Just who is a senior anyway? We all know that mature adults are living longer, healthier lives and are far more active. When they go on a cruise, they want the same things that everyone else does -- a memorable experience with cultural enrichment, sophisticated dining, soft adventure and bucket list destinations (and the technology to share it with their friends and family).
When looking for cruise lines that appeal to mature travelers, we sought out lines that cater to adults, some with inclusive pricing, and several of our choices feature activities for seniors as well as families. Many can accommodate, with advance notice, limited mobility issues.
If you're looking for the cruise line that checks all the boxes, see our list of the nine best cruises for seniors.
1. Viking Cruises
Viking Cruises, which has river, ocean and -- coming in 2022 -- expedition sailings target well-traveled adults 50 years of age and older who are interested in history, art, science, local culture and cuisine. All its ships are adults-only (18 years and up) and offer competitive inclusive pricing, covering all meals, beer and wine during lunch and dinner, port charges, internet access, lectures, activities and one shore excursion in every port.
Why seniors will love it: Viking goes deep on education, both with its shore excursions and onboard programming. River cruises include bucket-list experiences like truffle hunting in Provence or attending a ballet or opera at the world-renowned Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The ocean cruises have a lot of educational extras, including cooking classes at The Kitchen Table; Resident Historians that give lectures pertinent to the itineraries; Viking does not have casinos, and much of the onboard entertainment focuses on cultural enrichment (not to mention one of the best spa thermal suites at sea).
And the new expedition ships have a protected slip that will allow passengers to board small Zodiac vessels inside, as opposed to exposed to outdoor elements. Cabins with sunrooms and windows that lower for fresh air, as opposed to balconies, mean that senior travelers can stay cozy, even in chilly conditions.
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises' five all-suite ships travel to more than 450 destinations around the globe and boast the world's most inclusive luxury cruise experience, with airfare, accommodations, all meals, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, gratuities and most shore excursions in the fare. Most passengers are upward of 55 years, although you will see an occasional family traveling with younger children.
Why seniors will love it: Regent is a true luxury experience, with personalized service, the convenience of all-inclusive pricing and a high 1:1.5 ratio of staff members to passengers which guarantee you'll feel pampered. The ships themselves are gorgeous, with high-end artwork and sumptuous furnishings.
Dining options are luxurious and plentiful, with all restaurants included in the fare; extravagant Sunday brunches include Champagne and caviar. During dinner hours, you can order meals from the dining room directly to your suite through room service. The atmosphere is more country club casual than formal.
For passengers with disabilities, accessible suites are available on all ships and can accommodate a wheelchair or motorized scooter. All public spaces, dining venues, bars and casinos are also easy to navigate and accessible.
3. Holland America Line
Holland America's midsize ships have long been popular with more mature travelers, both for the destinations where they travel and entertainment options onboard. The ships are easy to get around, and typically do not attract young children (save in Alaska, where multi-generational families often cruise together). The line also has a fair number of bucket-list trips through the Panama Canal, South Pacific, Australia and Africa, as well as a World Cruise that is more affordable than most.
Why seniors will love it: The line's shore excursion program, EXC (Explorations Central) In-Depth Voyages, appeals to well-traveled individuals looking for more comprehensive information about a destination and the local culture and customs. Trivia takes place at all hours, and partnerships with BBC Earth, Lincoln Center, B.B. King's and Rolling Stone, as well as Oprah's Book Club, are present onboard. Culinary experiences include a partnership with America's Test Kitchen and on three ships, BLEND by Chateau Ste. Michelle Dining is varied, with up to five specialty venues onboard.
As one of the most disability-friendly lines in the industry, accessible staterooms are available on all Holland America ships. Passengers can make arrangements ahead of time with the Access & Compliance Department to secure wheelchairs, scooters and other amenities to support any disability issues. This department will provide several outside companies the line works with and help coordinate the process before departure. Alternatively, cruisers can bring their own wheelchairs or scooters onboard.
4. Silversea Cruises
Silversea's all-inclusive and all-suite, ultra-luxury ships, both ocean and expedition, appeal to the mature, discerning traveler in search of an upscale experience with highly personalized service. Its ships sail to more than 900 destinations on all seven continents and provide many "once in a lifetime" experiences. The all-inclusive pricing covers all-suite accommodations, gourmet dining, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages and wines, onboard lectures, gratuities and, on expedition cruises only, excursions.
Why seniors will love it: Silversea's suites com with a dedicated butler that handles everything from unpacking luggage to making dinner reservations and keeping your preferred beverage well-stocked during the cruise. The Silver Shore Concierge can make arrangements for individually curated tours as well as Mid-Cruise Land Adventures tours that are arranged between ports of call so cruisers can meet the ship at the next destination.
The main dining room and themed dining options are impressive. Depending on the ship, specialty restaurants include Le Dame by Relais & Chateaux featuring bespoke French dishes; Indochine and Seishin, serving Asian-inspired cuisine; or La Terrazza, honoring the Italian heritage of the family-owned cruise line. New ships boast S.A.L.T., a culinary adventure program that delves into local cuisines.
All of Silversea's ships (except expedition vessels) accommodate wheelchairs and scooters. The line's low single supplement is an attractive incentive for widows and widowers, and anyone else traveling solo. Men of a certain age are onboard many cruises to serve as gentlemen hosts, socializing, dining and dancing with the single ladies onboard.
5. Crystal Cruises
Crystal's fleets include two luxury ships, 848-passenger Symphony and 980-passenger Serenity, as well as a custom-built luxury river boats, a yacht and coming in 2021, an expedition ship. Fares are all-inclusive, with drinks, Wi-Fi and tips included in its fares.
