If you head over to any of the sites by cruise experts – like our friends from Cruise Fever or CruiseLine.com – you’ll notice there are a wide range of types and styles of cruises as well as different classifications: from adventure to family, river to ocean. There are a myriad of different types of cruises and different combinations and it can be tricky figuring out which one is best for you.
Types of Cruises To Know
To help in the decision making process, we’ve put together a list of five different styles of cruises, some of which we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, the others we’re just waiting to try!
Our very first type of cruise we went on was a river cruise. In fact, our second cruise was one as well and we enjoyed both so much, we fell in love with cruising altogether. Both of our cruises were with Viking River Cruises and with two different itineraries – one on the Danube visiting Christmas Markets in Hungary, Austria and Germany and one through Provence, France – we had a chance to really tap into River Cruising life and enjoy all that it’s about. And boy did we fall in love with it and with Viking!
We often find the first thing that comes to most people’s minds when the term “cruise” arises is a large ocean liner with pools and a casino, large masses of people and buffet dinners… at least that was the main image that was created whenever anyone talked about their experience. A river cruise however, is a much different type of cruise.
When asked, we usually explain the largest difference as this: Whereas an ocean cruise uses ships that can serve as a destination all on their own, a river cruise offers ships that take you, in comfort and style, to each destination and serve to help enhance those experiences.
You have small, intimate numbers onboard with a staff you come to know, almost wholly, should you choose. Because of the small numbers you’ll have a few dining options and for our Viking experience, onboard dining was spectacular! The food was some of the best we’ve ever eaten and the service was impeccable.
River Cruises also often travel short distances and mostly at night so you’ll generally wake up in a new destination ready to start the day exploring and chances are you’ll have some beautiful scenery waiting for you right from your stateroom window.
You’ll also find that entertainment ends early in the evening. Days are often filled with excursions or self-guided exploration and tend to start earlier in the day resulting in quieter nights as most people file off to bed. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in each stop as the focus of the cruise is really about each individual destination, rather than onboard activities – though there are those available too in the event you’d rather stay on board during the day.
River cruising is really great for those who are looking for more intimate, social settings where you have the opportunity to really interact with fellow passengers (should you choose), where you’re on land everyday as opposed to having days at sea, where most costs are already included in the price and where there is a calmer vibe, not to mention calmer waters, as amenities and entertainment aren’t available 24/7.
Luxury Yacht Cruise
This is one of the types of cruise we only recently learned more about. While looking at the itinerary for Ponant Cruises’ Ten Days At The Heart Of Brazil cruise, we made our way to learn more about the ships and became intrigued by what we found.
This is a style of cruise that seems to be part river cruise, part ocean cruise and all luxury. For instance, some of the amenities that Ponant yachts have include a well-being centre with spa and salon treatments, a pool and sun deck, lounges and bars, a theatre, a shop and leisure areas. While this is reminiscent of an ocean liner, the smaller numbers of passengers, fewer (but 5-star) restaurant options and overall feel seem to be more in line with a river cruise. It sounds like a pretty perfect combination to us!
Like ocean cruises, you’ll also have the benefit of both days at port and days at sea, allowing you to enjoy each destination while also offering time to fully explore the ship itself. For instance, with the “At The Heart of Brazil” cruise, stops are made in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia and Recife while the rest of the time the ship is at sea. With this cruise, Ponant takes passengers on an exploration of various regions in Brazil, visiting historical and cultural sites, observing stunning landscapes and delving into the heart of the country while on land and offers a luxury travel experience while on the water.
Luxury yacht cruises give the feeling as though you are sailing on your own private yacht to incredible destinations in comfort and luxury… and that sounds pretty fantastic to us! We’ll definitely be looking into Ponant cruises for a cruise itinerary to go on next!
As we’ve already mentioned, ocean cruises are often the most common cruise that comes to mind and while the large ships we often see exist, there are a range of sizes to be found cruising the ocean.
Ocean cruises, especially those with larger ships, offer a variety of amenities you probably won’t see in the other styles mentioned. It’s on these ships that you’ll find casinos and clubs, a host of restaurants and bars, game areas, many shops and activities galore. Our cruise on the MSC Divina had us experiencing this first hand and gave us the itch to ocean cruise more!
With often 24/7 dining options and entertainment, you’ll be able to find something to do at any time. These ships are a destination on their own. Vegas style shows, multiple restaurants to choose from, movie nights and dance classes and with so much going on, you never really have to leave the ship to have a good time!
You’ll also find that larger ocean cruises come with larger crowds of people so you’ll experience a different style of socializing as well then if you were on a smaller sized ship.
Ocean cruises offer a taste of each destination you visit with the convenience of an entire destination of a ship at your fingertips.
NOTE: Fathom will cease operation in 2017 though Carnival operated cruises that dock at Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic may still offer impact excursions like the ones we’ve described.
We were able to experience an impact cruise first hand when we went on a Fathom Cruise to the Dominican Republic. A volunteer-based cruise line, Fathom passengers can experience a different side of travel.
Rather than cruising from port to port, we headed straight for the Dominican where we docked for the duration of the trip until we headed out to sea to return. While docked, we were able to participate in the typical shore excursions or be part of one of the activities meant to help facilitate growth and development in the local community.
Taking part in these impact activities, like teaching English, working in a cacao factory and planting trees, allowed cruisers to learn more about the economic, sociological and cultural factors that are found deeper than what you’d see just visiting the tourist destinations.
There has been much talk, for and against, this type of cruise. For us, we’re pretty sure the impact was more on ourselves and the understanding we have of the country and its people but that’s a pretty great thing to bring home and can make passengers more understanding and compassionate as they travel in the future. We definitely weighed the pros and cons of a Fathom Cruise before and after, and came out with a positive outlook overall!
Though a smaller size ship, The Fathom Adonia still had amenities like a pool and deck, spa and fitness room, restaurants and bars, lounges and regular entertainment. It is definitely a different style of cruise and it will be interesting to see if additional cruise lines pop up offering similar experiences.
Tall Ship Cruises
We’ve seen tall ships before. In fact, you’ll probably see one if you’re walking around harbourfront in Toronto as there are daily cruises during the warm season. But those are a couple hours, not a couple days. So when we heard that one of our friends went on a food cruise in Maine on a tall ship, we knew we had to find out more about this type of cruise!
What we’ve learned is that they take the term “intimate’ cruise to the next level compared to the rest of the styles we’ve mentioned. With small numbers, typically under 30, the setting is private and service can be incredibly personalized.
These cruises are remarkably unique and seem to bring some adventure to the experience as you’re getting really up close and personal with the waters.
It’s definitely a more hands on experience as you can really interact with passengers and crew, most often climb a mast, learn about the ship, involve yourself in the sailing itself and enjoy the open air and views.
It’s a cruise for those who want to travel the seas as we did in the past – travelling long distances, conquering new territory and navigating our way around the world – all while enjoying a personalized, often luxury, cruise experience.