Thinking about booking your first cruise? The sheer range of choices can be daunting. There are more than two dozen lines marketing to North Americans — no two alike.
The list of brands includes everything from giant companies such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line, which are household names, to lesser-known small operators such as Windstar Cruises.
Some of the brands — Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line, in particular — operate massive vessels that are like giant floating resorts with deck-top water parks and other over-the-top amusements. Others specialize in intimate, boutique hotel-style ships.
Some lines, such as Carnival, are aimed at a budget crowd. Others operate vessels that are as luxurious as any upscale resort found on land. A few small luxury players such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises have ships with lavish suites that’ll cost you as much as $11,000 a day.
Where to begin? Below, you’ll find our quick guide to some of the most popular brands. As you’ll see, it’s not meant to be an in-depth review of the lines. It’s just a short overview — enough to give you a sense of which particular cruise operator might best appeal to you.
Once you’ve narrowed down the choices to a few brands that you think best fit your style, do a deeper dive into them and their specific ships, their itineraries and home ports and their comparable costs (either on your own or with the help of a travel agent; we recommend finding a travel agent who specializes in cruises).
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