The Best Cruises in the World For 7 Types of Travelers

Cruising just might be the most convenient way to see the world. By unpacking and settling into a room just once, you're whisked away to multiple destinations and doted on with lavish dining, lounging, and entertainment options in between every stop. But when it comes to finding the right cruise line or itinerary among the best cruises in the world, the options can be overwhelming.

"The wonderful thing about cruising in 2024 is that there is literally a cruise for everyone," Fora Travel Advisor and Cruise Lead Cameron Tempest tells PS, rattling off options from family-friendly and adult-only to ultra-luxury, barges, and sailboats. In fact, there are so many options that the cruise industry is set to launch 56 new ships between now and 2028. "While there is no one-size-fits-all option for first-time cruisers, there is a perfect match for everyone," Tempest adds.

Finding the right sailing varies based on seasonality, budget, and most of all, an individual's travel style and interests, so it's essential to really think about the type of experience you're seeking. "Consider what's most important to you," Adventure Life senior trip planner Mary Curry says. "For some travelers, that means finding the option that has the perfect date to fit over an anniversary or to see a solar eclipse. For others, it could be getting to that one port that you've always dreamed of seeing."

We talked to three cruise experts to find out the best cruises in the world for various types of travelers.

Best Cruises For Families
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Best Cruises For Families

No more hearing, "Are we there yet?" Cruises just might be the ultimate hack for family travel, with activities for every age and interest built into the itinerary. Industry expert Stewart Chiron, better known as The Cruise Guy, names Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Celebrity Cruises among the cruise operators that are "terrific" for families, especially when heading to the Caribbean, Alaska, or the Mediterranean.

Tempest hones in on Disney and Royal Caribbean for their range of activities that will appeal to children between the ages of 3 to 17, including water slides, rock climbing walls, themed clubs, sporting activities, and "endless entertainment."

Tempest suggests trips that stop by the cruise line's private islands. For Disney, that would be Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, as visited on the five-night Western Caribbean Cruise from Fort Lauderdale with Marvel Day at Sea. For Royal Caribbean, that's CocoCay on trips like the three-night Bahamas and Perfect Day Cruise, with that perfect day being on CocoCay, of course.

Curry has cruised with her four kids all around the world, including Antarctica, Greenland, Central America, Mexico, Norway, European river cruises, and the Mediterranean. But the family favorite is by far a Galapagos Islands small ship cruise. "My 7-year-old loved the sea lions and my older kids still talk about snorkeling with sharks and penguins," she says.

For clients, she likes pointing them to local companies connected with Ecuador's national park, like family-run Galapagos Legend operating for more than four decades, which offers three-night North & Central Islands and Central & East Islands trips, as well the 14-night Galapagos Circumnavigation.

Best Cruises For Couples
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Best Cruises For Couples

There's nothing like romance on the high seas! Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Mediterranean are popular destinations for couples to sail, Chiron says.

The best trip really depends on the individual interests and age of the pair, Tempest says. She points to the adults-only Virgin Voyages for "couples who are young at heart" since there are "opportunities to party with fun music and entertainment, or enjoy a relaxing, quiet vacation." Fall in love all over again on the ten-night Starry Nights in Greece and Croatia or seven-night French Daze and Ibiza Nights.

Curry recommends the Paul Gauguin Cruises South Pacific itineraries, since the all-inclusive offerings include "gourmet dining and comfortable cabins and the destination is picture perfect for a romantic getaway." Choose from a seven-night escape to Tahiti and the Society Islands or commit to a 20-night trip from Fiji to Bali.

Best Cruises For Solo Travelers

Best Cruises For Solo Travelers

Once upon a time, solo travel and cruising simply didn't mix since most operators charged hefty single supplement fees, meaning those looking to enjoy a vacation alone would have to pay twice as much for themselves. But now that single travelers are so common, many cruise lines are offering solo cabins.

"My best advice is to book as early as possible, as there are deals to be had and solo rooms book up quickly due to demand," Tempest advises. Chiron cautions some do still tend to be expensive, and confined to smaller inside cabins.

