GalaxSea Cruises of San Diego

Cruise Line Ratings & Cruise Ship Ratings

 


Cruise Line Ratings & Cruise Ship Ratings

Our ratings are based on our 20 years of experience, extensive personal cruising, client feedback, plus an insider perspective on which cruiselines handle problems the best - there is a big difference. This gives us a unique perspective that can't be found on guest feedback websites. Our ratings are organized into three sections as follows:

1. Cruise line rating section - our overall ratings for each cruise line within their class

2. Cruise ship ratings section - our ratings for each major cruise ship

3. General comments & recommendations - general advice on picking a cruise

1. Cruise Line Ratings Section

LUXURY CLASS - the top cruise lines

 

Regent Seven Seas - our top rated cruise line overall. Regent has three stunning ships and two of their three ships, Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager, are all-suites and all-balcony ships. The Seven Seas Mariner and Voyager are the same size as Crystal Symphony but hold only 700 guests - versus 1000 for Crystal. Regent has open seating for dining and is the all inclusive price leader since they include: gratuities, shore excursions, air fare, one night pre-cruise hotel, ground transfers, specialty restaurant, and alcoholic beverages in the cruise fare. They usually cost less than Crystal, Silversea or Seabourn for the same items so they are also the best value in the luxury market. The Seven Seas Voyager is an improved version of the Mariner with 50 square feet larger cabins so the minimum increased to 351 square feet and again all cabins have private balconies. The Navigator is their great smaller ships holding only 490 guests and she has the larger 351 sq. ft. balcony cabins as well. On Regent the food is excellent (only surpassed by Silversea) and the service is outstanding - with a great staff to guest ration of 1 per 1.5 guests. The high-end readers of Conde Nast Traveler who seek the best hotel, cruise and travel options worldwide have consistently picked Regent as the "World's Best Small-Ship Cruise Line" (small means less than 1000 passengers). With Regent's all inclusive pricing that includes cruise, airfare, shore excursions in each port of call, free luxury hotel the night prior to departure, ground transfers, most alcoholic beverages, and gratuities - the Regent price is very competitive with lower ranked large ship premium class products when you add in the cost of all these normally extra cost items so don't think you can't afford Regent if you are buying balcony or higher category cabins on premium class lines and also using all/most of the extra cost items.

Silversea - is one of the top luxury small-ship cruise lines. Silversea has a beautiful suite of new ships with very large oceanview cabins, balconies staterooms and suites. They use the same exquisite cabin designers as Regent. Silversea ships like the initial Silver Wind & Silver Cloud are small at only 16,000 tons and hold only 300 guests. The newer Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow are 25,000 tons and hold 400 guests, so be careful with your itinerary if you are prone to motion sickness. Silversea has open seating and the best food on board a cruise ship. The service, however, is not as good as Regent. Silversea is not a cruise line you take if you are looking for bargains, as the price per day is one of the highest around. This attracts a very well off clientele and the cruise line's clients expect Silversea to keep it that way. A lot of "old-money" cruises on Silversea. We found Regent to have food that was only slightly below Silversea and Regent had better service, more dining choices, larger ships and at a lower price. The average age on Regent is also younger as it attracts a lot of younger professionals. For all these reasons we rank Regent above Silversea overall. Frommer's likes Silversea the best which we can understand if price is of no consideration.

Crystal - is one of the top luxury large-ship cruise lines. Crystal dominated this market until 2001 when Regent Seven Seas introduced the all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Mariner. Since then Regent has taken over the top ranking is this category and overall. Crystal has smaller cabins than Regent and has finally started to offer an open seating option in part of the dining room. With open dining one can dine at any time with friends or family, or ask to join another table that wishes to meet new people. Crystal has best entertainment and lecture programs in the luxury class. The ships are gorgeous and hold about 1000 passengers. The service is excellent but the food is below Silversea or Regent Seven Seas. Crystal introduced their first new ship in years, Crystal Serenity, in 2003, but she still has smaller cabins than Regent. She does have many more balcony cabins than the older Crystal Symphony. Crystal Serenity is a big improvement but cannot really match Regent's Voyager and Mariner or the new Silversea and Seabourn ships. Crystal Harmony, their first ship, has been retired. Berlitz still rates Crystal number one with Regent and Silversea just behind. Others agree with us and rate Regent tops. One conclusion we can all agree on is that you really can't go wrong with any of these great products. You should try them all and decide which is your favorite.

Seabourn - is one of the older luxury cruise brands which is now owned by Carnival Corp. These small ships are luxurious and the line has great food and service. Seabourn's new Odyssey, Sojourn & Quest are outstanding state-of-the art small cruise ships! The mid 1980s built Pride, Spirit and Legend have been updated but they have smaller cabins and, except for a few of the top suites, they do not have private balconies so you can relax outside in the fresh air - they only have "french balconies" which is a large window in the cabin that opens. We do recommend the Seabourn's new Odyssey, Sojourn & Quest. Seabourn is not all inclusive so the prices seem lower than Regent, but not typically when you factor in the cost for the items not included by Seabourn that almost everyone will use.


