A Mediterranean cruise is the dream of many people. It makes sense. Europe has so many places to see, so many cultures, so much history and such varied contemporary lifestyles. The Med boasts sensational shoreside activities and cuisines to try. But how does one choose with so many cruise lines, ships and itineraries?
Does it make a difference which ship you choose? Absolutely! Does the length of the cruise or the number of ports matter? For sure! Do ports look different from the railings of different ships? Well, now, that’s a totally debatable point.
I had the opportunity to take cruises on three ships from three classes this summer: Carnival Breeze and Oceania Riviera, just launched this season, and Celebrity Solstice.
There certainly are differences between the three. Carnival Breeze is the biggest and the company promotes the “fun” concept; it’s a mainstay of the onboard experience with lots of families on board. Carnival ships are considered mainstream, the least expensive category (see accompanying box).
At the other end of the size spectrum, Oceania, considered premium-plus and the priciest of the three, caters primarily to couples; its ships have no facilities or programs for kids. Oceania is known for its dining, including a restaurant by the line’s master chef, Jacques Pepin.
Celebrity, which is in the premium category, has a reputation for great food and service. Its newest ships, the Solstice class, also have justifiably received widespread acclaim for their architecture and décor.
ROOMS FOR RENT
On each of my three cruises, I was in an outside room with a balcony. All had twin beds that converted to a queen or king; sofa; safe; 24-hour room service; desk; bathroom and more. All had excellent linens, mattresses and pillows. Size ranged from 220 to 282 square feet, including the balcony; the bigger the room, the more drawer and closet space. Did the size difference make a big difference for this solo traveler? Not really, but it might for a couple.
For comparison purposes, prices below are for the type of accommodations I had — an ocean view stateroom with balcony — for a 12-night Mediterranean cruise next summer. Prices are per person, double occupancy, for the lowest level rooms in that category and do not includes taxes, fees or fuel surcharges.
Carnival Breeze: Breeze has 1,845 suites and staterooms and can carry a maximum of 4,724 guests. The biggest of the three ships, it also had, by far, the largest number of inside staterooms which, while not having a view, were the same size as the regular outside rooms. The Ocean View with Balcony is 220 square feet. Bathroom is shower only; it has a nice amenity kit with razors, Tylenol and more. Price: $1,999 per person.
Celebrity Solstice: The flagship of Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships has 1,426 suites and staterooms and carries a maximum of 3,145 guests. That’s large for a premium ship but it never feels crowded. Celebrity has created a category called AquaClass that, while the same size as the regular outsides with balconies, features upgraded amenities such as “rainshower” hardware, priority access to the spa areas and a private dining room, Blu. The Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with Veranda is 248 square feet. Bathroom is shower only. Price: $2,999 per person.
Oceania Riviera: The newer of Oceania’s two larger ships has 625 suites and staterooms with a capacity of 1,328. Almost all of the outside rooms have private balconies, and there are very few inside staterooms. The Riviera has some huge suites, all of which feature décor by Dakota Jackson or from Ralph Lauren Home. The Verandah Stateroom is 282 square feet. The bathroom has shower and tub. Price: $5,499 person, includes airfare.