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A cruise line is a company that operates cruise ships and markets cruises to the public. Cruise lines are distinct from passenger lines which are primarily concerned with transportation of their passengers. Cruise lines have a dual character; they are partly in the transportation business, and partly in the leisure entertainment business, a duality that carries down into the ships themselves, which have both a crew headed by the ship’s captain, and a hospitality staff headed by the equivalent of a hotel manager.
Because of mergers and consolidations, a cruise line may also be a brand of a larger holding corporation. For example, as noted below, Carnival Cruise Line and Holland America Line are cruise lines within the larger parent corporation Carnival Corporation & plc. This industry practice of using the brand, not the larger parent corporation, as the cruise line is also followed in the member cruise lines in Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA); the listing of cruise ship sales, transfers, and new orders; cruise line market share; and the member-based reviews of cruise lines.
Cruise ships can cruise in oceans or rivers.