DELUXE CLASS - Premium Class on SMALL ships & top river cruise lines

 

Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara is owned by Royal Caribbean as is Celebrity. Azamara is their small ship brand and operates two 30,000 ton 700 guest cruise ships that offers great destinations, with longer and more overnight stays, plus a high level of food & service - with open dining. There are two excellent alternative restaurants and the main dining room. All restaurants get great reviews, but the specialty restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C, are especially outstanding. These ships have a wonderful intimate atmosphere like an excellent European boutique hotel. The public room and suites are very luxurious but cabin sizes & decor are more typical of older mainstream ships not luxury ships - hence "Deluxe" somewhere in between Premium and Luxury, or if you wish, a fine "premium" class SMALL ship. There are many outstanding and unique itineraries that allow docking in ports like Sorrento, London on the Thames River, downtown St. Petersburg & Taormina, Sicily that the big ships cannot get into. There are more multi-night stops in popular ports of call so you can see more. Azamara is for adults as there is no children's program. Guests that love small ships will likely rate these ships above premium class ships which are all larger ships. Guests that like large ships and all the extra choices and space they offer are not likely to rate these ships above the top of the line premium class ships. Azamara Club Cruises includes gratuities, exclusive house wines with lunch and dinner. Soft drinks, bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees & teas, shuttles in port if available, self-service laundry and Concierge services are also all included. Azamara now includes an "AzAmazing Evening Event" on every cruises and include a selection of standard spirits, international beers, and wines. The event will be very special events like a performance of the St. Petersburg ballet, or a castle tour in Tuscany followed by a concert from the three tenors. Azamara Club offers a great choice at about half the price of luxury class products, but don't expect the cabins to be as large or luxurious as Regent, Silversea or the new Seabourn ships.

Oceania Cruises

Oceania started life using the same 30,000 ton 700 guest cruise ships (used to be Renaissance R-class ships) that Azamara uses and in 2010 and 2012 they added two stunning new & larger ships, Marina and Riviera. The new ships offer a highly upgraded experience compared to their older 700 passenger ships. The new ships are over double the size at 65,000 tons and they holds 1250 guests. The standard balcony cabins are larger at 312 square feet compared to 216 square feet on the 30,000 ton ships and the bathrooms are larger - a much needed improvement. 65,000 tons will be larger than any luxury class ship and smaller than any new build from premium class ships. The many improvements are very nice but if you really liked the small size of the old Oceania and Azamara ships, you may not like the new ships, even though they are gorgeous and have larger cabins.They are very popular and selling for a premium over the older ships which suggests Oceania customers definitely like these lovely new ships.

 

River Cruise Lines

River cruising is the fastest growing segment of the cruise business and river cruise lines have improved their products dramatically in the last few years. Cruise vary in length from 7 to 21 nights. Now you can easily get a french balcony cabin (large sliding doors open to fresh air and sounds, but you cannot walk outside) and even real walk outside balconies are available on most of the newest ships. We love river cruising and highly recommend it to people that like a slower, more leisurely pace, traveling through great scenery and lovely countryside. The ships are small and typically hold less than 150 so you are likely to get to know quite a few people and these cruises attract a very nice mix of guests. The ships itinerary typically dock right in the middle of small towns, typically the medieval old town section, like Cologne or Rudesheim, Germany, plus large cities like Vienna, Frankfurt, and Budapest. Walking tours and coach tours are included and are so easy to do because you can walk off your ship and onto a coach or you are right in the middle of a town or city with interesting places to see and visit just a few steps away.

Unlike ocean cruise ships which often travel at night plus sea days, river cruises have no "sea days" as the distance between stops is small. They often move both during the day and at night so you can enjoy spectacular scenery and some days even visit more than one port in a day. Since the ship travels slowly it is easy to enjoy the outdoors on the entire top deck available for outdoor viewing of the scenery. One is just not in their cabin very much on these cruises.

Europe is the most popular destination, but China, Vietnam, Egypt and finally the USA is starting to have new river boat options. Dining is typically one seating and the food and service are top notch on our recommended lines. Wine with lunch and dinner is often included as are shore excursions so the price seems higher but it is more all inclusive than many ocean cruises. There are many river cruiselines but our two top recommended lines are AMA Waterways & Uniworld.

AMA Waterways tends to offer more land and cruise combinations like The Enchanting Rhine River 11-night package that includes a 7-night Rhine cruise between Amsterdam and Basel, Switzerland plus 4 more hotel nights with tours in Switzerland - two nights in Lucerne (gorgeous - highly recommended) and 2 nights in Zurich. Uniworld offers a larger variety of cruise lengths and countries but fewer land based components. Both offer excellent ships & cabins with outstanding food and staff that offer great service. You can't go wrong with these two river cruiselines. AMA Waterways is typically a little less expensive than Viking or Uniworld so a better value as well.

Viking River Cruises is the largest and fastest growing line, with many new "Longships". We get good feedback from guests of Viking but it is not as consistently outstanding feedback like we get from AMA Waterways and Uniworld so we rate them slightly below Ama & Uniworld. All three are very good. Viking likes to run 2 for 1 specials all the time and requires final payment very far in advance. However, be cautious the 2 for 1 fares are really the normal price and they typically are higher than the everyday price on Ama or Uniworld. They are good values but you aren't paying half the normal price.


