Cruisers the world over agree: Ice cream is delicious. Maybe you prefer strawberry over chocolate, or sprinkles over fudge, but one thing is for certain: whether it's fro-yo, gelato, a classic scoop or a milkshake, ice cream in all its forms makes for an ideal vacation dessert.
Every cruise ship has some form of icy treat onboard, but some offer more incredible ice cream than others. Discover our top picks for the best ice cream and gelato on a cruise, so even at sea, you're never far away from a lick of mint-chip or a sip of strawberry shake.
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Updated January 9, 2020
We all scream for: Gelato sandwiches and ice spaghetti at Cafe al Bacio & Gelateria
Where: Fleetwide (excluding Xpedition Class)
Why: The atmosphere of Celebrity's spot for coffee and sweets is reminiscent of a cozy European cafe. Along with on-the-house croissants and for-a-charge cappuccinos, passengers can purchase gelato and sorbet (the Italians call it sorbetto) by waffle cone or cup. (We like that even the smallest portion size includes up to two scoops.) What's not typically offered at your everyday gelateria are cookie gelato sandwiches -- with six cookie and flavor combinations -- or something called spaghetti gelato, which are elaborate sundaes; choices include an "Ice Spaghetti Pomodoro" (vanilla gelato with cream, fresh strawberry sauce and white chocolate) or "Ice Spaghetti Carbonara" (vanilla and hazelnut gelato with cream and chocolate-hazelnut zabaglione sauce).
Bonus: Oceanview Cafe, Celebrity's free buffet restaurant, also makes ice cream and sorbet (made on the premises) available throughout the day, gratis.
Viking Ocean Cruises
We all scream for: Exotic gelato flavors at the World Cafe
Why: New flavors of gelato are available each day at World Cafe, Viking Ocean's buffet restaurant. Tart fruit flavors like a tropical blend make gelato or sorbet the perfect way to cap a lunch of handmade sushi or toasty paninis. During our sailing in the Mediterranean, we enjoyed a scoop of cassis, a popular flavor in the South of France, made from black currants. Taking it just a few steps to the outdoor Aquavit Terrace to enjoy with a view made it taste just a bit sweeter.
Disney Cruise Line
We all scream for: Ice cream in a souvenir racecar at Vanellope's Sweets & Treats
Where: Disney Dream
Why: Fans of "Wreck-It Ralph" young and old will enjoy the candy, cupcakes, cookies and gelato offered at Vanellope's, a confectionary corner store. Diehard ice cream and Disney enthusiasts will have to dish out a few bucks ($12.95) for the ultimate sugar rush -- the Vanellope Von Schweetz Race Kart Sundae: three scoops of ice cream or gelato in flavors like butterscotch waffle crunch or king candy, five toppings, whipped cream and a cherry in a cute collectible racecar. It's a little vroom for the tastebuds (and your dentist's private yacht fund).
Carnival Cruise Line
We all scream for: Cold-slab, hand-blended ice cream creations at Cherry on Top
Where: Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon
Why: If you're familiar with Coldstone or Marble Creamery, you might know how strange it looks (but how good it tastes) to have someone mix in ingredients to your ice cream as it's molded by hand with scoop-like tongs on an ice-cold slab. This concept has taken to sea onboard Carnival Cruise Line's two newest ships, at the line's Cherry on Top candy store. Pick from a dizzying, rainbow selection of bulk candy to blend right into your ice cream, for a fee. After you're done being a mad scientist of sugar, take to the outdoors to enjoy your creation in the open air. (Just watch out for some serious sun melt.)
Bonus: Available on Carnival Vista and Carnival Sunshine, Shake Spot shakes it up with a tempting variety of milkshakes and floats for kids and adults. For $3.95, get the little ones a traditional shake -- or try a tropical take on the standard made with vanilla ice cream, pineapple juice and coconut syrup. Mom and dad can opt for a spiked shake or float ($7.75) in flavors like The Spirit of Kentucky (bourbon, caramel syrup and vanilla ice cream) or Dark and Stormy (vanilla ice cream in rum and ginger beer).
We all scream for: Humphry Slocombe artisanal ice cream
Where: Marina and Riviera (February 2020), fleetwide (May 2020)
Why: Oceania is renowned for its fine dining, so it's no surprise that the cruise line kicked off 2020 by partnering with San Francisco-based artisan ice cream maker Humphry Slocombe. At least 14 truly unique flavors will be served onboard -- from roasted white chocolate with lavender, black sesame and sweet corn to Vietnamese coffee and Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes). But one of those flavors has been specially developed just for Oceania Cruises: Regatta Royale is the line's signature ice cream flavor (and how many can say that) described as a bittersweet dark fruity chocolate with orange zest and smoked sea salt.
The line also makes a darn fine milkshake, which can be found at the casual, poolside Waves Grill. Not only a go-to spot for burgers and barbecue, Waves offers plenty of homemade gelato, made-to-order sundaes and thick, handmade milkshakes. There's nothing better than baking in the sun and then sipping a frosty shake -- with no added fees to kill the chill.
