Profiles of the Major Cruise Lines

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A quick overview of the most popular cruise ships, and what sets them apart.

Do cruiseships each have distinctive personalities? Traits so prominent as to attract a fairly uniform clientele? We say yes, while pointing out at the same time that people of all ages and conditions are found in some numbers aboard every ship. But on the following ships and lines, certain types dominate the scene:

S.S. Norway

In past years this ship was filled with hot-eyed, middle-class, jet setters looking for action, excitement, something to do every moment, very much like the typical devotees of Las Vegas and Reno. More recently, the "Norway" has really become the "senior citizen special." Rates are usually very budget-friendly, and tend to attract large numbers of grandmas and grandpas.

Celebration, Holiday, Ecstasy, Imagination (and all the other so-called "Fun Ships" of Carnival Cruises

They attract a rather unsophisticated lot with hokey forms of group entertainment (like grandparents' get-togethers in a ship's lounge to brag about grandchildren) and policies that encourage some young things to come in shorts to meals. Neon, mirrors, chrome and glitz, not to mention disco parties and such, mean that a larger-than-usual contingent of young swingers (in their 30's and 40's) will be onboard, in addition to a fair number of the non-affluent elderly.

Windjammer Cruises (many ships)

Casual, tight-budgeted, yuppie couples and singles in their 20's and 30's, drawn by the adventure and low cost of traveling in a soaring "tall ship" of billowing sails and closet-like cabins.

The Sea Lion, Endeavor, and Sea Bird of seven of Lindblad's special expeditions of New York

The very best of older Americans--vigorous, intellectual, interested in science and history. Because of the length and cost of the "expedition cruises" operated by these ships, they attract a high percentage of people in their 60's and 70's.

Costa Romantica, Costa Victoria

For middle-of-the-roaders in every sense, these are mid-priced ships balanced in atmosphere and programs. Passengers are relaxed, but with a sense of taste; activities and attitudes are informal, but not to the point of "carnival!" A better-than-average children's program attracts a fair number of families, but not so many as to intrude on other passengers. Known for excellent food.

Windstar

Professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers) in the prime of life, and rising young professionals, all of a firmly independent outlook that craves no organized activities. Passengers spend time sea-gazing and star-gazing on an open bridge, snorkeling and swimming off secluded beaches, reading, in quiet conversations over brandy.

QE2

A generally well-read and well-educated group, of every age range (predominantly in their middle years), in terms of economic categories ranging from upper middle-class to the most affluent (though rates sometimes dip down low enough to attract more budget-minded folk). People in love with the ultimate ocean experience, spending days on the open sea without benefit of port stops, simply strolling the decks in the brisk, salty air.

As for other personality "types"

"Swinging Singles" in their 20s trend--if they are low-income--to the Carnival ships; if they are middle-income to ships of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (Sovereign of the Seas, Nordic Empress) or Norwegian Cruise Line (Norway, Windward, Dreamward); and if they are affluent to the new Queen Mary of Cunard.

Families are attracted by the comprehensive children's programs of Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and the earlier-mentioned Costa Cruises, or to the Disney cruises.

Intellectuals tend to book the low-density ships, not simply the tiny vessels, but even such large ships as those of Princess Cruises, which carry a third less the passengers of several similarly-sized vessels. West Coaster's also gravitate heavily to ships of Princess Cruises.

And senior citizens are strongly drawn to ships of the Holland America Line, traditional in their decor and policies, though Holland America has made recent attempts at attracting younger passengers.

In cruising, to each his own!

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