Motivation Monday: 2021’s Top Medium Cruise Lines

#18 Norwegian Cruise Line

Michele Verdure, NCL Norway, Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Lines

Until Norwegian Epic came in 2010, Norwegian focused on mid-sized ships that carry around 2,000 guests, and while they still make up the majority of the fleet, a colorful vibe rules these ships, as guests enjoy water slides, silly pool contests like synchronized swimming and things like everyone’s favorite: bingo. Norwegian’s sail all over the world, and many focus on North America.

#17 Princess Cruises

Princess at the Hubbard Glacier, Courtesy Princess

Princess Cruises has a 14-ship fleet, with its 5 smallest including the Coral, Island, Sun, Sea, and Pacific Princess ships, the last of which was the star of the TV show The Love Boat. The Pacific Princess is definitely the smallest, holding only 680 guests. The 4 other ships carry around 2,000 each and are just the right size to sail through the Panama Canal.

#16 Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean in Norway, Photo by Oliver Leren

Though Royal Caribbean is best known for its large & mega ships, they also have a number of medium ships whose maximum guest capacities are just under 2,500 travelers. Each of these belongs to the Vision or Radiance class, two families of older ships whose smaller sizes allow them to explore more adventurous ports in places like Alaska and Cyprus. But they also sail the Caribbean, offering Royal Caribbean loyalists a more intimate experience than their larger ships.

#15 Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Spirit Coming into Sydney Harbour, Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

The 8 Fantasy and Spirit class ships on Carnival each carry about 2,100 guests. Carnival hasn’t any ships that small since 2004 & has no plans to do more of them, but these smaller vessels sail all over the world, including places like the Panama Canal & South Pacific, as well as short sailings from Florida to the Caribbean, & bring the same amount of fun to every sailing as the much larger Carnival ships.

#14 Marella Cruises

Courtesy Marella Cruises

This U.K.-based cruise line, called Marella, is operated by TUI UK, has a fleet of just 4 ships that hold 1,100 and 2,000 guests, sailing Europe, the Middle East, North America, & the Caribbean, with a few select special journeys to Asia. They call themselves all-inclusive, & do include alcoholic beverages as well as tips; however, some of the specialty dining experiences do cost additional.

#13 Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity’s Magic Carpet Michel Verdure

Celebrity’s amazing Millennium-class ships, including the Millennium, Infinity, Summit, & Constellation, are the smallest in Celebrity’s fleet, with a capacity between 2,100 and 2,200 guests each. The ships just got new and upgraded staterooms as part of Celebrity’s fleet-wide modernization, & they were some of the very first ships to use more eco-friendly engines that used a combination of gas and steam power. The 4 ships sail from ports around the world, from Europe to North America to Asia.

#12 Holland America Line

Courtesy Holland America

Eight of Holland America’s 11 ships are considered medium-size, carrying 1,400-2,500 guests. These refined ships sail to all over the world, but one of the most popular destinations for Holland America is Alaska. You might like to check out the Noordam, refurbished in 2019, as it sails itineraries around Asia.

#11 Azamara

Azamara in Santorini, by Jenna Lyn Pimentel/Courtesy Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara, with 3 ships carrying about 700 guests each, are quite lovely, featuring top-notch dining & lots of on-board activities to keep you busy on any day at sea. People choose this cruise line for the experience in destination, which are so many and span all seven continents. Azamara offers personalized shore excursions (so no slow-moving group with a flag-carrying guide), they also do overnights, allowing guests to explore more deeply to the destinations inland. The overnights also allow guests to experience an evening in port cities, if they would like.

#10 P&O Cruises

Courtesy P&O Cruises

Established in 1837 to bring mail and guests from the UK to the Iberian Peninsula, British line P&O Cruises is the oldest in the world, but it began to offer leisure cruising, the very first leisure cruises as we know them, as soon as 1844. The ships cater to mostly the British, & they provide good value for a traditional cruising experience. Guests will see traditional activities like shuffleboard, dance lessons, & pub games. The ships typically sail in Europe, but they travel to Asia and the Middle East.

#9 Hurtigruten

Hurtigruten Isfjord Norway by Andrea Klaussner

Hurtigruten started out as a coastal ferry company in 1893 in Norway & has expanded to include expeditions to places like Antarctica, Cape Verde, & Greenland. Out of Hurtigruten’s 14-ships, there are 7 expedition ships, five of which fit 500-1,000 guests. Hurtigruten ‘s 2 newest ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, are hybrid-powered, showing the world Hurtigruten’s dedication to sailing cleanly to protect the environment.

#8 Cunard

Queen Mary, Courtesy Cunard

Though Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 fits 2,600+ guests plus a number of cats and dogs on board, her sister ships, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria only have a capacity of about 2,000 passengers. Though they’re very much the same layout-wise, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria ships have different designs. Both give the vibe from historic ocean liners of the early 1900s; however, the Queen Elizabeth features a bolder artistic vibe, while the Queen Victoria is a more subdued yet very elegant decor. Passengers on either ship are likely to enjoy a classic afternoon tea before elegantly dressing up in a glamorous gown for dinner.

