Best Cruise Lines For Luxury
Smaller cruise lines with ships that fit hundreds rather than thousands of guests dominated U.S. News’ luxury rankings list.
Viking, a cruise line based in Basel, Switzerland, is no stranger to accolades. It topped U.S. News’ luxury list last year too despite Chairman Torstein Hagen indicating he isn’t a fan of the word.
“I have outlawed the use of the word ‘luxury’ I think we are elegant, we are understated and hopefully timeless,” he said at a naming celebration for seven new river boats in March 2019, according to cruising website QuirkyCruise.com.
Also on the list: Silversea Cruises and Oceania Cruises .
Large Ship Line #: Royal Caribbean International
Though Royal Caribbean is perhaps best known for its mega-ships, it has quite a number of large ships, toothe 3,100-passenger Voyager-class ships, for instance, were once the worlds largest, until Royal Caribbean debuted the larger Freedom class and subsequently the Oasis class. Each class had its own series of firstsVoyager of the Seas was the first ship to have an ice rink and a rock-climbing wall, while Freedom of the Seas introduced the first FlowRider surf simulator at sea.
Best Cruise Lines In The Caribbean
It’s a clean sweep for Disney in this category too. Disney has been named the top cruise line in the Caribbean for the past eight years, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Living up to its name, the Miami-based Celebrity Cruises partners with well-known names in the arts and entertainment industry. It’s newest ship, Celebrity Beyond, has Gwyneth Paltrow as its “wellbeing advisor” and a restaurant created by Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud, according to its website.
Also on this list: Regent Seven Seas Cruises , Holland America Line , Carnival Cruise Line , Norwegian Cruise Line , Oceania Cruises , Princess Cruises and MSC Cruises .
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Best For Active Cruisers
Royal Caribbean: Who says cruises are nothing but lounging by the pool and not moving for a week? With Royal Caribbean, you’ll find high-energy activities like ice skating, rock climbing, ziplining, surfing, skydiving, water slides, mini-golf, bumper cars, arcades, trapeze lessons and escape rooms around every turn, in addition to entertainment that incorporates acrobats, high-divers and Broadway performances.
Norwegian: Although Royal Caribbean was first to debut Broadway shows at sea, NCL also has several on its list of production shows. But, if theater isn’t enough to get your blood pumping, the line’s other amenities include virtual-reality gaming, laser tag, escape rooms, go-karts, ropes courses, mini-golf, rock climbing, bowling and water slides.
Carnival: Carnival is a nice mix of both active and relaxed casual the “come as you are” onboard ambiance has little pretense. Active cruisers will love line dancing, water slides, mini-golf, ropes courses and the line’s latest additions: SkyRide, a pedal-powered recumbent bike-style pod suspended above the outdoor decks, and BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea.
The Best Cruise Lines In The World: 2021 Readers Choice Awards
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For our 34th annual Readers Choice Awards survey, registered voters weighed in on their favorite cruise lines. As the world has begun to reopen and ships of all sizes are once again leaving port, the results reflect the lines you longed to set sail with when you couldnt travel and the ones you returned to first once you could. More than 800,000 of you filled out our survey, and while were always curious about where youve been and where youre going, were especially excited to learn about the truly memorable cruise lines that sparked your imagination and stayed with you when your next sailing seemed out of reach.
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Medium Ship Line #: Cunard
While Cunards Queen Mary 2 fits more than 2,600 passengersand a number of cats and dogson board, her sister ships, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria only have a capacity of about 2,000 passengers. Though theyre quite similar in layout, the QE and the QV differ in design. Both nod to the historic ocean liners of the early 20th century, but the QE takes on a bolder Art Deco vibe, while the QV features more subdued yet equally elegant decor. Guests on board both ships are likely to partake in afternoon tea before donning a glamorous gown for dinner.
Solo Cruises On Virgin’s Cruise Line Virgin Voyages
Virgin Voyages makes booking solo a breeze. All Insider and Sea View cabins are designed for 1 to 3 or 4 âsailors.â Virgin cruise line’s website allows solo cruisers to choose â1 sailorâ at the beginning of every search for voyages. All prices shown are then automatically converted to the cruise fare for a single, rather than the standard price per person, double-occupancy rate.
Ease of booking aside, the line is also readymade for solo cruisers. Virgin cruises, like Scarlet Lady, offer a wide array of edgy extras and are designed for socializing. From getting a tattoo at sea to the omnipresent DJ in the Roundabout, group yoga and Pilates classes, and racy evening entertainment, there are plenty of spaces and chances to socialize or indulge yourself by yourself.
Virgin Voyages cabins are easily configured for both sleeping and entertaining, giving solo cruisers all the comfort they need and none of the âwelcome to my tiny spaceâ vibe.
Virgin Voyages Solo Cruise Pricing: Single supplements on Virgin Voyages range from 75 to 100 percent of double occupancy rates. Solo pricing is as low as 75% over the standard fare for Insider, Sea View and Sea Terrace cabins, and 100% higher for suites.
