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Caribbean Cruise Lines

The Caribbean Travel World "Best Five" Ranking
 
Cruise Line Service Food Children's Program
Holland America Line Holland America Line Celebrity Cruises Disney Cruises
Royal Caribbean International Celebrity Cruises Holland America Line Carnival Cruise Line
Princess Cruises Princess Cruises Princess Cruises Royal Caribbean International
Celebrity Cruises Norwegian Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International Princess Cruises
Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Cruise Line Norwegian Cruise Line
 
 
The following cruise lines offer cruises in the Caribbean. Descriptions do not claim to be accurate.
 
Carnival
Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest and most popular cruise line in the world. The ships have some of the best nightlife at sea, with entertainment for every taste and age group. 
Positive: Large standard cabins, exciting entertainment, new fleet with unusual, innovation interiors, value, clean, easy to use literature.
Negative: The food quality is average, ships have megaliner size, you're never alone, limited port info, drab spas, a lack of outdoor promenade deck and  lines for facilities and services. A Carnival cruise isn't for everybody. The ships have more glitter than glamour. 
Passengers: It's a peoples cruise line with a broad mix. Most passengers are ages 21-45 with large groups of singles, couples, and families; average age is 43; most have medium income. Best suited for people who like glitz and glitter and nonstop fun. Not suited for sophistcated travels who prefer luxury, gourmet cuisine, and individual travel; anyone seeking quiet or cerebral travel experience. 
Dining: The food quality is average, but the quantity and presentation make it seem better than it is. 
Activities: Disco music, parties, classes, games, bar and lounge entertainers, and bands. Carnival's performers are among the most diverse group at sea. There are musicians, magicians, dances, comedians, jugglers, and others. 
Service: Dining staffs generally get good marks, but cabin attendants get mixed reviews. 
Tipping: Carnival recommends $3.50 per person, per day to the waiter; $2 per person per day to the assistant waiter; and $3.50 per person, per day to the cabin steward. A 15 percent gratuity is added to bar bills.
Dress: All types of dress from the very casual to those that enjoy dressing up in evening attire.

 

Celebrity
Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest cruise line in the world carrying one-fifth of all cruise passengers. Celebrity has enlisted the talents of world-renowned ship architects and designers to create a truly extraordinary fleet. Every ship reflects Celebrity's meticulous attention to detail, yet each vessel has its own distinctive style, with its own uniquely inviting public rooms and social spaces. From the line's celebrated cuisine to their luxurious spas, Celebrity offers a distinct cruise experience. This is a great main stream cruising value for those that are looking to have a "FunShip" vacation with a party atmosphere. 
Positive: Spectacular spas, above-average food, the ships are spacious, understated elegance with grand surroundings, sophistication and innovation, European trained staff, fine dining and shops and premium cruise experience.
Negative: There is a lack of outside, wraparound promenade deck, excessive promotion of on-board shopping, unimaginative shore excursions, boarding procedures. 
Passengers: Lots of young couples and families choose this ship, partly because of the complimentary Camp Carnival program and the shorter cruises. However, it also draws a complement of singles. Best suited for middle to upper-middle income travelers in their 40s and up, whether on their first or tenth cruise, who appreciate good service and cuisine and want the recreational and entertainment variety of a large ship at an easy pace. 
Dining: The cuisine is highly praised. A typical lunch menu offers 4 appetizers, 2 soups, 2 salads, 2 cold the 3 hot entrees and 4 dessets. 
Activities: Pool and card games, shuffleboard, snorkeling instruction, horse racing, sheet shooting, and golf putting. Passengers are not pressured to participate. 
Service: Service is friendly and first class. Waiters, stewards, and bartenders are enthusiastic, take pride in their work, and try to please. 
Tipping: Celebrity guidelines suggest gratuities of $3.50 for stateroom attendants, $3.50 for waiters, and $2.00 for assistant waiters. The line also recommends tips of 75 cents for the assistant maitre'd and 50 cents for the chief housekeeper. All suggested tips are per person, per day.
Dress: Casual but not sloppy during the day; informal in evening with two nights formal or semiformal. 

