Vacations at sea

Cruise choices have never been better. The variety of ships (small to behemoth), on-board activities and shore excursions – many with adventure components – ensure there’s a cruise for everyone.

With so many different options, the cruise line and ship you choose can be as important a decision as the itinerary. Here’s a guide to get you started.

Carnival’s 22 Fun Ships earn their sobriquet with all-night action that appeals to the young and the young-at-heart. After all, it was Carnival that first promoted cruising as affordable and fun. With its many age-appropriate activities, it’s a budget-minded favourite of families with toddlers to teens. For example, fifteen-to 17-year-olds can participate in Club O2 with its own shore excursions, while 12-to 14-year olds can enjoy Circle “C.” Younger kids have Camp Carnival – and parents are happily left to choose their own fun from a tempting roster of activities.

Celebrity is upscale, but caters to families with its X-Club Youth Program for three-to 17-year-olds. The nine-ship fleet boasts “the most spacious rooms at sea.” Wide corridors, automatic doors to decks, and gradual inclines accommodate wheelchair passengers. Known for quality service and mid-size ships, Celebrity introduced the first of three 2,850-passenger Solstice Class vessels, Celebrity Solstice in November 2008. Conversely, Celebrity Xpedition is a 92-passenger ship offering itineraries to destinations such as the Galapagos.

Cunard’s 168 years of plying the oceans gives an edge to Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2. The famous Queen Elizabeth 2 retired in November 2008, but the QM2 will continue her increasingly popular transatlantic sailings between Southampton and New York (complete with kennels for Fido). The QE2 will be replaced in 2010 with the sparkling new Queen Elizabeth. This fleet is recommended for passengers 50-plus who appreciate elegant service and a grand ambience.

Holland America, only 30 years younger than Cunard, is renowned for its collections of antiques and art, and for ‘Enrichment Programs’ such as cooking demonstrations and digital and computer workshops. The latest in the 14-ship fleet is Eurodam, first of HAL’s Signature Class ships. Calling at 300 ports on every continent, the mid-priced line boasts “something for everyone.” Flexible dining times are also popular.

Oceania cruises are typically elegant and luxurious. Three mid-size ships – the Regatta, Insignia, and Nautica – each carry 684 passengers and 400 staff, so you know you’ll be pampered. The line is not recommended for families with children, but if you want a high-end cruise offering decadent luxury, Oceania could be for you. Oceania sails to 180 ports in Europe, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Princess has long been associated with romance – after all, the line had the original Love Boat. Today, its 18-ship fleet includes mid-size, 670-passenger ships as well as the huge, 3,100-passenger Emerald Princess. With about 100 itineraries to all seven continents, it’s a favourite for family reunions. Dining choices are excellent, and scuba certification is among the sports options. The tranquil Sanctuary offers relaxing solitude in an outdoor, spa-inspired setting.

Royal Caribbean International ships are leaders in “extreme” on-board activities. RCI boasts a list of firsts: climbing walls, skating rinks, bungee trampolines, and now surfing (on Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas) on a surf simulator. Not surprisingly, it’s a favourite among young families – as well as the 20-to-50 age group looking at Caribbean choices. The 21-ship fleet also sails to international routes including Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Panama Canal cruises, and North and South America.

Carlson WagonLit Travel logoMake your Oceania Cruise more rewarding! You can receive up to $2,500 price reduction off 2-for-1 cruise fares with free airfare! PLUS, receive free pre-paid gratuities and $500 USD shipboard credit with an additional bonus of $100 USD onboard spa or beverage credit. For more information on this or other cruise sale weeks, please visit cwtvacationclub.ca/carp or contact us today at 1-800 CARLSON (227-5766).

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Jeff Clow

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