Alright, now that we’ve covered the When, Where, and Who of cruising (see Parts 1 and 2 of this series), we can go over the Which (picking a ship).


With so many ships to choose from, how do you begin to sort through them all? Thanks to dedicated past cruisers, there are a plethora of customer reviews and photos out there regarding what each and every ship on each and every cruise line has to offer. So, there’s absolutely no reason to go into the selection blind.

Here are some factors you may want to take into consideration when determining what kind of ship is ideal for you:

  • Size: This is actually a huge factor because there is a direct correlation between a ships size and the kind of amenities it can offer you.
    • Bigger ships (2,000-4,000+ passengers) will offer you tons of variety in terms of dining and entertainment. Since the current cruising trend is toward larger ships, the facilities tend to be newer, using state of the art equipment in the casinos and theaters. However, as a result, the crowds on the ships are bigger and it may be harder to find a deck chair or secluded area to relax. The ports that you can visit are more standard and limited, as smaller, more exotic locations don’t have a pier or terminal big enough to handle gigantic vessels. Also, you may get a vague feeling of being part of a heard, as it’s harder for the crew to make the experience Uber-personalized with so many passengers on board.
    • Medium ships (1,000-2,000 passengers) are able to offer the amenities that cruises are known for while making you feel like you are being personally catered to. There are always several dining or entertainment options, but not so many that you can try somewhere new each night. Facilities such as the spa or gym are present, but they will be smaller and have fewer options than the big guys. Since there is less to do than on a large ship, the atmosphere is less party-like. However, very few cruise lines are debuting new ships of this size, so the facilities on board are likely more outdated and staterooms will probably be smaller.
    • Smaller ships (fewer than 1,000 passengers) offer highly personalized service with shorter lines, a relaxed pace, and delectable dining options. In fact, many smaller ships even have Michelin-level restaurants on board. Luxury is typically emphasized, so the ships will have up-to-date amenities and top-notch enrichment programs. As a bonus, items like alcohol and gratuities, which usually cost extra on larger ships, are often included in your cruise price. No hidden costs. However, as a result, these tend to be the priciest of cruises. Also, due to the atmosphere on the ship, there probably aren’t any children’s programs. In fact, some ships will discourage bringing children aboard. Since there’s limited room on board for facilities, features like pools, gyms, and spas will be tiny, if they’re there at all.
  • Makeover: When was the ship built or refurbished? Generally, we all like things that are new. Worn out carpets, ratty bedspreads, and lackluster dining rooms don’t win raving customer reviews. Recently refurbished ships will offer technology such as wifi or iPads that you can use in your stateroom to order room service or check your spending account. You know a recently built ship will have the latest in theater and sound equipment, plus the newest in gaming for the casino.
  • Amenities: Remember that even though a cruise line may be known for its onboard surf park, water roller coaster, bowling alley, or ice skating rink, it doesn’t mean that each and every ship from that line has those amenities available. Likewise, you may have heard rave reviews about a certain alternative restaurant, only to discover that it’s not on the ship you selected. Do your homework. If you have your heart set on a certain experience, it will help to rule out a number of ships.
  • Attitude: Yes, we’re already gone over the general attitude and feeling of each cruise line; however, each ship has its own personality. Certainly, the Norwegian Epic (4,100 passengers) has a completely different feel than the Norwegian Sun (1,936 passengers). Go online and look up what people had to say about the ship and about fellow passengers on board. Try to find reports from people who are taking a similar itinerary at a similar time of year as you want. Those will help give the most accurate picture, in terms of population, crowds, and atmosphere. Just remember to read the reviews with a grain of salt… some cruisers are delighted by everything because they’re just happy to be on vacation. On the flip side, there’s just no pleasing some people.

Well there you go, faithful readers. Take these factors into consideration and you’ll be well on your way to the cruise of your dreams. Happy sailing!