 

Costa
Costa Cruises enjoys the reputation of being Europe's number one cruise line. The experience will be European or international rather than catering to American tastes. Costa's fleet sails as well in the Eastern and Western Caribbean. The ships run the gamut from the intimate to the super-luxurious with Italian style cruising and European atmosphere. 
Positive: Cabins, Italian style and service, plenty activities, new fleet with a distinctive style, friendly crew, itineraries, dining room cuisine. 
Negative: Noise level in dining rooms, service, excessive announcements, mediocre buffets, language problems, lack of consistency. 
Passengers: The average age is 45 with an annual household income of $50,000+ who want to try a more European ambience but with the typical facilities of a large ship. 
Dining: Usually good to excellent, the pastas are generally outstanding, along with vegetarian eggplant dishes, flambe shrimp, breadsticks, salads, cheeses, fresh fruits, and pasta-and-bean soups. 
Activities: Entertainment is fairly typical, from cabaret shows to dancing to sing-alongs in the piano bar, bingo, skeet shooting and lectures. An on board snorkeling school gives lessons. The ships' spas are more elaborate than most. 
Service: The crew tends to its passengers with traditional European deference. 
Tipping: Plan on $2.50 per person, per night to your waiter and busboy team, $1.50 per person, per night to stateroom steward or stewardess and fifty cents to the Maitre d' and headwaiter.
Dress: Casual; informal evenings, two nights formal/semiformal. 

 

Crystal
This cruise line is for those who are looking for ultra-luxury and recently built, larger ships. Classic (but never stuffy or pretentious), Crystal Cruises delivers each guest an uncompromising quality cruise experience that mirrors the gracious ocean liner travel of years past. Sophisticated cuisine, excellent service and imaginative itineraries. Exotic land programs. 
Positive: Impeccable service, beautifully designed ships, large number of cabins with verandas, alternative restaurants, globe-roaming itineraries. 
Negative: Two sittings in main dining room, some cabins with restricted views, limited closet space, some small bathrooms, inadequate seating capacity in alternative restaurants. 
Passengers: Professional, retired or semiretired, experienced travelers, likely to be owners, entrepreneurs, and top-level executives rather than their staffs, 45-70 in age. Typical passenger is an affluent, active, fashion-conscious, friendly 55-60 year-old couple or mature single. 
Dining: Crystal offers very good dining for a cruise ship. Dinner is served in two seatings, unusual for a luxury line, and tend to feature regionally inspired dishes with a contemporary twist. Great attention to detail is paid to every nuance of the dining experience and the place settings are perhaps the nicest of any line. 
Activities: To the typical litany of ocean-liner diversions, Crystal adds high-tech sports facilities; high-powered intellectual and cultural debates and destination-oriented lectures by scholars, political figures, and diplomats; a busy fitness center and spa; and the first Caesar's-Palace-at-Sea casinos. There are cabarets, Broadway-quality shows, a piano bar, dancing, a harpist, a trio, a sing-along piano bar, and the casino. Local entertainers are sometimes brought on board. 
Service: Crystal's staff members are well trained, highly motivated, and thoroughly professional.
Tipping: $10.50 per person, per day (for waiters, assistant waiters and stewardesses) is recommended with a suggested $6 per person gratuity in each of the two alternative restaurants (a lot of passengers we talked to actually tipped higher) and an extra $5 per person per day for the butler. Tips can be charged to your account or paid in advance.
Dress: You have to enjoy dressing up go on theses cruises. Resort wear and nice casual wear by day.

 

Disney
These long, proud-looking ships carry 1,750 passengers at the rate of two per cabin, but, since Disney is a family company and its ships were built expressly to carry three, four, and five people in virtually every cabin, the ship could theoretically carry a whopping 3,325 passengers. All cruises feature a day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island paradise in The Bahamas. 
Positive: Disney name recognition, new, innovative ships, imaginative entertainment, children's facilities, cabins. 
Negative: To be determined. 
Passengers: Similar to the folks who visit Disney parks, which is to say, a cross-section of the United States from 3 to 93. Especially families with children or grandchildren of all ages. Since Walt Disney World is the honeymoon capital of the US, there are plenty honeymooners on board.
Dining: Each night passengers will dine in a different restaurant, each with a different theme and different menu, taking along their table companions and wait staff with them. Other dining options include an indoor/outdoor cafe and a buffet dinner for children; a pool bar and grill; a patisserie; an ice cream and frozen yogurt bar; 24 hour room service; and a cuisine program for health-conscious passengers. 
Activities: Disney activities are geared to three type of cruisers: children, families, and adults. Top-quality Disney-produced shows with Broadway-calibre entertainers, cabaret, and an adult-oriented lecture and enrichment program. No casinos will be on board either ship. 
Service: Expect top notch service that is found in Disney's Hotels. 
Tipping: $2.50 - $3.50per person, per day (for Stateroom Host, Dining Room Server, Dining Room Asst. Server, Dining Room Head Server, Dining Manager and Room Service).
Dress: Lightly and primarily casual, inform resort wear.
 
