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For cruising veterans, it may seem obvious how to choose the best cruise line for your vacation, but for newbies, it’s the crucial first step and begins by asking the right questions.

To start, ask: What is my budget and what is my traveling personality?

There are four main categories of cruise line quality increasing in cost in order of standard ones, premium ones, upscale ones and luxury ones, and in each category, there are a number of different lifestyles to be expected onboard each individual line.

The guidelines below are merely a loose primer, that for the sake of this exercise excludes boutique and adventure lines, and researching those brands in your budget more extensively will point you to the one best suited to your tastes.

READ MORE: Choosing a Stable Cruise Ship to Avoid Seasickness

Standard

Mainstream cruise brands like Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean International fit into the standard quality category, and while many are similar, they do each have their own personalities that may or may not match your own. Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are fun casual options with MSC Cruises and Princess Cruises being a bit more refined.

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