May 24, 2024

Cruise Line Classifications

Ships that offer the ultimate in comfort, cuisine and attentive service are the luxury brands and they are also the most expensive ships to cruise on. These ships are small to mid-sized, finely appointed and carry relatively few passengers in spacious accommodations (usually suites). The onboard facilities and entertainment cater mostly to adults, dining is open seating and the dress code tends to be casually elegant. All-inclusive fares are another feature of most luxury brands.

Next in rank are the upper-premium brands (also called deluxe and upmarket). These lines usually operate spacious mid-sized ships with a country-club atmosphere and port-intensive itineraries. They appeal to seasoned cruisers who are more interested in the ship’s destinations than onboard diversions.

Ships of the premium brands range in size from mid-sized to large and offer above-average food, service and amenities, including a high number of outside cabins with balconies. These lines appeal to all age groups, with extensive facilities for children and a broad range of activities and entertainment. Premium brands have a fairly high ratio of public space aboard the ship for each passenger and dining options usually include both traditional and open sittings in the main dining room where formal nights remain a popular event with passengers.

Ships of the contemporary brand lines are usually large but have less public space per passenger, and provide average food and service. Some represent excellent value, with staterooms, meals and entertainment comparable to the premium lines. These megaships appeal to families and young couples because of their extensive recreational facilities, range of activities for children and upbeat atmosphere. The overall ambience is casual, but formal nights in the main dining room remain a popular feature on many of these ships.

Please note: Several of the new premium and contemporary ships now offer luxury enclaves for passengers who enjoy accessing large-ship amenities along with the option of retreating to their suites located in a quieter and more private area of the ship.

Budget brands usually operate medium-sized, older ships with fewer facilities than the new megaships. When upgrading their fleet, premium and contemporary lines will sell their aging vessels to a budget cruise line.

The following profiles of a selection of cruise lines are designed to quickly familiarize you with the various brands. We hope that after reading this, you will be able to narrow your choice to two or three lines and use this as a starting point when you visit a travel agent or the cruise line’s website. An agent can give you important detail about each ship, itineraries and cabin choices and, although it pays to shop around to determine what pricing is being offered, experienced cruise agents are usually aware of the best deals available – both early bird specials and last minute promotions.

Recommended Reading:

Berlitz Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships by Douglas Ward
The Unofficial Guide to Cruises by Kay Showker
The Complete Cruise Handbook by Anne Vipond