Family and Casual Cruise Lines

Within the industry these cruise lines are often called Contemporary. The Family and Casual Cruise lines have the lowest prices, largest ships and the most berths. The clientele is younger and more family-oriented than the lines in other categories. With the exception of Disney these lines are the most economical offering a wide range of people the opportunity for an adventure at sea. In order to keep pricing low these lines are the least inclusive of all lines. They make a good portion of their profits by selling products and services on their ships.

Carnival Criuse Line Costa Cruises Disney Cruise Line MSC Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line P & O Cruises Royal Caribbean Cruises  

Other Cruise Genres:

Luxury Lines Premium Lines River Cruise Lines Unique and Adventure Lines

 

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Logo

Considering a Carnival Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights: The world's largest cruise line is also the most thoroughly American in its appeal. The Fun Ship marketing campaign that began long ago is still the focus, but the definition of fun has involved to encompass a broader demographic. Carnival's ships vary considerably in features and activities with the largest division between the Fantasy class ships built in the 1990s and the larger ships that followed. Carnival has spent millions on renovations for these older ships, adding waterslides and additional children's facilities. The most impressive refit will be the Carnival Destiny which will be renamed and re-launched this year as the Carnival Sunshine. The cabins on Carnival ships tend to be a bit larger than their competitors. In addition, Carnival offers a large number of rooms specifically designed to sleep 3, 4 and even 5 guests.

Note about Carnival fares:Some of Carnival's fare codes are fully non-refundable and have other restrictions as well. The costs of these restrictions can be significant and should be an important consideration when selecting a cruise. These restricted fares have become less prevalent during the last 6 months.

The Crowd:  Carnival attracts a very American clientele with a large number of families with children during school holidays. Unique age restrictions have limited the college crowd.

Ships:
Carnival Fantasy (1990): 2056 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Ecstasy (1991): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Sensation (1993): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Fascnination (1994): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Imagination (1995): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Inspiration (1996): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Destiny (1996): 2642 passengers, 101,000 tons refitted as Carnival Sunshine (2013): 3006 passengers, 101,000 tons
Carnival Elation (1998): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Paradise (1998): 2052 passengers, 70,000 tons
Carnival Triumph (1999): 2758 passengers, 102,000 tons
Carnival Victory (2000): 2758 passengers, 102,000 tons
Carnival Spirit (2001): 2124 passengers, 89,000 tons
Carnival Pride (2001): 2124 passengers, 89,000 tons
Carnival Legend (2002): 2124 passengers, 89,000 tons
Carnival Conquest (2002): 2974 passengers, 110,000 tons
Carnival Glory (2003): 2974 passengers, 110,000 tons
Carnival Miracle (2004): 2124 passengers, 89,000 tons
Carnival Valor (2004): passengers, 110,000 tons
Carnival Liberty (2005): 2974 passengers, 110,000 tons
Carnival Freedom (2007): 2974 passengers, 110,000 tons
Carnival Splendor (2008): 3006 passengers, 113,000 tons
Carnival Dream (2009): 3646 passengers, 128,000 tons
Carnival Magic (2011): 3690 passengers, 128,000 tons
Carnival Breeze (2012): 3690 passengers, 128,000 tons
Carnival Vista (2016): 4000 passengers, 135,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Alaska, Baltic/Northern Europe, Canada/New England, Caribbean/Bahamas, Hawaii, Mediterranean, Pacific Mexico, South America, South Pacific

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★★★
Luxury ★⇒★★ Older ships offer less luxury and variety of activities. Cabins are a bit larger than their competition.
Cuisine ★★ Carnival offers very consistent quality in their food offerings.
Service ★★
Adventure ★★
Price $  
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

Costa Cruises

Considering a Costa Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights:  Costa is the largest non-US based cruise line and an excellent choice for many cruisers. The ships vary considerably in size, age, and amenities so if you are expecting modern facilities you should be careful to select one of Costa's newer vessels. That said, for those for whom price and adventure are equally important, Costa may be the best option. Its varied itineraries and value conscious pricing offer an option that the more adventurous traveler may find compelling.

The Crowd:  Costa's clientele varies widely depending on the itinerary and time of the year. Families are common during school breaks. Honeymooners predominate in the late Spring. The average age is highest at other times of the year. For cruises in the Eastern Hemisphere (Europe and Asia), the large majority are Italian, Spanish, French and German. English is the often the 5th most popular language on the ship. In the Caribbean and South America, is the dominant language but there are still many Europeans.

