Tempted by the convenience of floating through multiple locations with minimum effort, more and more people are going on cruises.
Whether it’s a five-star trip to the Caribbean or an adventure through the Arctic, the choice of vessels and itineraries just keeps growing. But some stand out from the crowd.
If you’re planning to book a holiday at sea next year, try these cruise companies.
Grand gestures are in the DNA of this 50-year-old cruise company, which sails to almost 300 destinations in 77 countries.
They’re famous for launching the largest cruise ship ever - the Harmony of the Seas, which has 18 decks and can carry 6,000 passengers and 2,000 crew.
Built at a cost of £800 million, it’s nearly 330 feet longer than the Titanic.
But RCI’s wide range of onboard sporting activities is what has makes them a firm favourite with adventure-loving cruise-goers.
While their 9metre rock-climbing wall, first introduced in 1999 on its Voyager-class ships, has become a bit of a trademark (it’s now found across the fleet), ships also offer full-sized boxing rings, zip wires, aqua parks, wave simulators for surfing, ice skating rinks and golf.
The line’s more recent Quantum class ships boast some of the very latest technology including satellite internet that promises to be fast enough to stream video at sea.
Princess became a household name in the seventies when one of its ships, Pacific Princess, starred in a hit TV show called “The Love Boat”.
The weekly series is thought to have introduced millions to the idea of cruising.
Since then, they’ve claimed a number of industry firsts, including the introduction of affordable balcony cabins, 24-hour dining, flexible dining times, chef’s table dining, the poolside Movies Under the Stars concept and the idea of offering behind the scenes ship tours.
Their newest ship, Royal Princess, also has an over-water SeaWalk - a glass-floor walkway extending 28 feet over the edge of the ship - and a Princess Live! television studio.
This Norwegian company began operating in the 1890s as a passenger and freight service linking remote ports along Norway’s 1,500 mile coastline.
Now they specialise in adventure and expedition sailing, in Norway, Greenland, Iceland, Spitsbergen, South America and Antarctica.
Passengers can sail in the wake of the Vikings on The Vinland Saga Adventure, follow in the footsteps of polar explorers in the Arctic and choose from around 200 activities including hiking, dog sledging and guided cultural and culinary tours at various ports of call.
In 2017, Hurtigruten will be introducing trips to the Amazon rainforest.
Looking further ahead, they’re planning to expand their Antarctica operation, combining sailings with the option to visit to the Chilean fjords and the Falkland islands.
Since 2004, luxury river cruise line Avalon has launched more cruise ships in Europe than any other cruise company, making them the newest fleet on European rivers.
The company prides itself on offering some of the largest staterooms in the industry (the smallest in the fleet is 172 square feet), along with floor-to-ceiling windows and beds that face the view.
While demands on space make it almost impossible for river cruise ships to have more than two dining rooms, Avalon provides guests with seven dining options by juggling times and offering continental breakfast via room service.
Guests have the option of a complimentary, chauffeur-driven pick-up (and return) service if they live within 100 miles from their chosen railway station or airport.
The cost is £1.70 per extra mile for those who live further away.
5. MSC Cruises
This cruise line’s four Fantasia Class flagships carry around 4,300 guests and feature MSC Yacht Club, an exclusive area of elegant suites with round-the-clock butler service and various privileges.
Lirica Class vessels are geared towards families. They offer five activity clubs for guests up to 17 years old, two of which have been developed and equipped by Chicco and Lego.
Dining onboard is also more flexible, with buffets open 20 hours a day.
MSC Meraviglia, due to set sail in summer 2017, will be one of the largest ships at sea with a capacity for 5,700 guests on 19 decks.
It will also be MSC’s most high-tech vessel yet.
The “smart ship” will enable guests to book excursions and restaurants via hundreds of interactive screens, while offering a tech-lab for kids and a 260ft light dome for light shows.
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