Shipshape

Norwegian Cruise Line

After conducting extensive research into the cruise market and its offerings at every level, Consumers Digest identified one ocean cruise line and one river cruise line as having, as a whole, great bang for the buck. We selected two other cruise lines as having outstanding onboard programming.

EXCEPTIONAL VALUES

Norwegian
Low prices through Norwegian are even better when you factor in the “Free at Sea” package, which, depending on your room type, lets you choose among five amenity packages at no extra charge. You get one choice with a basic room and two choices with a midlevel room. The most expensive rooms give you five choices. Options include unlimited open bar, free specialty dining, shore-excursion credits, free Wi-Fi connectivity and having extra guests who sail free, with the caveat that you still have to buy rooms for them. The package could save you up to an additional $1,200 compared with paying a la carte.
Price: Less than $100 per person

Avalon Waterways
This relatively unheralded river-cruise company provides more amenities for less money. Average staterooms are 200 square feet, which is about 30 percent larger than are standard rooms on other river cruises. What’s more, servers pour free wine, which most commonly comes from the regions that the ship visits.
Price: About $178 per person

EXCEPTIONAL PROGRAMMING

Carnival
Carnival invested big bucks in a one-of-a-kind ongoing concert series that includes intimate performances from big names, such as Jewel, Jay Leno, Chris Tucker and Carrie Underwood. Most of the concerts take place while the ship is in port, so the entertainers don’t stay aboard the ship.
Price: Starting at $120 per person

MSC Cruises
In 2015, MSC signed a deal with Cirque du Soleil, so travelers on the MSC Meraviglia get to attend an original Cirque show in an intimate theater space. MSC also joined with LEGO to provide a day that’s dedicated to LEGO activities for kids. Other such ships are also planned.
Price: Starting at about $224 per person