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Find the Best Cruise Lines

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Cruising is an inexpensive way to visit multiple destinations around the world and go on on-shore excursions.​ Before you book, use our guide to research the best cruise line company for you. Many cruises are family-friendly, while others cater to an adult-only crowd. Because many cruises are all-inclusive and the price per night is usually less than hotel accommodations, it is hard to beat the value of a vacation at sea.

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Things to consider before booking a cruise

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 would enjoy going on a cruise?


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.


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 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.

Cruise lines FAQ

Are cruises worth it?
Cruises can be worth it, depending on your vacation and relaxation preferences. Cruises feature a variety of onboard entertainment, such as musical performances, comedic routines, games and movies, and some provide all-inclusive food and drinks. With all these activities and inclusions, cruises are generally a good deal. Plus, many cruises combine hotel and airfare for your convenience.
Are cruises fun for couples?
Cruises can be a romantic getaway for couples, making them a popular choice for honeymoons, anniversaries and other special occasions. Many cruises feature events for couples, like joint massages, stargazing and shore excursions. Some companies also offer cruises for adults only.
Are there any adults-only cruises?
Yes, there are adult cruises, catering only to those who are 18-plus. These cruises often feature more adult-friendly entertainment, such as dance parties, onboard tattoo parlors and upscale dining experiences.
What is the cheapest month to go on a cruise?
It depends on the region of the cruise, but for the most part, cruises are cheapest in late winter or early fall. Consider speaking to a travel agent or visit travel sites for the best deals on cruises.
What is the most romantic cruise?
Most major cruise lines offer great romantic options for couples. If you prefer a vacation without children, an adults-only cruise is an excellent choice. Be sure to research the cruise’s onboard entertainment and accommodations to plan your romantic getaway.
Where is the best room on a cruise ship?
Overall, the suite is the best room on a cruise ship. It features more rooms, balconies, butler services and other exclusive perks.
How do you avoid seasickness on a cruise?
There are several things you can do to avoid seasickness on a cruise:
  • You can take antiemetic medicine to help decrease your nausea at sea.
  • If you get severe seasickness, ask your doctor about prescribing an anti-nausea patch or pill.
  • Stay hydrated, get a full night’s sleep and eat every few hours.
  • Stay in a lower room toward the center of the ship, where you’ll feel less swaying and rolling.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Author reviews on cruise lines

    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.

    Read more about Princess Cruises
    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.

    Read more about Disney Cruises
    Carnival Cruise Lines

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

    Read more about Carnival Cruise Lines
    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.

    Read more about Celebrity Cruises
    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.

    Read more about Holland America Cruises
    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.

    Read more about Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines
    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.

    Read more about Norwegian Cruise Lines

    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.

    Read more about Cunard
    Costa Cruises

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

    Read more about Costa Cruises
    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.

    Read more about Seabourn Cruises

    Compare Reviews for Top Cruise Lines

    by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    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.