Why seniors will love it: All ships, except the yacht, were designed with accessibility in mind and have ramp access and elevators that can accommodate wheelchairs. There are also staterooms that are wheelchair-friendly with extra-wide doors and accessible bathrooms.
Culinary excellence is one of the many highlights of cruising with Crystal, across the board, and the ships have excellent wine lists. The river ships have earned Cruise Critic Editor Picks awards for best dining.
Enrichment also takes center stage on Crystal, with guest lecturers that include well-known authors and historians, foreign ambassadors and diplomats, guest chefs, wine connoisseurs and destination experts. Fitness programs, such as yoga, Pilates and golf lessons given by PGA instructors, are also complimentary. Art and bridge instructors are often onboard. The line also hosts themed cruises such as Crystal on Broadway itineraries in partnership with multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway producer Kevin McCollum or Crystal Wine & Food Festivals.
A travel company that made its name in land tours, Tauck offers a full array of river cruises, as well as chartered expedition sailings to bucket-list locales like the Arctic and Antarctica. The river cruise ships in particular lean toward the luxury end of the spectrum, with drinks, Wi-Fi, transfers, excursions and gratuities included in the fare.
Why seniors will love it: Tauck prides itself in doing everything for its guests, from the time you touch down to the time you leave. On the rivers, the Tauck guides will even give passengers euros for lunch. These Tauck guides also perform multiple duties onboard, giving daily briefings, attending shore excursions and handling the "lagniappe" extras.
The shore excursions on Tauck riverships themselves are thoughtful and interesting, and often go a step beyond what you might find on other lines. At an American cemetery in Luxembourg, for example, passengers may be given a rose to place at the gravesite of a veteran. Dinner off the ship might be held at a Michelin-starred restaurant in a vineyard. Tauck also often includes pre- and post-cruise trips within its fare, and seniors will appreciate having those logistics covered.
On its small ship cruises, the Tauck guides help passengers figure out their expedition gear, for example, or coordinate logistics on a charter flight. They also make sure that the mostly American passengers are comfortable; on a Ponant-chartered ship, this means having menus that appeal more to U.S. tastes than French, for example. A partnership with BBC Earth on some voyages brings extra enrichment to the table.
7. American Queen Steamboat Company
Ready for some paddlewheel nostalgia? The four riverboats in the American Queen Steamboat Company fleet ooze charm, with Victorian touches and history-heavy itineraries. Cruise fares include a pre-cruise night at a hotel, transfer to the ship, dining (including in the alternative venues and 24-hour room service), soft drinks, coffees and bottled water and complimentary wines and beers at dinner, as well as use of the line's hop on, hop off bus in ports.
Why seniors will love it: While some cruises can be go go go, river cruises in the U.S. are generally more leisurely affairs, with a focus on relaxing and soft sightseeing. The hop on, hop off buses that AQSC uses in port continue that vibe, allowing passengers to go at their own pace. Shore excursions focus on historical sites, battlefields and museums, as well as natural wonders.
Onboard, the ships have a "riverlorian" who gives lectures about historical topics, such as the Mississippi River or Lewis and Clark. Meals are multi-coursed, with menus that reflect the destinations. Nightly entertainment is lively, and often reflects American classics. The crew is all-American and friendly.
8. American Cruise Lines
With two types of riverboats – traditional and modern – as well as coastal cruise ships, American Cruise Lines has many choices for travelers who might want to stay closer to home. Fares for the riverboats include a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay, with luggage concierge and transfers, while all sailings offer at least one shore excursions in every port; complimentary evening cocktails and wine and beer at lunch and dinner; soft drinks, juice, water and snacks.
Why seniors will love it: All of the ships in the American Cruise Lines fleet have been built at the company's own American shipyard and the crew are also American. All are under 200 passengers and most have cabins and suites that are among the largest on the rivers. The line is also great for solo travelers, with a nice variety of single cabins without a single supplement. The ships have wheelchair-accessible cabins and elevators to all passenger decks.
Enrichment is a standout on American Cruise Lines, with a lecturer on every cruise. Onboard entertainment is often geared to the ship's itinerary. Depending on the region each ship is sailing, there may be local culinary experiences like a lobster bake in New England, or a Cajun cooking demonstration. Shore excursions to historical sites and museums are common. Wi-Fi is complimentary, and each ship has several libraries and chart rooms for browsing. Passengers can tour the pilot house with the captain while onboard.
Brimming with history, the ships and liner that make up the Cunard fleet appeal to traditionalists, but that doesn't mean the experience isn't modern and fun. While the Queen Mary 2 specializes in crossings between New York and Southampton, the other two ships in the fleet bring the line's British flavor to other regions of the world.
Why seniors will love it: The Queen Mary 2 is built for leisurely sea days, with a full array of lectures, films and onboard activities, as well as one of the largest libraries at sea. There's a planetarium onboard, with star shows three times a day. And no one wants to miss the traditional tea in the Queens Room, or the fish and chips in the Golden Lion Pub.
One feature of all Cunard ships is the dedication toward dressing up. Seniors who want to get their dressy duds out of the closet will be in heaven; the most casual nights onboard still require a cocktail dress.
For seniors traveling solo, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria each have nine midship single-occupancy cabins; eight are ocean-view cabins, while the ninth is a standard inside cabin. Queen Mary 2, meanwhile, has 15 ocean-view single-occupancy cabins. The line also has gentlemen hosts to act as dancing and dining companions for single ladies.