Which Cruise Line Category Should I Choose? Luxury or Mainstream?

Which cruise line category should you choose? Do you go luxury or mainstream? To be sure, choosing the right cruise line category can make the cruising experience even more perfect.  But, how do you pick the ideal cruise line for you and your family?  Here are some tips that might help you.

Everyone is different and has different ideas of fun and needs for their cruises. For example, a cruise line that is perfect for an older couple might be a terrible choice for a family with young kids. For this reason, making an informed decision when picking a cruise line is crucial.  It’ll be helpful if you book with a travel agent specialized in cruise lines. These travel agents know the right questions to ask and based on the answers, they can suggest the best fit. The budget will also play a big part in your final decision.

Cruise lines are classified according to the level of service and amenities available onboard. The itineraries of the cruise company, including the specific amenities that each ship offers, are all factors to consider when choosing a cruise line. The following are the different categories you’ll find:

Cruise Line Category: Mainstream

  1. These are more value-based lines and include Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Marella Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines /NCL, Carnival, and Costa.
  2. If you want to make a quick comparison with hotels, these are comparable with a 3-star hotel.
  3. Target families with teenagers and kids.
  4. They have a more resort-style approach with a lot of amenities on board like rock climbing walls, water slides, surfing areas, etc.
  5. Offer a wide variety of specialty and theme restaurants (usually with a cover charge). The Main restaurant offers good food but more casual settings.
  6. The dress code is not very strict, or they do not have it at all.
  7. There are a lot of activities for kids and teens on board.
  8. These cruise lines focus on the onboard experience rather than the destinations, and they tend to spend most of the time in the same areas (Caribbean, Alaska, and Med)
  9. They can run some very affordable specials and last minute deals.

These ships are perfect for the young family with kids or traveler that wants to dance all night, play sports and lots of physical activities. 

Carnival Cruise line

Cruise Line Category: Premium

  1. The key cruise lines competing in this category include Holland America, Cunard, Celebrity, P&O, Disney Cruises, and our personal favorite, Princess Cruises.
  2. If you want to make a quick comparison with hotels, these are like a 4-star hotel.
  3. They target more to a more sophisticated clientele, often empty nesters, professionals.
  4. They do not have any rock climbing walls or waterslides. Instead, they have lectures, special guests, etc.
  5. Offer specialty dining restaurants but not a wide variety. Instead, they focus on the dining experience. The quality of food is usually excellent, the dining setting more upscale and food presentation like a gourmet restaurant.
  6. A kids and teens center is available onboard.
  7. Have a dress code for dinner and formal nights.
  8. Focus primarily on destinations and offer a wide variety of itineraries.
  9. Often these cruise lines offers specialized cruises for groups for examples: bird watching cruises, bridge player cruises, etc.

These cruise lines are perfect for a more mature clientele that focuses on the destinations and the ports of call. Passengers on these cruise lines enjoy a more sophisticated atmosphere, in addition to better food and service. They are also perfect for multigenerational families with young kids and grandparents traveling together. 

Celebrity Cruise Ship Premium Category


  1. These cruise lines include Oceania, Windstar, and Azamara.
  2. They also operate with smaller ships, but usually have a more comprehensive range of accommodation categories and are less all-inclusive and exclusive.
  3. If you want to make a quick comparison with hotels, these are like a 5-star hotel.
  4. Target a more upscale clientele, often a milestone birthday or retirement.
  5. Visit ports of call that the previous lines are not able to get too because of ship size.
  6. Have a more personalized touch on board.
  7. Food is usually very refined and gourmet.

The luxury cruise line category is perfect for travelers that enjoy traveling in style and want to explore areas a bit off the beaten path. Also, they make excellent choices for a retirement celebration, a milestone anniversary, or a big celebration.

Azamara Luxury Cruise Ship

The Ultra-Luxury Cruise Lines

  1. These cruise lines in this category are Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Viking, Hapag-Lloyd, Ponant, and Crystal Cruises.
  2. They tend to run smaller all-suite ships, have more all-inclusive fares, and high level of personal service.
  3. If you want to make a quick comparison with hotels, these are the luxury boutique hotels.
  4. Rooms are more substantial, with lots of amenities. Most of the time they do not offer inside cabins
  5. They target a clientele that travels in first class.
  6. These lines usually offer a more all-inclusive service where alcoholic drinks are almost always included.
  7. Smaller, more intimate restaurants
  8. All about customer service, butler experience, and personalized touch.
  9. Visit exotic destinations and unusual destinations (Northwest passage, Antarctica, etc.)
  10. They can be sailboats with a maximum capacity of 400 passengers and very peculiars itineraries

These cruise lines are perfect for people that enjoy the best things in life. They are also ideal for those who want to reach areas of the world where tourism is not mainstream yet. 

Seabourn Ultra Luxury category

Final Thoughts

Whichever category you pick, it’s essential that you know what to expect.  For example, each cruise line offers its own specific features, service levels, food choices, and packages.  Some cater to children, while others do not.  Others offer everything a-la-carte while others offer an all-inclusive vacation.  Having this information on hand before you book your next cruise will make a world of difference. Of course, the itinerary might be a big factor influencing your decision. Some cruise lines are specialized in the Caribbean and sunny warm destinations, while others are more specialized in cultural and cities destination. Indeed, that should be a big part of the deciding factor on which cruise line you are going to pick.

Happy Cruising from Andrea and Rick

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