Cruise Line Types- Figuring out what the different categories mean

Cruise Line Types

Crystal Cruises ship, the Crystal Syymphony, falls into the Ultra-Luxury category. Image courtesy of Crystal Cruises.
Crystal Cruises ship, the Crystal Symphony, falls into the Ultra-Luxury category. Image courtesy of Crystal Cruises.

One of the key elements of a happy cruise is finding the line that’s right for your particular needs.  The cruise lines fall into various categories, and to help you navigate the waters (so to speak) of choosing one, we’ve created a guide to what these categories mean.  Bear in mind, cruise lines can fall into more than one category, Luxury Expedition, for example, but these descriptions should help to steer you in the right direction. See which lines fall into these categories, and what amenities they offer, by visiting our All-Inclusive Chart.

CONTEMPORARY CRUISE LINES

The contemporary cruise lines offer a variety of cruise schedules and itineraries that are perfect for younger adults and family cruises. These are the lines with the largest ships, the most onboard entertainment options, and the widest variety of amenities. This great array of options allows you to choose the type of vacation experience you want once you are on board the ship.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Families with young children
  • Families with teenagers
  • Family reunions and multi-generational families
  • 20- and 30-somethings looking for light adventure and various sports activities
  • 40- and 50-somethings looking for a couple’s vacation
  • Travelers looking for a wide array of activities
  • Seniors looking for new friends
  • Solo travelers
  • Couples looking for romantic getaways
  • Destination weddings
  • Honeymoons
  • Adventure travelers looking for high thrills

 

UPSCALE CONTEMPORARY CRUISE LINES

These lines offer all the benefits of the contemporary cruise lines, but take things a step futher, with finer amenities and a more upscale environment.

These lines are well suited for:

  • Families with young children
  • Families with teenagers
  • Family reunions and multi-generational families
  • 20- and 30-somethings looking for light adventure and various sports activities
  • 40- and 50-somethings looking for a couple’s vacation
  • Travelers looking for a wide array of activities
  • Seniors looking for new friends
  • Solo travelers
  • Couples looking for romantic getaways
  • Destination weddings
  • Honeymoons
  • Adventure travelers looking for high thrills

PREMIUM CRUISE LINES

Premium cruise lines tend to be large, but not mega-type ships, though they offer similar voyages, plus voyages to exotic locales. Due to the size of these ships, they do not dock in the heart of the town or village like the ultra-premium lines. These lines cater to travelers seeking luxurious accommodations, enhanced dining, excellent service, extensive activities, and enrichment opportunities. The onboard experience is sophisticated and the service above average. These lines will have enhanced spa and wine options.   They tend to cater to more mature and discerning passengers who are seeking a sophisticated level of service, ship amenities, and accommodations at somewhat higher prices. These lines also offer children’s programs for all ages.

These lines are well suited for:

  • Those seeking both classic and modern luxury, contemporary and conservative design, and dining experiences in which the atmosphere is as important as the food and wine.
  • Families wishing to travel with young children where the environment is a little more subdued.
  • Families with teenagers
  • Families who are looking for an educational experience for the family
  • Family reunions and multi-generational families
  • 40- and 50-somethings looking for a couple’s vacation
  • Seniors looking for new friends
  • Solo travelers
  • Couples looking for romantic getaways
  • 40- and 50-somethings looking for a couple’s vacation
  • Destination weddings
  • Honeymoons

ULTRA-PREMIUM CRUISE LINES

The ultra-premium cruise lines tend to have smaller ships and offer voyages to popular ports, and unique itineraries featuring smaller, less-traveled destinations. They primarily cater to discerning passengers who are seeking a sophisticated level of service, ship amenities, and accommodations at upscale prices. Some lines may offer numerous included amenities. These lines are generally priced higher than the premium cruise lines.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Seasoned travelers
  • Adults who are destination-oriented and enjoy the finer things in life
  • Travelers looking for a boutique experience with a destination immersion.
  • Travelers who find the small touches make all the difference—from the service to the food to the ships themselves.
  • Adults seeking a “country club casual” experience with very upscale surroundings and amenities

ULTRA-LUXURY CRUISE LINES

These are high end cruises, both in price and in amenities.  They are designed for those who desire the finer things in life and have the budget for luxury.  These cruise lines specialize in service and will cater to the traveler’s every desire.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Seasoned travelers
  • Adults who are destination-oriented and enjoy the finer things in life
  • Adults looking for a small ship and boutique type of experience
  • Cruisers seeking a destination immersion
  • Travelers seeking an over-the-top experience with ultra-luxury everything
  • Cruises seeking an international atmosphere
  • Travelers seeking a large ship with high-end amenities
  • Cruisers with a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts and cuisine, and are experts in matters of taste
  • Travelers looking for exceptional service and a level of comfort and style rare in today’s world

