Demographics, ship amenities and entertainment on three different cruise lines.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Call me crazy, but I recently took three cruises with three different cruise lines, sailing from three Florida ports over an eight-week period. Pack, unpack, repeat.
My reasons for cruising were as varied as the ships I chose.
I cruised on Holland America’s ms Westerdam with a large group of friends who follow a piano bar player who was on board.
Then I hopped aboard Disney Fantasy to experience Star Wars at Sea Day, and — as a big Disney fan and theme park pass holder — I wanted to see how the whole magical experience translates to a cruise ship.
Finally, I joined family and friends aboard Norwegian Escape for a week on that line’s newest ship, christened in November.
Here’s my takeaway.
Holland America Line ms Westerdam
Demographics: This IS your father’s cruise line. In fact, it may be your grandfather’s cruise line. With no water slides, ice rinks or raucous bars, it doesn’t attract a younger crowd. But that can be a good thing, if you’re cruising to relax.
The ship: With 1,900 passengers, Westerdam isn’t a mega-ship, and it’s easily navigable. Lots of quiet nooks.
Dining: The cruise line touts its As You Wish dining policy for dinner, which means you can opt for fixed seating, open dining, specialty restaurants or casual dining in the Lido.
Entertainment: There are shows in the Vista Lounge, usually a mix of comedians, magicians and ensemble productions. The Piano Bar is always a good spot for fun, and the B.B. King Blues Club brings out the people who want to dance.
Fun: The casino is always a good time — when you’re winning.
Demographics: Expect lots of young families on this ship, which caters to princesses and pirates. You’ll hear the pitter-patter of little feet in the hallways, and more noise than usual in the dining rooms. But there’s an area for adults that’s off-limits to the little ones, where you can relax and enjoy the nightlife.
The ship: Magical, whimsical and oh-so-Disney, from the moment you walk onto the ship and your name is announced to cheers from the crew. The ship carries 4,000 passengers, but it never felt crowded.
Dining: The three main dining rooms are fixed dinner seating, and guests (and their serving staff) rotate through them. My favorite: Animator’s Palate, which appeals to the cartoonist in all of us. Other options are to eat in the Cabanas restaurant or at one of the quick-service, pool-area restaurants up on Deck 11.
Entertainment: Disney kicks it up a notch with outstanding stage shows, some featuring Mickey and the gang. Don’t miss the musical comedy “Aladdin.” There always are movies playing in the Buena Vista Theater, too.
Fun: AquaDuck “water coaster” for the brave of heart.
Demographics: There’s a great mix of ages on the ship, as there is plenty to attract tots to teens to grandmas. With the unlimited beverage promotions the line has had, you can expect to see a lot of 20- and 30-somethings having a good time.
The ship: Massive, with something always happening and lots of music. Accommodates 4,200 passengers. Let the good times roll.
Dining: Norwegian emphasizes its freestyle dining, and the choices feel endless on this ship. There are three main dining rooms, lots of specialty venues, a pub that is complimentary (and has great wings) and a Garden Café buffet.
Entertainment: The Tony Award-winning “After Midnight” shares the main stage with a musical tribute to John Hughes films in “For the Record: The Brat Pack.” Headliners club features stand-up comedy and a dueling piano bar.
Fun: The ropes course, and the opportunity to walk The Plank, which extends 8 feet over the side of the ship.