Carnival
Holland America leads the cruise industry premium niche. Several times voted as "best overall cruise value". Service, ambience, cuisine, personal attention - Holland America offers a five-star resort and scenic cruising areas. Consistent quality and attention to detail in mid-size ships. Extensive shore tours. A surprising amount of luxury and pampering go on aboard these ships.
Positive: Tradition and experience, outstanding crew and service, easy-to-like ships, private verandas, great gyms, consistent quality and style, worldwide itineraries, impeccable condition of ships, safety. 
Negative: Show lounge entertainment, sleepy nightlife, shore excursion cancellation policy, homogenous passenger profile. 
Passengers: Middle-aged and older couples. Not suited for young swinging singles, nonconformists, people who refuse to dress up. 
Dining: Genteel tradition is important to Holland America. HAL consistently produces some of the tastiest and most appealing buffets at sea. Dinner menus have grown increasingly sophisticated. 
Activities: Holland America offers the full complement of organized group activities. Nevertheless, relaxing in a deck chair and letting the world take care of itself while the ships's staff takes care of you is the prime attraction of a Holland America cruise. Apart from a disco, the entertainment is slanted toward an older audience. 
Service: Staff members perform their duties with great pride and professionalism. The crew seems to take a genuine, personal interest in passengers, learning not only their names but habits and personal preferences. 
Tipping: Holland America has a "tipping not required" policy and offers no guidelines; tipping, however, is generally expected.
Dress: Dress code follows a traditional pattern. During the daytime, comfortable, casual clothing is adequate. 

 

Carnival
Norwegian Cruise Line ended shipboard regimentation when they introduced a new style of cruising. 'Freestyle Cruising' geared for a more active, casual lifestyle. NCL's ships offer traditional cruising, with themed sailing, international themed dinners several times a sailing, live calypso music on deck, and something going on around the ship every minute. 
Positive: Entertainment, sports and fitness facilities and activities, flexible dining, down-to-earth crowd, theme cruises, nonsmoking cabins, innovative ships, spacious standard cabins, guaranteed singles rate. 
Negative: Overselling luxury of product, small cabins, uneven dining room service, loud deck music, poor bathrooms on new ships. 
Passengers:  A lot of sports-oriented young couples; yuppies; baby boomers; music fans; first-time cruisers; honeymooners; couples; families, singles. 
Dining: The food is plentiful, but average; standards are highest on the Norway. Cuisine is a combination of American and Continental.
Activities: Nonstop activities, music, very professional entertainment and sport-themed programs for watching or doing; fitness programs; adventure-oriented excursions; snorkeling or scuba-diving tours; all day beach party on NCL's own Bahamian island; Las Vegas-style variety shows; dance orchestras; piano bars; discos. 
Service: The general level of service on NCL ships is very good, but the Norway passengers usually get treated a little better. 
Tipping: The following are the Norwegian's tipping guidelines: $3.50 per day for the room steward, $3.50 per day for the waiter, $2.00 per day for the bus boy and $1.50 per day for maitre'd. That's a total of $10.50 per person, per day.
Dress: Cocktail dress for the ladies and a jacket and tie for the men for formal nights, anything but shorts for informal nights. For daytimes, exercise clothing, bathing suits, shorts, T-shirts and sandals, and light cotton clothes and walking shoes. 

