Choosing your cruise

By Tiana Templeman

MS Noordam Holland America cruise ship.
MS Noordam Holland America cruise ship.

All cruise lines offer delicious food from dusk until dawn, endless onshore and onboard entertainment options, and an impressive array of ports to explore. However, they tend to differ when it comes to style and personality as well as the kind of passengers they attract.

Whether you are an active family seeking action and adventure, a sophisticated couple with a love of fine food and wine or grandparents with your kids and grandkids in tow, one of the following cruise lines is sure to float your boat.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Solstice is Australia and New Zealand's highest rated cruise ship, offering a contemporary and affordable take on 'modern luxury' and some of the best suite benefits at sea. Relaxed yet exceptional service, impressive dining options and a first-rate children's programme give this line wide-ranging appeal.

Highlight: The friendly service which is so good it is almost precognitive at times.
Best for: Sophisticated families and over-40s seeking a stylish, modern cruise experience.

Princess Cruises

A traditional cruise experience with a sense of fun, this is the most frequent visitor to New Zealand with six ships scheduled to make more than 200 calls to local ports. Princess offers something for travellers of all ages with modern indoor public spaces, a large selection of dining venues and entertainment options such as Movies under the Stars.

Highlight: The Piazza, a three-storey atrium with myriad entertainment options.
Best for: Multigenerational groups seeking a well-priced holiday.

P&O Cruises

Pacific Pearl will be based in Auckland from February to June offering 18 round-trip departures including eight-night Fiji cruises, a 15-night Pacific voyage visiting Fiji, Tonga and Rarotonga as well as a 10-night round New Zealand cruise. There are also six short Sea Breaks including four-night cruises to the Bay of Islands and a food and wine themed Easter itinerary.

Highlight: Gratuities are not automatically added to your onboard bill.
Best for: Anyone seeking a lively, affordable cruise experience.

Cunard Line

Cruising from New Zealand with Cunard is a royal affair with two ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, offering itineraries to the likes of Southampton and San Francisco. Traditions such as different restaurants for different classes of passengers, set dining times and high tea served by white-gloved waiters hark back to the Golden Age of cruising.

Highlight: Soaking up the old-style glamour at elegant formal nights.
Best for: Traditional cruisers who have the time (and money) for long, leisurely sailings.

Royal Caribbean International

New Zealand cruisers can choose from three Royal Caribbean ships: the mid-size Radiance of the Seas which has such good food it is known as 'the dining ship', Explorer of the Seas with its ice-skating rink and FlowRider surf simulator, or the new Ovation of the Seas which carries 4180 passengers and is the hottest ticket in town. Think bumper cars, a rollerskating rink, 18 restaurants, robotic bartenders and skydiving at sea.

Highlight: Fun, high-energy activities ensure there is never a dull moment.
Best for: Young-at-heart travellers and families, particularly those with tweens and teens.

Silversea

If you like the sound of ultra-luxurious suite accommodation and fabulous five-star dining, the all-inclusive Silversea is a fine choice (provided you can afford it, of course). Education and enrichment activities are a feature with lecturers providing talks on upcoming destinations and interesting topics which are relevant to the ship's itinerary. Silver Shadow has a number of upcoming trips to and from New Zealand.

Highlight: With small ships carrying less than 400 passengers, Silversea can navigate narrow waterways and dock at hard-to-reach ports with ease.
Best for: Well-off, mature cruisers who appreciate the finer things in life.

Holland America Line

Traditional decor and refined touches such as a daily formal afternoon tea make Holland America a popular choice for older cruisers who don't need myriad attractions to keep them entertained. Think bridge games and cooking classes rather than surfing simulators and climbing walls. Noordam, which is based in Australia and New Zealand each summer, offers a mid-size ship cruising experience with excellent musical entertainment options.

Highlight: Nightly shows at the onboard B.B. King Blues Club.
Best for: Mature travellers seeking a traditional cruise experience.

Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises has one of the industry's highest passenger-to-staff ratios and delivers a lavish all-inclusive cruise experience on luxury ships holding around 1000 passengers. If you have ever wondered what people do with a butler, now is your chance to find out as every passenger has one allocated to them. Crystal Symphony sails from Auckland with a choice of short or longer itineraries.

Highlight: The Creative Learning Institute offers everything from computer classes and cooking demos to language lessons.
Best for: Well-travelled passengers aged 50+ and solo travellers as there is no single supplement on many itineraries.

Seabourn

If you travel Seabourn expect free-flowing champagne, poolside massages, complimentary pre-dinner cocktails with canapés and the finest gourmet dining. Over the past decade, Seabourn has dominated the ultra-luxury category and was awarded the Conde Nast Readers Award for Best Small Ship Cruise Line 2015.

That said, their ships Odyssey, Sojourn, and Quest at 32,000 tonnes are not that small, and a ship this size configured like a normal cruise ship would cater for around 800-1000 guests. As a Seabourn ship, they carry a mere 450 guests and all are ranked among the world's top 10 cruise ships.

Highlight: Expect an incredible dining experience and personal attentive service. As Seabourn's ships are smaller they can visit places the big ships can't -- so expect unique itineraries and authentic discovery -- oh, and tipping is neither required nor expected.
Best for: This is 5-star plus luxury cruising. Perfect for a special occasion or those who demand the very best in service, dining and accommodation.

• Tiana is a freelance travel journalist and specialist cruise writer who is often out-of-town but always online at www.tianatempleman.com

- NZ Herald

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