Cruzshar Discount Cruising Guide
Browse our Cruising Guide to help you choose your next discount cruises from our listing of over 20,000 cruise vacations direct from all the major cruise lines. Cruzshar discount cruise agency always saves you more than your travel agent can.
Best Cruises for First-Timers
Want to pack a lot of partying into a short chunk of time? The 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises on Carnival Ecstasy, 2,040-passenger sailing from Miami; or the 2,040-passenger Fantasy, sailing 3- and 4-nighters from Port Canaveral; or the 2,040-passenger Holiday, sailing 3- and 4-night Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles, are all great choices for singles, groups of friends and fun-loving couples who don't want to commit to a whole week. These flashy megas offer lots to do all day long, and their standard cabins are among the largest at sea.
The mid-size, 1,600-passenger Nordic Empress may not be one of Royal Caribbean's newest megas, but it's a well-rounded, action-packed ship with great 3- and 4-night itineraries round-trip from San Juan, visiting St. Thomas and St. Maarten, and also St. Croix on the 4-nighter. Two other good choices for cruise neophytes looking for a party are the line's 2,276-passenger Sovereign of the Seas, sailing 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises out of Cape Canaveral, and the 2,350-passenger Majesty of the Seas, sailing 3- and 4-nighters out of Miami.
If you like a helping of jazz, country, or big band music along with your cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line's annual series of music theme cruises on board the 2,026-passenger Norway will keep you humming, tapping and dancing while you figure out whether this cruise thing is for you or not. If you're a sports fanatic, you'll cheer for the line's special sports cruises, where pro basketball, football, hockey and baseball players and Hall-of-Famers are on board to sign autographs and mingle with passengers. OK, so the 50-year-old Regal Empress isn't exactly regal, but its 1-, 2-, and 3-night cruises to nowhere from New York City and its 4- and 5-night western Caribbean cruises from Port Manatee, Florida, are a cheap and fun way to give cruising a try.
If you won't settle for anything but the absolute best, then Crystal's elegant 960-passenger Crystal Harmony and Symphony are the ticket to a first-cruise experience fit for kings. Unlike other ultra-luxury ships, the Crystal sisters are big enough to offer lots of outdoor deck space, generous fitness and spa facilities and over a half-dozen bars and entertainment venues, as well as first-rate service and some of the best cuisine at sea.
Calling all Disney freaks! The half-cruise, half-theme-park 3- or 4-night Bahamas cruises on the Disney Wonder are a great segue into cruising for first-timers.
Best Bathrooms at Sea
You'll love hanging out in the bathrooms on Radisson's Seven Seas Navigator and on Silverseas' Silver Shadow. Both ultra-luxury ships boast the same wonderful loos! Each and every huge stateroom bathroom has a separate shower stall and a full-sized bathtub long enough for a normal-sized human to fit into without folding up like a pretzel-now there's a cruise ship first! You'll also find a loooong marble counter flanked by two sets of tall, roomy shelves, and on the Navigator, a generous collection of chichi lemon-scented soaps and shampoos by spa guru Judith Jackson, and on the Shadow, great Bulgari bath products.
You know how it is with kids and bathrooms-especially teenagers! Wouldn't it be great to have two, one with the sink and toilet, and the other with the shower/tub? Welcome to the Disney Magic and Wonder. The majority of cabins on both ships have this great setup.
Opt for one of the 30 suites on Windstar's 312-pasenger Windsurf and you'll have his and hers bathrooms! Each has a shower and a toilet. There's one less thing to argue about!
For all you thin-crust lovers out there, the Norwegian Sky has got it going on. None of that rubbery frozen stuff here; on the Sky, each pie is made fresh and sliced up bubbling hot all day long. You can even have a personal-sized pizza delivered to your cabin 24 hours a day in a box-just like your local pizza parlor.
Not only does it taste good, but you can't complain about the Carnival fleet's free pizza 24 hours a day. They throw in Caesar salad and garlic bread, too.
