cruise lines offer all of it. The majority of cruisers on these lines are going to be 20-something to 40-something, many with families, depending on the itinerary. As I said, there are no rigid rules about this, and I’ve met plenty of very retired older people on Royal Caribbean cruises who frequented Royal as much as I do. I’ve talked to retirees who cruise Carnival more than anyone else as well. No matter the cruise line, a short 3 or 4-night itinerary will typically feature a younger crowd than a longer itinerary.

Celebrity and Princess might be a better fit for ages 30 (some might say 40) and up, but again, that’s generalizing and you will find younger folks enjoying their cruises with these lines as well. I am 43, and I quite like Celebrity, especially their Solstice Class ships. I love the ambiance of these elegant ships, the welcome champagne, and the vibe. Again, you’re likely to find a younger crowd on 7 night cruises with these lines than you would on a 14-night cruise. You’ll find less late-night partying on these lines than you would on say, a Carnival cruise to the Bahamas, but there will still be plenty of activities to keep you occupied.

At the upper end of the cruising spectrum you’ll find lines like Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, or Seabourn. These cruise lines usually offer smaller, more intimate ships, lengthier itineraries, top end dining, and cater to a well-heeled, likely retired crowd. For example, I just found a 72-night “circle South America” itinerary on Regent. While that sounds awesome to me, let’s face it, you’re not likely to find many people below the age of 60 with the ability to be away from home for that long. I know I’m repeating myself, but again, these aren’t rules, just an opinion on what you are more likely to find. These lines offer among the most expensive cruises, but they’re also “all inclusive” meaning you don’t have to worry about counting your number of drinks for budget reasons.

A couple of random thoughts. While I have a friend not that much older than me who likes Holland America, my subjective personal survey of the typical Holland America ship from across the dock indicates that they tend to attract those 55ish and up. I’d love to hear from any readers with actual experience on that. I didn’t mention Disney in this blog because I hear they are in a class by themselves. I’ll have more on that over the next year with my DINKS Cruise Disney series. Yes, the MJ on Travel team is booking a Disney Cruise, joining some friends of ours. I’ll keep you posted, but our travel agent promises me that we won’t be the first kidless couple to cruise Disney. 🙂

 I’d love to hear other opinions on this topic. Feel free to comment to the post.

About Marshall Jackson

Marshall Jackson is a former airline pilot, grounded by diabetes. After spending several years in operations management, he exited the airline business for a more stable career. But that hasn't dampened his interest in airplanes, airlines and travel in general.

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  1. I’d agree with much of what you wrote. I think the general consensus is that of the most mainstream lines (Carnival, Royal, and Norwegian), you get the best experience on Royal followed by Carnival/Norwegian being pretty close to one another depending on the ship. Having said that a similarly large ship on Royal will typically be more expensive for a similar itinerary than the others. As generally is the case, you get what you pay for. Having said that if my choice was a 4 day cruise on the Majesty of the Seas (smallest Royal ship) or a larger and newer Carnival (Dream/Magic/Breeze/Freedom/Liberty) ship for a 4 or 5 day cruise I’d take the Carnival ship in a heartbeat.

  2. You forgot my favorite cruise line which is Oceania. The service is excellent, the food is outstanding, like a 5 star meal at every serving and all meals are open seating so you are not forced to sit with the same people for every meal. The only extras are for alcoholic beverages so you are not nickle and dimed for soda or ice cream or other things as you are on lines like Princess and Royal Caribbean. However, it is not for families as they do not have things for children so the clientele tends to be older travelers.

  3. I am very interested in your Disney experience. They just started sailing out of Galveston, which is our most convenient port. As one half of a DINK, I’d like to know whether to even consider Disney in the future.

  4. Princess is my favourite cruise line and I prefer to cruise with “mature” people so I try to avoid 7 night cruises especially during school holidays. You can never completely avoid kids as some “parents” actually take their kids out of school to cruise during times when kids belong in school which irritates me to no end. I choose a cruise based on itinerary rather than ship with price a major issue too. We will be in Spain next year for a conference so waiting anxiously for the 2014 Europe/Med itineraries to come out! I noticed that Princess is trying to pass off 2 x 7 day cruises out of FLL as a 14 day cruise which is very annoying and wastes time going back to the home port. I loved the 10 day Acapulco to FLL trans-canal (got some great birding in)we did in 2011 but they no longer have that itinerary.

