Updated April 2018
With hundreds of cruise ships and scores of cruise lines out there to choose from, there surely must be a cruise for everyone. Modern cruising seems to be growing by the day, with both big and small cruise lines constantly trying to best each other when it comes to onboard features, dinings, and of course destinations. So our question is, with so much choice out there, how do you know which one is right for you?
There are so many aspects to think about when choosing a cruise holiday. Whether you're after a British, American, Mediterannean, or even Scandinavian style onboard, whether you need family friendly features like those onboard Disney Cruise Line ships, or more adult, 6-star luxury like Silversea. With so many first time cruisers out there, we thought it would be helpful to take a look at what all this means, and just what choices there are.
Starting with British-style cruises and cruise lines. Cunard are the first to come to mind, the classic, luxury cruise line with it's infamous ships. Next you are looking at P&O Cruises, a cruise line renowned for great service and modern ships. Fred Olsen Cruises offer affordable holidays on their smaller ships, and Marella Cruises are a great value line with an informal atmosphere and great itineraries.
American-style cruising tends to be a more vibrant affair with huge emphasis on entertainment. Cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas are at the 6* luxury end of the market, and Celebrity Cruises offer great value cruises, and the likes of Royal Caribbean are often more affordable yet. With lines like Royal Caribbean you'll find just about everything onboard, from ice-rinks, water-slides, and climbing walls to Broadway-style productions and an upbeat atmosphere.
Mediterranean-style cruising is also a growing aspect of the industry. Silversea cruises offer a glamorous and luxurious experience, with suite based all-inclusive cruises, whereas MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises offer a more mainstream experience. These are more continental feeling, with European-style food, service and entertainment onboard, and a real mixture of cultures for a mostly European clientele.
Scandinavian-style cruising can often be forgotten, but the hospitality and onboard atmosphere offered by lines such as Hurtigruten and Viking Cruises are simply impeccable. As well as stylish decor, and a simplicity that is refreshing and welcoming, the crew onboard are wonderfully friendly and helpful, giving you even more of a memorable cruise holiday.
Armed with all this information, we decided to put the question to the cruise team to find out their favourite ship, and got with mixed results. Many of the team at Iglucruise have either worked onboard or are serial cruisers, here's what they had to say.
What's my favourite ship? Well, I've seen them big and I've seen them small, I've seen them long and I've seen them tall, I've had the best service you can have possibly imagined, And I've seen stage shows that belong in the West End, I've dined in restaurants that deserve a star from Michelin, And I've sipped a sunset cocktail in an exotic location, I've seen discos that rock through the night, And I've seen piano bars that get the romance just right, But in the end it comes to down this, It all depends on the person you're with.
If I have to choose just one ship, then let it be the MSC Orchestra. Large enough to keep you occupied and that Italian service is just right. Not overbearing and not too formal. I especially like the bar at the stern for a sunset cocktail. - A.J
Independence of the Seas! I loved the size of this ship, it hardly felt like you were at sea. I loved the shopping promenade running through the middle, with bars and restaurants on either side of it. I had a blast doing Karaoke in the booths they have. You can change the booth to make it private or so people can see in. It was a lot of fun. My favourite ship I have been on. Had something for everyone. - Keren
I'm fairly new to cruising but I had a great experience on the Braemar which is a Fred Olsen ship. We were greeted with champagne and impeccably pleasant staff so the mood was good from the start. I was surprised to find how spacious the cabins are, not to mention light and airy, a good sleep to be had on this ship for sure. Undoubtedly the highlight was the nosh though, a lovely buffet including fresh fish, tasty salads and a healthy dosage of the plonk. Happy cruisers... off for a lie in the sun! - Christian
My favourite ship is the Independence of the Seas, they have the best leisure and sporting facilities at sea, not to mention the opulent stage productions and ice shows! - Walter
My favourite ship is the Eclipse which is a Celebrity ship... because it has a martini bar! - Tracy
