Cruising can be an inexpensive way to visit multiple destinations around the world. Every ship travels from port to port, without the hassle and discomfort of airline travel. They also offer excursion options for vacationers who can take tours and see the sights of their port destinations safely and easily.

The cruise line you choose will depend on the type of vacation you are taking. Many cruises are family friendly, while others cater to an adults-only crowd. Since cruises are all inclusive and the price per night is usually less than many hotel accommodations, it is hard to beat the value of a cruise vacation.

Top 10 Best Rated Cruise Lines

Cunard is a cruise line owned by Carnival Corporation, and it is based in the U.S. and England. Although it only operates three ships, Cunard visits destinations such as Africa, the Mediterranean, Australia and the Far East.
As one of the few cruise lines with trips in New Zealand and Australia, Seabourn Cruises has unique packages available. The company is particularly known for its extended cruise options of more than 20 days.
Disney Cruises is a cruise line that provides unique entertainment options for children and adults. The company currently has cruise liners that visit Alaska, Europe, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is a U.S. company, first founded in Norway, with ships that traverse the world. It has a wide selection of vacation options, including trips that only last a few days to those that last over a month.
Carnival Cruise Lines has provided international cruise line services since 1972. The company provides both luxury and affordable cruise accommodations to destinations in North America, the Caribbean, Hawaii and Europe.
Princess Cruises was founded in Santa Clara, California, in 1965. Today, the company maintains several fleets of cruise ships that travel all over the world, including to destinations in Asia, Europe and South America.
MSC Cruise Lines is a cruise line that has a fleet of 12 modern ships and has a reputation for sustainable environmental practices. MSC cruises sail the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and to other global ports seasonally.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines is a U.S. company, first founded in Norway, with ships that traverse the world. It has a wide selection of vacation options, including trips that only last a few days to those that last over a month.
Celebrity Cruises is a cruise line that currently manages three fleets. Its cruise ships travel to destinations all over the world, including those in Australia, New Zealand, the Galapagos Islands, Asia and Alaska.
Despite its name, Norwegian Cruise Lines is an American company that visits destinations all over the world. The cruise line has seven ships that travel to diverse locations in Asia, Australia, Europe and other continents.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

Want your company to be on this guide?

What features matter most?

Cruise costs

Cruises have a reputation for being expensive, but this assessment is not always accurate. Consumers should compare the cost of a cruise package against the cost of other travel expenses, such as airfare or train travel when combined with hotel costs, to get an accurate price comparison.

  • Price point: Cruises are available at different price points, with options for budget-conscious travelers or travelers seeking a luxury experience.
  • A la carte pricing: Some cruise lines offer different price breakdowns that accommodate the needs of individual travelers.
  • All-inclusive pricing: Packages with all-inclusive pricing mean cruise guests do not have to pay separately for each item or excursion; look at the breakdown of costs to determine what is included with selected cruise packages before purchasing.

Traveling partners

Traveling partners, such as family members, significant others and close friends, can impact the type of cruise selected because activities one person enjoys might be unpleasant for others. Consumers should ensure the cruise selected has something to entertain all members of the traveling party.

  • Solo travel: The main consumer considerations when traveling solo include the type of room desired, activities offered and final destinations available.
  • Couples travel: Couples traveling together might want to book with a cruise line with a strong reputation for romance-filled excursions and activities or for offering adventure-packed excursions.
  • Family travel: Families traveling together can create challenges in coordinating activities, so consumers should look for cruise lines that offer cruise packages specially created for families.

Luxury or casual

The level of formality varies greatly among cruise lines. Consumers can determine cruise line formality by researching the requirements for on board activities, such as dinner dress codes and what activities are offered.

  • Luxurious: Some cruises ask guests to dress for dinner and appear at a scheduled time. This more formal atmosphere may interfere with some excursions or activities, so be sure to check schedules before deciding on a dinner time.
  • Casual: Casual dining is usually available throughout a cruise ship, with several restaurant options. The main dining room might need a designated time to help guests avoid long wait times, so check with staff about the need for reservations.
  • In-between: Most cruises offer both causal and formal settings, so guests can dress up or down, depending on their mood. Formal dinners might include eating with the Captain or a meal at a specific onboard restaurant. Standard meals are typically casual, so no need to spend hours getting ready.

Age of traveling party members

Most cruise lines offer packages for individuals, couples, families and groups. Some cruise lines, however, tend to be either more kid-friendly or specifically focused on catering to adult guests.

  • Young children: Some cruises are created to accommodate the needs of young families and children, with play-filled activities like state-of-the-art video games, Lego building and crafts, along with daycare services so kids have fun and parents do too.
  • Young adults: Some cruises have an adult theme, with rich nightlife experiences and active daytime itineraries.
  • Seniors cruises: Cruises designed with formal activities and a luxurious pace are sometimes considered ideal for seniors; seniors should ideally consider whether they want a slower pace or a high-action cruise experience before booking.

Fitness level

Cruises offer on board activities and excursions to exotic ports of call. Consumers should consider their level of physical fitness and comfort with partaking in activities before scheduling certain events.

  • High energy: High energy outings offered by cruise lines include physical activities during excursions and on board cruise ship activities like climbing, swimming, kayaking and jogging.
  • Medium activity levels: Look for medium activity level cruises with activities like classes and medium-active excursions such as hiking or strolling around shops in ports.
  • Relaxed pace: For a cruise with a relaxed pace, consumers should look at the more formal cruise lines; guests can also plan to relax on board during excursions.

Onboard entertainment

On a cruise, the majority of a guest's time will be spent on the ship. Consumers should review the activities offered before booking to ensure the trip will be enjoyable.

  • Quiet times: Quiet activities on a ship include relaxing on deck or reading, meditating in designated meditation rooms and taking spa treatments.
  • Interactive entertainment: Interactive entertainment on a cruise involves anything that gets guests moving or communicating with others, like dances, team games, parties, karaoke, culinary classes, fitness classes or arts and crafts.
  • Performances: Performances on cruise ships include movies, live theater performances and bands.

What are different types of cruise lines?

Luxury cruise lines

Luxury cruise lines offer a high level of personalized service. These lines typically have dress codes, scheduled meals and enriching activities both on board and during port excursions.

Specialty cruise lines

Specialty cruise lines offer a unique sailing experience or adventure. They also tend to offer a relaxed environment and unusual destinations.

Contemporary cruise lines

Contemporary cruise lines tend to offer activity-packed itineraries. All accommodations and activities are typically included in the package price of contemporary cruises.

Themed cruise lines

Themed cruise lines operate around one main theme. Themed cruises let guests immerse themselves in a popular story or single topic that enriches the travel experience.

Who's it for?

Couples

This group of consumers might embark on a cruise for the adventure of experiencing on board life or visiting exotic ports. Couples also take cruises for the romantic adventure of spending time together on board.

Families

This group of consumers might take a cruise to experience new places and try new things. Families also take cruises for the unique level of togetherness provided by ship travel.

Solo travelers

This group of consumers take cruises for several reasons. The most common reasons for solo cruising are for the opportunity to meet someone special, for privacy, for the adventure of seeing new places and for the added safety of being in a group even though traveling alone.

Groups

Groups take cruises for multiple reasons. Consumers traveling in groups may be members of wedding parties or members of clubs traveling together. They may also enjoy the extra savings opportunities sometimes offered to groups when booking travel.

Company reviews

  • Princess Cruises

    Princess Cruises is a premier cruise line that began with a single ship sailing to Mexico. The cruise line now has a fleet of ships that transport over one million guests each year.

    • Best for The Princess Cruises are best for couples and adults seeking new adventures in exotic locations.
  • Disney Cruises

    While the Walt Disney Company has been around for almost a century, Disney Cruises first launched with a single ship in 1998, though the company was founded in 1995. Since then, the cruise line has expanded to four ships, all sailing out of Port Canaveral.

    • Best for The Disney Cruises liner is best for families and the young at heart.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines

    Carnival Cruise Lines offers cruises with both family-friendly and adult activities.

    • Best for The Carnival Cruise liner is best for budget-aware cruisers and families.
  • Celebrity Cruises

    Celebrity Cruises combines modern luxury with a contemporary cruise experience. Founded in 1986, Celebrity Cruises merged with Royal Carribean in 1997 and has grown to a fleet of 11 ships providing trips to destinations throughout the Bahamas, Bermudas, Carribean, Europe, Alaska and more.

    • Best for The Celebrity Cruises liner is best for food lovers and adults seeking an elegant cruise experience.
  • Holland America Cruises

    The Holland America Line has been transporting guests to exotic destinations for over 140 years and is known for its five-star service and excellent cuisine.

    • Best for The Holland America Cruises are best for travelers who want a traditional and elegant experience.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines

    The Royal Caribbean Cruise Line was founded in 1968 and has since developed two unique destinations, Labadee and CocoCay; it also sails to numerous popular worldwide cruise destinations.

    • Best for The Royal Caribbean liner is best for active adults and families.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines

    Norwegian Cruise Lines has been in business for over 48 years; it developed the concept of freestyle cruising, which means a relaxed dress code, that lets guests enjoy the cruise at unscheduled, individual paces.

    • Best for The Norwegian Cruise liner is best for budget-conscious families and adults looking for a relaxed, less formal cruise experience.
  • Windjammer Barefoot Cruises

    Windjammer Barefoot Cruises are smaller cruises in traditional sailing vessels, with one tall clipper ship holding six guests and the other holding up to 24 guests.

    • Best for The Windjammer Barefoot Cruises are best for adults looking for an authentic sailing experience.
  • Cunard

    Cunard's more than 150 years of experience with leisure sailing and destinations around the globe makes them experts in the white glove cruise experience. This cruise line provides a traditional, sophisticated cruise experience to all shipboard guests.

    • Best for The Cunard liner is best for adults and families wanting to experience authentic, formal cruising on a luxury liner.
  • Costa Cruises

    Costa Cruise Line is an Italian cruise line that serves the European cruise market and sails to 14 worldwide destinations.

    • Best for Costa Cruises are best for couples and families who want a cruise that offers a European atmosphere.
  • Seabourn Cruises

    The Seabourn Pride was the first Seabourn ship to sail, back in 1988. The company is based in Seattle and focuses on providing ultra-luxury experiences, and its ships have no more than 300 suites.

    • Best for Older travelers, especially those who want to cruise for weeks, and couples have fun on Seabourn Cruises.

11 – 13 Best Rated Cruise Lines

Oceania Cruises sail to over 300 ports all over the world. Oceania is a luxury cruise line that offers guests gourmet food and a mature, intimate travel experience while relaxing in each ship's country-club style atmosphere.
Liberty Fleet Windjammer Cruises is a relatively small cruise line with two ships. The company primarily travels to destinations in and around New England, but it also has trips to the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands.
Costa Cruises is an Italian cruise line that uses ports all over the world, including in Africa, the Middle East, the Americas and Pacific Asia. The company was founded in 1854 and has about eight fleets of cruise ships.