Not only Dominos delivers, Celebrity does too. Fleetwide, you can get a tasty pizza delivered to your cabin in a box and pouch like your local pizzeria uses between 3pm and 7pm and 10pm and 1am daily.
The Most Romantic Cruises
We're talking the Harlequin romance stuff here. Their sleek white hulls and billowing sails will put you right in the mood. Get comfy on board the high-tech, yacht-like 148-passenger Wind Song, Wind Star or Wind Spirit (or the 312-passenger Wind Surf), anchored off the shore of some sexy port in the Greek Isles, French Riviera or British Virgin Islands, and live the life of Riley, with excellent food and service to boot.
For a more genteel, easy-going brand of romance for mature cruisers, Holland America's attractive, mid-sized Statendam, Maasdam, Ryndam, Veendam, Rotterdam, Volendam, Zaandam and Amsterdam will keep the fires burning. Bask in a creamy sunset while sipping cocktails in the elegant, windowed Crow's Nest observation lounge, share an intimate moment on a private cabin balcony and enjoy lovely meals in the glamorous two-story dining room.
Lovers of the good life will feel right at home on the 116-passenger Seabourn Goddess I and II. Both are like chichi private yachts with a doting staff at your beck and call-the pampering doesn't go any deeper than this. Did I mention that champagne and caviar are served poolside?
Best Singles Scene
As the biggest melting party pot at sea, Carnival attracts all walks of life, including singles. It won't be tough meeting and mingling in the ships' wall-to-wall entertainment and public areas, with their bars, discos, gyms, dining rooms and people-plastered pool decks.
Like Carnival, Royal Caribbean's fun-packed Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexican Riviera cruises are a magnet for a cross-section of passengers, including eager-beaver singles looking to mingle.
For single, 50+ ladies and gentleman, Crystal's pair of elegant 960-passenger ships, the Harmony and Symphony, are great places to meet and mingle with other lovers of the good life. The ships even have gentlemanly hosts, men in their 50s and 60s who are aboard to dance and dine with unattached ladies.
Best for Kids
Down with the grown ups! These lines cater to the kids as much as to you! All the lines included here offer supervised activities for three to five age groups for kids between ages 3 and 17. They have well-stocked playrooms, wading pools, kids' menus and cabins that can accommodate three to five people.
Mickey and the gang wrote the book on family fun. Both the 1,850-passenger-plus Disney Magic and Wonder are bursting at the seams with not only loads of kids activities, huge playrooms, and Pluto, Minnie and company posing for pix with the kiddies, but mondo, family-sized cabins, each with a bathroom and a half. The line offers 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises as well as 7-night eastern Caribbean cruises, which can be combined with stays at Disney World-you can have your ocean voyage and your Animal Kingdom, too.
While mom and dad can party into the wee hours, the kids can play all day on Carnival's kid-friendly Victory, Triumph, Destiny, Elation, and Paradise. Check out the large playrooms stocked with computer stations, a climbing maze, a 16-monitor video wall showing movies and cartoons, arts and crafts, and oodles of toys and games.
Royal Caribbean's big 'ole Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas take the cake. These babies are theme parks at sea, with way more to than you or the kids could ever fit into one day. Would you believe an ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall, in-line skating track, a nine-hole miniature golf course, and regulation-sized basketball, paddleball, and volleyball courts? These ships have got 'em. The sprawling kids' play area includes a huge, mall-sized video arcade and an outdoor corner of deck with a wading pool and even mini deck chairs. (Royal Caribbean's other "of the Seas" ships have roomy play areas too.)
The kids' facilities on Princess's Golden, Grand, Ocean, Sea, Sun and Dawn Princess are the best-kept secrets at sea. The indoor/outdoor play areas are sequestered on private a patch of deck, and you'll find wading pools and even Big Wheels on some ships. The cool teen centers come loaded with computers, video games and a sound system, and the one on the Grand even has a teen's hot tub and private sunbathing deck.