#7 MSC Cruises

Photo by Ivan Sarfatti/Courtesy MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises is a cruise line that is becoming more popular. This Swiss cruise line has only 4 medium ships, their “Lirica” class ships, which can carry 2,000-2,600 guests. These are MSC’s oldest ships, but all refurbished during MSC’s “Renaissance” program which modernized interiors & expanded their actual size. The line is known for its Mediterranean inspiration, stopping at ports worldwide, so you’ll find notice Italian food on board wherever in the world MSC takes you. Their sailings are lively, especially at night, with many guests partying at nightclubs into the late hours – fitting to Mediterranean Style Cruising, which is what MSC stands for!

#6 Silversea Cruises

Silversea Muse, Courtesy Silversea Cruise

Only 3 of Silversea’s 10 ships, are technically medium in size” with guest capacities counts around 600 each, but that’s a lot of guests for the luxurious cruise line, as they do specialize in expedition vessels of smaller sizes. The Silversea Moon ship, debuted in 2021, and its sister Silversea Muse (pictured above) are the largest, each carrying up to 596 guests. Silversea sails to 900+ destinations worldwide.

#5 Oceania Cruises

Oceania Riviera, Courtesy Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises is all about the food, and they should be. I have not sailed with them yet, but clients of mine have, and they love it! Their sea bass is to die for, and I’m just not that much of a fish person! Their wines are excellent and their guests are not too fancy, for those who prefer a more casual atmosphere. Oceania’s 1,250 guest ships MS Marina and MS Riviera offer restaurants by Jaques Pepin, a 6-course Dom Perignon dinner which also features a pairing of 3 vintages, a cooking center where passengers of all skill levels can learn more about cooking, not to mention culinary-themed tours and excursions, such as a visit to the market in Nice with a chef. Its 4 smaller Regatta-class ships, which can carry about 684 guests, also have fabulous dining options, like the Polo Grill & their Italian eatery called Toscana. Two brand new 1,200-guest ships are on the way for Oceania, expected to set sail in 2023-2025.

#4 Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Courtesy Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas is the real deal when you’re talking All Inclusive Cruises. Everything, including meals, alcohol airfare, mini-bar, and even specialty excursions is included. The only things you’ll need to pay extra for would be the casino, laundry, & spa appointments. Regent Seven Seas’ 5 ships carry 750 guests or less; however in this cruise line’s case it’s about ship size rather than guest capacity – giving every passenger plenty of personal space, especially in their staterooms. Regent Seven Seas specializes in round-the-world itineraries. Coming soon is the new Seven Seas Grandeur, scheduled to sail in 2023.

#3 Seabourn

Seabourn Encore, Pool Deck at Night, Courtesy Seabourn

Seabourn is more like megayachts than cruise ships, with ultra-luxurious dining, decor, & service. Seabourn currently has 5 megayachts , the 2 biggest can carry 600 guests. Their reduced size allows the vessels to dock in small ports worldwide. For example, in Indonesia, they’ve worked with local tourism boards to develop ports like Celukan Bawang & Probolinggo. Seabourn’s guests tend to be lifelong learners, so they flock to the Seabourn Conversation programs in the evening, which hosts all sorts of interesting people, like Apple’s Steve Wozniak, on board to give lectures or casual chats. Seabourn announced a partnership with celebrity chef Thomas Keller in 2015, crafting new menus for the 3 existing ships & initiating new fantastic restaurants on the 2 newest ships, Encore and Ovation. This December, the Seabourn Venture is due to join the fleet, with a sister ship yet to be named, which arrives in 2022.

#2 Crystal Cruises

Crystal Serenity, Courtesy Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises is another generally all-inclusive cruise line, though not as inclusive as a line like Regent Seven Seas, Crystal includes all drinks, 24-hour room service, a Wi-Fi package, plus 1 specialty dining reservation per guests (including at chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma and Sushi Bar, his 1st restaurant at sea) . Crystal Cruises has just 3 ocean-going vessels, the Serenity & Symphony, which both have capacities of under 1,000 guests & sail globally, plus the newly launched Endeavor, an expedition megayacht that set sail in 2021.

#1 Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking Sky, Tromso Coast, Courtesy Viking Ocean Cruises

Best known historically as a river cruise line, Viking has launched 6 ocean ships since 2015, most recently the new Viking Venus, which set sail in 2021. The ships are all nearly identical, much like Viking River Cruises does, carrying 930 guests each, in balcony staterooms. Although Viking Ocean Cruises is not all-inclusive, they offer guests 1 free tour/excursion in each port, beer and wine with lunch and dinner, & a Wi-Fi connection. Viking Ocean Cruises currently primarily sails in Northern Europe, though there are some Mediterranean itineraries as well.

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