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10 Best Cruises for Non-Cruisers

Allure of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Allure of the Seas (Photo: Cruise Critic)

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If you've got a reason why you couldn't possibly like cruising, we can guarantee we've heard it before. And while not every cruise ship or type of cruise will suit every vacationer out there, the explanations people give for why they'd dislike a vacation at sea are generally unfounded.

In fact, we'd bet that for every excuse, a cruise line exists that proves the stereotype wrong. That's because cruise ships and itineraries come in all shapes and sizes, and not as cookie-cutter as the uninitiated might fear.

If you think there can't possibly be a cruise you'd like -- or have a friend or relation who feels that way -- here are our favorite cruise lines for non-cruisers that defy cliches and win over skeptics.

Updated October 10, 2019

1. Royal Caribbean: Best for Beating Boredom

Anthem of the Seas FlowRider (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Many non-cruisers claim a cruise sounds boring, fearing they'll be "stuck on a boat" for endless days at sea. But most ships have plenty of things to do on sea days.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships (Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas) are the largest cruise ships ever built. Onboard, passengers can rock climb, play miniature golf, try surfing, ride a carousel, enjoy a spa treatment, work out in a full-size gym, lie by a "beach" pool or in a hot tub, go for a ride on a zipline, ice skate, watch a variety of live entertainment (including comedy shows, Broadway musicals, parades and acrobatic shows), learn to scuba dive, shop, watch the big game in a bar and sing karaoke. Bored yet?

Mind you, Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships aren't the only ones to offer options that keep boredom at bay; its Quantum-, Voyager- and Freedom-class ships are also dedicated to active travelers. And remember -- you'll typically be in port for half the days on your cruise, if not more, so you'll have plenty of options to get off the ship and entertain yourself on land.

2. Viking River Cruises: Best for Avoiding Seasickness

The Sphinx and Pyramid, Cairo, Egypt (Photo: rayints/Shutterstock)

Just because you're prone to seasickness doesn't mean you can't cruise. Consider a river cruise instead; on a river, you don't have to worry about waves or high seas that could make you sick.

Viking River Cruises is the most well-known river cruise line, sailing around the world to destinations like Europe (think the Danube, Rhine, Seine, etc.), Egypt's Nile, Russia's Volga and China's Yangtze. Itineraries include visits to wine countries, historic city centers, Christmas markets, pyramids, ancient tombs and beautiful countrysides.

Plus, Viking's river cruises are so destination-focused that you'll spend much of your time onshore exploring by foot, bus or even bicycle. You'll find very few "sea days," and your ship will mainly sail when you're asleep.

3. Seabourn: Best for Combating Cabin Claustrophobia

Seabourn Cabin (Photo: Seabourn Cruises)

If you squeeze a family of four in the smallest windowless cabin or book an old expedition vessel with fixed bunks and teeny bathrooms, you can definitely have some claustrophobic moments in your cruise ship accommodations. You can easily avoid this by booking a balcony cabin or suite or picking a cruise line -- like Seabourn -- with spacious all-suite accommodations.

Seabourn's smallest suites run 250 to 300 square feet, most with a private balcony and some with a picture window instead. All will have sleeping areas separate from living areas, a walk-in closet and large (for a cruise ship) bathrooms with double sinks. Think that's still too small? Its top-of-the-line suites top 900 square feet and come with enormous verandas, dining areas and whirlpool tubs.

With high space-to-passenger ratios, you also won't feel crowded when you set foot outside your cabin to explore the rest of the ship.

4. UnCruise Adventures: Best for Active Exploration

Baja California, Mexico (Photo: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock)

For those who think cruising is all about lounging around a pool deck, stuffing your face with food and wandering around over-touristed destinations, expedition cruise lines provide a refreshing alternative. Small-ship lines like UnCruise Adventures focus on nature-based excursions, active pursuits (think hiking and kayaking) and education about the cruise region -- without giving up creature comforts like delicious meals and onboard massages.

UnCruise visits wilderness-heavy destinations, such as Alaska, Hawaii, Costa Rica, the Galapagos and Baja Mexico, calling on small ports where the larger cruise ships can't go. Its ships are stocked with kayaks, paddle-boards, hiking poles, binoculars, and even snorkeling gear and wet suits (in warm-weather destinations), so you have no excuse to just laze around all day. Knowledgeable guides lead tours and give talks onboard, so you come away with a connection to the cruise region you didn't have before you sailed.

5. Norwegian Cruise Line: Best for All Ages

Norwegian Stars Theater (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

If you still think cruises are for the "newly wed and nearly dead," you probably haven't been on a ship in decades. Cruises today cater to all ages and all demographics, often on the same vessel. Norwegian Cruise Line is one such line that truly offers something for travelers from kids to seniors.

Adults-only sun decks, plus a spa with a thermal suite, allow the grown-ups some alone time during the day. At night, Norwegian's newest and biggest ships offer plenty of entertainment, including live music, Broadway musicals and standup comedy. For kids, there are expansive kids clubs and teen lounges; for the young and young at heart, there are water slides, ropes courses, and even laser tag and go-karts (select ships only).

