Our first cruise, just my wife and me was about 12 years ago or more. It was on the Norway. I found it to be a wonderful cruise and enjoyed the sea days even more then the shore days. The ship felt like a ship and the food was excellent. I loved how everything was perfectly sized so you could have a full 5-course meal and not fill stuffed.
Our next cruise was a few years ago on another Norwegian ship-the Jewel I think. I thought the food was good but hated the buffet style. It felt like everything I wanted to try was in a “special” dinning room that would be $20 a person.
Finally, I just got back from a Carnival Cruise and this time we took our kids (9 and 4). It was not what I expected in that I thought it would be drunken college kids-fortunately it wasn’t. I found the staff to be excellent. They were professional, courteous and very entertaining-loved the shows at the end of dinner.
The food was not really that great (not bad-just not great) and it wasn’t really an elegant experience. Maybe that is the issue for me, when I think of cruising I think of elegance. The ship felt more like a hotel then a ship and the food was just food.
So I guess what we are looking for is this, a more traditional feeling cruise that is fun for kids. I suspect the shore excursions are all pretty much the same so I didn’t factor that in. I love to dive but find it to be not practical on the ships.
Any suggestions on which lines to consider for our next trip?
This is probably a hard question to answer. I've only been on Royal Caribbean, so I can't speak of how they compare to other major cruise lines. However, from what I have heard, their kids program is pretty good, and I've found the food to be good as well.
It really depends on what you're looking for, and what your budget is. Going back to the kids' program on Royal Caribbean, I read somewhere on one review that when the parents went to go get their kids from the program, the kids kept telling the parents "just a little bit longer." This to me seems that they are enjoying themselves in the kids program, and didn't want to leave. I don't have kids, so I can't speak first hand. I'm just going on what I've heard.
I kind of like what you're doing so far. Try different cruise lines and see which one out of the ones you've tried you like the best. I keep wanting to do a Carnival cruise, so I have something to compare Royal Caribbean to. Maybe if your budget allows, maybe try Royal Caribbean for your next cruise.
2007 - Majesty of the Seas (Bahamas)
2009 - Enchantment of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2010 - Freedom of the Seas (Western Caribbean)
2013 - Golden Princess (Alaska, roundtrip from Seattle)
Hi OldNSalty. Your cruising preferences sound a lot like ours. Have you considered Holland America? Their ships have a classic feel to them. While they don't market themselves as a family line, they do have a lot for families to do. Our son liked the kids' programs on our HAL cruises. And, as the ships are smaller and there are fewer families (as a % of the passengers), the kids get a great deal of attention in the programs.
Celebrity might also be a good option... yet I give HAL the edge for the kids. (In my experience, only.) Princess is superb for the family, although you'd need to get either a mini-suite or two cabins to fit four comfortably without dealing with upper berths.
If you're thinking "elegant', Disney is not the right choice. There is probably no better cruise line for the kids, but elegant it is not.
I would second Lisa's vote for Holland America, especially their smaller ships; plenty of activities for the kids, elegance and traditional feel--all in one ship. The cuisine is outstanding and there is only one alternative restaurant, so you are not constantly paying extra for food for which you already paid.
I'd suggest Princess or HAL, too. Royal is definitely a line with a lot for the children to do, parents, too, but not what I would call elegant. My hubby and I sailed on the Epic (NCL) last year, and really enjoyed our cruise. Celebrity doesn't have much for children and I actually think Princess and HAL were more elegant (just my opinion).