Best Party at Sea
Hey, Carnival's vessels ain't named the "fun ships" for nothing. With names like the Celebration, Fantasy and Imagination, what else would you expect! All day long the pool decks are rocking, with tunes playing so loud you'll have to go back to your cabin to think. By night, the party continues into the wee hours in the many bars and lounges, or you can hit the live Vegas-style revues or head for the glitzy casinos, discos or R-rated comedy shows.
Dig the high-in-the-sky disco on Princess's Grand Princess. It sits way up above the ship and sea at the end of a futuristic-looking bridge protruding into the night. The multi-level night spot sports lots of great views and great times.
Party with the players! NCL's Norway throws some of the best music theme cruises at sea. From big bands, to country music, jazz and blues, the Norway hits a high note in the music department.
Toga, toga, toga! Costa throws the only toga party at sea, and it's loads of fun! The weekly dinnertime shindig invites guests to don a bedsheet and party on. It gives new meaning to "three sheets to the wind"!
There's no rest for the weary on Royal Caribbean's party-hardy Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexican Riviera cruises. From dancing to singing to comedy to elaborately costumed revues and glittery casinos, Royal Caribbean's got it all. The new Voyager and Explorer of the Seas, with their Royal Promenade entertainment strips, throw the biggest parties in the fleet.
Best Theme Cruises
NCL wrote the book on theme cruises, and the Norway now puts on seven or eight music cruises a year-from country to blues, big band, 50s and country, including its annual 2-week Jazz Festival cruise-plus a handful of sports theme cruises that have players and Hall-of-Famers from pro basketball, football, hockey, and baseball sailing on board, signing autographs, conducting demonstrations and contests and mingling with passengers.
What better place and time to learn something new than during a meandering Atlantic crossing on that grand ole dame, Cunard's 1,715-passenger QE2. The ship features themes from classical music to New York jazz, British comedy, photography, literature and English gardens.
On Holland America's 1,494-passenger Westerdam you can boogie with big bands like the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Guy Lombardo's Royal Canadians, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Other themes include 1950s "Sock Hop" cruises featuring performers like the Platters and the Shirelles, and a series of Broadway theme sailings featuring greats like Joel Grey (from Cabaret and Chicago).
With Mickey and pals worked in at every level, the Disney Magic and Wonder are a theme in and of themselves. Restaurants, entertainment, cabins, the Pool Deck, even the artwork that hangs on the wall are sprinkled with the characters we've all grown to know and love.
The elegant Crystal Harmony and Symphony sparkle in the theme department, with tons of annual theme cruises held on the ships' globetrotting itineraries. Choose from their Wine & Food Festival sailings which include wine tastings and cooking demos, to special cruises focused on health and fitness, big band and jazz, classical music and opera, art and architecture, and computer learning.
Best Dining on the High Seas
Hardcore foodies and gourmands have several mouthwatering choices when it comes to the best cuisine at sea. The small ships of Silversea, Seabourn, and Radisson Seven Seas take the top honors. On par with what you'd find at New York's or San Francisco's top restaurants, all produce artful culinary presentations served by ultra-professional waiters who know how to dote. The ships also offer the most extensive wine lists.
The Crystal twins, Crystal Symphony and Crystal Harmony, are also tops in the food department, offering the very best Asian cuisine at sea in their reservations-only specialty restaurants. Harmony's Japanese restaurant, Kyoto, serves utterly authentic sushi platters, miso soup, beef teriyaki and pork dishes, as well as lots of that delicious sake. The ships' theme lunch buffets offer an over-the-top spread of yummy dishes, from heaps of jumbo shrimp to lobster tails, shish kebabs, stir frys, Greek salads and other Mediterranean specialties.
Windstar's sleek sailing ships may be casual and carefree, but the food served is seriously good, adding to the experience of the most sophisticated, laid-back cruise you can find.
God save the queen! The class system is live and kicking on Cunard's QE2, which offers five dining rooms that passengers are assigned to according to their cabin category. For passengers in the most expensive rooms, the most elegant (and some say the best) restaurant at sea is the formal single-seating Queen's Grill, with table-side cooking and carving and virtually unlimited choices. Order items that aren't on the menu and the chefs will make every attempt to satisfy.