Ships:
Costa Classica (1991): 1680 passengers, 53,000 tons
Costa neoRomantica (1993): 1356 passengers, 56,000 tons
Costa Victoria (1996): 1928 passengers, 76,000 tons
Costa Voyager (1999): 927 passengers, 24,000 tons
Costa Atlantica (2000): 2114 passengers, 86,000 tons
Costa Mediterranea (2003): 2114 passengers, 86,000 tons
Costa Fortuna (2003): 2720 passengers, 103,000 tons
Costa Magica (2004): 2720 passengers, 103,000 tons
Costa Serena (2007): 3700 passengers, 115,000 tons
Costa Luminosa (2009): 2260 passengers, 93,000 tons
Costa Pacifica (2009): 3700 passengers, 115,000 tons
Costa Deliziosa (2010): 2260 passengers, 93,000 tons
Costa Favolosa (2011): 3700 passengers, 115,000 tons
Costa Fascinosa (2012): 3700 passengers, 115,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Mediterranean (year-round), Northern Europe, Caribbean, South America and Asia

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★★⇒★★★ Excellent on their larger and newer ships.
Luxury ★★⇒★★ Deliziosa and Luminosa were made more upscale.
Cuisine ★★ Unexceptional Italian. Excellent extra-fee specialty restaurants on some ships.
Service ★★★ Very European which may not suit some North Americans.
Adventure ★★★ Expanding, but they stick to main ports.
Price $  
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

Disney Cruise Line

Considering a Disney Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights: Disney Cruise Lines stands apart from all other cruise lines in its clear vision and focus. Its ships mix classic ocean liner design with high tech wizardry and entertainment. You do not need to be a kid to appreciate these ships. Disney has made a conscious decision to ensure that adults have their own areas to play, especially on the two new ships. The first impression is elegance, but when you look closely you see the playful details in the public room design. Cabins are roomy by any cruise ship standard, and there are more cabins for 5 than on other lines. Entertainment is a clear focus on the ships with the "theme park" flavor being translated into character events, a water park, participatory TV studios, and several other elements taken from their parks and set to sea. The ships rotate guests among the main dining rooms with service staff moving as well. Whether Disney is a good choice depends on your wallet and your tolerance for Disney play more than on your age. You certainly should not exclude this line from your options just because you don't have children.

The Crowd: Families and multi-generational groups are the most common guests on Disney cruises, but many adults are discovering the adult appeal of the line as well. Most guests are North American, with a strong mix of international Disney fans.

Ships:
Disney Magic (1998): 2400 passengers maximum, 83,000 tons
Disney Wonder (1990): 2400 passengers maximum, 83,000 tons
Disney Dream (2011): 4000 passengers maximum, 129,000 tons
Disney Fantasy (2012): 4000 passengers maximum, 130,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Alaska, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Mexico/Pacific and the Baltic coming soon.

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★★★★ Outclassing all competitors
Luxury ★★★★ New ships comparable to luxury lines. Theme park influenced designs.
Cuisine ★★★
Service ★★★★
Adventure ★★
Price $$$  
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

MSC Cruises

Considering an MSC Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights: Begun as a budget-oriented European line, MSC Cruises (a division of the massive shipping line) has recently started marketing its ships to English-speaking passengers. It offers one of the best values in cruising, appreciated by those who can adjust their expectations and adapt to traditional Mediterranean service and offerings. MSC has established a reputation recently for innovative ships and friendly service. Dinners are still served on the traditional schedule with assigned seats. Main dining room menus offer good Mediterranean fare, but are less successful with foods that are not from that region. While the ships often have large numbers of children, programs for children are less developed than on lines oriented toward the American market.

The Crowd:  Mainly European, except in the Caribbean where North Americans predominate. Longer and more exotic itineraries feature an older crowd.

