How to choose a cruise: Which line is best for budget, luxury, families or adventure?
There's a cruise line, ship and itinerary out there for almost all tastes, our Travel Editor says
Think all cruise ships are the same? They're not.
As this week's travel special shows, there's a line (and a ship) to suit all ages, budgets and tastes. That said, choosing the right one for you can be tricky, so here's a quick guide to get started.
1. Best for budget
My top tip here is not the line, but the time. Winter sees super value on Med cruises from MSC (for obvious reasons - you're unlikely to be in the pool). It's also a good time to try three- or four-night taster cruises. Other affordable lines include P&O, Cruise & Maritime and Fred. Olsen.
2. Best for luxury
Regent Seven Seas is as opulent as its prices suggest. Celebrity specialises in "modern luxury", with onboard retreats, high-end spas, restaurants and art setting its ships apart - it also has several direct sailings from Dublin this year. Smaller, 'ultra-luxury' ships are offered by Silversea, Seabourn, Ponant and Azamara, attracting an active, older crowd.
More: Read our Celebrity Edge reviewhere.
3. Best for families
Four Disney ships combine old-school elegance and studio pixie dust, though they're largely based in the Caribbean. Norwegian is a strong option for families with teens, and Royal Caribbean offers a huge choice of ships, with facilities ranging from water parks to bumper cars, rock climbing, shows and arcades. Similar to Carnival, it divides teen clubs by age.
4. Best for older travellers
Silversea and Saga are top-end lines here; Cunard specialises in classic and transatlantic cruising, while Fred. Olsen is popular with older Brits on a budget. Another option is river cruising - small, boutique-style ships docking at the heart of European cities. Prices are all-inclusive (though never cheap), with Uniworld and AmaWaterways two lines to consider.
5. Best for adventure
For expeditions to Antarctica or the Galápagos, check Intrepid and G Adventures. Ships are small and basic, but itineraries active. Silversea does luxury Antarctica trips too.
6. Best for party peeps
Carnival and Costa are classic night-owl lines, with international punters, lots of fun events and late clubs. Some Norwegian ships have open-air clubs, and music fans can board once-off festival cruises like Cayamo (Feb 10-17), with artists including Emmylou Harris and Josh Ritter, or the Rock Legends Cruise ( Feb 14-18) starring Roger Daltry and Canned Heat. No, really.
P.S. How to book
Cruise bookings can be complicated. Call an expert with the likes of John Galligan Travel (jgt.ie), Tour America (touramerica.ie), Sunway (sunway.ie), Trailfinders (trailfinders.ie) or Cruise Escapes (cruisescapes.ie) to make sure you choose the right cruise for you.
Read more:Top 12 Cruises in 2019: A ship for every budget and taste