Well, it depends a bit what you're looking for. In some ways it's true that they "just don't build 'em like they used to."
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of new ships and older ships. Then you can decide which will offer the better cruise experience for you.
Advantages of older (pre-1980s) ships:
- larger cabins with longer beds, since voyages used to be longer with more days at sea
- sturdy, plated hulls that can withstand all sorts of weather conditions well
- usually quieter and smoother than modern vessels, since they're mostly powered by steam turbines
- often have portholes that actually open
- large range of cabin sizes and shapes, often great for families with children
- interiors are usually built from real materials (i.e. wood and brass) rather than synthetics
Disadvantages of older ships:
- less fuel-efficient (and more costly to operate) than modern ships
- deeper drafts which makes them smoother in open seas but means they can't get around well in ports and tight spaces (requiring tug boats and slowing things down)
- less likely to comply to all modern international safety, fire, and environmental regulations
- more likely to experience plumbing, air-conditioning, etc. problems since they're older
- all the latest high-tech electronic systems, entertainment, etc.
- more interior public rooms
- standardized cabin layouts (may be a disadvantage if you like lots of selection) and generally easier to navigate public spaces
- more fuel-efficient
- shallower drafts, which means they can navigate tight spaces and ports more easily (don't need tug)
- shallower drafts mean they don't "take the weather" as well and ride as nicely, especially in open waters
- smaller cabins with smaller beds
- thinner hulls
- walls and decor made from synthetics instead of "real" materials (could be a problem if you have allergies to synthetic materials)
- completely sealed cabin windows instead of portholes that can be opened
If you think you've developed a preference after reading this article, make sure to let your travel agent know when you book your cruise.
Source: Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships