Best Cruise Lines: Top 7 Vacations At Sea Most Recommended By Experts

Imagine waking up to the gentle sway of the ocean, greeted by endless horizons and the promise of a new destination every single day. Unless you’re in a very well-planned retirement, many don’t have the chance to do that. But, with the best cruise lines, you can embark on the trip of your dreams out at sea.

The ultimate sea voyage might be exactly what you and your family need to recharge. In fact, a study shows that 55 percent of parents haven’t taken their families on vacation in three years! Why? Often, one of the most important things for parents when planning family trips is whether or not there are kid-friendly amenities. Luckily, cruise ships come equipped with something for everyone, from water slides for the kids to spa services for moms.

Whether you’re dreaming of sipping piña coladas on a Caribbean beach, exploring ancient European cities, or gliding through the majestic fjords of Scandinavia, the best cruise lines have you covered. Each voyage is a captivating tapestry of culture, history, and breathtaking landscapes. It’s not just the destinations that make these cruise lines extraordinary. It’s the onboard experience, a world where you can savor culinary delights fit for royalty, catch Broadway-worthy shows, and pamper yourself in world-class spas that redefine relaxation.

Which cruise line should you choose? Well, StudyFinds is here to help you decide. We have crafted this list of the best cruise lines, according to travel expert reviews. What sets these different cruise lines apart? You’ll have to read along and see for yourself. Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or considering your first adventure, the best cruise lines promise a symphony of experiences that will leave you in awe of the beauty of the open sea. Did we miss one? Leave a comment to let us know!

Cruise ship
Cruise ship (Photo by Maurício Mascaro from Pexels)

The List: Best Cruise Lines, According to Travel Experts

1. Norwegian Cruise Line

Number one on the list of the best cruise lines is Norwegian Cruise Line. “Sure, Norwegian Cruise Line has won a ton of accolades for its family-friendly cruising. And chances are you will probably spot quite a few kids throughout your sailing (especially depending on when and where you sail). However, cruisers in their 20s and 30s who aren’t ready to hang up their party hats will still find plenty of opportunities to escape screaming tots across Norwegian’s fleet of 19 ships. The entertainment and nightlife options alone make it a great fit for young adults, and the cruise line’s many cabin categories—including rooms designed for single adults—accommodate most cruising styles,” says Forbes.

Set your sights on breathtaking sunsets and sunrises from your own floating paradise. “Norwegian Cruise Line ranked as the top cruise line this year. It is the third-largest cruise line in the world by passengers, according to Cruise Market Watch. As of 2021, it controls about 8.6% of the worldwide cruise market. As of August 2023, Norwegian Cruise Line operates 19 cruise ships and owns two private islands in the Caribbean: Harvest Caye in Belize and Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas,” writes CNBC.

What’s the secret to turning your wanderlust into a maritime dream? “Known for its colorful ships, Norwegian Cruise Line first broke into the mega-ship category in 2010 with the launch of Norwegian Epic, which can carry just over 5,000 passengers at full occupancy, and the company has since introduced five others in the Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus classes. The crowd aboard these vessels, which primarily sail in North America, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean, often consists of families who take advantage of amenities like waterparks, virtual-reality gaming, and go-kart racing, though the cruise line’s ship, Norwegian Bliss, has a decidedly more mature atmosphere. In August 2022, Norwegian premiered its new Prima-class with Norwegian Prima, the most luxurious of its ships. But Prima-class ships are actually rather petite by cruise ship standards, carrying just about 3,000 passengers,” shares CN Traveler

2. Saga Cruises

Number two on the list for the best cruise lines is Saga Cruises. “If you’d really rather weed out any travel companions not even close to retirement, hop across the pond for a cruise vacation with Saga. This British company serves the needs of the 50-plus community, from insurance to all-inclusive holidays and cruises. Specializing in small-ship voyages, Saga Cruises offers itineraries aboard two 987-passenger ocean vessels as well as a handful of river ships—some owned and some chartered. The line is very inclusive, offering alcohol, tours, tips and more bundled into the price (just be aware that it will be listed in pounds). Saga is so confident you’ll love your first cruise with them that they offer a money-back guarantee,” writes Forbes.

Make your next vacation a tale worth sharing and cherish the journey forever. “Unapologetically geared towards the over-50s market, Saga is the cruise line to choose if you want to enjoy a relaxed experience in a blissfully child-free environment. It has a small fleet of four relatively new ships — the oldest debuted in 2017 while the newest first sailed in 2022 — plus boutique vessels that it charters for selected European sailings. Unique to Saga are the thoughtful extras, like travel insurance, unlimited luggage and door-to-door transfers and porterage. On its ocean-faring vessels, Spirit of Adventure and Spirit of Discovery, guests also enjoy a private balcony, and access to spa facilities including hydrotherapy pool, infrared sauna and steam room as standard. It sails to well-trodden destinations, from the US and the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea, with departures from the UK,” says The Times.

Ever thought about waking up to a new destination each day aboard a cruise? “Saga is a cruise line that is specifically aimed at the over-50s. This is the cruise line to choose if you want small-ship luxury that is targeted towards a more mature audience, where everything is just made easy for you. No loud families, no hectic schedules – just a relaxing cruise that has everything you need,” states Cruise Mummy.

3. Seabourn

“Seabourn has thought of everything when it comes to pampering its guests, from partnerships with Thomas Keller, the Michelin-starred chef of The French Laundry, to an experience noshing on Champagne and caviar from a floating bar. It’s unlikely, however, that anyone’s kids would be impressed by these offerings, let alone the upscale atmosphere of Seabourn’s intimate ships. Children are allowed to sail on Seabourn, but with no kids’ clubs or activities beyond the likes of lectures and afternoon tea, it’s not the cruise line to anticipate piles of school kids during spring break. Instead, even established travelers might find some of Seabourn’s itineraries to be impressive, especially sailed by its expedition arm,” says Forbes.

Forge connections and create friendships that last a lifetime on the high seas. “Seeking a casually elegant — think exclusive, country club-like vibe — for an all-inclusive voyage? Meet the seven Seabourn ships, which play up luxury in a sophisticated yet laid-back style. (Seabourn Pursuit, the line’s second expedition vessel, just debuted in August.) Seabourn’s cruise fares include oceanfront suites with double vanities and living areas (many with private balconies), premium wines and spirits, Wi-Fi, specialty restaurants, 24-hour in-suite dining (served course-by-course), caviar whenever and wherever you like, and gratuities. The only major add-ons to your tab are airfare and shore excursions, the fanciest wines and spirits, and spa and salon treatments. Keller’s restaurants ashore are extremely pricey, so reveling in his cuisine on board for free is quite the coup,” shares The Points Guy.

Curious about the ingredients that make a cruise vacation extraordinary? “Seabourn’s seven ships are small, sleek and chic, with a vibe that’s more private yacht than luxury cruise line. Expedition vessels Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit both come complete with two submarines. Seabourn’s ships sail all over the world, from summer in the Mediterranean and Baltic to winter in the Caribbean, South America and Asia. Its expedition ships, built for polar cruising, explore Antarctica and, in summer, northern polar regions; it also offers warm-weather expeditions to destinations including the Amazon. There’s a lot to love on board, from grill classics by renowned chef Thomas Keller to a wellness program in collaboration with health guru Andrew Weil. The food and service are exceptional and the cabins, almost all with balcony, are spacious, with abundant Molton Brown goodies in the bathrooms,” writes The Times

4. Viking

According to Forbes, “Viking is the pioneer of comfortable, adult-only cruising for the modern traveler. In the past 25 years, the company has expanded from a river cruise line primarily based in Europe to one of the largest river fleets in the industry; an award-winning oceangoing cruise line that crisscrosses the globe; and expedition ships that can navigate to the North and South Poles. The breadth of Viking’s destinations and cruise styles is nearly unmatched, but its decision to accommodate a kid-free atmosphere positively sets it apart. In a conscious effort to cater to the ‘thinking person,’ Viking is free of casinos and eye-catching amusements, instead focusing on guests’ enrichment and relaxation.”

Discover the ultimate recipe for an extraordinary maritime adventure. “Cabins are a notch above what you’ll find on other premium ships. They come with upscale amenities, such as king-size beds rather than queens, and bathrooms with spacious glass-enclosed showers, heated bathroom floors and anti-fog mirrors. Perhaps what passengers rave about the most is complimentary access to the Nordic Spa and that awesome thermal suite mentioned above,” says The Points Guy.

Eager to learn how to uncover hidden treasures on your cruise journey? “As well as its popular river fleet, Viking operates a fleet of ten elegant ocean-going ships, and two smart expedition ships, both built for polar expeditions. The ships sail all over the world, from Europe and the Caribbean to Asia and Australia, with cruises varying from the standard seven days to grand world voyages of more than 120 days. What’s lovely about Viking’s ships is the thoughtful decor, all soothing, Scandi-inspired chic and light-filled lounges, plus touches such as an infinity pool, a cool little nightclub, a lavish suite of saunas, steam and an ice grotto in the spa that’s free to use. Every cabin has a balcony, too,” explains The Times.

5. Holland America

Number five on the list of experts for the best cruise lines is Holland America. “As its name indicates, Holland America is a cruise line that was established in 1873 to primarily ferry passengers, many of whom were emigrants, between the Netherlands and the United States. Of course, these days, the cruise line sails more broadly to more than 300 ports around the world on its 11 ships—and it’s highly regarded for its Alaska itineraries. While passengers can enjoy classic cruise activities like swimming, sports, and gambling, Holland America is particularly noted for its culinary and musical programs: it has a partnership with the TV show America’s Test Kitchen for cooking demonstrations and classes, a number of live music venues (including B.B. King’s Blues Club), and stage productions dedicated to the history of music on many of its ships. The latest addition to Holland America’s fleet is the Rotterdam, which first set sail in July 2021, with a capacity of 2,650 passengers,” says CN Traveler.