PREMIUM CLASS - the best large cruise ships - affordable luxury

Celebrity Cruises - Royal Caribbean's upscale brand offers great value, great food and service on outstanding mid-sized ships with affordable luxury. Celebrity took the lead in the premium class when they introduced their 2000 guest Millennium Class vessels (Millennium, Infinity, Summit & Constellation) in 2000 and then edged the bar higher with the larger 2900 guest Celebrity Solstice-class (Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette and Reflection) starting in 2008 with many popular enhancements. Conde Nast Traveler's Survey apparently agrees with us rating Celebrity at the top of this category for several years in a row. Both classes (Solstice and Millenium-class) are elegantly designed with European decor that are exceptionally roomy. Cabins are luxurious and roomy with a huge range of suites all with butler service. Their staff to guest ratio is the highest of any premium class cruise line. Each vessel has multiple reservation-only extra cost specialty restaurants on board that are as good as some top land based restaurants.

Recently, the Millennium-class ship were all "solsticized" which included extensive refurbishments and the addition of many of the Solstice class features like the extra specialty restaurants (Tuscan Grille or Qsine, Bistro on Five), Gelateria, Cafe Al Bacio, Cellarmasters wine bar, ice-topped Martini Bar, upgraded linens and bedding, new A1 Aqua Class balconies added to Deck 11 (this area had no cabins previously so this is a great new private location with larger balconies), new Blu restaurant for Aqua Class guests, and a new more elegant color scheme throughout. For many the new "solsticized" Millennium class ranks higher than the Solstice-class because of all the new features, venues, refined elegant decor, quieter atrium area, and their smaller size making it easier to get around. You can see a detailed review of the "Solsticized" Millennium and her twins by clicking here.

For all Celebrity ships the spas are huge and the covered pool is stunning. The kids program is not as extensive as Royal Caribbean but it is still excellent. Overall food, service and entertainment are very good - tops in the premium class. Berlitz rates the Millennium-class ships very close in total points to the luxury class leaders. The high-end suites are as nice as any found on a luxury class vessel and at less than half the cost - although you will be sharing your luxurious ship with a lot more people.

The Solstice class ships are 30,000 tons larger than the Millennium Class top premium class ships and hold another 900 guests. 85% of the cabins have balconies and cabins are 15% larger on Solstice with larger bathrooms, showers, balconies and more storage areas but some don't like the storage design. We went on the inaugural Solstice sailing and and then a 14-night cruise on the new Equinox and we were very impressed with the elegance and overall roominess. We loved the new restaurant row on deck 5 with the beautiful Ensemble Lounge waiting area outside the four new alternative restaurants, Murano (French/Mediterranean), Silk Harvest(Asian) or Qsine (funky, fun & high tech on Eclipse, Silhouette & Reflection), Tuscan Grill (Italian) and Blu (small private dining room with lighter spa menu for Aqua Class guests only). Bistro on Five is another new dining option. The new Hot Glass Show (not on Silhouette and Reflection) and the half acre lawn area on the top deck are very popular new features. The new Aqua Class has lots of nice new exclusive amenities like unlimited access to the new Relaxation Lounge plus their own observation lounge facing forward. You can see a detailed review of Celebrity Solstice and her twins by clicking here.

We rate the the Solstice-class and the "Solsticized" Millennium class equal now making them all great choices with a few minor advantages to each that help sway guests one way or another. What great choices!

Celebrity also has one ship in a class all by itself, Century, built in 1995. She was extensively remodeled and updated in 2006 when a whole deck of balconies was added as well as a very nice specialty restaurant, Murano. She is for my taste the most beautiful ship Celebrity has. She is done in the traditional style with gorgeous woods and brass of classic ocean liner. The Michael's Club and main dining room are gorgeous examples of this style. She is less contemporary in decor than the Solstice and Millennium class ships and many find this a more refined and attractive style (as we do). The ship often has the highest rated food and service of any Celebrity ship. She doesn't have as many specialty restaurants and she has no lawn or Solarium/Thelasotherapy Pool. However, for the savvy traveler who doesn't mind the few missing features of the newer Celebrity ships, you can find a smaller size stunning ship, with great values and even some large balcony categories that have huge cabins with 179 square foot balconies. Century is a great choice but she retires from Celebrity in the spring of 2015. Last call for the Celebrity Century.