Ships:
MSC Melody (1982): 1098 passengers, 35,000 tons
MSC Armonia (2001): 1566 passengers, 58,000 tons
MSC Sinfonia (2002): 1566 passengers, 59,000 tons
MSC Lirica (2002): 1560 passengers, 59,000 tons
MSC Opera (2004): 1756 passengers, 59,000 tons
MSC Musica (2006): 2550 passengers, 90,000 tons
MSC Orchestra (2007): 2550 passengers, 90,000 tons
MSC Poesia (2008): 2550 passengers, 93,000 tons
MSC Fantasia (2008): 3274 passengers, 138,000 tons
MSC Splendida (2008): 3274 passengers, 138,000 tons
MSC Magnifica (2010): 2518 passengers, 93,000 tons
MSC Divina (2012): 3502 passengers, 139,000 tons
MSC Preziosa (2013): 3959 passengers, 139,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Mediterranean, Africa, Caribbean, Northern Europe / Baltic, South America

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★ Very basic despite the large number of children sailing during holiday periods
Luxury ★★ New ships are impressive and unique with significant numbers of balcony cabins
Cuisine ★★ Traditional dining times and seating. Good Mediterranean fare.
Service ★★ Friendly service is offered, but it is a bit inconsistent.
Adventure Itineraries focus mainly on the Mediterranean and Baltic
Price $ An excellent value with among the lowest prices of any cruise line
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL Logo

Considering a Norwegian Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights:  Norwegian Cruise Line calls their style of cruising "Freestyle", emphasizing flexible dining and entertainment schedules and avoiding the kinds of structure found on the more traditional lines. They also have a newer fleet than any of their competitors. Until the release of the Epic in 2010 they also had the smallest ships among the top 3 US based lines. The flexibility of "Freestyle" has its trade-off with service sometimes suffering. Still, Norwegian provides a fun, casual, and contemporary cruise option at a compelling price. In an effort to appeal to families and large groups, Norwegian offers more suite sizes and more adjoining cabins than its competitors. With the introduction of the Epic, Norwegian entered a new era of high tech ships. Their newest ships, the Breakaway and Getaway promise much of the innovation of the Epic, but eliminating some of the more outlandish design elements. Entertainment on Norwegian ships follows the "Freestyle" theme with a wide variety of options.

The Crowd:  The Norwegian crowd is primarily North American but otherwise varies considerably due to the "Freestyle Cruising" concept which appeals to many demographics.

Ships:
Norwegian Spirit (1998): 2018 passengers, 75,000 tons
Norwegian Sky (1999): 2002 passengers, 77,000 tons
Norwegian Sun (2001): 1936 passengers, 78,000 tons
Norwegian Star (2001): 2240 passengers, 92,000 tons
Norwegian Dawn (2002): 2340 passengers, 92,000 tons
Norwegian Jewel (2005): 2376 passengers, 94,000 tons
Pride of America (2005): 2146 passengers, 80,000 tons
Norwegian Pearl (2006): 2394 passengers, 94,000 tons
Norwegian Gem (2007): 2394 passengers, 94,000 tons
Norwegian Jade (2008): 2402 passengers, 94,000 tons
Norwegian Epic (2010): 4100 passengers, 156,000 tons
Norwegian Breakaway (2013): 4028 passengers, 144,000 tons
Norwegian Getaway (2014): 4028 passengers, 147,000 tons
Unnamed Ship (2015): 4200 passengers, 163,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Alaska, Baltic/Northern Europe, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean/Bahahmas, Hawaii (year-round), Mediterranean, Mexico/Pacific Coast

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★★★
Luxury ★⇒★★★ Garden Villas and Suites on newer ships offer more luxury
Cuisine ★★
Service ★⇒★★★
Adventure ★★ Lots of options, but few exotic destinations.
Price $-$$ Garden Villas and Suites offer higher prices but a good value.
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

P&O Cruises

Highlights: P&O Cruises is a British line based in Southampton England which is traditional in its approach to cruising and does very little marketing in other countries including the US. The newer larger ships are more innovative. Dinner time is decidedly more formal than on US-based cruise lines and dress codes are enforced even in some bars. Gratuities are recommended but voluntary. Entertainment, like other aspects of the P&O experience, is designed to appeal to British tastes. Most cruises start in Southampton and are commonly 14 days, but there are shorter cruises (as short as 2 nights) and longer (as long as 100 nights).

The Crowd:  Most of the crowd is from the United Kingdom with a smattering of Australian and New Zealander guests. Three of the 4 ships are adults-only (Arcadia, Adonia and Oriana), while the others have extensive children's programs.

