Sunday, August 16, 2009

Our Favorite Cruise Line?

In our pre-retirement days we found a bargain for our three youngsters on the Rhine River with the KD Line. We also sailed the Alaska Inside Passage on Princess. Since retirement we've cruised well over a hundred bargain-type days on Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival, Cunard (the Queen Mary II) and Oceania, sometimes with family members and sometimes by ourselves. Believe it or not, that doesn't make us serious cruisers compared to some folks. Despite our being non-experts, we sometimes get asked, "What's your favorite cruise line?"

People develop their own favorites, just as they do with airlines, hotels, restaurants, pickup trucks, and a lot of other commodities. We choose our preferred airline (United) and hotel chain (Hilton) for their overall prices, their frequent-traveler program, and their availability in the places we want to travel, not solely for their quality. We apply the same to cruising.

For the two of us right now our cruise line of choice is Oceania. We've completed six cruises on them in the past three years (mainly the bargain Transatlantic cruises). Their ships are small, their cuisine is outstanding, and the atmosphere is casual without being slobbish. On Oceania we've met many great fellow cruisers, and particularly on the Transatlantic trips you get to mingle with fellow passengers and crew at the daily activities - team trivia, shuffleboard, golf, and bridge lessons. If you buy far enough in advance the prices are affordable. Oh, and once you've completed five cruises they do offer some pleasing tangible goodies.

The most recent Travel Holiday survey results place Oceania up at Number Three in the "large ship" category, just below Crystal and Regent. That's a good result for an outfit that currently has only three identical 684-passenger ships. Furthermore, if you compare the prices on Oceania with those of six-star Regent, Oceania looks like a real bargain. People who've sailed on both tell us that Oceania stacks up pretty well. Finally, lumping in lines such as Oceania on a "large ship" list with some of the others overlooks its "small ship" atmosphere.

On the other hand, when the day comes that we take grandkids on a cruise, it definitely would not be on Oceania, which has no children's program. We hear from three of our grandkids and their parents that Disney is the greatest for kids, but that's a line we haven't yet experienced. On that same survey, RCCL sneaked in at Number 10. Still, we're readying ourselves for this cruise with open minds.

Just in case the food in the main diving room is as mediocre as some claim (in Cruise Critic forums for example), we've already made a bunch of advance dinner reservations at the specialty restaurants. But heck, we even enjoy sailing B.C. Ferries and we know we'll have a great time on the Jewel of The Seas.

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