Celebrity is a star in the mainstream cuisine category. These megas offer the best food you'll find on any of the megaships. Menus are designed by Michel Roux, Britain's most famous and celebrated French chef, who sometimes cooks for the queen herself when she stops by his chichi restaurant on the Thames.
Norwegian Cruise Line is a winner when it comes relaxed dress codes and flexible dining choices-even if the food isn't the best at sea. The new fleetwide "freestyle dining" concept has turned the line's newest ship, the Norwegian Sky, into a multi-faceted food fest, with five restaurants serving meals nightly between about 5:30 and midnight. Not only have they all turned casual (ditch the suit and tie for good!), but you can now stroll in when you like and dine with whomever you choose-no more regimented early and late seatings. The Asian lunch buffets in the ship's Ciao Chow restaurant are excellent, with homemade sashimi and a great create-your-own Oriental soup with fresh ingredients from turnips to tofu, pickled ginger, snow peas and shiitake mushrooms.
Here's the rub: Celebrity's Century, Galaxy, Mercury, Millennium and new Infinity have the best spas at sea. The huge AquaSpas manage to combine the best health, beauty and fitness regimens with striking aesthetics inspired by things like Japanese gardens and bathhouses and Moorish and Turkish spas. Facilities include saunas, mud baths, massage rooms, Turkish baths, and relaxing waiting areas with padded teak lounge chairs. Each also offers the Rasul (an Oriental therapy that includes applying medicinal mud), a seaweed soap shower, an herbal steam bath and massage, and a dip in the 15,000-gallon thalassotherapy pool (an oversized, souped-up hot tub)-and of course all the facials and massages you could want.
Windstar's 312-passenger Wind Surf may be small, but she packs a spa punch few larger ships manage to muster. A staff of ten plies passengers with aromatherapy and a variety of massages and other treatments. There's also a sauna and steam room. Spa packages for both men and women can be purchased in advance, with appointment times made once you're on board.
The Judith Jackson spa aboard Radisson's 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator is a breath of fresh air in the world of cruise-ship spas, which are almost all managed by the same company, Steiner Transocean Limited. Not only do the Judith Jackson folks refrain from hawking their skincare products like Steiner does just as clients are coming out of massage-induced trance, but they also dole out some innovative treatments Steiner doesn't, like a relaxing 20-minute hair and scalp oil massage and a one-hour four-hand massage (yep, two therapists work simultaneously)
For a break from the fast pace and action-packed life on board, the two-level spa complexes on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas are two of the largest and most soothing spaces around. Before or after a massage, you can chill out in the peaceful waiting area as the sounds of a tropical forest are quietly piped in around you. The African-themed spa and solarium on the Radiance of the Seas is a beauty too.
OK, you might get a nosebleed going down to the low, low levels of NCL's classic Norway, but when you get down there you'll find the well-stocked Roman Spa. It's an oasis on this old-timer, boasting an indoor pool, 16 treatment rooms, exercise equipment, a pair of steam rooms, two saunas, body-jet showers and a whirlpool.
Done up in richly colored mosaic tiles and Roman columns, the soothing Pompeii Spa on Costa's CostaVictoria isn't huge, but its an appealing, European-style spa, with a pool and a Turkish bath.
The gyms on the Carnival Destiny, Triumph and Victory are better than a lot of gyms you'd find in your home town. They're dang huge, stocked with more than 40 state-of-the-art exercise machines, including virtual-reality stationary bikes. The mondo spaces are framed in floor-to-ceiling windows and the workout machines are spaced far enough apart that you'll never feel cramped. The two-level complexes include a juice bar, men's and women's saunas and steam rooms and a hot tub.
Holland America may be geared to an older crowd, but the awesome gyms on the Rotterdam, Volendam, Zaandam, and Amsterdam are one way to stay young. They're huge, ocean-view places to pump some iron or join a stretch class.
