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There are cruise newbies everywhere are knee-deep in cruise brochures trying to decide which cruise line to choose.

As well travelled cruisers know, the cruise line is important – but don’t be fooled into thinking all cruise ships of the same line are created equal.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a ship.

Class of Ship

Bigger cruise lines often separate their fleet into classes. Things that differentiate classes of ship include size, number of passengers, age of the ship, and onboard facilities. However, just because two ships are in the same class doesn’t mean they are identical, make sure to check out each ship, as sister ships can have subtle but important differences.

The size and shape of a ship may dictate the ports it visits, so if you have a specific port in mind you may have to compromise on ship choice. Small ports are only accessible to smaller ships, and smaller ships sometimes mean fewer facilities.

Age of ship

Certain sailings offered by a cruise line may seem inexplicably cheaper than others, even though the itinerary is the same. This is almost definitely down to the ship. The age of a ship means that even within a class some ships are the equivalent of a 4* hotel, while other ships may only be a 3/3.5*. Older ships due for renovation will be much cheaper. If you are more interested in experiencing the ports of call, then booking an older ship is a great way bag a bargain. However, if you enjoy indulging in the finer things such as luxurious cabins, dining in opulent restaurants, and taking part in the latest activities, then make sure to book a recently refurbished or recently launched ship.

Check what’s on board

If you have been dying to try a certain restaurant, experience an epic waterslide, or see a new musical production, don’t leave it to chance. Ships within the same class can have very different dining options, entertainment, and activities. The same goes for cabins, not all ships operated by the same cruise line will have the interconnected cabins, family suites, or solo-cabins you have heard so much about.

The top tip to take away is – do your research and make sure to ask lots of questions about the ship. After all, you don’t want to pay extra to book a superior cruise line for their incredible advertised facilities, only to get stuck on the ugly older sister of the flashy new flagship.

by Sarah Loughlin