Ships:
Oriana (built-1995): 1800 passengers, 69,000 tons
Aurora (built-2000): 2000 passengers, 76,000 tons
Oceana (built-2000): 2016 passengers, 77,000 tons
Adonia (built-2001): 710 passengers, 30,000 tons
Arcadia (built-2005): 1950 passengers, 87,000 tons
Ventura (built-2008): 3080 passengers, 116,000 tons
Azura (built-2010): 3100 passengers, 115,000 tons
New Ship (arriving-2015): 3611 passengers, 141,000 tons

Regions Offered: Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asia, Australia, Africa, Indian Ocean, South Pacific and World Cruises

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs NA to ★★★★ Some ships are adults only while others have extensive programs.
Luxury ★★
Cuisine ★★⇒★★★
Service ★★★★ British style.
Adventure ★★★ Most sailing in Europe and the Caribbean with a few sailing around the world.
Price $$-$$$  
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair

Royal Caribbean Cruises

Royal Caribbean Logo

Considering a Royal Caribbean Cruise? Call 800-427-8473, extension 7961 for friendly, helpful and expert advice.

Highlights: Royal Caribbean is the most innovative of the major cruise lines and continues to create new experiences for cruisers as new ships are released. Though a bit more expensive than their direct competitors, cruisers generally give the line higher ratings for food, fun, and service.. With each generation of ships, Royal Caribbean has pushed the envelope by adding activities such as rock-climbing walls and stationary surfing, along with new casual dining options like Johnny Rockets and the Compass Deli and more luxurious accommodations. Their newest ships, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are the largest cruise ships by far and offer two open-to-the-sky park areas with interior balconies. These ships turn the concept of cruising on its head by making the ship itself the focus of the experience and the destinations secondary. From Vegas-style shows to street performers, the entertainment on Royal Caribbean focuses on excitement. Though the price may be a bit higher, Royal Caribbean definitely offers an excellent value to cruisers looking for fun and excitement, no matter their age.

The Crowd: Royal Caribbean attracts a diverse but mostly North American crowd, with a growing constituency of locals on their Australia/New Zealand, South American and Mediterranean sailings. Sailings up to 7 days have a large number of families.

Ships:
Monarch of the Seas (1991): 2390 passengers, 74,000 tons
Majesty of the Seas (1992): 2350 passengers, 74,000 tons
Legend of the Seas (1995): 1804 passengers, 69,000 tons
Splendor of the Seas (1996): 1804 passengers, 69,000 tons
Grandeur of the Seas (1996): 1950 passengers, 74,000 tons
Rhapsody of the Seas (1996): 2040 passengers, 78,000 tons
Enchantment of the Seas (1997): 2252 passengers, 81,000 tons
Vision of the Seas (1998): 2000 passengers, 78,000 tons
Voyager of the Seas (1999): 3114 passengers, 137,000 tons
Explorer of the Seas (2000): 3114 passengers, 137,000 tons
Adventure of the Seas (2001): 3114 passengers, 137,000 tons
Radiance of the Seas (2001): 2112 passengers, 90,000 tons
Navigator of the Seas (2002): 3114 passengers, 137,000 tons
Brillance of the Seas (2002): 2112 passengers, 90,000 tons
Serenity of the Seas (2003): 2112 passengers, 90,000 tons
Mariner of the Seas (2004): 3114 passengers, 137,000 tons
Jewel of the Seas (2004): 2112 passengers, 90,000 tons
Freedom of the Seas (2006): 3634 passengers, 154,000 tons
Liberty of the Seas (2007): 3634 passengers, 154,000 tons
Independence of the Seas (2008): 3634 passengers, 154,000 tons
Oasis of the Seas (2009): 5400 passengers, 223,000 tons
Allure of the Seas (2010): 5400 passengers, 225,000 tons
Quantum of the Seas (2014): 4905 passengers, 168,000 tons
Anthem of the Seas (2015): 4905 passengers, 168,000 tons

Regions Offered:  Alaska, Australia/New Zealand, Baltic/Northern Europe, Bermuda, Canada/New England, Caribbean/Bahamas, Hawaii, Far East, Mediterranean, Middle East, South America

Category Stars Comments
Children's Programs ★★★★
Luxury ★★⇒★★★ Cabins are a bit smaller their some of their competitors, but public areas are vibrant and fun.
Cuisine ★★★ Most cruisers find the food better than on their competitors.
Service ★★
Adventure ★★★ The widest range of itineraries for a Contemporary cruise line.
Price $-$$ Oasis and Allure prices are higher than the remainder of their ships
Star Ratings: ★★★★★ - World Class | ★★★★ - Excellent | ★★★ - Very Good | ★★ - Good | - Fair