Royal Caribbean - is the best overall cruise line for families and active adults. Their new ships are outstanding, well designed ships with the best kids program afloat and recently they enhanced the program to offer the Shrek characters and programs on several of their ships. The new Oasis & Allure of the Seas set a new standard in cruise ships for the Caribbean - click here to see a detailed Oasis and Allure review of these outstanding new ships. Oasis debuted in November 2009 and is 225,000 tons holding 5400 guests. Allure debuted in Nov. 2010 and is a few inches larger. Of all the new features on these wonderful new ships, we loved Central Park, (a tropical garden that is open to the sky and is lined with restaurants, shops and cabins overlooking this lovely setting), Boardwalk (small Atlantic city amusement park area), Aqua Theater (swimming & diving shows) and the many new dining and cabin options, plus keeping or expanding all the features on the excellent Voyager, & Freedom-class ships with ice skating rinks, wave rider (Freedom & Oasis class), and a Royal Promenade (a very long 4-story area inside the ship with shops, pubs and restaurants), a 3-story dining room that don't come any more stunning, and rock climbing walls. Oasis class has more to do than any ships at sea. The Radiance Class has no ice skating rink or Royal Promenade but is much smaller than the Voyager/Freedom Class (largest ships at sea prior to Oasis-class). The Vision Class built 1995 to 2000 remains a solid choice but a notch below the above two classes with smaller cabins and fewer alternative restaurant(s). We would recommend you avoid the really older ships like Monarch and Majesty of the Seas as they have tiny cabins and can't really compare to the new classes noted above - especially Oasis! Royal Caribbean is adding the new Quantum Class starting with the Quantumof the Seas in November 2014, then the Anthem of the Seas on April 2015. These ships are 168,000 tons and hold only 4200 guests so they are smaller than the Oasis Class and don't have all the feaures of Oasis, but have added several new items unique to the Quantum Class, like the Northstar observation capsule they takes you 300 feet above and to the side of the ship for unique views of your floating resort. Quantum also has "Fly!" the first skydiving simulator at sea, plus bumper cars and roller-skating at sea. Quantum doesn't have an AquaTheater, Central Park or Boardwalk, nor a Chapel, ice-skating rink, mini-golf course, or zip line. Choices, choices, choices!

Cunard - a premium class line with a strong British & formal tradition and with three classes of service for dining - analogous to economy, business class and first class air travel. Cunard has one of the youngest fleets afloat with the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, and the Queen Elizabeth. The ships are stunning in appearance and cater to seniors. Some rate this reinvigorated premium line at the top of the large ships, but we think the pricing for Celebrity is more attractive relative to Cunard so we rate Celebrity a much better value and more in tune with North American less formal tastes and so they earned our top spot in the premium class. We were recently lucky enough to enjoy the Queen Victoria. There is only one way to describe this ship: serene elegance. From the beautiful two-story main dining room (slightly segmented to make it more intimate and quieter), to stained glass windows in the Queen’s Room, to even the elevator doors, the Queen Victoria is a well-designed world of beautiful woods, history, and opulence. The staff were professional and helpful, ready to go out of their way to accommodate us. Lunch in the Britannia Restaurant was culinary perfection, with unobtrusive but attentive waiters. But other than that the differences are not obvious. Afternoon teas, ballroom dancing, lounges with panoramic views – the Queen Victoria has it all in an atmosphere of quiet elegance.

Holland America - another premium class line that caters to seniors. Holland America is the oldest cruise line in the business and they have some beautiful mid-sized to large ships. The older ships were nicely decorated with an old world charm, but some of their newer ships like the Zaandam & Oosterdam are much plainer and more modern in design. Many past clients (us included) are not impressed with this change after Carnival Corp. took over ownership of Holland America. The cruise line is extremely popular with seniors that have cruised on Holland many times and they keep on cruising with Holland, which caters to their top clients by offering great discounts to past passengers. Food is not as good as on Celebrity and tends to be bland. Entertainment is geared to this age group, but there are usually some wonderful dance bands and larger dance floors than on many other lines. The average age on board will be one of the highest of major cruise lines, and don't expect many kids or a great kids program. Celebrity has moved well ahead of Holland America and Princess to take a solid lead in the premium class market.

Disney Cruises - Disney, as always, is a great brand that garners a premium price. Disney caters to children on their wonderful ships. For kids they do a great job and this can be a wonderful family vacation to the Caribbean for 7-nights, Europe, Alaska, West Coast and Mexico. For Mom and Dad, however, there just isn't as much to do on board these ships, like no casino, and limited entertainment geared to adults. Food & service is not as good as the best premium lines. You take these cruises to see your kids or grand kids light-up when they get to meet Mickey & Minnie Mouse. Royal Caribbean has a better kids program overall with more to do, just without all the Disney characters. However, these days, the Pixar brand, like the Shrek characters, may be as familiar or maybe more familiar to todays kids. Disney has added the much larger Disney Dream to the fleet in 2011 while Disney has moved the Wonder to the west coast and start offering Europe, Panama Canal, Mexican Riviera, Hawaii & Alaska cruises in addition to the Caribbean. You know what to expect on Disney and they deliver that Disney experience at sea. Just don't be surprised they charge a premium price for this experience.

Princess Cruises - also owned by Carnival Corp. - has a real mixture of ships. The Sun Princess and her two sister ships the Sea & Dawn Princess have very small cabins except for the mini-suites which are great. The balconies are the smallest in the business on these ships and the rooms are so small they don't have room for a couch or chair. The Grand Princess class and new Coral Princess class ships are much nicer but Princess ships have one common design flaw that we just don't like - the ships do not have a dedicated observation lounge. This is a real shortcoming if you are cruising to scenic locations like Alaska or Norway. Princess is not as family friendly as, for example Royal Caribbean, since they have fewer cabins that hold 3 or 4 quests, and they have no connecting cabins. Princess has been slipping in our ratings for a long time as competitors have gotten better and better and Princess has just gotten bigger and bigger (ships that is). The competition in this class all get much better and more consistenly good customer feedback on food and service. Princess does have a loyal customer base and they do offer a larger variety of itineraries with some imaginative longer itineraries that appeal to retired guests. Lastly we have, unfortunately, had too many problems with service from Princess when things go wrong. Princess has been very poor at handling our clients problems. Overall we have therefore lowered all Princess ship rankings and put them at the bottom of the premium class and they may really belong in the budget-class as price seems to be their main positive these days. There are better choices in the premium class.