 

Carnival
From classical treasures to exotic grandeur, Royal Olympic offers intimate mid-sized ships accommodating a small discerning group of passengers on cruises designed for adventure, enlightenment, entertainment, and enjoyment. Repeaters say its like coming "home".
Positive: Friendliness and personal warmth of the crew, refined, relaxed ambience, Greek hospitality, innovative itineraries, lecture program, host program, cultural and scientific enrichment programs, well-organized and diversified shore excursions. 
Negative: Aging fleet, limited facilities on smaller ships, lack of age diversity among passengers, paltry fitness facilities.
Passengers: The passenger list consists primarily of retired couples (generally 60 and over) with some single passengers and a handful of families; upscale, adventurous travelers who seek a different kind of travel experience in a refined, conservative ambience and expect the high level of service and amenities found in fine hotels. 
Dining: The food aboard is Greek and continental, served in generous portions. 
Activities: Lectures, to prepare passengers for the trips ashore to ancient sites, are key elements of the cruise; more elaborate after-dinner shows; cabaret acts such as a singer, comedian, or magician. late-night discos and bands for dancing; Greek Night is an exuberant affair on every vessel. 
Service: Gracious, top-notch professional service with a warm, personal touch, exemplifying the tradition of Greek hospitality. 
Tipping: The suggested gratuity covering all services is US $8 - $9 per passenger per day, payable at the end of the cruise. Passengers are requested not to tip individually during the cruise except for spa/beauty salon which is not included in tipping pool. 
Dress: Casual by day, dressed up by evening. 
 
Carnival
Princess Cruises appeals to a broad range of lifestyles. The ships are spacious with many amenities. Good cruises for almost everyone except fussy foodies and families with infants. Shore excursion programs are extensive. Diverse onboard programs, $3 million art collection, teak promenade deck, suites and mini-suites with butler service on some ships.
Positive: Balconies; lots of dining choices; extensive shore excursions; two Caribbean "private" islands; "The Love Boat" name recognition; spacious cabins. 
Negative: No free ice cream. Decor lacks pizzazz. Dissimilar ships, uneven cuisine, outdated productions show on some ships, poor cabin and dining room service on some ships. 
Passengers: Romantic couples of all ages who saw "The Love Boat" on TV; some families with children; people with glints of gold from head to toe. Princess also attracts more families during holidays and school vacation periods. Best suited for anyone who wants a very traditional cruise experience with a chance to dance and dress up.
Dining: Continental cuisine with an emphasis on Italian dishes. The cuisine could be the Achilles heel of this otherwise excellent cruise line. 
Activities: All the expected ocean-liner activities are offered; fitness facilities include an exercise manager; an extensive water-sports program includes scuba-diving classed held in the pools; musical revues, variety shows, cabarets, a piano bar, a dance orchestra and combo, and a disco. Local musicians sometimes come aboard and perform. 
Service: Generally, the service is excellent and unobtrusive, though passengers occasionally complain of stuffiness among British crew members. 
Tipping: $3 per person, per day for room steward and waiter; $1.75 per person, per day for the assistant waiter. A gratuity for the head waiter and maitre d' is left to the guests' discretion. 
Dress: Princess passengers usually have 2 formal nights, 2 or 3 semi-formal and 2 or 3 casual nights during the week. Daytime clothing can be quite casual, but cover ups over bathing suits are expected.

 

Carnival
The privately held cruise line offers affordable cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico from Tampa (Port Manatee). Definitely not a luxury cruise. The 900-passenger Regal Empress was built in Scotland in 1953 and has retained its wood paneling and other classic features of the grand days of transatlantic crossings despite subsequent rebuilding and refurbishing. The vessel features an enclosed promenade deck, Las Vegas style show lounge and casino, discotheque and a unique wood-paneled library. 
Positive: Modest prices; "old ocean liner" look, warm and friendly crew; lavish multi-course meals; much entertainment and nightlife; many shipboard activities.
Negative: Feels crowded; tired in places. 
Passengers: A lot of young first-timer cruisers, singles and couples and families, party-hearty types who arrive ready for a good time. 
Dining: The food is delivered in generous portions but not particularly well prepared, especially from the buffet, where meats are dry and tough from being too long on the steam table.
Activities: Entertainment  lots of bingo and game shows with the cruise staff, dancing to the ship's orchestra, late-night disco with a DJ and a few variety artists of varying capabilities. 
Service: Service is perfunctory at best. 
Dress: The line specifies no tops or shorts in the dining room, but first-time cruisers often forget to read the program and are rarely corrected by the friendly crew. 