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Best Cruise Lines For Couples
Awards for the best cruises for those traveling in twos are:
Viking dominates this category due to its “adult-focused environment and luxurious and romantic amenities, such as fireplaces in each ship’s common area and private verandas in every stateroom,” according to a U.S. News & World Report’s press release.
To qualify for this category, at least 62% of a cruise line’s online traveler reviews must be made by couples.
Most luxury cruise lines allow kids, though they often don’t cater to them the way the larger lines do. Viking, however, doesn’t allow children at all.
The company previously welcomed kids aged 12 and older to cruise, but as of 2018, all guests must be 18 or older to board.
Also on the list: Celebrity Cruises , Oceania Cruises , Silversea Cruises , Cunard Line and Holland America Line .
Best Excursions: Crystal Cruises
Crystal has greatly expanded its luxury cruise brand to include ocean and river cruise ships, yachts, expedition ships, and even a private jet charter. The company also offers some extremely exclusive, high-end shore excursions, as well as volunteer excursions so passengers will feel more involved in the ports of call. The company has an impressive 2,000 excursions to choose from in ports all over the world. Onboard Crystal Cruises theres trivia, magic and comedy shows, movies, live music, theater performances, and the fabulous Crystal spa. The two ocean-going ships, Serenity and Symphony, carry around 900 guests, and offer butler service in suites and all-inclusive pricing.
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We Always Select Second Seating For Dinner
Disney cruises have two dinner times. It can vary from cruise to cruise, but in general, “main seating” is 5:45 p.m. and “second seating” is 8:00 p.m.
Even when our kids were smaller, we opted for the later seating. We’ve found it to be less crowded since most families with kids want the earlier seating.
We also found 5:45 too early to eat it didn’t give us much time to rest or freshen up after the day’s activities. Eating later gives us a more definitive transition between day and evening, and we feel less rushed.
I Don’t Purposefully Avoid It But I’ve Never Gone Swimming On The Ship
I don’t board the ship declaring “I’m not getting in that pool,” but after four Disney cruises, I’ve yet to take the plunge.
All of our Disney cruises have been to the Caribbean, and at least one stop always includes a beach day, so I’ve skipped the pool in favor of exploring other parts of the ship.
My kids are usually too eager to get to the youth clubs to get excited about swimming.
Also Check: Virgin Cruise Line Scarlet Lady
Best Small Ship: Oceania Cruises
Oceania cruises introduce Alaska to guests by offering local experiences in partnership with native tribes for a more meaningful connection to the area beyond sightseeing.
Two specialty restaurants , WiFi, and free and unlimited soft drinks replenished daily in refrigerated mini bar
Onboard menus feature local Alaskan delicacies, such as Halibut, King Crab, and Alaskan blueberry pancakes
Impressive guest-to-staff ratio: maximum of 656 guests served by 400+ officers and crew
4 open-seating restaurants, 8 lounges and bars, and a casino
Not all staterooms feature private verandas
Built in 1998 but fully refurbished in 2019, Oceania Cruises Regatta dazzles guests with bejeweled chandeliers in the Grand Dining Room, fresh color palettes, and new furnishings in the public spaces, plus new everything in the suites and staterooms. Between the gentle rocking of the ship and the Ultra Tranquility Bed, youre sure to sleep like a baby.
When youre not off exploring Alaskas many wonders, keep busy at the casino, take in an after-dinner production of Tuxedo or Gatsbys or chill out and choose a book from the English-style library with 2,000 options. Book a spa treatment or work out in the Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center, play nine holes of golf on the putting greens, shop the three boutiques, and unwind, help yourself to afternoon tea with all the accouterments at 4 p.m. daily.
Regent Seven Seas Review Which Recommended Provider
For a luxurious, all-inclusive ocean cruising experience, it’s hard to beat Regent Seven Seas. Almost every cabin has a balcony, staff are friendly and helpful, and the port excursions are consistently enjoyably and well organised.
As a WRP, Regent Seven Seas has committed to promptly refunding customers for cancelled cruises and offering alternatives, including a refund, if itineraries change due to travel restrictions.
Regent Seven Seas’ small ships have a capacity of 500 to 700 passengers, and its five-star rating for its passenger-to-space ratio bears out the cruise line’s claim that it doesn’t pack people into its ships.
Passengers felt well looked after by staff and were full of praise for the spacious cabins.
The only real downside is the cost of a cruise. Passengers of the better-scoring cruise lines in our survey felt they had got better value for money.
Should I book with Regent Seven Seas? Yes if the price is right. Regent Seven Seas gained high ratings in many categories and is a well-deserved WRP, but passengers felt they got better value with Viking.
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On The Other Hand I Always Skip The Movies On Board
Disney cruises show classic, recent, and brand-new Disney, Marvel, and “Star Wars” movies in the onboard Buena Vista theater. Even though my kids have, I’ve never once gone to see a movie.
On our most recent cruise, the theater was showing the latest “Dr. Strange” movie, “Encanto,” and “Up.”
There’s no extra charge to see as many movies as you want, but I’ve never been compelled to spend my cruise time seeing a movie I could easily see or stream any other time.