SMALL SHIP CRUISES

Small ships fill a niche for cruisers that are looking for more in-depth exploration of the regions they visit. They can visit ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, and exotic itineraries are the standard. Most river cruise ships and almost all of the luxury lines have ships that fall into this category.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Adults looking for a sophisticated, intimate small ship experience
  • Travelers seeking an educational experience and a vacation filled with history, and culture
  • Seasoned travelers and, adults who are destination-oriented
  • Those seeking to meet experts in their field who have a vast knowledge of the cities visited
  • Those who enjoy traveling and enjoying the company of conversation with noteworthy academic experts

RIVER CRUISES

Unlike ocean cruises, rivers provide easy access to city centers. Passengers sail directly into the heart of every destination and dock in the middle of town, then walk right off the ship and move easily into whatever city or town you are visiting. You spend less time getting there and more time being there. A river cruise allows for a more intimate experience as well. Because most of these ships accommodate only 30 to 200 guests, it is easier to meet your traveling companions. You can share a drink with the couple you met on the day’s tour or dine with interesting passengers in an open-seating restaurant. Another benefit: you can also forget about waiting in long lines to embark, debark, or have a meal. These river cruises are immensely popular and keep growing. Many lines have begun adding amenities previously restricted to ocean cruise lines, such as French balconies attached to the rooms.

U.S. River Cruise Lines

Contemporary River Cruise Lines

Upscale Contemporary River Cruise Lines

Premium River Cruise Lines

Luxury River Cruise Lines

These lines are well suited for:

  • Adults looking for a sophisticated, intimate small ship experience
  • Travelers seeking an educational experience and a vacation filled with history, and culture
  • Seasoned travelers and, adults who are destination-oriented
  • Those seeking to meet experts in their field who have a vast knowledge of the cities visited
  • Those who enjoy traveling and enjoying the company of conversation with noteworthy academic experts
  • Those seeking an immersion experience of the regions they visit, in wine, food, and culture.

LUXURY HOTEL BARGES

The hotel barge became popular in the 1960s, and has now grown into a very large network of hundreds operating on the rivers and canals of France, Belgium, Germany, Scotland, and the UK. These luxury hotel barges vary greatly in size, configuration, scale and quality of accommodations, and standard and amount of catering. The largest barges take twenty-four guests, the smallest just four. All hotel barges have a high staff-to-guest ratio, but the smaller barges typically provide more personal attention and perhaps comfort. You can expect to get to know the other travelers well due to the intimate environment. These luxury hotel barges are wonderful for chartering and having your own private vacation.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Seasoned travelers
  • Destination-oriented travelers
  • Travelers who enjoy the finer things in life and are looking for a small ship or boutique type of experience.
  • Travelers seeking an immersion in small towns and villages

EXPEDITION CRUISE LINES

Expedition cruise lines typically attract adventure and unusual thrills seekers. These lines have very unique and exotic destinations such as the Galapagos Islands, Antarctica, and Greenland. Expedition cruises tend to focus on very isolated scenery or wildlife up- close and personal.  On an expedition line, you will experience undergo a multitude of new experiences: new cultures, new foods, and new smells, as all of your senses are awakened as and you commune with nature. The amenities range from simple accommodations to ultra-luxury environments.

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Travelers seeking eco- friendly expeditions
  • Those seeking remote scenery and wildlife viewing
  • Those who may be willing to forego luxurious amenities in exchange for remote locations with exotic birds and animals.
  • Travelers seeking a small ship experience with high impact adventure
  • Travelers looking for a small ship experience
  • Those looking for expedition and unique cruises off the beaten track

LINES WITH SAILING VESSELS AND YACHTS

This segment of the cruise industry is unusual, offering a different type of experience and ship. Seasoned travelers as well as budget- conscious travelers will have an interest in these lines. These typically smaller cruise lines offer immersion experiences in at various destinations. Some are yachts, sail-assisted ships, and dual-purpose cargo/passenger ships. All generally are regarded as the “”specialty lines.”

Lines that fall into this category are:

These lines are well suited for:

  • Adults looking for a sophisticated, intimate small ship experience
  • Travelers seeking an educational experience and a vacation filled with history and culture
  • Seasoned travelers and, adults who are destination-oriented
  • Highly educated travelers looking for an historically rich vacation
  • Those seeking to meet experts in their field who have a vast knowledge of the cities visited
  • Those who enjoy an educational type of vacation
  • Those who enjoy traveling and enjoying the company of conversation with noteworthy academic experts
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