 

Carnival
Style RCCL ships follow a traditional cruise pattern, with specified dress codes for evening on attractive, glamorous, but not too over-the-top-glitzy megaships. Fun, well-rounded, activity-packed cruises with a day-long program of games, activities and entertainment on board is supplemented by shore excursions that emphasize sightseeing, golf and watersports. There's so much going on you might not notice how small the cabins are. 
Positive: Smooth running operation, outstanding activities and entertainment, attractive public rooms, great solariums, service, product consistency.
Negative: Small cabins, limited storage in cabins, impersonal nature of big ships, long lines, refurbishment needed on older ships. 
Passengers: All-American couples between 40 to 60; single 20-some things on holiday sharing an inexpensive inside cabin, more often females than males. Statistically, the median age is relatively low 42, with household income from $40,000 to $75,000. Not suited for anyone who dislikes regimentation. 
Dining: Non-threatening, special-occasion food is produced by an affiliated catering company on a rotating set menu. There's a wide variety and good range of choices, and the preparation is capable if not inspired. 
Activities: Life on board is similar to that of the party ships run by Carnival, but slightly more sophisticated and conservative. Following current fitness trends, the ships also feature numerous exercise activities and well-equipped gyms. 
Service: The crew is generally enthusiastic and personable, although service can be slow...not surprising given the number of passengers that must be served on the larger ships. 
Tipping: Recommended by Royal Caribbean: $3.50 per person, per day for room steward and waiter; $2 per person, per day for the assistant waiter. A gratuity for the head waiter and maître d' is left to the guests' discretion. Passengers who order room service are expected to tip a buck or two on-the-spot.
Dress: RCCL makes it easy for passengers by spelling out dress-code guidelines in the brochure. A normal 7 day Caribbean cruise has four casual nights, two formal nights, and one or more theme nights. During the daytime, comfortable casual clothing is appropriate on deck.

 

Carnival
Seabourn Cruise Line offers a very upscale posh cruising experience with ultra luxury all-suite ships generally acclaimed as the best in the world. Not for the budget-minded. An unprecedented ratio of European-trained staff to guests assures the most attentive, professional service. The atmosphere is adult oriented and formal. The ships are in the style of a trendy international resort. There is none of the usual atmosphere of a cruise ship with announcements, pool games, and contests. 
Positive: Impeccable service, luxurious accommodations, exclusivity, maneuverable ship size, single open-seating dining, cuisine. 
Negative: Limited activity, limited water sports facilities, poor positioning of outdoor pool, room service breakfast. 
Passengers: Veteran cruisers; first-time cruisers who only want the best and can afford it. About half the passengers on any cruise are under 50, and more often old money rather than nouveau riche. Clubby and very posh, these ships are for couples who are rich and successful. 
Dining: Sophisticated contemporary cuisine prepared a la minute and served in small portions to encourage passengers to try the suggested menu rather than simply one or two dishes.The French accented cuisine is light enough and the portions small enough that you will be satiated but not stuffed at the end of the meal.
Activities: There are only few organized activities; a small casino; a library with a good selection of books and videos; a card room; water sports; enrichment lectures; speakers include renowned chefs, editors of major travel and lifestyle publications, and celebrities; 
solo artists give nightly performances; a cabaret-style show twice a week; nightly dancing and piano music round out the low-key evening entertainment. 
Service: The passenger-to-crew ratio is among the lowest of any ship. No tipping is allowed, yet the European service crew is professional, personable, and eager to accommodate virtually any personal request. 
Tipping: Included in the cost of the cruise.
Dress: While daytimes may be spent in casual, people dress up in the evenings, wich are always formal.