Instead, we go to the live performances in the Walt Disney Theater. I think the Broadway-quality shows, like “Tangled: The Musical,” “Dreams,” and “The Golden Mickeys,” are one of the best perks of a Disney Cruise.
Azamara Club Cruises 45 To 5 Stars
Azamara Club Cruises is an up-market boutique cruise line operating two 690 guest ships. Perhaps the most affordable of the five-star class of ships, Azamara is luxury without ostentation.
The pool deck on board the upmarket boutique Azamara Journey.
The mid-size ships feel like boutique hotels, with a friendly, relaxed service that makes guests feel at home.
This is pitched firmly at couples, who want to take things slow and relaxed with a high level of service and refinement. The on-board entertainment is cabaret with a little bit of Broadway and opera thrown in.
Luxury accommodation on board Azamara Journey .
But the real focus for Azamara Club Cruises is destination immersion as opposed to fly-by, 10-hours-only-in-port visits. The ships will usually stay longer in destinations, so guests can go out late or even stay overnight in port.
Azamara cruises in Sydney Harbour
In early 2020, Azamara Journey will return Down Under for the season, making her way from Tahiti, around New Zealand and then on to Australia.
Azamara ships you might see in Australia Azamara Journey
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Large Ship Line #: Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Lines is all about good family fun at a pretty affordable price point. The largest cruise line in the world in terms of number of annual passengers as well as fleet count, it has 25 ships that sail North America and Europe, with about half of them having a capacity between 2,500 and 3,900 guests. Carnival is known for its fun upper decks that are akin to an amusement park at sea, with water slides, ropes courses, mini-golf, and attractions like SkyRide, where guests pedal a hanging vehicle around a suspended track.
Dont Overpay For Your Cruise
Heres how I get the lowest price when I book a cruise
Please dont book with any old company just because they have a cheap deal. I recommend that you find the best price and then take it to a trusted travel agent who will beat it, as well as giving you the best service.
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Further Insight Into Our Methodology
Ah, cruise lines. Love them or hate them, cruise lines are a popular vacation alternative for travelers of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. They are convenient and accessible, requiring little planning of anything other than your budget. As the market has diversified, now there are cruises of every size visiting destinations worldwide and catering to just about every demographic. Booking a cruise is no longer as easy as defaulting to the biggest, most magnificent ship docked at the nearest port.
When researching cruise lines, our goal was to understand the industry as a whole first, and then how the companies operated individually. We started by searching for news and reports about recent developments in the industry, especially as concerns COVID-19. We read about cruise ships, how they work, and how they impact the environment. We also compiled preliminary data about fares and the other costs of going on a cruise. Once that was done, we made a list of the companies that best aligned with our designated criteria and values.
We split our criteria into three groups:
Ocean Cruise Lines Rated
In the table below, we show the latest results from our survey of Which? members. These results were first published in January 2020 and represent pre-pandemic experiences. To determine WRPs for 2022 we applied extra scrutiny to our existing WRPs, ensuring that your money is safe if you book with them and travel regulations change. We’ve provided links for all the companies with a customer score of 80% or higher.
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I Always Eat Lunch In The Table
Many of my fellow cruisers make a beeline for Cabana’s as soon as they’re on board.
But one of the main dining rooms serves lunch on embarkation day , and I prefer it to the buffet.
I find it more relaxing, and I like the more upscale vibe of the table-service dining room to set the tone for my cruise.
Best For Solo Cruisers
Holland America: HAL’s newest and largest vessels are equipped with solo cabins. For those wishing to share a cabin, the line also offers the Single Partners Program, which pairs cruisers of the same gender to share staterooms. Dedicated solo events like cocktail parties, mixers and games are scheduled, and gentleman hosts are available on longer sailings to dance with women cruising alone.
Norwegian: Norwegian was the first line to introduce dedicated areas for people cruising solo. Its newest ships feature cabins for one, as well as exclusive enclaves with a special lounge where lone passengers can mingle and enjoy drinks and snacks. Cruisers booked in this area also have access to concierge services.
Royal Caribbean: Royal’s Quantum-class ships include accommodations for solo travelers, but unlike the single staterooms found on Norwegian, Royal’s come in a variety of types that range from insides with virtual balconies to actual open-air balconies.
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Beverages Packages Often Are Not Worth It
Often advertised as an easy way of saving money, beverage packages cover various refreshments and drinks, such as bottled water, sodas, and alcoholic beverages. The thing is, theyre pretty expensive. For example, a Royal Caribbean drinks package can cost as much as $89 per day, and one Norwegian drinks package is over $120 a day.
Beverage packages can save you money, but only if you were going to spend a lot of it on drinks in the first place. In other words, they only make sense if you routinely spend more than what those packages covered in drinks on a per-day basis. Packages become even less desirable in cruises where certain drinks are already included, such as soda on the Disney Lines, specialty coffees on Sea Cloud Cruises, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner on Viking Cruises.
Do the math before getting on your cruise. Carefully think about the type of drinks and how many of them youd typically order while on vacation. Also, consider that some lines include drinks packages as a perk during limited-time booking promotions, making such a package turn from an expensive luxury to an affordable benefit.
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