 

BUDGET CLASS - usually the price leaders but with lower quality & issues

 

Carnival Cruises - is the low price leader in the cruise market. Many people cruise on Carnival for their first cruise often are enticed by their low lead-in rates. Many of or clients request "any ship except for Carnival" when they make inquiries about future cruises. Everyone's first cruise experience is usually great but after taking a few and talking to others that have cruised you will find that all of the cruise lines listed above offer a superior product with fewer problems. Carnival has the lowest prices because their ships pack in more people than any other cruise line. The food, service and entertainment are all OK or good, but not typcially very good or excellent. The ships are neon extravaganzas with some decorations edging toward the bazaar. They have a well earned reputation for being party ships and so people who are attracted by that reputation are usually present. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity all offer a superior product and often charge only slightly more money which to us is a great value and they offer a much better family atmosphere. For most of our clients, we usually try to find our clients space on one of our recommended premium lines for these reasons.

NCL - like Carnival is a cruise lines we just do not recommend. Our clients have had too many problems and complaints for us to be able to recommend NCL. They have been growing fast in the last few years as they have introduced mega ships to try and compete with Royal Caribbean's larger new ships. The newer ships are getting mixed reviews as some people really like it and others hate it. One of our frequent cruisers said "free-style dining" should be called "no style dining" as people spend an aggravating amount of time making restaurant reservations and trying to get times acceptable to them. Food and service feedback gets mixed feedback like the following from an experienced cruiser that went on one of the new NCL ships recently "... absolutely the most mediocre food I've ever tasted on a cruise line!" Anoher recent guest on one of NCL's newest mega ship called the food poor and the service not so great. Another major concern we have is the poor way NCL has handled problems in the past. NCL is poor compared to how Royal Caribbean/Celebrity at handling problems in a respectful and caring way. There are so many wonderful cruise lines that don't have these mixed results we recommend avoiding NCL and Carnival for similar reason. Unfortunately NCL is the only cruise line offering 7-night Hawaii cruises roundtrip from Honolulu. These cruises are expensive and when air costs are factored in, most guests will find a 14-night cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles or San Diego offers a better value and may even cost less with the long over water flights removed.

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General Comments/Recommendations from the Captain:

Cruising is becoming one of the more popular vacation choices, and with the large number of new ships coming into service each year it gets harder for guests to decide which will suit his or her needs best. As mentioned earlier, it is hard to rate a ship with just one number. With this in mind, I'd like to give you a very general idea of how to begin looking for a cruise.

To begin with, for most major lines, it's not only the line's rating that you have to think about, but that of the individual ship. Several lines have ships ranging from the smaller, or older "classic" ships to the brand-new mega ships. So within the same line, you will generally find lower prices on the older ships. If the dollar is your bottom line, then consider one of these; the ship may be smaller and not as glamorous, but the quality of service and food should be the same on other ships within a line. This is why it's very important that you find an agent who is knowledgeable about cruising when you plan your vacation. Some travel agents sell only a few cruises a year and may have only cruised on 1 or 2 cruise lines themselves. Some 800 number outlets may have order takers that have never cruised. A cruise travel specialist is your best assurance of having the best cruise vacation and getting the best value - it costs you nothing and they could save you a lot - including your vacation.

For the majority of people Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara and Regent are the top choices. We recommend Royal Caribbean as the best for active young adults and for families. We recommend Celebrity for adults looking for top quality in a premium atmosphere and Azamara for that little extra without the luxury prices on small ships. Royal Caribbean tends to have very large ships from 90,000 to 225,000 tons and hold 2000 to over 5000 guests. Most of Celebrity's ships are from 70,000 to 120,00 tons and hold from 1800 to 2800 passengers. Azamara Journey & Quest are 30,000 ton ships that hold 700 passengers for some longer, more port intensive and exotic itineraries. Regent ships hold 500 to 700 guests on ships with much more space per guest. We find that we can recommend one of these lines for almost any age and interest, and we very seldom get complaints from guests about these lines. RCCL has the top rated children's program, Las Vegas/Broadway style entertainment, very good service and food. Rates are moderate, and most of the ships are simply stunning!

For younger cruisers and people looking for a party atmosphere we generally look at Carnival. This line is geared more toward partying than pampering - more disco lounges and bars. Service is OK, but the little extras that you will find on many other lines are not here on Carnival. Carnival is a good line for those who want to dress very CASUAL and aren't as concerned about the food quality, service and pampering. The ships are very imaginatively decorated, lively, and lots of fun. Carnival also has a very good children's program. One note of caution: the ships are very crowded and it's hard on the Carnival ships to find a quiet spot to read or doze; and if cigarette smoke bothers you, you will find it difficult to go into any of the lounges and bar areas. My personal recommendation to those who are allergic or have asthma is to choose another cruise line.

