Planning a cruise vacation? Look no further! We've got you covered with a comprehensive guide to the top cruise lines out there. Whether you're seeking affordable fun, family-friendly activities, a luxurious experience, or an adventurous exploration, there's a cruise line for every type of traveler. Get ready to set sail and create unforgettable memories on the high seas with these incredible options.

The Top Cruise Line Reviews

  • Affordable and short cruises available
  • Plenty of activities for both children and adults
  • Offers a fun and exciting atmosphere
  • Not the best choice for a quiet and laid-back experience
  • Extra cost for certain activities and excursions
  • Larger ships may feel crowded
Why we picked it: Carnival provides affordable short cruises to tropical destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Carnival's affordable fares and enjoyable amenities make it a popular option for those seeking an affordable and quick cruise (though it also offers longer trips to Europe, Australia, and more). Its ships cater to travelers who want an entertaining and thrilling escapade, with a focus on pools, waterslides, mini-golf, and karaoke, as well as comedy shows, casino games, and nightclubs for adults.

Those who are mindful of their spending should exercise caution. Additional expenses for shore excursions and souvenirs can accumulate rapidly, as can the cost of certain onboard activities. Carnival also offers all-inclusive rates to avoid any unexpected expenses, but travelers should be prepared to spend more upfront.

  • Highly rated by customers
  • Included dining and entertainment options
  • More expensive than other mainstream cruise options
  • Families may dominate, despite adult-only spaces
Why we picked it: Disney received the highest average rating from customers on, and its staff and service were also highly ranked.

Disney is well-known for its attention to detail and emphasis on guest experience in its theme parks, which also extends to its cruises. Families will enjoy meeting Disney characters, themed restaurants, and a variety of onboard activities and entertainment. The staterooms are family-friendly, with storage designed for multiple guests.

For guests staying in certain room tiers, a concierge team is available to assist with special requests and excursion bookings. While Disney cruises primarily cater to families, they are not just for kids. The ships also offer nightclubs, bars, and adult-only pools and dining, as well as special activities and clubs for teenagers.

  • Premium amenities and services on a regular ship
  • Access to all the features of a major cruise ship
  • Can be quite pricey
  • Language barriers may be encountered on certain European trips
Why we picked it: MSC's Yacht Club offers travelers an exclusive experience without sacrificing the options of a large, mainstream cruise.

Travelers who seek the ultimate luxury experience usually have to choose boutique, small-ship cruise lines like Seabourn, which have fewer popular attractions. However, for a higher fare, MSC's Yacht Club provides a "ship-within-a-ship" experience on a larger cruise ship, offering guests the best of both worlds.

Yacht Club guests enjoy 24-hour butler service and their own dedicated concierge, as well as a premium drink and internet package. They also have complimentary access to the ship's spa and other perks like a luggage packing and unpacking service, as well as priority check-in and check-out. MSC is a European cruise line that offers itineraries in the Caribbean and popular European destinations like the Mediterranean and Norway.

  • Dedicated cabins and activities for solo travelers
  • All the amenities of a major cruise
  • Single cabins are often small and located on the interior of the ship
Why we picked it: Norwegian was a pioneer in solo staterooms and continues to offer more options for single travelers compared to other cruise lines.

Norwegian's solo staterooms allow solo travelers or those who prefer not to share cabins to book their own room without paying double the fare (as most cruise rates are based on double occupancy cabins). These cabins are usually located on the interior of the ship and may not have windows or balconies. Solo travelers also have the option to book a regular stateroom, but they will generally have to pay the fare for two people.

Single cruisers on Norwegian have access to a dedicated lounge and meetups where they can socialize with other travelers. This is in addition to the regular activities and excursions offered by Norwegian, which range from rock climbing and bowling to spa treatments and boxing classes.

  • A diverse range of activities for cruisers of all ages
  • Wide variety of destinations
  • Less expensive than a Disney cruise
  • The larger ships can feel crowded
Why we picked it: Travelers of all ages will find something fun to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, from kids and teens to adults and seniors, and without breaking the bank.

Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of activities and amenities that cater to everyone's preferences, including waterslides, ziplines, dance classes, and movie nights. The ships even provide babysitting services, so that adults can have their own night out at a restaurant, nightclub, or show. Royal Caribbean's ships sail to various destinations, from shorter trips to the Caribbean and Mexico to longer vacations to Alaska, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Cruise Lines

Before purchasing a cruise, it is important to understand how these vacations work, what is included in the fare, and the cost of trip insurance in case of emergencies. Additionally, it is helpful to have knowledge about the various types of cruises, cabins, and how to choose the best option.

How do cruise vacations function?

Cruising is a popular vacation choice due to its convenience. Travelers stay in one room throughout the trip while the ship travels between ports. Cruisers can enjoy amenities such as restaurants, shows, and water activities onboard, as well as the option to go ashore for sightseeing or excursions when the ship docks.

What is typically included in a cruise fare? Generally, the price covers:

  • The cabin
  • Meals in one or more dining areas onboard
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Some onboard entertainment like movies and kids programming
  • Access to certain amenities like pools and the fitness center
The inclusion of additional perks will depend on the fare tier. Lower tiers will have cheaper fares but may require additional payment for items such as drinks, certain restaurant meals, and activities or excursions. Higher fare tiers offer more amenities but come with a significantly higher cost. Some luxury cruises offer all-inclusive fares.

What is usually not included in a cruise package? Typically, cruise fares, especially lower-priced ones, do not cover:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Shore excursions
  • Specialty restaurants outside of the main dining areas
  • Spa treatments
  • Gratuities for staff

Types of Cruises

Cruises are not a one-size-fits-all vacation. There are different types of itineraries suited to various travelers. Here are a few of the most common:

Mainstream ocean cruises These are popular due to their accessibility, affordability, and wide range of activities. These large ships, some capable of carrying over 6,000 passengers, offer a variety of amenities. Examples include Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.

Premium cruises These cruises are a step up from mainstream ocean liners and cater to a slightly older crowd. They often have more sophisticated amenities, like art collections and educational classes. Examples include Princess Cruises and Oceania.

Luxury cruises These cruises tend to be smaller and offer more staff per guest and deluxe amenities. They are significantly more expensive than mainstream cruises. Examples include Azamara and Windstar.

River cruises While most cruises are on the ocean, some lines offer trips on smaller vessels that cruise along rivers. These tend to be quieter and attract an older clientele compared to mainstream ocean cruises.

How much does cruise travel insurance cost?

Typically, travel insurance for a cruise costs around a hundred dollars or more. This cost is worthwhile given the potential financial risks associated with a cruise, such as the need to cancel last minute or requiring medical care while in foreign waters. It is important to note that health insurance may not cover medical expenses or medical evacuation while on a cruise. Some credit cards, particularly travel cards, may offer certain trip protections as well.

Before purchasing a travel insurance policy, it is advisable to check if you already have coverage. Depending on the circumstances of your trip cancellation, the cruise line may refund a portion or the entire cost. Also, credit cards may offer specific trip protections. If you decide to buy travel insurance, policies are available from cruise lines or from third-party insurers like Allianz and Squaremouth.

How to choose the right cruise ship cabin

With a variety of cabin choices available on large cruise ships, it can be overwhelming. Your budget can help narrow down the options. Generally, cabins with better views and more access to the outdoors are more expensive. Interior cabins without windows or balconies are typically the least expensive.

Consideration should also be given to maintaining good stomach health. Cabins located lower and more centrally in the ship tend to experience less motion, reducing the chance of motion sickness. Proximity to onboard amenities should be taken into account as well. If you plan to spend a lot of time at the pools and sun decks, it would be desirable to have a cabin close by. Conversely, if tranquility is a priority, it may be best to avoid busy and noisy areas.

Bigger cabins and additional trip perks are generally more expensive. These extras can include priority boarding, exclusive happy hours, in-room bar, yoga mats, and personal concierge services.

Tips for selecting the best cruise for you

Here are key factors to consider when choosing a cruise.

Your budget Cruises lasting seven days or more are popular, but shorter cruises of three to five nights tend to be less expensive. Additionally, certain cruise lines are generally more or less costly than others.

How you prefer to spend your time Ideally, the activities and amenities on a cruise should align with your interests. If you prefer spending more time onboard than in port, on-board daytime activities such as sports may be important. Furthermore, it may be more satisfying to choose an itinerary with more days at sea.

Destination and ports of call The starting point of the cruise and the ports of call are paramount considerations. Consider destinations where you may want to extend your trip or use as a gateway to further travel. Additionally, researching the various ports can help determine the appeal of each stopover.

Ship size The largest cruise ships can accommodate over 5,000 passengers. While bigger ships typically offer more varied amenities and activities, they can also result in a noisier and more frenetic sailing experience. Depending on your preferences, a smaller ship with a more relaxed atmosphere may be preferable, even if it lacks the excitement of a larger vessel.

Time of year The time of year you plan to cruise will limit your choices of destinations. Tropical regions may experience hurricanes in summer and fall. Popular European cruise destinations like the Mediterranean can have choppier seas and cooler temperatures in winter.

Food quality and choices Not all cruisers prioritize the quality and variety of food onboard. If it matters to you, research the available dining options and read user reviews about the timeliness and satisfaction of meals.

Cruises FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about cruises.

Do I need to be vaccinated to board a cruise ship? As of now, major cruise lines generally do not require passengers to be vaccinated. However, some international destinations may maintain vaccination requirements for boarding or disembarking. Passengers who are not vaccinated may be required to present a recent negative COVID test. It is advised to check the specific requirements of each cruise line and destination.

How did you select the best cruise lines? Our editorial staff independently evaluated twelve cruise lines based on factors like price, fleet size, flexibility to serve different traveler types, and itineraries. We also considered customer satisfaction data from sources like and ship inspection data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Our goal was to highlight the strengths that set these cruise lines apart.

Are pets allowed on cruise ships? With the exception of service animals, pets are generally not allowed on cruise ships. However, Cunard offers a kennel service for cats and dogs on the Queen Elizabeth 2, allowing passengers to bring their furry companions for an additional fee.


These top cruise lines offer something for every type of traveler, whether you're looking for an affordable and fun-filled experience, a family-friendly vacation, a romantic getaway, an immersive exploration of nature, or a luxurious pampering. With options catering to a wide range of budgets and preferences, there is a cruise line that can provide an unforgettable vacation for everyone.

In conclusion, the world of cruising offers an array of options to suit every traveler's preferences and budget. Whether you're seeking an action-packed adventure, a family-friendly voyage, a luxurious escape, or a serene journey through breathtaking landscapes, there is a cruise line that can fulfill your desires. With a wealth of amenities, diverse itineraries, and top-notch service, these cruise lines provide unforgettable experiences that will leave you with treasured memories for years to come. So, set sail on your next great adventure and discover the wonders of the sea with one of these top cruise lines. Bon voyage!