 

Carnival
Silversea's offer luxury travel on highly acclaimed ships. This all-inclusive, very luxurious cruise line should appeal to almost everyone who's extra-demanding about food, accommodations and service with one of the highest passenger space ratios of any ship at sea. 
Positive: Accommodations are all outside suites, and space and passenger-to-crew ratios are among the best at sea.
Negative: Limited facilities for those wanting elaborate entertainment options.
Passengers:  Predominantly middle-aged couples, many of whom have sailed aboard some of the other super-luxury lines; passenger home addresses included the United States, Britain, Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Bermuda, Switzerland and Austria. Best suited for  Anyone who likes a lot of options, 
Dining: The cuisine is contemporary, restaurant-style cooking with a nice mix of simple and sophisticated dishes and an emphasis on fresh foods. 
Activities: Morning aerobics; work out in small exercise rooms, swim in the tile-lined pool, or jog on the promenade deck; card and board games; foreign-language classes; chess and bridge competitions; a large library stocked with books videotapes and compact discs; a small casino. 
Service: Silversea's staff has been recruited from some of the finest lines in cruising, such as Crystal and Seabourn. Service is highly personalized, attentive, and friendly throughout the ship. Tipping is included in the cruise fare, and no additional gratuities are accepted. 
Tipping: Tips are included and actually discouraged by all staff.
Dress: The Silversea ships are fairly dressy with passengers fashionably attired daytimes as well as evenings. Formal wear is requested for two evenings a week. Informal dress is usually requested two or three nights out of seven. 

Sail the Caribbean at a leisurely pace. "Barefoot" is the operative word here; you'll never need dress-up clothes or even shoes, if you don't feel like wearing them. Passengers may help the crew with the sails or take a turn at the helm, and swimming, diving and snorkeling are favorite pastimes.
Positive: Modest prices that include a lot of things other lines charge extra for; the ability to learn how to handle the sails on a tall ship; casual atmosphere. 
Negative: No elevators, no jacuzzis, no fitness center, no swimming pool and no casino. 
Passengers: Singles, nearlyweds, newlyweds, retirees and families alike. People who love sailing and the sea and want to meet like-minded folks. Four or five designated "singles" cruises are among each year's big sellers, in which an entire sailing is devoted only to singles, sometimes within a certain age bracket, and always promising an equal mix of men and women. 
Dining: The food is hearty, simple and family-style. 
Activities: No activities and no entertainment.
Service: Casual but good. 
Dress: As little as possible, because the cruises are very casual with no dressing up even considered, let along required, and because there's very little storage space in the cabins. Take plenty of bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts, perhaps a long-sleeved shirt and long pants or skirt to cover up from the sun. 

 

Carnival
A Windstar cruise is the closet you can get to being on someone's private yach. The Windstar passenger sees the world from a romantic sailing ship with luxurious accommodations, a casual yet elegant atmosphere, and exquisite service and cuisine. 
Positive: Luxury, modern sailing ships; appealing lifestyle; value for money; itineraries; private yacht exclusivity; cabins; romantic escape and totally different experience; water sports; perfect for honeymooners; only 148 and 312 passengers per ship; casual and laid back fun.
Negative: Uneven cuisine level; evening activity; port-intensive itineraries with minimal time under canvas. 
Passengers: The majority is between 35-55 years old; their incomes range, and they might be first-time or experienced cruisers. Active, affluent, individualists; divers and others who enjoy water sports; experienced cruisers looking for something different; those attracted by the romance of sailing ships but want upscale cruise ship luxury. 
Dining: With Los Angeles' super-chef Joachim Splichal, creating his signature cuisine on board all the ships, you can count on delicious fare. 
Activities: The ships do not have a schedule of daily activities, as is typical of most cruise ships. Days are passed sunbathing, reading, deep-sea fishing, swimming, and watching the ship being maneuvered. Night life on board is low-key and minimal. 
Service: The captain and his European officers are affable, accessible, and always visible, inviting passengers to watch the ship in operation, visiting with passengers to ensure their comfort, and participating in activities when possible.The cabin staff and most of the restaurant personnel are Indonesian; deck stewards, bar personnel, and section captains are Filipino. And all get very high marks. 
Tipping: "No Tipping Required" policy, although most extend a small gratuity to stewards and waiters.
Dress: Elegant resort wear with jacket and tie optional. You see a lot of open-necked silk shirts and linen pants on both men and women. Daytime wear is very casual, usually a lot of shorts and swimsuits. 
Special thanks to Cruise2Com
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