For the upscale traveler, who wants the best and is willing to pay a little more to get it, my personal choice would be Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The ships are outstanding and are not crowded. The service and guest lecturers are tops. Food is excellent but not quite as good as Silversea (#1 for food). Because Regent includes so much in their cruisefare, they are actually great values if you are the typical cruiser that takes shore excursions in every port and drinks wine and/or cocktails daily. Crystal, Silversea and the new Seabourn ships are also excellent luxury class products. Crystal is older and her cabins are smaller and the ships are larger. The new Seabourn ships are lovely and they are finally competitive with large cabins with private verandahs. For me, that verandah takes you to a new level: enjoying coffee and croissants outside in the morning, having that large sliding glass door rather than a small window so that you get to really view the passing scenery from your cabin, or being able to relax outside at night and watch the light shimmering on the ocean - without having to get dressed again and go up on deck! Regent's Mariner was the first ship with suite sized cabins and balconies for every guest. All the luxury lines have great itineraries that encompass all of the world, outstanding service, top restaurant quality food, and the opportunity to experience ports in a new way. (Imagine going to the Hermitage for a private viewing!) These are actually very good values for the types of experiences that you receive, especially Regent that includes so much in their crusiefares (like airfare, shore excursions, specialty restaurants, alcoholic beverages, 1-night prior luxury hotel, gratuities and transfers)

The old adage "you get what you pay for" is true of cruise lines and ships as well. Yes, there is a difference between budget and premium - in the quality of the ship, service, entertainment, and food. If those things and the little things - like getting great service the first time you ask, consistent quality food, great entertainment, etc. - are important to you, then don't go for the lowest price. Sometimes an extra $50 or $100 will let you move up from a 3 or 4-star ship to a 5-star ship – now that is true value.

Cruising is the best vacation you can possibly have, if you pick the line and ship that fits you, and only a "very nice" vacation if you don't. It's much harder to find a bad cruise than a bad land vacation - although we can't do anything about the weather and the airline flight home. So let us know, when you call or email us, what's most important to you so we can help you choose the right ship.

Galaxsea’s Best Cruise Lines by Categories        

Average Age of Cruisers

Based on the latest Cruise Line International Association passenger surveys, the average age of cruisers:

First time cruisers are even younger:


Rating

GalaxSea Cruises Definition

6

Best of the Best

5

Outstanding

4

Very Good

3

Good to Average

2

Fair

1

Bad (not in fleets we review)

U

Unrated

Cruise Ship Rating Section

Ratings are very subjective by nature and using one number for a ship can be misleading. For example, a ship may be rated a 5 and will provide you with a great cruise experience but not necessarily if you are cruising with children. The Captain has provided our favorite cruise lines throughout our web site for each destination. Our ratings are summarized below under the column "GalaxSea" based on our personal experience and feedback from our clients. The column headed "TTG" is from the excellent book "The Total Traveler Guide to Worldwide Cruising" by Ethel Blum - our favorite cruise guide. Berlitz and Frommer ratings are from their guides that are widely available.

The following definitions were used by the Captain at GalaxSea Cruises for our ratings the "GalaxSea" column below. TTG uses a 1 to 5++ (like our 6-star) star rating range. Frommers uses 1 to 5 stars but be careful, each ship is rated within its class so a 5-star budget class ship is not really the same as a 5-star luxury class ship. Berlitz uses 1 to 5+ stars.

Ratings by Cruise Ship (in alphabetic order)

Cruise Line & Ship

GalaxSea Cruises

TTG*

Berlitz

Frommer

Comments

Great American Steamboat Company

4

 

 

 

The classic sternwheeler, American Queen, is back and churning up and down our major midwest and Mississippi River again. In 2014 they add Columbia River northwest cruises to this beautiful area on the newly refurbised American Empress. The cruise price includes shore excursions. Vacation in this historic style and travel into history at 7 mph.

Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara Journey and Quest are operated by by Azamara Club Cruises - a new brand of Royal Caribbean Ltd. - the parent company

5

?

4

4

New 30,000 ton 700 guest "Deluxe" cruise ships that offer extra high level of food & service - with open dining. There are two alternative restaurants and all restaurants are getting great reviews. Wonderful intimate atmosphere like a boutique European hotel. Cabin sizes are typical of mainstream ships not luxury ships. There are many outstanding and unique itineraries that allow docking in ports like Sorrento, London, St. Petersburg down town & Taormina that the big ships cannot get into. Highly recommended. Just don't expect standard cabins to be as large or luxurious as Regent, Silversea or even new Solstice-class from Celebrity. You'll love Azamara if you love small ships. You might like new more luxurious Celebrity Solstice-class better if you like all the choices of a large ship. Gratuities are included as are house wines with lunch and dinner. Soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, shuttles in port where available, and the self-service laundry are also all included.

           

Carnival:

 

 

 

 

Neon ships with great entertainment.  Food & service not as good as premium ships

Many ships
Not recommended       All over 100,000 tons and way too crowded for us
           

Celebrity:

 

 

 

Beautiful ships with  distinct European design.  Great food, great service and great entertainment. Our guests love this line and we rarely get complaints. It is the top ranked premium class line - only luxury is better.

Solstice, Equinox, Eclipse, Silhouette & Reflection

 

5+

?

4+

5

Celebrity's outstanding new premium class product - elegant and roomier cabins than excellent Millennium class. Many improvements throughout. Five new specialty restaurants, hot glass show, half acre lawn area, roomier cabins, new Aqua Class category, new entertainment options & area, airy 12 story atrium with live tree. Can be noisy in the public rooms around the atrium like the library. A leader in the premium class.