We all scream for: Chocolate meets gelato at Venchi Gelateria
Where: MSC Divina, MSC Seaside and MSC Seaview
Why: MSC Cruises' partnership with Italian chocolatier and gelato artisan, Venchi, brings more than 135 years of sweet experience to three of the line's ships, two of which are based in North American. While flavors -- created in a specially designed onboard laboratory -- rotate daily, you really can't go wrong with Venchi's hallmark extra-dark chocolate or gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut). Indulge a la carte on Divina's Deck 14, poolside; outdoors on Deck 7 of MSC Seaside, and on MSC Seaview's main shopping thoroughfare on Deck 6.
We all scream for: Traditional Italian delicacies at Gelataria Amarillo
Where: Costa Diadema
Why: We dare you to deny the charm of Costa Diadema's revamped gelateria, complete with gumdrop ceiling, chocolate fountain and 18 flavors of gelato and ice cream. Partnering with Italian brand Agrimontana, Costa provides authentic gelato along with other sweets like macaroons and snow cones, straight from Italia. Scoops run about 1.5 euros. Priceless is the old-fashioned carhop element, as waiters don cheery aprons and ball caps.
We all scream for: Drunken gelato with some ambiance
Where: Royal Princess and Regal Princess
Why: Princess Cruises is known throughout the industry for its dazzling Piazza, a place to see and be seen in an eye-catching atrium setting. Adding to the hang-out vibe, two of Princess' newest ships offer handmade gelato (and sorbet) at -- wait for it -- Gelato, for a fee. Sky Princess, slated to launch in October 2019, also will have a Gelato onboard. (Tip: If you have a coffee card, it can be used to purchase gelato here.) Garnish your creamy cup of Nutella, cookies and cream or dulce de leche with toppings like toasted nuts and enjoy the vintage atmosphere; despite the Italian-tinged offerings, the venue is modeled after the American ice cream parlors of the early 20th century. Spice things up with an alcoholic sundae: vanilla scoops drenched in liqueur such as Bailey's or Frangelico.
Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruises
We all scream for: Good ol' Ben & Jerry's
Where: Royal Caribbean's Freedom- and Voyager-class cruise ships; Crystal Cruises' Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity
Why: Sometimes you just need the name brand stuff, and two cruise lines carry Vermont's finest. Cruisers might know that Royal Caribbean is synonymous with Ben & Jerry's at sea (thanks to their hard-to-miss "cow butt cabin"), but many might not realize luxury cruise line Crystal Cruises also serves the gourmet ice cream in its Trident Ice Cream Bar (on Symphony) and Scoops (on Serenity). During the course of a single cruise, Crystal's ice cream joints will rotate about 20 flavors including low-carb options, nonfat yogurts and a dozen homemade sherbets. Freshly baked waffle cones, cookies, sundaes and shakes are also available; fresh berries are a topping favorite.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
We all scream for: Malts at Pool Grill
Why: On a line known for luxury, it's nice to just lay back and savor one of life's simpler pleasures: a malted milkshake. The Pool Grill on Regent Seven Seas offers high-brow cruisers the chance to hang by the pool and grab a snack, or in this case, a chance to gleefully gulp a milkshake made with old-fashioned ice cream and magical malted milk. Sundaes with custom toppings are also available for those who like dessert to be a bit more solid. The perk of an all-inclusive line is that these frozen delights are free.
Holland America Line
We all scream for: The gelato popsicles and sundaes at G Gelato
Where: Holland America's Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam
Why: You could just offer creamy gelato scoops and call it a day, but Holland America Line's G Gelato cafe offers inventive sundaes in a glass (pesca fresca is peach yogurt, amaretto, peach coulis and fresh peaches or "delizioso," which is vanilla gelato, Nutella, caramel sauce and peanuts) for just $1.50. There are also scoops, with toppings like fresh berries or Dutch wafers; cones, milkshakes and our favorite -- gelato popsicles in whimsical flavors and colors like cappuccino or caramel mascarpone. Even better, Holland America sends staffers at G Gelato to Italy for one week to train in the authentic art of gelato-making.
We all scream for: Milk- and fruit-based gelato from a vintage-style ice cream cart
Why: As if unlimited caviar and Champagne aren't enough, Seabourn passengers can stay refreshed with handcrafted gelato -- courtesy of a cute, vintage-style ice cream cart, or from glass-display gelato stations throughout the ship. The ice cream cart, however, is where you'll find the widest variety of flavors ranging from Amarena Cherry, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Bourbon Vanilla (milk-based) to Blood Orange, Rhubarb and Kumquat (fruit-based). The gelato is even made by a team trained in Italy -- using a gelato machine manufactured by Carpigiani in Bologna -- making it arguably the closest thing to what you'd scoop up from a local gelateria.