My favourite ship would have to be the Celebrity Eclipse. It's a classy, luxurious ship with an excellent crew. It has all of the necessities with a bar located in every corner of the ship and excellent dining options to fill the time between. The ship is big enough to get lost, but it still somehow feels quaint. All in all a great cruise ship. - August
My favourite ship is Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas. There is plenty on the ship to keep you entertained, good food and very friendly staff. - Cynthia
I love the Celebrity Eclipse which completely changed my outlook on cruising. It is a spectacular ship, offering the best food, service & the most deliciously potent cocktails I have ever come across! - James
Oasis of the Seas is huge, absolutely beautiful, and the innovative neighbourhood concept provides a marvellous atmosphere for cruisers. With so much onboard variety, travellers will need a week's cruise (or more) to thoroughly experience the Oasis of the Seas. - Jay
Best ship so far... I would have to say the Celebrity Eclipse. I love this ship for all its facilities such as the spa and wide range of bars! The onboard entertainment is fantastic and you cannot beat the service and friendliness of the staff. - Rebecca
Cunard's Queen Mary 2. Service was great and my balcony room was exceptional and very spacious. I enjoyed every day on this beautiful ship. I would recommend dinning in the Todd English specialty restaurant which serves the best steaks I have ever had, and you can even dine Al fresco. This cruise is an experience you must try, worth every penny. - Dennis (Iglu's original cruiser)
The Marco Polo from Cruise and Maritime: A ship with character, unpretentious clientele, often sailing stunning itineraries. - Maarten
The ship I most like to sell is P&O's Oceana. It may not have as many facilities compared to the newer, more modern ships but it's certainly made up for by the atmosphere onboard. It's the most popular ship for first timers cruising with P&O, and with good reason. - Matt
I would have to say Celebrity Eclipse is my favourite ship. The facilities are 5* standard. The decor, the rooms and the food are exceptionally impressive, not to mention the bars and clubs where you can dance the night away in style. Highly recommended. - Sharlene
MSC Orchestra, because the staff really care about their passengers in a way I have not experienced in over 20 years of working in the travel industry. Maybe the reason is that the staff are on nine month contracts rather than six which means they genuinely do care about their passengers otherwise they wouldn't last the contracts - but whatever the reason it does lead to a great atmosphere on board. - David
The most beautiful ship i've seen must be the Equinox. I loved the attention to detail, handmade chairs, Swarovski glass everywhere, Ice bar which melts every day, and the food was second to none. Having said this, my absolute favourite ship would be the Braemar, only because everything was just easier and more relaxed. Cabins are twice as big, staff were the friendliest and always happy to see you. It felt like being at Grandma's for the holidays and you could see yourself coming back again and again. - Linda
Celebrity Eclipse. How something that weighs 122,000 tonnes can stay afloat baffles me. There is also plenty of variation in the casino. - Calaway
I would have said the Ventura, fantastic food and very grand ship, but... there is something about the MSC Magifica that wins for me. A beautiful, plush ship with a real quality finish. - Kwesi
Celebrity Eclipse. Elegant, stylish, contemporary luxury with no expense spared. Standing out from the rest of the cruise lines with special touches such as the first real grass lawn on the top deck with 360 degree views of the ocean, an outdoor glass-blowing studio and the martini ice bar with the frosted bar and the best martinis around. And for me, possibly most importantly, outstanding dining, culinary treats and top class service to impress even the most demanding guest. - Katherine
Independence of the Seas. The flowrider really is a giggle. - Dave Mills
As you can see there is a fairly varied response, the Independence of the Seas and Celebrity Eclipse may be the most popular ships, but there are fans of P&O, Cunard, MSC and even the smaller cruise lines like Fred. Olsen.
Cruising is about finding the right ship for you. While some prefer the elegance of lines like Regent Seven Seas and Princess Cruises, and mid-sized ships, some people love the size and incredible entertainment on Royal Caribbean's ships, and others, well... might just be after a top notch cocktail!
If you're looking for your first cruise, or for something different, the best bet is to speak to the experts and let them help you find the right ship for you.
By Stephen Adam