3 Categories: Contemporary, Premium, Luxury


Targeting all age groups, a lot of activities and options, large ships, family-friendly, less expensive, shorter itineraries(usually 7 days or less). The main brands of the big 3 are all in this category: Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian.


Higher quality, more expensive than contemporary, more traditional(no climbing walls or water slides, but there could be dress code for dining), e.g. Carnival's Princess, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean's Celebrity.


Highest level of services and quality, usually on smaller ships(<60,000 GT, comparing to the largest ships >200,000 GT). The most expensive category. E.g. Carnival's Seabourn, Royal Caribbean's Silversea, Norwegian's Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises.

Some cruise liners are considered as "ultra-luxury". Almost all staterooms are balcony or suite on ships under Seabourn, Viking Ocean Cruises, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas. On the other side, brands like Oceania and Azamara are on the border of Premium and Luxury, where ships are smaller but still offer interior cabins. There were 8 identical R-class cruise ships (30,277 GT) from now defunct Renaissance Cruises, now 4 in Oceania, 3 in Azamara, and 1 in Princess (Princess's only small ship).

Other Types

Ocean Liner

Ocean Liners are built to transport passengers, usually at a higher speed (up to 30 knots) comparing to cruises (max speed around 20 knots however most of the time cruise at 10-15 knots). Currently there's only 1 real ocean liner: Cunard's Queen mary 2, which travels between UK (Southampton) and US (New York) during summer time.


Exploratory and adventurous itineraries to off-the-beaten-path places (e.g. Arctic, Antarctica, Galapagos, Kimberley Coast) on small ships (usually less than 50,000 GT, a few hundreds of passengers instead of thousands)


  • AmaWaterways
  • Avalon Waterways
  • Tauck River Cruises
  • Uniworld River Cruises
  • Viking River Cruises


Somewhere in between cruise and ferry.

Cruise Lines

The big 3

Read more: CCL vs RCL vs NCL

Other Cruise Lines

  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Virgin Voyages: A new cruise company, sailing from Port Miami from 2020.
  • Viking Cruises
  • Hurtigruten: headquartered in Norway. Expedition cruise ship.
  • Windstar Cruises: small luxury cruise ships
  • Saga Cruises: senior only (age 50+)
  • Ponant, officially Compagnie du Ponant (CDP)
    • Paul Gauguin Cruises: acquired by Ponant in 2019, only 1 ship, named after the painter.
  • Fred. Olsen
  • American Cruise Lines: Mississippi river and Columbia river
  • Celestyal Cruises: Cyprus-based cruise line
  • Marella Cruises: formerly Thomson Cruises, a British cruise line operated by TUI UK
  • Seajets: Greek ropax operator, entering the over-night cruise sector with the purchase of former P&O Cruises’ Oceana, during COVID-19

MSC Cruises

  • the world's largest privately owned cruise company
  • part of the Mediterranean Shipping Company S.A. (MSC)
  • membership: at least one cruise every 3 years

MSC Yacht Club ordered 4 luxury 64,000 GT ships coming in 2023. Other groups usually have separate luxury brands, like Carnival's Seabourn, Royal Caribbean's Silversea, Norwegian's Regent Seven Seas. However MSC is keeping everything under a single brand.

Bankrupt during COVID-19

  • Pullmantur: the largest cruise operator in Spain; Royal Caribbean sold 51% and now only holds 49%; all 3 ships sent for scrap.
  • Birka Cruises: one ship; Baltic Sea.
  • CMV (Cruise & Maritime Voyages): operates only small to medium (max around 70,000 GT), second-handed, old (all built prior to 2000) cruise ships.

Genting Hong Kong

  • Dream Cruises: The main brand. Genting Dream/World Dream at 150,695 GT
  • Star Cruises: old ships, focusing on East Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan)
  • Crystal Cruises: luxury, small ships.

Genting Hong Kong's parent, Genting Group, also owns part of Norwegian, and the under construction Resort World Las Vegas.


  • Panamax: length 289.56 m, beam 32.31 m
    • Royal Caribbean: Radiance-class, 293 m x 32.2 m, 90,090 GT
    • Carnival: Spirit-class, 292.56 m x 32.2 m, ~88,500 GT
    • Holland America, P&O, Cunard, Costa: Vista-class
  • New Panamax: length 366 m, beam 51.25 m

Ship Names

  • MV: Motor Vessel
  • MS: Motor Ship
  • MT: Motor Tanker
  • USS: United States Ship
  • SS: Stream ship
  • HMS(UK): Her/His Majesty's Ship
  • RMS: Royal Mail Ship (e.g. RMS Titanic). Queen Mary 2 is prefixed with RMS as a gesture to Cunard's history but does not carry mail.

Flag of convenience

Norwegian's Pride of America is the the only cruise ship in the world flying a U.S. flag. It has no casino since it never leaves US waters. All the other ships use flags of convenience.


  • tax avoidance
  • avoid national labor and environmental regulations
  • ability to hire crews from lower-wage countries
  • casinos can be open when in international waters


  • cannot transport from US cities to US cities, international ports must be included. That is why a US west coast trip usually visit Ensenada in Mexico, or Vancouver/Victoria in Canada.


  • Carnival: Panama, Bahamas, Malta
  • Princess, P&O, P&O Australia: Bermuda, United Kingdom
  • Seabourn: Bahamas
  • Costa, AIDA: Italy
  • Holland America: Netherlands
  • Celebrity: Malta(non-Expedition ships) / Ecuador(Expedition ships)
  • TUI, Pullmantur: Malta
  • MSC: Panama, Malta

Loyalty Programs

Cruise line loyalty programs are quite different from those in airlines and hotel chains.

  • MSC has a match program, most others do not
  • MSC and Dream Cruises requires activities within 3 years, most of the others are lifetime status.
  • Royal Caribbean and Celebrity LOYALTY MATCH. Within RCL, status is recognized across different brands (RCL, Celebrity, etc).

Excursions and Cruisetours

Usually ships will dock in the morning and leave the port at night, excursions are offered during the day time on shore. Most cruise lines charge extras for excursions (one exception is Viking Ocean Cruises, which offers one free excursion at every port).

Longer cruisetours are offered either at the beginning or the end of the cruise, for example, some one-way Alaska cruises have cruisetours to or from Anchorage, visiting Denali, Fairbanks, etc.

Where to book

Cruises can be booked either from the official website, or from many OTAs, or from travel agents. Prices are similar across the web, but may differ in onboard credits or other offerings. Be careful that some OTAs charge extra fees for booking, and it may take extra steps(like filling a survey) in order to get the promised benefits(like extra onboard credits).


Private Islands

  • Ocean Cay: MSC Marine Reserve
  • Half Moon Cay: Holland America Line / Carnival (previously owned by Norwegian Cruise Line)
  • Princess Cays: Carnival
  • Cococay: Royal Caribbean
  • Castaway Cay: Disney Cruise Line

Cruise Home Ports

US West Coast

  • San Pedro
  • Long Beach
  • Seattle
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco