11 Best Cruise Lines You’ll Want to Book Right Now
It will be smooth sailing when you hit the high seas on one of these top cruise lines
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The best cruise lines for every type of traveler
Despite a rocky couple of years due to the pandemic, cruising is back, and it’s stronger than ever. In fact, travel insurance comparison site SquareMouth.com reported a 41% increase in the number of travelers taking cruises in 2022 compared with 2019. Cruising has come a long way, and now, rather than cookie-cutter ships and itineraries, the best cruise lines are offering options that appeal to a wide variety of travelers. There are mega ships that can hold almost 7,000 guests, and small ships geared toward a couple hundred guests or less. There are even expedition ships that allow you to get up close and personal with nature.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway, a family vacation or the best cruises for solo travelers, we’ve got a cruise for you. We rounded up the best cruise lines at all price points, including all-inclusive cruises, so you can sail on a budget or splurge on that bucket-list trip.
How we chose the best cruise lines
As an avid cruiser who’s been everywhere from Alaska and Iceland to Russia and the United Arab Emirates aboard cruise ships, I’m recommending these specific cruise lines based on my own experiences and those of my friends and colleagues. My husband and I scouted out the best cruises for kids when our own children were young, and since becoming empty nesters, we’ve found the best adults-only cruises and couples cruises. Here are the ones I know you’ll love.
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Best overall cruise line
What makes Viking simply the best is not just what they do but what they don’t do: They don’t nickel and dime you, which means things like Wi-Fi, specialty restaurants, launderettes, a shore excursion in each port, and beer and wine with meals are all included in your fare. They also don’t allow kids under 18, and they don’t have any staterooms without an ocean view. The ships are intimate and beautiful, so you can truly explore the world in comfort.
Known as “The Thinking Person’s Cruise,” Viking offers destination-focused itineraries complemented by guest speakers, cooking classes, wine tastings and exclusive Privileged Access experiences that take you behind the scenes to enrich your visit. The company continues to win awards for both its ocean and river lines, and it recently launched expedition ships to let guests travel to Antarctica with the same style and service they’ve come to rely on. If it were up to me, I would live on a Viking cruise ship. (P.S. We’re focusing on ocean cruising here, but they also recently introduced some must-sail scenic American river cruises.)
Best cruise line for kids
Disney Cruise Line
No cruise line caters to kids quite like Disney. Surrounded by their favorite characters—led, of course, by Mickey and Minnie—children will love made-for-them activities like the AquaDuck Water Coaster and Nemo’s Reef Splash Zone. They will also be happy to have food specifically geared toward them, including pizza, chicken fingers, soft-serve ice cream and all-they-can-eat waffles shaped like mouse ears, in restaurants themed around beloved Disney classics.
Disney movies play on the big screen by the pool, and each ship presents an exclusive stage production of a Disney classic like Frozen or Aladdin that may be a child’s introduction to live theater—and one that sets the bar high. Speaking of bars, don’t worry: Even though this is a family-friendly vacation, there are plenty of areas where you can sit with a much-needed drink or just take a nap at the adults-only pool while your little ones tire themselves out at one of Disney’s fun-packed Youth Clubs.
Best cruise line for families
Adventures by Disney
A unique, fun and educational option for families with older kids who want to experience nature with a touch of Disney magic, these expedition cruises are the stuff of lifelong memories. Small, purpose-built ships are designed to access the remote landscapes of the Polar Regions and the Galápagos Islands—and to appeal to both kids and adults.
In addition to seeing penguins, polar bears and reindeer, travelers are surrounded by stunning landscapes on and off the ship. Explore the area’s natural beauty on Zodiac boat excursions, and back on board, you’ll get to relax while kids are treated to special activities including themed dinners, games and movie nights. Before you book, you’ll definitely want to know these Disney cruise tips.
Best cruise line for couples
Yes, the iconic TV show was filmed on a Princess ship, but that’s not the only reason this cruise line is often referred to as “The Love Boat.” The Guinness World Record holder for the largest multi-location wedding vow renewal, Princess continues to be the choice of couples getting married, honeymooning or just wanting some romantic time away together, thanks to extensive dining options, activities and excursions.
And you don’t have to sail to Paris to experience a romantic vacation. Wherever you’re heading, you can choose from a variety of Romance Packages featuring everything from flowers and champagne to couples massages and breakfast in bed. Or just treat yourselves to date-night dinners at one of the restaurants helmed by a Michelin-starred chef.
Best cruise line for older travelers
Cunard has been sailing for more than 180 years, and you could say they’ve perfected it. The line features three magnificent ships (a fourth is on the way), and while the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria are certainly fit for royalty, Cunard’s centerpiece—the historic Queen Mary 2—is resplendent in both its decor and history.
The transatlantic cruise from Southampton to New York (a traveler’s must-do at any age) is a great option for older travelers because you never leave the ship. You’ll get to fully enjoy the spa, the lectures, the food and, of course, the formal gala nights, which are arguably the crowning glory of any Cunard cruise. This is the cruise that proves it’s all about the journey, not the destination. Just make sure to check this cruise packing list so you bring all the right things with you.