Capture moments of sheer beauty and wonder that you’ll treasure forever aboard Holland America’s ships. “It sails midsized ships around the world, catering to a mature cruiser who loves live music, fine dining and a classic cruise experience,” shares The Points Guy.

Wondering how to indulge in exquisite cuisine while sailing the high seas? “In 2021, Holland America Line introduced their ‘Have It All’ fare, which offers four additional benefits as part of an all-inclusive upgrade. Costing from $99 per person, per day, the cruise line says that it gets you at least a 50% discount on buying each element separately. The drinks package and the WiFi are fixed – you get a Signature Beverage Package with 15 drinks per day included, and a WiFi Surf package, suited to checking messages and emails. But the number of shore excursions and speciality dining meals you get depends on the length of your cruise,” writes Cruise Mummy.

6. Princess Cruise

Like the name, this cruise line is sure to treat you like royalty. “Part of the Carnival family, Princess Cruises has a fun claim to fame—the TV show The Love Boat was set on its former Pacific Princess ship. If you’ve never seen an episode, you’re in luck, as one of the onboard TV channels airs reruns around the clock. But you won’t want to stay cooped up in your stateroom when you discover all the activities on board its 15 ships. Its special Seawitch craft beer program sees the cruise line partner with breweries around the world, while Discovery at SEA offers a series of activities based on TV shows from the Discovery, Inc. family of networks,” says CN Traveler.

Sip, savor, and indulge in a world of gastronomic delights aboard one of these ships. “The Love Boat cruise line explores the world on big, but not too big ships, with a particular focus on Alaska sailings. It welcomes everyone from families with kids to retired couples with a variety of onboard offerings and inclusive fare options to suit a variety of budgets and preferences,” writes The Points Guy.

Thinking about setting sail and making your travel dreams a reality? “Princess Plus and Princess Premier packages offer guests two options to upgrade their onboard amenities from the standard Princess Cruises plan, which covers accommodations, dining, entertainment and the line’s signature Medallion Class experience. ‘Princess Plus’ perks include a beverage package with drinks up to $15 each, Wi-Fi on one device per guest, gratuities for the crew, two premium desserts a day,” adds U.S. News.

7. Oceania Cruises

Finally, number seven on the expert’s recommendation for the best cruise lines is Ocean Cruise. “It’s all about the food on Oceania Cruises. Its 1,250-passenger MS Marina and MS Riviera offer restaurants by Jacques Pépin, a six-course Dom Pérignon dinner with a pairing of three vintages, a cooking center where passengers of all cooking skill levels can take classes, and culinary-themed excursions, like a visit to the market in Nice with a chef. Its four smaller Regatta-class ships, each accommodating 684 passengers, also have excellent dining options, like the Polo Grill and the Italian eatery Toscana. The first of two new 1,200-passenger ships, Vista, was delivered in 2023, while Allura is scheduled to launch in 2025,” says CNTraveler.

From dazzling sunsets to sparkling seas, create a travel tale that’s worth sharing. “Oceania Cruises sails smaller, upscale ships with a focus on fine dining and restaurant variety. It has recently made its cruise fares more inclusive with the introduction of Simply More pricing,” writes The Points Guy.

Learn the art of creating cherished memories while exploring the open sea. “Oceania’s eight small luxury ships carry between 648 and 1,238 guests. The line’s newest ship – Vista, the first Allura Class vessel – debuted during a sailing from Rome in May 2023. The beautifully appointed vessel features four new dining concepts, spacious standard staterooms at 290-plus square feet in size, new Concierge Level veranda accommodations for solo cruisers, an elevated mixology program and more. Oceania’s culinary program is touted by the line as ‘The Finest Cuisine at Sea’ under the tutelage of Jacques Pépin, executive culinary director and master chef. Complimentary specialty dining is included in cruise fares on Oceania sailings,” says U.S. News.

Where are you headed first on your next cruise? Share a comment to let us know!

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About the Author

Te-Erika Patterson

Te-Erika is the Publisher of The Feisty News for Women, the only full-service news source for women. Te-Erika is also the author of How To Love a Powerful Woman, Leave Your Baby Daddy and Loving Female Led Relationships: Relationships that Empower Women. A graduate of The University of Florida, Te-Erika enjoys a thriving career as a digital content creator that has spanned more than a decade. She enjoys chocolate, wine and solitude, and she is currently living a quiet life in Montgomery, Alabama. Follow her @Te-Erika

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