Simply - your budget will determine this! Personally I would recommend the US lines such as Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian or Princess. Generally newer more impressive ships with more activities. All of thse take 2,500pax plus. Given the size of the ships this is not a problem with overcrowding! If money is no object then I would select Seabourn, Oceania or Azamara. As to itinerary you must decide whether you want to set off from Miami or to start from one of the islands such as San Juan in PR. From Miami the routes are the eastern and western itineraries where as from SJU you will reach the more southern sceanic islands such as Barbados and St Lucia. You also need to decide how long you want to cruise for - you may hate it and want to get off after the first day which would be a shame if you have booked a 14n cruise!! But it is a long way to go just for a week. I suggest getting all the brochures and then once you have limited it to a few ships/itineraries then we can advise further....
The old adage, “You get what you pay for” still applies. There are three groups of cruise lines each vying for there own bit of the market so all of them will cut corners when they think it probably won’t be noticed and some because they need to in order to stay profitable. The three sections are the three star lines, the four and four plus lines and the five to six star lines. In each of these groups there are those who are better than others. On top of that each line is trying to make a position for itself in its own niche. For instance Swan Hellenic offer academia afloat with brilliant lectures and quality service and little entertainment, Carnival in the same grouping offer am “Hail fellow well met” attitude with a lot of noise, razzmatazz and good showtime entertainment. These are totally different in their approach to passengers.
So Cruise lines in the 3 star group are generally the cheapest but offer generally lower quality in one way or another like older ships and a slightly lower quality and this suits many people particularly because the amount paid for the experience is less and they enjoy the passengers they meet. This group includes: Thomson, Ocean Village, Fred Olsen, Island Cruises, and MSC, probably in that order, from the bottom up.
In the 4 star group are the majority of Cruise Lines and with ships varying in size from small to very large, another factor to take into account, middle of the road but having most things working in good order and newer or new ships. This group includes: Marco Polo, NCL, Costa, P & O, Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Cunard (although Queen’s Grill and possibly Princess Grill passengers will be 5 star plus), Holland America, Celebrity, and Azamara and again probably in that order.
The luxury end will not necessarily have the newest ships but they are in very fine order as is the cuisine, and open seating dining, cabins, accessories and they will often provide all or a lot of your alcoholic drinks free. This group includes Regent, Crystal, Oceania, Seabourn and Silversea. Mostly much smaller ships with real quality in what is offered.
Many people will, I’m sure disagree with this general assessment and I do stress that it is a personal one, mostly from experience. You must remember that each Cruise Line in each section is trying to attract their passengers with different “bait” so bear it in mind but at then end of this lengthy piece may I congratulate in advance and say that as it is a special occasion you try to get as near the top of my list as you can just as you would if you were choosing a restaurant or hotel but if you feel that you want to be at the bottom of the list because it suits you then go for it but once you have been on a cruise it will be difficult not to go again and again………my very best to you ….Neil
Request this web site's brochure called "The Complete Cruise Brochure 2008-2009. It is excellent - explains how the different companies operate and the market they are aimed for. Also gives examples of available cruises from many cruise lines and an idea of price. I am sure you will find it very useful.