Millennium, Infinity, Summit & Constellation

5+

5

4+

5

Celeb's other outstanding premium product - classy and roomy! Great reservation only specialty restaurants. All have been "solsticized" with the addition of many of the best Solstice-class features and specialty restaurant. plus a new, more elegant decor throughout. Smaller than Solstice Class but with fewer specialty restaurants, no Lawn area, or hot glass show, and no private Relaxation Lounge for Aqua Class. Millenium-class is however much quieter and smaller with 900 fewer guests than Solstice class. Still very highly recommended and better than Solstice-class for many.

Century

5

5

4

4.5

Century was built in Germany and it shows in the traditional impressive design, beautiful woods, brass and craftsmanship. The Michael's Club and main dining room are gorgeous examples of this style. The ship is stunning and often has the highest rated food and service of any Celebrity ship. She was extensively updated in 2006 with a whole deck of new balconies addled. She doesn't have as many specialty restaurants and she has no lawn or Solarium Pool. For the savvy traveler you can find great values and some large balcony categories have huge cabins and 179 square foot balconies. Don't tell everyone. Great choice until spring 2015 when she retires from Celebrity..

           

Costa

3

3-5

3 -4

3.5/4

Very European ships with European service customs that many Americans do not like - lots of smokers. Caution advised and lots of questions after Concordia..

           

Crystal

 

 

 

 

Second best overall cruise-line! Great ships, great service & entertainment, luxury and refinement. Costs more but worth it.

Symphony & Serenity

5++

5++

5

4.5

Gorgeous ships, great service & entertainment. More expensive than Regent. Serenity is newer and has more balconies.  Starting to be more all inclusive after Regent lead the way forcing the other luxury brands to follow.

           

Cunard

Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria & Queen Elizabeth

 

5

 

5?

 

5/4+

 

5

Maybe the most beautiful ships offered by anyone. The only major cruise line offering three classes of service for restaurants and lounges - like economy, business and first class airfare with prices and amenities to match. Very formal with many formal nights. Like a snapshot on a elegant moment of the past.
           

Disney:

 

 

 

Great ships & kids program, average food & service, entertainment geared for children

Magic, Wonder, Dream & Fantasy

4

4+

4

4.5

Great for families - especially the kids. Two new ships being added to the fleet in the last few years. Even offering Europe, Hawaii & Alaska cruises now. The new ships are sure to please Disney fans.

           

Holland America:

 

 

 

 

Great service, elegant atmosphere,  beautiful mid-sized ships.  Caters to seniors, weak entertainment, great service, average food

Amsterdam, Rotterdam

5-

5

4

4.5

Built in 2000 & '98- will do world cruises - their flag ships. Great ships - best from HAL

Zuiderdam,Noordam, Oosterdam, Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam & Westerdam

4+

U

4

4.5

Largest HAL ships - all built since 2002 - more lively colors & modern decor that doesn't appeal to some passengers (including us)

Maasdam, Statendam, Ryndam, Veendam, Volendam, Zaandam

5-

U

4

4/4.5

Built from '93 to '00 - great mid-sized ships with very loyal followings. Older ships have great classic decor - post Carnival acquisition has more plain decor

Prinsendam

4+

5

4+

U

Great mid-sized ship, excellent food, service, entertainment & activities when it was Seabourn Sun, showing its age in the cabins, however

           
Lindblad/ National Geographic
4
 
2
  Great exploration/educational opportunities - like safaris at sea. Small ships can land in Antarctica so you can get off and meet penguins up close and person. Many destinations. Naturalists and National Geographic photographers on all cruises. Not traditional cruise ships but great place to stay for once in a lifetime adventures. Good food and comfortable ships - but pricey for these unique experiences. Highly recommended!
           
MSC
U
 
4/4+
4.5
Strong European flair and lots of smokers. Announcements in many languages. Service staff seems distant to Americans but fine for European guests. Crowded ships guests report. Not for everyone.
           

Norwegian: (NCL)

 

 

 

 

Too many problems & poor feedback to recommend. Bad at handling problems. Too many better choices.

Many Ships

Not recommended

     

           
Oceania

Marina & Riviera (newest and nicest)

Nautica & Regatta

 

5

 

4+

 

 

 

 

4+

 

 

 

4

First "Deluxe" cruise line with excellent food and service but with Azamara now available offering essentially the same quality of product at a lower price - Azamara is the best value in the this class. Oceania does have 1 more ship than Azamara so they do do offer more itinerary choices. Oceania also has two new ships that are much larger & nicer ships at 65,000 tons and have larger cabins and more specialty dining options. They are very nice and very popular but they are also much more expensive.
           

Princess:

 

 

 

 

Average food & service, very few triple and quad cabins for families.  Hard to find viewing area.  Many complaints lately so we have lowered all their ships to last place in the premium class.

Grand, Golden, Star, Diamond , Sapphire, Crown, Emerald, Caribbean Princess & new Royal Princess in 2013

4-

5

4

4.5

Getting many complaints lately about food and service. Ships have roomy cabins and only RCCL Voyager-class has more shipboard options. All these ships hold about or over 3000 guests. Caribbean Princess looks crowded - holds over 500 more guests than Grand Princess with same sized public areas. Grand, Crown and Star all had serious safety incidences with injuries in the past that concerns us. Customer service for problems is not the best.

