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Friday, January 29, 2016

Some of the Best in Cruising

On the surface, it may seem that one mass market cruise ship is pretty much like another. But there are differences. One cruise line puts its money on entertainment. Another builds better itineraries. Yet another forks out more on food.

Of course, any “best of” is going to be subjective and you might not agree. But, here for your consideration, are some musings on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess, and who does what best:
Pre-cruise prep: Princess. Princess wins in sharing info and spurring excitement before the trip. The other lines send only a few emails, which are designed solely to get you to lay out more for drink packages, restaurants, excursions and the spa. Princess does this too, but also provides messages from senior officers, videos of the ship, and other useful info like the specific entertainment you can expect on your trip. See “Pre-Cruise Prep: Who Does it Better?”

Keeping you entertained: Royal Caribbean. Hands down, the winner is Royal Caribbean on its Oasis class ships. Full-run musicals Cats on Oasis of the Seas and Chicago on Allure of the Seas were outstanding, Broadway-quality shows. Get to the theater early for seats that would cost nearly $300 in New York City.
Splish Splash is just one of the aqua shows on board the Oasis. Just don't sit in the front row.
Then there are the aqua shows with high diving; ice skating shows with jumps, leaps and colorful costumes; not to mention superior production shows, comedians, and DreamWorks parades with character photo ops for the kiddies.

Working off that weight: Royal Caribbean. The Oasis class ships win again with the longest jogging track at sea—2.4 laps around equals a mile. There’s a lane for joggers and another for walkers, and the signs overhead will make you smile.

Dining in French Caribbean style on St. Barts.
Seeing the Caribbean: Celebrity. The best itineraries belong to Celebrity. A recent trip on the Constellation took us to the sleepy, not-often-visited St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and ultra-chic French St. Barts.

Loyalty and its rewards: Royal Caribbean. All the lines make efforts to thank cruisers for their repeat business, but some programs are better than others. Once you make it to Royal Caribbean’s Diamond level (80 points), you get the benefit of an elongated happy hour in the Diamond Club lounge* with all the free drinks you could want (from a select menu), as well as three more loaded onto your sea card to use just about anywhere on the ship during that time. A generous program that’s bound to build loyalty.

Basking in the Buffet: Princess. The theme dinners on Princess are great, with specialty foods periodically making an appearance. German night saw all manner of sausages, Black Forest ham, pretzel-style rolls, and linzer and sacher tortes, served alongside an oversized lighted beer stein ice sculpture.

On Italian night, the gondolier-costumed waiters served beverages, while we chowed down on a pasta array, prosciutto, hunks of parmesan and fennel au gratin.

And the breads were a real standout—they varied from sunflower-seed covered to cheese-studded to onion-infused.

What’s more, full dinner is available in the Horizon Court until 11 p.m.; that’s a full two hours beyond Royal Caribbean’s Windjammer and Celebrity’s Oceanview.
Cool comfort from Celebrity after a day at port.
A few more at best. Then there’s Celebrity’s welcome glass of champagne on embarkation day and cold towels after a hot day at port…Princess’ decadent chocolate truffle pops at the Captain’s Welcome…its best-at-sea pizza, and salmon every-which-way buffet in Alaska…Royal Caribbean’s pull-out-all-the-stops “tutti” salad bar in the main dining room on sea days… 

Do you have a “best of” to share? Drop us a line!

* Not all Royal Caribbean ships have a Diamond Club lounge; check with the cruise line to see if there’s one on your ship.