Check out the funky machines on the Celebrity's Century, Galaxy, Mercury, Millennium, and Infinity. Besides the typical treadmills, step machines and free weights, you'll find virtual-reality stationary bikes and even a gizmo that simulates rollerblading.
Best Cruises for High Rollers
Cha-ching, cha-ching. If you like spending your idle time at sea leaning on the green felt of a blackjack table or pulling the one-armed bandit, then you're in luck: Today's modern ships boast sprawling, Vegas-style casinos decked out in so much glitz and glamour, with so many bells and whistles, that even Donald Trump would be proud. For the biggest and best, head for Carnival, Royal Caribbean (especially Voyager and Explorer of the Seas), Princess (especially Grand, Ocean, Sea, Sun and Dawn Princess), Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises (especially Century, Galaxy, Mercury and Millennium), and Norwegian Cruise line (especially the Sky).
Best Cruises for Golfers
If hitting balls into little windmills is your thing, you'll love Royal Caribbean's miniature golf courses! Four of its ships-Legend of the Seas, Splendour of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas-have actual 18-hole putting greens on board. The Voyager and Explorer also have a golf simulator.
Crystal's Harmony and Symphony have two golf driving nets and a large putting green, so golfing freaks can whack at balls all day long. Plus, there's often an instructor on board giving group instruction throughout the week.
On every one of its Bermuda cruises, Celebrity's Zenith and Horizon feature a PGA-certified pro who gives lessons at the ship's driving net. In port, the pro takes golfers to the course for hands-on instruction. You'll find nifty golf simulators on the Century, Galaxy, Mercury and Millennium.
Fore! Princess's Grand Princess has a nine-hole miniature golf course right on board, and the Grand, Ocean, Sea, Sun, Dawn, and the Golden also have golf simulators.
The Best Internet Hook-ups at Sea
Crystal was a pioneer way before the other lines jumped on the Internet bandwagon. Both the Harmony and Symphony have well-stocked computer labs with over 20 computer workstations and complimentary training classes to boot as part of its Computer University program. Computer use is free of charge, except a $5 fee to set up an e-mail account and a charge of $3 every time you send or receive an e-mail up to about seven to eight pages long.
The Norwegian Sky debuted in late '99 extolling the virtues of its Internet Café. Well, it really is one of the better ones out there with 9 flat-screen models available 24-7. Send an email, surf the Net, or check your AOL or other email accounts. Rates are $0.75 a minute, plus $3.75 to send an email; it's free to receive email.
Holland America's new ships are hip to the Internet trend. Volendam, Zaandam and Amsterdam have ocean-view computer rooms, complete with state-of-the-art 8 flat-screen models. Rates are $0.75 per minute, with a five-minute minimum.
Royal Caribbean's Voyager and Explorer of the Seas are not only the biggest cruise ships in the world (at least for the time being), they've got the best computer hook-up at sea. Each has a computer room with 18 work stations which have not only email and Internet access, but net cams too (small cameras attached to the monitor and aimed at user) so users can snap pictures of themselves and send out digital postcards to envious friends back home. The rest of the Royal Caribbean fleet has computer centers too with 10 to 16 machines apiece, open 24-hours a day. Rates are $0.50 a minute. And Radiance has Internet connections in every cabin for passengers' laptops.
Cunard may be an old-world line steeped in tradition, but the line's no wallflower. The QE2 and Caronia each have 10 spiffy new computers with email access. Sending an email costs $5 for the first 5K (5000 bytes) and $1 for each additional K; incoming emails are free.
She may be small, but Windstar's 312-passenger Wind Surf is loaded with five computers in its library, each with e-mail access. Rates are $7.50 per email for up to 5,000 characters.
Written by Heidi Sarna.
Heidi Sarna, a veteran travel writer who's been on nearly 100 cruises in the past 10 years, is the author of Frommer's Caribbean Cruises and Ports of Call, and contributes articles on cruising to many national magazines and newspapers.