Sun Princess, Sea & Dawn Princess

4-

5

4

4

Beautiful, built from ’95 to '98. No observation lounge and few triple/quad cabins, most cabins are very small cabins and the balconies are tiny until you get to the mini-suites which are very roomy/nice.

Coral & Island Princess

4-

U

4

4.5

New class ship with larger cabins, but still no observation lounge

Pacific & Ocean Princess

4-

U

4

4

Used to be Renaissance R class ships - smaller ship - lots of balconies - limited space for kids. Try Azamara instead for better food, service and execution with the same R class ships..

           

Regent Seven Seas:

 

 

 

 

Our top rated cruiseline! Outstanding ships, great service & entertainment & very luxurious. Huge cabins. Open seating dining. Shore excursions, airfare, transfers, 1-night hotel prior to cruise, gratuities, bar setup and alcoholic beverages are all included. Great value if you are using all these items - price could be competitive with premium lines when all those costs are added in to their price. . #1 in Conde Nast Traveler for Small Ships

Mariner, Voyager

6

5++

4+

4.5

Gorgeous 50,000 ton ships, ALL cabins have 300 to 350 sq. ft. cabins with balconies, open seating, outstanding: food, service & entertainment. Four different restaurant choices. Our #1 ships overall. Holds 700 lucky guests.  Great value!  Almost everything is included - see above list.

Navigator

5++

5

4+

4

Only 490 passengers in this smaller version of Mariner. 208 of the 245 cabins have at least 356 sq. ft. balconies balconies -the size of a junior suite on most ships. Same great food & service on a smaller ship many love.

           

Royal Caribbean:

 

 

 

Great new ships with more to do on board than any ships afloat, very good food and service, great entertainment, best for families, great overall value. Loads of fun.

Oasis and Allure of the Seas

5+

for families and for the incredible variety of imaginative new features and things to do

U
4
5
Unbelievable new class of ships that debuts in Dec. 2009. They have so many industry first it is hard to list them all like: the 7-story high Central Park with trees and plants open to the sky with balcony cabins overlooking the park, a Boardwalk amusement Park with balcony cabins overlooking the Boardwalk & Aqua Theater with diving & swimming shows. There is a zip-line at sea over the Boardwalk area. They still have a Royal Promenade inside under Central Park, and they will have many unique new cabins like inward facing balconies and the new 2-story Loft suites high up on the ship next to the Viking Crown Lounge at the top of the ship on deck 17 & 18. The views from these cabins are incredible? The ships are large at 225,000 tons but they have to be to hold all these new neighborhoods and features. They hold about 6000 guests but we don't expect the ship to feel crowded with so much space and so many things to do all over the ship. Alternates Eastern 7 Western Caribbean cruises only roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale. The best Caribbean choice for families and active adults!

Quantum (Nov. 2014) and Anthem (Apr. 2015)

of the Seas

5-

for families

?
?
?
These ships are 168,000 tons and hold only 4200 guests so they are smaller than the Oasis Class and don't have all the feaures of Oasis, but have added several new items unique to the Quantum Class, like the Northstar observation capsule they takes you 300 feet above and to the side of the ship for unique views of your floating resort. Quantum also has "Fly!" the first skydiving simulator at sea, plus bumper cars and roller-skating at sea. Quantum doesn't have an AquaTheater, Central Park or Boardwalk, nor a Chapel, ice-skating rink, mini-golf course, or zip line. Choices, choices, choices!

Voyager, Explorer, Navigator, Adventure, Mariner, Freedom, Liberty and Independence of the Seas

5-

for families

5

4

4.5

Outstanding ships! Roomy for their 140,000 tons.  Tops to the Carib. with most to do afloat: ice skating rinks & Royal Promenade - VERY POPULAR. New Freedom & Liberty of the Seas are the largest cruise ship anywhere. Newest twin of Freedom - Independence debuts soon.

Radiance, Brilliance and Serenade and Jewel of the Seas

5

5

4

4.5

Same 90,000 ton size as Celebrity's Millennium class - lots to do for families, smaller than Voyager class - very nice! large cabins and will have many popular Oasis/Allure features added.

Legend, Splendour, Rhapsody, Grandeur, Enchantment and Vision of the Seas

4+

5

4

3.5

RCCL's very popular and successful Vision Class built from '95 to '00 (60,000 to 70,000 tons). many recent upgrades to keep them fresh.

Sovereign, Monarch & Majesty of the Seas

3

4

3

3

First "mega"ships. Too crowded, and tiny cabins

 

 

 

 

Seabourn

5++

5+

5

4 to 5

Great food & service. We love their newest ships like Odyssey, Sojourn & Quest.

           

Silversea

5++

5+

5

4.5/5

Best food afloat, mixed service, average entertainment, best small luxury ships, great clientele, limited activities – priced as if they were #1. Only Regent is better overall.

           

Windstar

4+

5

3+

3.5

Casual small ships holds 150 people, great food

*TTG - The Total Traveler Guide to Worldwide Cruising by Ethel Blum

 

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