When you first decide to pick out a cruise, all the options can be a little overwhelming. One of the most important decisions you’ll be making right at the start is which cruise line to sail with. To make things a lot clearer for you, we’ve laid out 10 big cruise lines, what they’re all about and their pros and cons. By the end, you’ll not only be able to impress your friends with your cruise expertise, you’ll also be able to confidently pick out a cruise line that fits perfectly with your idea of an ideal holiday.
Not to be confused with P&O Cruises UK, this is a cruise line that has gone all out to make Australasian cruise guests feel right at home. You can often find great deals on P&O sailings too, so if your budget doesn’t stretch too far this might be quite an attractive option. This isn’t at all your nana’s style of cruise line, so if you’re worried that cruising is too old and stuffy for your taste, you might want to think again.
- Experts in South Pacific cruising
- Foodcourt style dining at The Pantry
- Special event cruises
- Huge selection of short itineraries
- Fantastic prices
- Not a luxury experience
- Party-vibe style cruise line
- Doesn’t sail beyond Australasia/South Pacific
Carnival’s focus is firmly on fun, which makes it a great choice for kids and active adults alike. The cruise line’s waterparks are legendary, with many guests returning with stories of their experience on the Green Thunder, the steepest slide at sea. Grown ups can join in the fun or get away from all the noise and bustle at the adults-only Serenity Retreat area.
- Plenty of fun activities for kids and adults
- Lots of interconnecting cabins, perfect for families
- Several ships homeported in Australia at any one time
- Social WiFi plan allows you to stay in touch for just a few dollars a day
- Food court style buffet with different themed stations
- School holidays bring lots of children onboard
- Geared toward a younger crowd
- Limited specialty dining options
Royal Caribbean doesn’t do anything in half measures. Not only does its fleet include the world’s largest cruise ship, this line has also gone all out in equipping their vessels with outlandishly entertaining features that you’d never expect to find at sea, including a skydive simulator and an experience that’s as close to surfing as you’ll ever get without actual waves.
- Big-ship cruising at its finest
- One of the best cruise lines for families
- The fastest internet at sea
- Bionic Bar features robotic bartenders
- North Star capsule offers the most expansive cruise views
- Family-heavy cruise line
- Many features aimed at active people
- Sheer size of ships may put some people off
A Princess cruise is perfect for those seeking a relaxing cruise experience in the traditional mode without having to pay an arm and a leg. While families are welcome aboard Princess cruises, many of the guests tend to be middle aged or older couples along with groups of friends. Stripped of all the zany features and activities that characterise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, Princess focuses on serene experiences.
- Traditional cruising without a high price tag
- Excellent selection of World Cruises
- Caters well to couples
- Enrichment opportunities like art lessons, cooking classes, etc.
- ‘Chocolate Journeys’ takes chocolatey treats to a new level
- Aimed toward a more mature crowd
- Less child-friendly features
- Focuses more on enrichment than entertainment
Holland America is a mid-priced cruise line that will still make you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury, thanks to its storied heritage and touches of class throughout the cruise experience. Holland America Line is particularly well known for its Alaskan voyages which treat guests to up-close views of glaciers, icebergs and all kinds of majestic wildlife.
- Carefully curated fine art onboard their ships
- Emphasis on quality throughout provides a luxurious feel
- Many opportunities for solo travellers to mix and mingle
- Like Princess, offers a wide range of enrichment opportunities
- Over 140 years of tradition and history behind the cruise line
- Traditional style cruising offers less for younger guests
- Not a full-fledged luxury line
- Price point towards the top of mid-range cruises
You can instantly recognise an NCL ship thanks to their wildly colourful hull designs, but this isn’t the only thing that sets this line apart. Norwegian places a strong emphasis on freedom of experience throughout, whether that’s in dining options, accommodation choices or entertainment and excursions. They also boast some very attractive features for families.
- No tipping expected
- Freestyle dining does away with assigned seats and set meal times
- Wide range of itineraries worldwide
- Studio staterooms designed for solo travellers
- Plenty of interconnecting stateroom options
- Not great for those who prefer structured cruise holidays
- Good quality but not luxurious
- Less suited for mature guests
If you’re keen to immerse yourself in a mix of other cultures during your cruise holiday, you can’t do much better than choosing MSC. The first point of difference you’ll notice onboard an MSC cruise is the fact that English is not the predominant language spoken by either crew or passengers. The staff are multilingual, and announcements are made in 5 different languages including English.
- The only line with Cirque du Soleil shows at sea
- Uniquely multicultural experience
- Mediterranean cruise specialists
- Kids under 13 travel free, paying only port charges
- Seaside class vessels offer unique oceanside resort style cruising
- English is not the primary onboard language
- Offers few itineraries outside of Europe and the Caribbean
- Lengthy check-in/disembarking processes
Celebrity prides itself on providing guests with a contemporary luxury cruising experience. There’s no stuffiness and formality here, just excellent service, food and accommodations. This is a cruise line that strives to stay on the cutting edge of travel, bringing in world-class designers and Michelin starred chefs to craft an experience that consistently impresses.
- Does modern luxury better than any other line
- Solstice class ships feature real grass lawns
- Less expensive than premium all-inclusive lines
- Performs legal same-sex marriages in international waters
- Huge variety in dining options (29 venues onboard the Celebrity Edge)
- Not all-inclusive
- Relatively high price point
- Lacks the traditions and formality some guests prefer
For those who are seeking traditional cruising executed impeccably, Cunard is the perfect choice. This British cruise line has a long history of offering top notch holidays to numerous notables including several members of the royal family. No matter who you are, a voyage aboard a Cunard vessel will have you feeling like royalty in no time.
- High standard of service
- Traditional high tea available
- Spacious ships
- 24/7 complimentary room service
- Excellent World Cruise opportunities
- Inflexible WiFi plans
- Outside of children’s areas, not a lot for kids to do
- World cruise activities (bingo, ballroom dancing etc) geared to a single age range.
When only the best of the best will do, choose Azamara Club Cruises. There’s no denying that this cruise line is pricey, but the amount of amenities that are included (selected spirits, international beers, a changing selection of wines, gratuities, some shore excursions) takes a bit of the sting out of the fare. Expect to voyage in the finest of luxury and you won’t be disappointed.
- One of the world’s most luxurious cruise lines
- Smaller ships with very high staff to passenger ratio
- AzAmazing Evenings: complimentary cultural shore excursions
- Main dining room adjusts menu to reflect local delicacies
- Suite guests receive butler service and free specialty restaurant dining
- High price point
- No youth programs
- Only two ships
Found a couple cruise lines that appeal? Click on their headline to see where they could take you on your next cruise holiday.