By Arline and Sam Bleecker, Special to Tribune Newspapers
Two corkscrew waterslides including 303-foot-long Twister, the longest at sea are part of the Carnival DreamÃs massive WaterWorks attraction, the most elaborate water park in cruising. (Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines / January 24, 2011)
Cruise lines have personalities too. Matching your personality to a cruise line is the best recipe for an outstanding vacation.
If you’re reserved, for instance, you wouldn’t dream of taking a cruise on a party boat.
Though finding the right cruise line ultimately is a matter of taste, we’ve put some lines on the couch to determine what makes each one tick. Here’s a brief sketch of some of the more popular lines.
Carnival Cruise Lines: the Lady Gagas of the seas. The 13 FunShips in this fleet bulge with eye-popping decor, miles of neon and million-dollar Broadway-style extravaganzas. The line also offers some of the best bargains at sea and surprisingly good food. Don’t forget the splash either. The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, for instance, boasts the largest water slide afloat. But as cruise specialist Jean Mallory, of White Travel in West Hartford, Conn., notes: You will discover low fares but not necessarily a rowdy crowd. The new Carnival is “not your old fraternity cruise line,” she says.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Restaurant row with ocean views. On this innovative line with 11 ships, you can dine in a bistro that rivals those in Paris or sate yourself on some of the freshest sushi and sashimi at sea. On Norwegian Epic, the line’s 150,000-ton flagship, not only can you feast on the most popular cuisines of the world in any of 20 specialty restaurants but also bust a gut watching Blue Man Group or Second City comedy.
Disney Cruise Line: Fantasy family vacations. All three Disney ships sparkle with pixie dust and the magical imaginations of the world’s best children’s entertainers. On the 2,500-passenger Disney Dream, even the portholes are animated seascapes. Besides Minnie and Mickey, passengers can hiss at Disney villains, such as Capt. Hook and others, in “Villains Tonight,” the first full-scale musical production celebrating the dark side of cartoon characters.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines: Super sports complexes at sea. More than just the young and the restless can enjoy this line’s list of sports firsts: rock-climbing wall, surfing pool, ice-skating rink, bungee trampolines, boxing ring and a zip-line that soars high above the pool deck. With two sumo-size sister ships, the world’s largest, the 252,000-ton Oasis, and Allure of the Seas, Royal Caribbean even has enough real estate for a suite of suites overlooking its “Central Park,” a green space loaded with restaurants and a boardwalk.
Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises: The two little Italys. For a plethora of pastas and all things Italian, these independent lines (one based in Europe’s boot) offer passengers a taste of Roma. Both lines pride themselves on delivering a refined European experience distinct from competitors. Just don’t mistake the lifeboats for gondolas.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: TLC to the nth degree. On its three intimate all-suite vessels, the largest only 50,000 tons, passengers get it all, including complimentary shore excursions, wines and spirits, specialty dining, gratuities and signature uber-luxe pampering. You won’t dip into your pockets for much else on this all-inclusive line.
Princess Cruises: Love boats and more. Perennially romantic, Princess’ 17 vessels are an ageless destination for newlyweds and honeymooners seeking an amorous sanctuary and escape from routine. On Princess, couples can actually marry at sea. ShipCriticblog.com’s Anne Campbell says the line is undergoing a sea change: “Princess Cruises has evolved into one of the industry’s classiest cruise lines with beautiful contemporary ships, myriad dining options, outstanding itineraries and the best shore excursions in the industry.”
Cunard Line: The royal treatment since 1840. On Cunard’s iconic bevy of queenly monarchs — Mary, Victoria and Elizabeth — passengers can experience the ultimate in refined British traditions with white-glove afternoon tea service and renowned dining, especially in the Queen’s Grill, a restaurant reserved only for those traveling in each ship’s aerie of luxury suites. Designed for trans-Atlantic crossings, Cunard’s vessels remain the pond-hopping standard for bicontinentals. Mallory notes that these vessels “are for the classic romantic who appreciates an elegance of life aboard that only Cunard can deliver.”
Crystal Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and Silversea Cruises: The triumvirate of tres-luxe lines. Can’t-go-wrong choices for those who want to visit unique places on the globe “cosmo” style. According to Mallory, Crystal’s onboard enrichment programs are a particular treat, while “Silversea and Seabourn offer small, intimate ships that delight those wanting more diverse itineraries.”
Match your pocketbooks and personality to any of these for a tailor-made vacation.