I use three main things to choose what cruise line to go on.
- Itinerary and dates that itinerary
- Cruiseline preference
- Price (including perks and promotions)
Itinerary and dates: This is pretty self explanatory. One of the biggest hurdles is figuring out where you want to go and when. Once you have an idea of where you want to go and when the options dwindle making it a lot easier to choose an actual cruise. For example, there’s a lot less Caribbean cruises in the Fall during hurricane season. We’re going in October and I had limited options between Royal Caribbean and Carnival. For European cruises a lot of the major US lines only operate seasonally and often they have limited itinerary options. This is what made me try MSC back in November 2018, but we ended up loving it!
Cruise line preference: We all have preferences. Over the course of about 20 cruises I’ve found my own. I do like Carnival. It’s a solid offering with a lot of Caribbean options which was great when I lived in Florida. It’s also great for kids with kids clubs starting at aged 2 instead of 3 like most and also changing diapers (a huge bonus for those cruising with 2 year olds or late to potty train kids like I did).
I love Celebrity when we go adults only. They’re so relaxing and a bit more upscale. I also feel like their food is better. It’s a slightly older crowd and more laid back.
The third cruise line I lean towards in MSC. I just started cruising them because they were the only option that was affordable and going when I wanted, but we had an amazing time and my daughter cried our last night when we had to leave and get off. They have some amazingly affordable longer European itineraries (often under $2000 for 4 people). They also charge half the gratuity/service charge rate per a kid and kids sale free when booking a US rate. Something to note is that MSC does loyalty matching. I matched Gold with my Carnival Platinum status giving me extra perks on my first cruise with MSC.
Price: Price is obviously a huge thing for most people. We travel a LOT so I admit that we don’t usually splurge and do $10,000 cruises. I’d rather have extra money on the ship to do fun things or to explore off the ship more than spend a lot more for the same itinerary on a fancier line. I am hoping to splurge to do Disney next year, but my kids are HAPPY on Carnival and MSC so I feel like that will probably be a one time thing (but AMAZING I’m sure).
When you’re pricing out cruise lines make sure to compare apples to apples. Some lines may be more expensive but often include a complimentary drink package or other perks (can cost up to $100/day/pp on some lines). If you plan to drink a lot it’s something to consider. I first tried Celebrity when they priced out cheaper than Carnival because I was getting $300 of on board credit and also free beverages which was worth about $1000. MSC will watch kids under 3 for free so you can have dinner in the evenings, other lines charge a fee for that same service. If it’s something you may use a lot it’s something to think about. Kids sale free promotions are big too, even at discounted 3rd and 4th passenger fares those amounts add up quickly.