a guest blog by Annika Hipple

Are you thinking about taking a cruise?  If so, you’re not alone. In a February 2009 New York Times article, Terry Dale, chief executive officer of the Cruise Line International Association, said, “Even in these tough economic times, we are forecasting that in 2009 a record 13.5 million people will take a cruise.”

But how do you decide which cruise to take? Which cruise line should you go with? Should you sign up for shore excursions in advance? Do you need to pack formal dinnerwear? The ins and outs of cruising can be quite overwhelming for a first-timer. There are many things to consider, but the first thing you must decide is whether you want to travel on a small ship or a larger one.

Small cruise ships generally hold up to 150 passengers. There are many excellent small-ship cruise lines specializing in different types of itineraries or regions of the world. Some notable ones include Lindblad Expeditions, Cruise West, Sea Cloud Cruises, and Ponant Cruises. Large cruise lines such as Norwegian (NCL), Princess, Holland America, or Carnival may carry 2,000 passengers or more on their ships. There are also medium-sized vessels that combine certain features of both small and large ships; for example, Silversea Cruises is a high-end cruise line with ships that carry approximately 300 passengers but offer many of the amenities of larger vessels. SmallShipCruises.com has an extensive list of cruise lines with ships carrying fewer than 500 passengers. 

There are benefits and drawbacks to each kind of ship; which will suit you best depends on what you are looking to get out of the cruise experience as a whole.


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Annika Hipple is a freelance writer specializing in travel, the environment, philanthropy, and international development. She writes an international travel column for Examiner.com and contributes to a variety of other print and online publications. She also writes two travel blogs, Crossing Time Zones: Where Travel and Global Issues Meet and Real Scandinavia: Travel, News, and Culture in the Five Nordic Countries. Learn more about Annika or contact her through her website, www.annikahipple.com.

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".