  5. I started cruising at age 15 with my parents, primarily on Princess. I’m now 31, and have tried a number of lines since then (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Regent and Holland America). I’ve now cruised on Holland America about 7 times, and have really enjoyed each of my cruises with them. The service is good (it’s not Regent or Seabourne, but it’s very good for a mass-market cruise line). Food and wine are also quite good, IMHO.

    I actually like the fact that it’s a mainly older crowd, as late seating dinner, hot-tubs, and the more active shore excursions requiring are easier to come by (less competition). I don’t use cruises as party boats, and prefer to use them to explore areas that would otherwise be difficult or ridiculously expensive to reach (Norway’s fjords and its Arctic coast come to mind). They seem to offer a good mix of ships (including small ship experiences) and itineraries to out of the way places, at reasonable (though not cheap) prices.

    Although they aren’t the cheapest mass-market line, I like that their junior suites with jacuzzi tubs and balconies are generally only a few $100 more than regular balcony staterooms. Overall they offer a lot of value for the money, and I’ve really enjoyed cruising with them. I’ve heard similar stories about Celebrity, but have yet to try them, so can’t make a direct comparison.

  6. My husband and I cruise once or twice a year on Crystal. We charge our cruise to my Amex Plat and receive $550 in onboard credits, excellent deal. Yes, it more expensive than some other lines and the passengers skew older but we never find that a problem. I’m in my early 50s and don’t feel out of place. Once I realized that we’d be cruising with Crystal more than once I set out to find what travel agency books the most Crystal cruises. It wasn’t too hard. We now book thru that travel agency and always receive perks on top of the $550.

  7. We went on family cruise–4(well-behaved)teens over Christmas holiday with Holland America. We are currently living in Hong Kong, which was the starting point, and 17 days later we arrived in Singapore. This was only our 3rd cruise, but we thought it was delightful. While there were certainly a great number of seniors, there was a good mix of ages (we’re in our 40s) and our kids enjoyed getting to know the handful of other teens on board. We were aboard for Christmas and New Years, and the meals were wonderful.

  8. I love royal Caribbean. If you are planning on a couple cruises per year, stick with them. At my level (diamond plus) the greatest perk is free drinks in the evening (including wine, beer and mix drinks). If you drink the way most people do on their vacation, this is the best beat as none of the other cruise lines offers anything similar.

  9. We have cruised on several lines – Holland America, Disney, Carnival, and soon Celebrity. Some comments.

    My first cruise was on HA and I expected an older crowd. It *was* an older crowd, but as one poster above pointed out there were some advantages to that. I am mid-40s and I don’t want to get drunk on a cruise and I do want to take advantage of hot tubs, pools, etc. HA had great food, wonderful service, an a good atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the lectures and the Adogio Strings. We have been on HA 3 times now and will certainly go again. On our last cruise my step-kids went along (15 and 12) and really enjoyed it.

    However for them nothing can top Disney. Disney is somewhat expensive, I will grant you. But their service is amazing. Once at dinner someone near us mentioned very casually that he loved Indian food and wished it was on the menu. Within 10-15 minutes he was presented with a great Indian dish! I am not really a Disney fan but when you are on the ship you just get this very happy feeling! There are plenty of things for adults to do too. There was an adults only pool, for example. The shows were incredible. They literally can make you cry….

    My kids have been on Carnival – I have not. My step daughter really liked the “endless bubbles” badge thing. Buy it and you get endless soda refills. I was told by the kids that my wife and I might not like Carnival. Don’t know.

    I kind of became obsessed with cruising after my first cruise and did lots of research on the various lines. In 4 weeks we will be on our first Celebrity cruise on the Reflection – MJ cruised on this ship a while back. The consensus (if I can call it that) is that Celebrity might be the sweet spot for those in their mid-30s to mid-60s, in that Celebrity is upscale and has great dining, a wonderful ship layout, and has more “healthy living” options than other lines.

    I have only heard great things about RC and want to try them. Mixed things about Norwegian.

    Would love to try Oceania!! Looks like a great line, and I agree that food is their forte.

  10. I just returned from a 14 night cruise on HAL from Sydney to Auckland. There were fewer seniors on this trip as it was probably difficult for them to make the flight from US to Sydney. The average age was probably 45-60. Saw only one scooter and that was for a younger disable woman and only a couple of walkers.

    We had entertainment that was enjoyable for me – an award winning electric guitarist from Australia who played songs that I knew; a concert pianist; a musical impressionist; a comedian who wasn’t raunchy.

    I enjoyed the afternoon teas that we had on sea days also.

    I think HAL is a good fit for me.

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