Q: I've never taken a cruise before and wanted some advice about how the different lines compare. I'm a car buff, so perhaps you could put it in terms I might understand, such as Carnival Cruise Lines is a Toyota or whatever. I drive a Volvo if that makes any difference.

A: An interesting way of looking at it I suppose, although the truth is the even those cruise lines that you might suppose to be "mass market" these days offer very upscale cabins or "concierge levels," similar to what you'd find in a fine hotel. I guess I'd call Celebrity, a line that I particularly like for the value it offers, the Volvo of cruise lines: upscale, but still affordable, with European flair. Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean would be the Fords, Acuras or Toyotas. Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, and Silversea are at the end other of the spectrum, the Mercedes and Lexus of the bunch. Disney is a good solid SUV of a line , perfect for families. In general, I tell people that if they've never cruised before or they're the "antsy" type, then a very large ship such as Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is a good choice since it's hard to get bored, even if you never leave the ship.

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