Best cruise line for younger travelers
Determined to dispel the myth that cruising is only for seniors, Richard Branson has shaken up the industry with a cruise line geared toward millennials—and the young at heart. Virgin Voyages’s fleet of “Lady Ships” (a playful nod to “your ladyship” and the line’s British heritage) is filled with surprises including terrace hammocks, the first tattoo shop at sea and an onboard record store. Suffice to say, it’s all a little different than the usual hidden features on cruise ships.
Staterooms are eye-opening as well, featuring transformational cabin beds that allow guests (referred to as “Sailors”) to customize their space. Opt for a suite and you’ll be considered—and treated like—”Rock Stars,” given VIP access to everything from onboard entertainment and restaurants to exclusive amenities like your own wardrobe team. With a huge selection of fitness classes, 20 included places to eat and drink, and original out-of-the-box shows, this adults-only line is likely to turn a whole new generation of cruise virgins into sailors.
Best cruise line for LGBTQ+ travelers
The aptly named Celebrity Cruises treats all passengers like A-listers. And they’ve won numerous awards for not just being LGBTQ-friendly but for being totally inclusive and wholeheartedly embracing and encouraging diversity. They were the first major cruise line to perform a same-sex marriage at sea—back in January 2018—and they recently introduced the All-Inclusive Photo Project, which features photographs of Abby Chava Stein, the first openly transgender woman raised in a Hasidic community, and others by Annie Leibovitz.
This line hosts LGBTQ+ welcome parties, social hours and other events on almost every cruise, from the Bahamas to the Mediterranean to Australia. You’ll want to book now for the fifth annual Pride Party at Sea, which will held next June. Each ship in the fleet will participate in this vibrant celebration of the LGBTQ+ community—and that, in itself, is worth celebrating.
Best cruise line for explorers
National Geographic Expeditions
The cruise line equivalent of glamping, National Geographic Expeditions gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature without skimping on comfort. Choose from more than 90 itineraries that let you visit some of the most remote destinations in the world and focus on everything from photography and history to marine biology and conservation.
You’ll travel aboard the National Geographic–Lindblad fleet—expedition ships that can navigate narrow waterways and small harbors that aren’t accessible on larger vessels, so you can get as close as possible to amazing sights. The ships are even equipped with kayaks or paddleboards, snorkeling gear and Zodiacs, and hydrophones and underwater cameras for further exploration. Your Facebook friends will understand when you bombard them with photos. If you’re looking for something a little more kitsch, these themed cruises will be right up your alley.
Best cruise line for luxury travelers
For those who are all about being pampered, Seabourn is ready to meet your every need. Their all-suite ships and all-inclusive pricing ensure a luxurious cruise experience, whether you’re doing an eight-day cruise down the Pacific Gold Coast or spending 140 days of Extraordinary Discoveries on a world cruise. Ships are small and intimate, with one of the highest space-per-guest ratios in the industry. You’ll also be treated to exclusive dining options, including the acclaimed restaurant The Grill by Thomas Keller.
What makes Seabourn really stand out, though, is service. Your Personal Suite Steward will take care of everything from laundry to snacks to little surprises you hadn’t even considered. You’ll feel well taken care of, and that’s the biggest luxury of all. While there are a few things you can no longer do on cruises, this cruise line will make you forget all about them.
Best cruise line for budget travelers
Carnival Cruise Lines
The world’s largest cruise line, Carnival boasts 23 ships that are favorites among those looking for less expensive fun on the sea. Although they’re known best for their Caribbean itineraries—good for a quick weekend getaway—Carnival also sails to many other destinations, including Europe, Mexico and Hawaii.
Carnival cruises may be low priced, but they’re high on guest satisfaction. The ships are packed with activities, from water slides to game shows to the thrilling SkyRide, a pedal-powered bike 150 feet above the top deck. There’s plenty to keep kids busy, so you can spend some guilt-free quiet time at the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat. You’ll also find lots of great included dining options, such as Guy’s Burger Joint from Food Network star Guy Fieri. And since you’re saving money on the cruise itself, you may want to consider a meal at specialty restaurants like Emeril’s Bistro 1396 or Rudi’s Seagrill, even though there’s an additional charge.
Best cruise line for solo travelers
Overseas Adventure Travel
Solo travel is a growing trend, but cruising by yourself can be cost-prohibitive because solo travelers are often charged a “single supplement.” Changing the game, Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) offers low-cost or free single supplements on every Small Ship adventure and free single supplements on every trip extension. They’ll even match you with a roommate if you prefer. It’s no wonder an average O.A.T. cruise is made up equally of couples and solo travelers. (FYI, most of them are over the age of 50.)
O.A.T. features 28 itineraries sailing to 33 countries, so you can cross off your bucket-list destinations while traveling confidently and comfortably. Ships are small to encourage bonding, and you’re likely to make such good friends, you may not be traveling solo next time.