Cruise lines have their own character. Some, such as Disney, are geared to families with young children; others, such as Crystal, are more suited for couples. Here are general profiles of some major cruise lines. Per diems, listed after the line's name, are per person, per day, based on double occupancy and are average prices based on brochure rates. Actual fares may be cheaper.
American Canadian Caribbean Line Inc. $150-$200. With three ships and a maximum of 100 passengers, this line goes where larger ships can't. Onboard lifestyle is casual. The line attracts active couples 50 and older. It is not for children or those who want to dress up and be entertained.
American Cruise Lines. $360-$700. This two-ship line concentrates on historical itineraries along the East Coast. The ships carry only 49 passengers each. Cuisine reflects the region visited.
American West Steamboat Co. $170-$690. Two modern paddle wheelers carry 160 passengers along rivers in Oregon on history-filled, casual cruises. Food is Northwest cuisine, and entertainment is showboat variety. Most passengers are 50 and older. Children are not encouraged.
Carnival Cruise Lines. $235-$465. This fleet of 19 "fun ships," which carry 1,400 to 2,200 passengers each, now offers more than just party cruises for singles. It also attracts many families and couples who want a lively, fun atmosphere with Las Vegas-type entertainment. Food and service are top drawer; the children's program is well designed.
Celebrity Cruises. $184-$599. The premium division of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity is noted for its food, service and relaxed but refined atmosphere. For people who don't mind dressing up. Most passengers are couples, 35 and older.
Clipper Cruise Line. $386-$650. The vessels in Clipper's "small ship adventures" carry fewer than 130 passengers. Onboard life is casual and outdoorsy. Local entertainers are brought aboard to augment educational lectures. Most passengers are older than 50.
Costa Cruises. $155-$460. Costa's "Cruising Italian Style" slogan means Italian officers and a mostly Italian crew. Food, which includes plenty of pasta, and service can be spotty. Americans of all ages dominate the line's Caribbean sailings but are a minority on European cruises. The seven-ship fleet ranges from 820 to 2,100 passengers.
Cruise West. $400-$600. These older ships carry about 100 passengers each and are booked by people 35 and older looking for a cruise without frills. Leave your tux and dancing shoes at home. Meals are set menus, with an alternative dish if you wish; they are well prepared, in portions suited to satisfy the hunger generated by the outdoor activities.
Crystal Cruises. $460-$1,830. Crystal has impeccable food, entertainment and service. Passengers are usually 35 and older, enjoy dressing up and being pampered and don't mind paying for it.
Cunard Line Limited. $185-$2,600. Traditional cruise ambience and attitude prevails on these British-run ships. Transatlantic passengers tend to be older than those on cruise itineraries.
Delta Queen Steamboat Co. $181-$552. The Delta Queen steamboat cruises the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and other inland waterways with paddle wheelers filled with the atmosphere and ambience of 19th century riverboat days. Once dominated by passengers 60 and older, the paddle wheelers are attracting younger couples looking for a relaxed vacation with some historical elements. Not for those looking for nighttime action: Midnight buffet is at 10:30 p.m.
Disney Cruise Line. $100-$685. Disney has expanded its operation of Bahamas cruises to the Caribbean. Shorter cruises can be combined with stays at Disney World/Epcot. Shipboard activities are educational, entertaining and designed for kids, though there is evening entertainment for adults.
First European Cruises. $111-$245 (on older ships), $145-$388 (on new ships). First European Cruises has a split personality, with several older classic cruise ships for fewer than 1,000 passengers and three new 1,500-passenger vessels. The ambience on each tends to match the ship's age. Passengers are mostly European, some with large families. Food and service are good to excellent.
Great Lakes Cruise Co. $142-$721. You can choose to cruise the Great Lakes in the 18-passenger Georgian Clipper, the luxury 95-passenger sleek yacht Levant or the 420-passenger Columbus, which was built for Great Lakes cruising. Both have open seating. Families and older passengers head for the Columbus, and upscale couples choose the Levant; older, casual cruisers like the Georgian Clipper.
Holland America Line. $114-$1,591. Holland America's 12 modern ships, carrying 1,500 to 1,800 passengers, maintain traditional design, dining and entertainment, with attentive service. The new Zuiderdam offers more flash, targeting a younger passenger than the line's usual 50-and-older crowd.
Lindblad Expeditions. $341-$541. Soft adventure trips into the Gulf of California, Costa Rica and the Galápagos Islands complement cruises around Britain and up the Norwegian coast. Most passengers are there for the adventure and enrichment. Casual dress and atmosphere. Take your jeans and leave your tie at home.
MSC Italian Cruises. $150-$310. Mediterranean Shipping has four classic ships, which carry from 550 to 1,000 passengers and spend most of the year in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, visiting South America, East and West Africa and the Caribbean in winter. Meals, service and entertainment are designed for Europeans. Currency on board is the euro.
Norwegian Coastal Voyage. $312-$520. This fleet of 13 modern ships carrying 164 to 674 passengers is a combination of cruise ship, ferry and supply ship cruising the Norwegian coast. Besides passengers in cabins, there are backpackers and locals who jump on at one port and get off at the next.
Norwegian Cruise Line. $165-$720. Ten ships ranging from 1,518 to 2,240 passengers are new and modern, with "freestyle cruising," meaning you eat where and when you want in several dining rooms with a "country club casual" dress code. The line attracts young to middle-aged sports enthusiasts to its popular sports bars.
Orient Lines. $328-$840. Orient's 826-passenger Marco Polo is attractive and well designed, with a reinforced hull that allows it to cruise the Antarctic. Other itineraries include India, Africa and the east and west coasts of South America. Most passengers are 50 and older and enjoy the excellent food and service as well as the dressy nights.
P&O Cruises. $152-$560. P&O cruises are about as British as you can get, with pubs, baked beans at breakfast and haggis on Robert Burns' birthday. The line's five ships are well run, and the children's program is one of the best at sea. Most passengers are British or Australian. Dancing is the most popular entertainment.
Peter Deilmann Cruises. $214-$750. Besides a fleet of riverboats in Europe, Deilmann sends its 513-passenger Deutschland on world cruises and to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.Most passengers are European. The cuisine is more French than German and is excellent, as is the formal service.
Princess Cruises. $100-$700. The 12-ship fleet is one of the most modern in the industry, and the ships, though large (carrying up to 2,600 passengers), are designed to seem smaller. A personal choice plan allows those passengers who want a more relaxed program to dine when they want, while others who like assigned seating can choose that. Entertainment is Las Vegas style in the multi-deck theater, but the ships have numerous small clubs for music and dancing.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. $519-$2,213. Radisson's five-ship fleet varies from the twin-hulled Radisson Diamond (carrying 350 passengers) to the new Mariner, Navigator and Voyager (700 passengers), the Paul Gauguin (329) in Tahiti and the small Song of Flower (180). The larger luxury ships are richly appointed, with a variety of dining venues including specialty restaurants supervised by Cordon Bleu or Michelin-star chefs. The ships attract upscale middle-aged passengers who like to dress up.
Regal Cruises. $110-$160. The Regal Empress is a good budget cruise for ship buffs who like classic cruise lines, young singles and couples who want to party and those 50-plus who want to gamble or relax. Food is plentiful, service is not, and entertainment is basic. You get what you pay for.
RiverBarge Excursions. $280-$315. The RiverBarge is actually two barges, one for cabins and the other for public rooms, both pushed by a tug. The river experience is the main attraction, visiting towns along the Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri rivers with winter cruises to Gulf Coast cities in Louisiana and Texas. Life on board is casual, and the all-American crew and staff are attentive even though tipping is not required.
Royal Caribbean International. $105-$925. This line's fleet of 16 ships varies from the 1,600-passenger Nordic Empress to the mega-ships in the Voyager class with 3,114 passengers, indoor promenade, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and two-deck spa and gym. High food and service levels. Passengers on the larger ships tend to be 35 to 50; older passengers gravitate to the line's smaller vessels.
Royal Olympic Cruises. $295-$864. With two modern ships carrying 836 passengers, the line is popular with middle-aged couples and single women. Summer sailings in Greece attract more Europeans. The extensive Greek educational shore excursions are tops in the Aegean.
St. Lawrence Cruise Lines. $1,148-$1,846. This line's 66-passenger riverboat cruises the St. Lawrence River and the Thousand Islands from May to October, visiting historical sites and forts. Passengers tend to be history-oriented, 50-and-older Canadians and Americans who like the casual, down-home ambience.
Seabourn Cruise Line. $656-$2,146. From its first sailing, Seabourn set a high tone for luxury cruising. The three 204-passenger ships offer attention to every guest. Dining is the primary evening activity, followed by dancing or cabaret entertainment. Dress code is very formal.
SeaDream Yacht Club. $315-$1,530. The two SeaDream yachts, the former Sea Goddess I and II, have been revamped and reshaped into more attractive and practical ships, providing a small-ship experience that rivals Seabourn. Water sports, food and service are impeccable, and the yacht's casual ambience is elegant but not formal, attracting a younger upscale clientele.
Silversea Cruises. $639-$899. The three top-drawer ships of Silversea (carrying from 293 to 382 passengers each) have all-inclusive pricing that includes all beverages, gratuities and a shore excursion on some cruises. Upscale Americans who enjoy dressing up and don't require entertainment beyond a dance floor and an occasional show fill up most cruises, with a few Europeans.
Star Clippers. $200-$530. The two 200-passenger sailing ships are ideal for wannabe sailors and young couples who would rather watch the sails go up than hoist them. A pianist and a singer entertain.
Star Cruises. $45-$100. Star concentrates on Asia with cruises on a variety of vessels from Singapore to Vietnam, Indonesia, China and Japan. On-board experience is strictly Asian, with exotic dining rooms, karaoke rooms and member-only casinos attracting mostly Asian passengers, plus Australians and a few North Americans.
Swan Hellenic Cruises. $350-$655. British-run and a part of P&O, Swan Hellenic is noted for its educational and enrichment cruises. Dress is casual in the daytime, dressier in the evening. Smoking is not permitted in the cabins, dining room or lectures, and no alcohol is served when visiting Muslim countries.
Windjammer Cruises. $115-$200. "Barefoot and happy" is the motto aboard this fleet of sailing ships that range from 62 to 122 passengers. Its free-form itineraries in the Caribbean reflect life on board, where dressing up means changing into a clean T-shirt. Cabins are spartan, food is edible and the grog flows freely. The young crowd is often joined by a couple of old salts.
Windstar Cruises. $590-$880. These computer-operated sailing ships are sleek and modern and attract mostly young, upscale couples. Food and service are excellent, entertainment is a trio playing dance music, and water sports compete with sunning on deck as prime activities.
Harry Basch, who writes the twice-monthly Cruise Views column, travels as a guest of the cruise lines.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times