With well over 300 cruises notched on our nautical belts over twenty-plus years it’s only natural that some are more memorable than others. What’s makes one cruise better than another? There are many factors involved.
- First and foremost the size and comfort of one’s stateroom. Yes size does matter, especially on a long cruise, which we prefer. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you never spend time in your cabin. You do, especially on ships operated by companies such as Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn, Regent and other luxury lines that provide full in-room dining service. While it’s fun to go the dining room and alternative restaurants, during cruises of 10 days or more many passengers enjoy chilling out in their suite or stateroom, swathed in the ship-issued terry robe, enjoying a room service meal on their private balcony, or inside by the TV where they watch movies or sporting events. When you can afford it, book a suite on ships such as Princess or Holland America. Luxury lines such as Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Regent have larger than average staterooms.
- Secondly the vessel itself. But not just how it looks, but the crew and captain. On a recent cruise on the Golden Princess, we had the best crew and staff ever from the captain to the hotel manager to our stateroom steward and beyond. This has proven true just about every time we’ve sailed on Crystal (especially our butlers in the Penthouse suites), Silversea (from the cruise director to our stateroom crew), Oceania or Seabourn, too. Check out the ship's staterooms before booking making sure that they offer robes, tubs (if you prefer), balconies and room service (if that matters to you).
- Thirdly, the food. While there is always plenty to eat on ships, the cuisine isn’t always equal on every cruise. Quality is much more important and you will get just hat on any Oceania or Regent ship, Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn. On Princess the food excels in the alternative dining rooms and while good in the main dining rooms, it can be inconsistent. Look for food reviews from this column and other online sites (if food matters to you).
- Next, the itinerary. To some this is major. To veteran seafarers, such as we, the ship itself is more important. But before you book a cruise make sure it’s going where you want to go and that there are enough (or as few) days in port and at sea to suit your style. Some seafarers just want to stay on board their ship, while others want to get off to explore ports as much as possible. Don't just pick a cruise because it says "Caribbean" or "Tahiti", check out where it stops.
- Fares. This of course is a huge consideration for most people. Every cruise line offers special fares on their web sites which actually go up and down depending on how well voyages are selling out. So sign up for updates on fares to get the best ones. As far as we’re concerned, nothing beats the all-inclusive fares offered by Crystal, Siversea, Seabourn and Regent that pick up your tips, drinks and in the case of Regent, shore excursions and on some occasions WiFi (which can really add up if you’re on line daily).
- And last, but not at all least, your shipmates, these vary on all cruises, but you can be fairly certain you’ll enjoy the cast of seafarers on Silversea (had a great group on our last Silver Spirit voyage) Crystal (where most of the passengers spend time at the Enrichment lectures of participating in the various Computer at Sea program, Princess (usually a fun, active crowd) or Seabourn (found some really fun folks on our the Seabourn Sojourn).
Have more questions? Ask them in the comment section of email me email@example.com.
Of course it matters with whom you share a cabin. Couples, married or otherwise usually get caught up in the romance of the sea. Sometimes traveling with a friend or other relative can prove dicey when sharing close quarters. If you can afford two cabins, go for it.