Every month, cruise lines introduce new itineraries, ships, and destinations, and cruise reviews are a vital tool for prospective passengers to decide which is the best cruise for their vacation plans.
Why Read Reviews?
Many experienced travelers avoid reviews altogether, preferring instead to simply enjoy their vacation no matter what may occur. While that laid-back style may seem perfect for a cruise, it is important to remember that cruises are far different from land-based vacations. If you arrive at a hotel and find it smaller than expected with fewer amenities, you can usually adjust your plans and relocate to a different hotel. If one attraction doesn't live up to your expectations, you can choose somewhere else to go with minimal inconvenience.
On a cruise, however, passengers are bound by the ship and itinerary they choose long before their vacation. Studying reviews can help both novice and experienced cruisers learn about their options and what to expect once they are on board.
Types of Cruise Reviews
There are several types of reviews available, and passengers should investigate different reviews before reserving their cruise. Before taking reviews as truth, however, it is important to recognize that the review's author may have a specific agenda when crafting the review.
- Cruise line representatives will naturally craft glowing reviews and profiles to entice passengers to choose their company. These reviews will highlight the newest and best features but may avoid mentioning unremarkable or commonplace features.
- Editor reviews may be sponsored by the cruise line or they may be independently arranged. In general, editorial reviews are not affiliated with the cruise line and readers can expect fairly unbiased reviews encompassing a wide range of features and amenities.
- Passenger reviews are written by fellow cruisers, but often may reflect either the positive or negative aspects of a cruise as the passenger wants to convey their experience. Furthermore, passenger cruise reviews are limited to the experiences of one person and what they found appealing, which may not coincide with what readers are interested in.
Cruise line reviews offer an overview of the philosophies and history of a particular cruise line. For example, a review of the Cunard line would undoubtedly highlight the company's legendary history and commitment to traditional ocean travel, while a review of the fun-loving Carnival line would highlight the family-friendly and energetic atmosphere of the line. Because of limited space, full cruise line reviews rarely venture into details of specific ships, but features that are common to the entire fleet will be mentioned.Features of a good cruise line review:
- Comparisons of ship sizes
- Overviews of standard amenities on all ships
- Brief profiles of individual ships
- Itinerary lists for different cruise regions
- Brief history of cruise line
- Upcoming ships or changes (optional)
Single ship reviews are the most common type of cruise reviews. These detailed profiles delve into every aspect of one ship: from the space and furniture of the cabins to the variety of the dining options to the quality of the onboard entertainment. The ship's décor, spa programs, children's programs, public areas, crew expertise, and scheduled activities will all be covered in a thorough review, with particular emphasis on what makes this ship unique and desirable.
Features of a good cruise ship review:
- Ship specifications including size, number of cabins, etc.
- Details on features and amenities, both general ones for the line and those specific to the ship
- Descriptions of different dining and entertainment options including extra charges if applicable
- Pictures of the ship if available
- List of ship-specific itinerary options
Destination reviews focus not on the ship itself, but on the port of call it is scheduled to visit. Basic details about local language, currency, and customs provide background information, and descriptions of popular attractions and events help passengers choose what sites they would prefer to explore. Destination cruise reviews may also include descriptions of frequently available shore excursions offered by multiple cruise lines.Features of a good destination review:
- Brief historical and cultural information
- Essential details about currency, language, climate, and other vital information
- Calendar of important holidays and celebrations
- Overview of popular sites and attractions, including visiting hours and prices
- Dining and entertainment information with contact details if available
An itinerary review covers multiple destinations that are commonly grouped together by different cruise lines. Multiple Alaskan ports of call may be reviewed together, for example, or several Hawaiian ports of call can be combined for passengers' convenience. These extensive reviews give passengers detailed information on several ports in one location so they can develop an overview of their entire cruise rather than just one part of it.Features of a good itinerary review:
- Brief overviews of all included destinations
- Recommendations for best times to visit
- List of ships or cruise lines that frequent this itinerary
Where to Find Cruise Reviews
There are many different sources for reviews. To be fully knowledgeable about a cruise, passengers should read reviews from different sources and seek out the most updated reviews possible so their information is current and accurate. Both glowingly positive and scathingly negative reviews should be considered suspect: look for additional sources to provide a more balanced perspective, and remember the best reviews of all will be those you can create yourself after experiencing another cruise vacation.
Print resources for reviews include:
- Travel guide books, including cruise-specific books and destination guides
- Magazines such as Cruise Travel or Porthole Cruise
- Promotional information from travel agents or directly from cruise lines
- Brochures from the travel and tourism departments of different destinations
Online resources for cruise reviews - in addition to the reviews here at LoveToKnow Cruises - include: