10 of the Best Cruise Lines in the World
You'll want a different vessel for your honeymoon than for your family reunion or the kids' spring break. Here are the top lines for every occasion.
For the past two decades, Crystal has led the luxury ocean cruising category in food and service. Now, the line has five river ships, a luxury yacht, and air tours with more—such as expedition ships and more ocean ships—on the way. Best of all, they’re in the process of updating their two ocean ships right now with new dining concepts and cabin offerings.
Don’t miss: Sure, lots of cruise lines serve sushi onboard, but the Japanese restaurants on the line’s two large ocean-going vessels—Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity—are helmed by none other than the Iron Chef himself, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.
The best option: The two large ships have incredible options—you can dine in a Brazilian churrascaria one night, have Italian the next, and Cantonese after that. For an intimate experience, consider a winter cruise on the 62-passenger Crystal Esprit yacht to the British Virgin Islands and West Indies. Don’t miss what travel experts want you to know about booking a cruise.
Viking Ocean Cruises
When the company long known for their European river cruises launched an ocean line a few years back, Viking did much more than expand upon the Rhine and Danube experience. They created spectacular, airy ships decked out in the most beautiful Scandinavian design we’ve seen anywhere. Best of all, they’re adults only and they kept their “more inclusive” concept intact by offering complimentary Wi-Fi, shore excursions, and beer and wine with meals.
Don’t miss: Sure, all major lines have spas, but no other ships have thermal suites like you’ll find on these ships. From the wood-lined saunas to the pool, fireplace, ice cold bucket-style shower, and snow room, these thermal suites may be the most beautiful and the most interesting. (And they’re complimentary, too.)
Your best option: All of these ships are identical, so choose based on itinerary. Viking does an especially excellent job with Baltic routes, with options that will help you cross the Northern Lights off your bucket list.
Disney Cruise Line
When it comes to serving families with small children, no other line can compete. The kids’ clubs cater to a wide range of ages with Star Wars, Marvel, and Princess-themed activities: The little ones can learn teamwork from Spiderman or be crowned in a coronation led by Elsa and Anna. Theme nights include a pirate dress-up evening and fireworks on deck. And, best of all, the children will be so happy that the parents will actually have time to check out the adults-only pool or grab an after-dinner cocktail.
Don’t miss: The stage shows based on Disney films are especially impressive, especially the “Tangled” and “Frozen” productions.
Your best option: The line’s European sailings often include balls held at actual castles—it’s a lasting memory for your little princess! Concerned Disney Cruise Line is only great for the kiddos? Read on for what Disney offers grown-ups, too.
Sophisticated but subtle: Seabourn’s cabin stewards will respond to your request for a bubble bath with trays of scents; if you order caviar two days, they’ll ask, “Would you like us to bring it every day at the same time?”
Don’t miss: There are celeb chefs at sea, and then there’s Thomas Keller’s partnership with Seabourn. Arguably the best chef in America, he has created a comfort-food focused chophouse onboard that executes the most perfectly seared steaks and juicy roasted chicken, night after night.
The best option: Try the line’s two newest ships, Seabourn Ovation and Seabourn Encore, anywhere in the world; the Asia sailings from Hong Kong through Vietnam to Singapore are especially enticing. Check out these great cruise choices for couples, too.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
The cabins are spectacular on their all-suite, all-balcony, luxury vessel, offering gorgeous molding, mahogany-lined walk-in closets, and spacious marble bathrooms. And the best part of sailing with Regent is that they offer complete all-inclusive packages, with everything from pre-cruise hotel nights to transfers and airfare (Business class when you’re flying internationally) included.
Don’t miss: The artwork collection is worth spending a day at sea exploring, from the Picasso lithographs outside the top suite to the Chagall (and Picassos) in Prime 7. And right at the entrance of the Pacific Rim restaurant is a two-ton, cast bronze Tibetan prayer wheel installation.
Your best option: Look for a Mediterranean trip where you’ll be able to sit on the deck and sip rosé as you sail from the French Riviera to the Italian. Want to go further afield than the Mediterranean? We love these more exotic cruise itineraries.
What makes Tauck really special is that they have been in the land tour business since 1925, and they handle all of their on-land explorations themselves, unlike many cruise lines which outsource that part of the trip. In addition, they have exclusive access to many places in the world. On Mediterranean sailings, Tauck can get passengers into the Vatican on some nights after it is closed, and they throw cocktail parties in private gardens in Malta.
Don’t miss: The line also has truly impressive speakers and notable lecturers, making it a great choice for travelers who really want to learn.
Your best option: The line’s Peru and Galapagos itineraries take you to see Macchu Pichu as well as those rare blue-footed boobies and tortoises in the islands.
This European luxury line is a great choice for anyone who fears they will feel claustrophobic at sea. The cabins are spacious, but so are their dining rooms and pool decks. Throughout the ship, there’s a feeling of elbow room you just won’t find on many other vessels.
Don’t miss: For special occasions, the fine French Relais & Chateaux restaurant onboard, La Dame, is the place to be.
Your best option: The line’s gorgeous Silver Muse launched in April 2017 has a gorgeous jazz club and a pool-side pizza restaurant, Spaccanapoli, that turns out exactly the kinds of pies you want while you’re sailing out around the boot of Italy. Don’t miss these travel hacks to make your cruise even easier.
Foodies of all stripes flock to this elegant line, where the Asian dishes in Red Ginger aren’t adjusted and the cheese tray in Jacques is full of fromage that’s shipped straight from Lyon.
Don’t miss: For vegetarians, the line launched an ambitious vegan initiative and now offers whole vegan menus at every meal, as well as cold-pressed raw juices and vegan smoothies.
Your best option: The two purpose-built ships, Oceania Marina and Oceania Riviera, are exquisite, and you can hop on Oceania Marina in South America and knock Rio off your bucket list.
For Americans who don’t mind sailing on a ship designed for German-speakers, this line’s Europa 2 often tops the “best lists.” From luxurious cabins to dining rooms filled with more crystal, china, and silver than a royal registry, this sophisticated vessel offers a genteel option.
Don’t miss: The collection of more than 800 pieces of spectacular artwork—including notable such as Damien Hirst and Gerhard Richter.
Your best option: Sail to the Arabian peninsula or through the Indian Ocean on Europa 2—just expect everyone from the servers to the other passengers to be more comfortable in German than English. Make sure you know these tips for staying healthy on your cruise, too.
This one-ship line doesn’t have the newest or flashiest vessel, but it offers unparalleled access to its home of French Polynesia. While cruisers have other options in this region these days, no other line spends the whole year there, year in and year out, and owns their own private motu, a stunning little islet off the coast of Taha’a.
Don’t miss: The line brings the local flavor onboard in everything from artwork to menus to spa treatments.
Your best option: Itineraries in French Polynesia range from seven to ten nights, so which one you choose will depend on how much time you have to swim around crystal clear lagoons and ogle black pearls. Next, don’t miss these 28 secrets cruise lines won’t tell you.