An array of included and extra-free restaurants means everyone will find a spot to their liking. And a mix of shore excursions -- from bus tours to active pursuits -- will accommodate pretty much any interest and energy level.

6. Star Clippers: Best for Authentic Sailing Experience

Woman Snorkeling Near the Coral Reef (Photo: soft_light/Shutterstock)

Cruise ships have been likened to floating hotels or resorts, but if you're yearning for a more authentic sailing experience, check out Star Clippers. The line has a fleet of clipper ships that, when possible, sail under full wind power in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Asia.

Instead of playing bingo or pool games, passengers can help raise the sails, climb the ship's mast, lie out in the bowsprit net over the open sea or stargaze at night. Water sports are fittingly a big emphasis of each cruise, with diving, snorkeling and water skiing trips organized by the ship's staff and a variety of water sports equipment (like snorkel gear, kayaks and sunfish) available for passenger use, free of charge.

7. Azamara Club Cruises: Best for Nightlife Experiences in Ports

View of the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba (Photo: Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock)

It's true that most cruises stay in port only during the day. But if dining ashore or checking out the local bars or entertainment scene is your thing, then Azamara might be the line for you. It's committed to destination immersion, offering longer hours in port, plenty of overnights and evening tours.

Azamara's evening tours take advantage of late-night stays in port and expose passengers to a destination's music, architecture, food scene or scenic wonders once the sun sets. Think sunset boat rides, evenings at jazz clubs or pubs, dinner at a local restaurant and evening nature walks. The line also offers complimentary AzAmazing Evenings on nearly every cruise, typically highlighting an aspect of local culture and unique venues (like a hillside performance by three tenors in Tuscany).

Independent travelers can ditch the group to do as they please, booking reservations at a local dinner venue, taking a sunset stroll or grabbing a drink at a local watering hole. You don't have to feel like you're missing out on your destination's food and culture scene just because you're staying in a floating hotel.

8. Crystal: Best for a Private Yacht Feel

Crystal Esprit

If your style is more "private yacht" than "6,000-person mega-ship," you can still book a cruise with this more intimate and high-end feel. A great example is Crystal Esprit, the 62-passenger ship that's part of the Crystal Cruises fleet.

Esprit has only four decks but still manages to squeeze in spacious cabins with king-sized beds, four dining areas (including a gourmet restaurant) plus room service, a chic sun deck with plunge pool and a back-of-ship marina with a swimming platform, water skis, kayaks and personal watercraft, plus snorkel gear. Also onboard is a three-person submersible, used for joy rides beneath the waves (for an added fee). Shore excursions are active, and some are complimentary.

You will feel truly spoiled by unparalleled service as you lounge about the deck on a Balinese bed (that you did not have to fight for) or chat with fellow passengers about your day over a glass of Champagne and live piano music.

9. MSC Cruises: Best for Experiencing Another Culture

Valencia (Photo:Ivan Abramkin/Shutterstock)

A cruise ship can often be a floating oasis of Americana, where passengers venture into foreign lands by day but come back to the ship to eat burgers at Johnny Rockets and watch American ballgames on TV. If you prefer more cultural immersion, book a trip on MSC Cruises, a European company that claims strong Mediterranean roots.

On its year-round Mediterranean cruises, MSC's passengers are largely European, and the onboard ambiance definitely has a Mediterranean flair. Even its Caribbean cruises out of Florida carry a fair number of Spanish speakers from the U.S. and Mexico, as well as South Americans. You'll hear different languages throughout the ship, including in official announcements.

The international mix of passengers means that the entertainment is mostly nonverbal and mostly amazing, with memorable shows featuring acrobats, magicians and musicians. Meals are European-style -- slow and lengthy with manageable portions, so you can savor each bite and still have room for dessert. That's important, as MSC partners with Italian chocolatier Venchi to serve up gelato, crepes and other sweet treats on select ships.

10. Disney: Best for a Familiar Brand Experience

Andy’s Room on Disney Magic (Photo: Disney)

People who are wary of cruises as an end in themselves are often more interested if something they already know and love is available onboard. It's no wonder that theme cruises are a hit with first-time cruisers because they take a favorite hobby or brand and simply transport that experience onto a ship. Disney Cruise Line is tops when it comes to taking beloved Disney characters and entertainment and putting them on a cruise ship that's like a floating theme park.

Disney lovers can almost forget they're on a ship when they run into Mickey Mouse, Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes while walking the decks. Public areas and cabins sport branded decor, including a pool shaped like Mickey's head and restaurants designed like Disney animation studios. Evening shows combine the characters, songs and sense of whimsy the company is known for, along with fabulous costumes and high production values. Deck parties feature the Pirates of the Caribbean and a fireworks show.

And, as with Disney's resorts and theme parks, there are options for kids, adults and families together. The kids facilities, with rooms ranging from a mock Millennium Falcon to Andy's Room from "Toy Story," are some of the largest at sea. Adults-only restaurants, sun decks and bars let adult Disney fans escape the little ones, and everyone can enjoy first-run Disney films in the onboard movie theater.

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