Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
A large percentage of cruise lines are owned by bigger companies – namely Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Limited and Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited – that operate several different brands, but there are also a number that are not related to any other corporate cousins. In fact, these independent lines have a lesson or two that could be learned by the big boys about how to do things potentially better.
All eyes should be on Crystal Cruises for the many things that set it apart as a luxury line that pampers its guests with excellent accommodations, dining and entertainment, but in particular, the main thing that raises the industry benchmark is its incomparable service. Just when one thinks they’ve seen the best elsewhere, a sailing on Crystal will quickly remind them that it remains the leader thanks to genuinely friendly crews and masterful attention to detail.
Disney Cruise Line
Short of another entertainment company entering the cruising world, Disney Cruise Line will always be unique for its extensive international synergy. Others have tried to match it, but they fall short by lacking full integration. What they could be more mindful of is that for Disney, everything is in the service of telling a story, so its unmistakable character permeates all venues. A similar holistic approach to hardware and software could be applied by competitors, but it hasn't quite happened yet.
Additionally from a practical standpoint, Disney does disembarkation more efficiently than anyone else by simply allowing guests to leave the ship as needed without rigid roll calls by tag color or number. Granted everyone needs to be off by a certain time limit, but by letting it happen more organically, it’s a much more relaxed experience.
MSC Cruises’ growing fleet of ships is absolutely gorgeous, inside and out. That cannot be said for nearly enough other cruise lines that should look to MSC as a model of exemplary maintenance standards. While most ships tend to be well kept indoors, too many have exteriors plagued by unsightly rust and overall wear and tear. MSC on the other hand has the cleanest looking vessels right down to the paint on the lifeboat davits and machinery, often the first to suffer on other ships.
Distinctive of Silversea Cruises is the remarkable amount of places the line sails to. Between its primary luxury line and expeditions brand, there is seemingly no coastal area around the world that the company does not visit. The degree of destination choices that exist are astounding. The only thing that could add more would be a river cruise line, which if the company follows Crystal’s lead, could possibly happen to stay competitive, as that brand is beginning to nip at Silversea’s adventure heals.
The one independent cruise line shaking up the industry the most singlehandedly has to be Viking Cruises. Not only did its river brand widen that market to a massive amount of travelers, now its new ocean one is offering a ton of value-added all-inclusive extras, from unlimited complementary internet access to one free shore excursion in every port, at an exceptional price point. Plus, the ships are some of the most comfortable at sea thanks especially to cabins with ample showers that need to be standard across all cruise lines at this point in the game.