Curry says she's a fan of Ponant, which almost always has more than 100 itineraries available with no single supplement fees. "These trips span the globe and not only are you able to get a nicer cabin for the budget, but you are likely to have lots of other solo travelers onboard also taking advantage of these deals," she says. As of press time, the list included the 14-night Northeast Greenland's Unexplored Sea Ice and the seven-night Celtic Secrets and Landscapes from London to Glasgow.

Best River Cruises

Best River Cruises

There's a certain kind of magic that can only be captured on a river cruise, sailing in such close proximity past scenery that's often confined to the in-betweens.

The overwhelming favorite for the travel advisors is AmaWaterways, which Curry says stands out for the wide range of excursions offered that are suitable for all activity levels. She and Tempest both are impressed with the amount of inclusions that other companies may charge extra for, including, biking, hiking, city tours, food tastings, gondola rides, and the like.

"They also have some delightful extra surprises that I wouldn't want to give away but definitely add to the fun," Curry says. "Plus the dining onboard is hard to beat with a variety of local and international specialties paired with free-flowing wine and beer."

Curry herself is a fan of seven-night Gems of Southeast Europe from Bucharest to Budapest. (She says to add on the Transylvania pre-cruise extension for a "real treat.")

Tempest says the company's Christmas market itineraries are among the most popular, with trips like the seven-night Christmas Markets on the Rhine and seven-night Iconic Christmas Markets. "The itineraries give you an opportunity to do some shopping, try some delicious treats, and enjoy the festive season leading up to the holidays," she says.

Best Large-Scale Cruise Ship
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Best Large-Scale Cruise Ship

For those who truly want to go big, it's all about Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas. The 1,200-foot long, 250,800 gross ton ship is currently the largest cruise ship in the world, having made its maiden voyage in January.

On board are 20 decks, 27 restaurants, 18 bars and lounges, seven pools, the largest water park on the seas (with six water slides), a carousel, casino, laser tag, mini golf, rock wall, ice arena, and so much more. "It's literally a floating city at sea," Tempest says.

Enjoy the amenities overload on the Eastern Caribbean Cruise or the Western Caribbean Cruise — both seven-night round-trip excursions from Miami.

Best Cruises For Adventurers
Getty | VCG

Best Cruises For Adventurers

Make waves with an extra dose of adrenaline on an expedition cruise. These trips are typically led by guides with specialized knowledge of the area or a subject matter, and often venture into more remote destinations. Tempest says those in the Galapagos, Antarctica, and the Nordic areas are rising in popularity for the "amazing wildlife, exquisite scenery, and opportunities to hike, kayak, and even take zodiac and helicopter rides" for this style of cruising.

For example, National Geographic Expeditions takes travelers on seven nights through Alaska's Inside Passage, while G Adventures sails on a 20-night Spirit of Shackleton voyage through Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falkland Islands.

Curry points adventurers to Quark Expeditions for their polar adventures, which include helicopter rides, hiking, camping, kayaking, and paddleboarding. "Most travelers get introduced with a standard Antarctic trip and then return back to see Greenland, Svalbard, and the Northwest Passage," she says.

Best Cruises For First-Timers
Getty | Jeff Greenberg

Best Cruises For First-Timers

For those just dipping their toes into the world of cruising, the Bahamas and Caribbean are great starting points, Chiron says, as there are often shorter itineraries to offer a sampling of cruise life. Perhaps consider the three-night Turks and Caicos Getaway on Princess Cruises or the four-night Key West and the Bahamas on Celebrity Cruises.

Curry takes a different approach and suggests first-timers go big. "Nearly every day I have travelers who start the conversation with 'I don't really like cruises' . . . but have Antarctica on their bucket lists," she says, directing them to small ship cruises.

"I explain that they are really just a way to access remote areas and have a floating hotel in regions where accommodations might be more challenging or inconvenient to find, but the focus during the day is entirely off the ship," Curry adds. "Often these same travelers end up loving the small ship experience so much that they come back again and again to try out that same type of experience elsewhere."

Rachel Chang is a travel and pop culture journalist and a magazine editor (Us Weekly senior editor, J-14 editor in chief, CosmoGIRL! entertainment editor) turned freelance writer. She's a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, and has written for PS, New York Times for Kids, Wall Street Journal, Lonely Planet, and United's Hemispheres, among others.