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9 Best Cruises for Millennials

The B (Photo: Cruise Critic)
The B (Photo: Cruise Critic)

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No, "cruises for millennials" is not an oxymoron. The emergence of smart-ship technology, Broadway-quality entertainment, designer stores and an emphasis on current culinary trends means that cruising has caught up to many other forms of travel, in terms of hipness. And what other type of vacation can guarantee you'll have just as good of a time getting to your destination(s) as actually being there?

If you were born between 1982 and 2004, face it: You're more or less an M-word. Some traits we arguably share include addiction to our phones, high expectations, the need for constant stimulation and the desire to travel and acquire experiences. Luckily, all of these things --and more -- can be sated on a cruise.

Finding the single, perfect cruise for everyone born over the course of two decades -- it's a tall order. The millennial generation is often lumped together as one group, but in fact, these children of the '80s, '90s and early '00s are all at different points in their lives, and looking for different things from a cruise and from a vacation. Someone in their late-30s with a six-figure salary is going to want something different from someone in their mid-20s with kids, than someone who is still in college.

That's why we are counting down nine different cruise options for the millennial with a young family, the millennial couple looking to spend their hard-earned money on a getaway and the millennial scraping together tips to just leave it all behind with a group of friends.

Updated January 8, 2020


The Ice Bar on U by Uniworld's The B

1. U by Uniworld

We have to give credit to a river cruise line that set out designing for and marketing to only the millennial audience -- even if the line has since opened up its sailings to all ages. U by Uniworld is an offshoot of Uniworld Boutique Cruise Collection, a luxury river cruise line that while elegant, appeals mainly to an older audience based on price point alone. U's two ships -- The A and The B -- debuted in spring 2018, sporting all-black facades.

Cabins are designed so three friends can bunk together in close but slick quarters with their own pod-like bunks and mini flat-screen TVs. Overnights in port are encouraged, so spending a night out with infamously nocturnal Parisians won't mean you're going to miss the boat. And the next morning you can expect a lazy brunch -- and the day after that. Touches like a better nightlife program, cruises during major festivals and on-trend offerings like paint and wine classes or a silent disco, entice those with the energy to stay up. A partnership through VizEat pairs you with local hosts for an authentic meal in your port of call.


2. Theme Cruises

If you've never even considered cruising, consider four straight days rubbing elbows (or dead limbs) with cast members from AMC's "The Walking Dead." How about some downtime by the pool hanging with your favorite sports team? Or maybe a floating EDM festival off the coast of Mexico? Cruise ships have welcomed just about every type of celebrity or niche interest onboard to entertain cruisers, so there's a solid chance that if you enjoy a marginally popular band, movie or interest like cosplay, there is a theme cruise with plenty of ways to indulge your latest obsession.

Get facetime with celebrities or experts in a way that's even difficult at land-based meet-n-greets; on a ship, there is nowhere else to go! We're talking close quarters with the Backstreet Boys, James Beard award-winning chefs and even Levar Burton (he's on for the Star Trek cruises, but let's face it: Most millennials also remember "Reading Rainbow"). Theme cruises don't necessitate big personalities if you simply want to unwind with other members of the same Facebook group -- cruises that are themed around golf, wellness, spirituality, wine and even New York Times crossword puzzles, are all possibilities for your next vacation.


3. Celebrity Edge

Hot tubs that rise like martini glasses into the sky and sleek, modern glass-enclosed cabins are just some of the eye-catching, "viral" features found on Celebrity Cruises' newest ship. To strengthen its commitment even more to the 21st-century lifestyle, the line appointed Nate Berkus as their Edge design ambassador (we know you've seen his cute stuff at Target).

The innovations also extend to transformative spaces that include the Magic Carpet platform -- used as both a disembarkation lounge and "floating" restaurant overlooking the ocean -- which takes on new looks as it moves up and down along the side of the ship. While the venue changes depending on the ship's location, one thing remains the same: the bar is always open.

Meanwhile Eden, a whimsical 11,800-square-foot event space, incorporates nature and plays with the idea of a paradisiacal garden. Passengers lured to its "sinful" nighttime experience can enjoy interactive acrobatic performances while sipping cocktails -- literally crafted with herbs, flowers and other ingredients from a wall of plants. Drinks are presented in fun ways, such as in a box, and in odd-shaped glasses, making it hard to choose just one from the visual menu.


Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

4. Royal Caribbean's Quantum & Oasis Class

The dizzying availability of stores, restaurants, rides and amusements on Royal Caribbean's Quantum- or Oasis-class ships (Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas) will bring out the true mall rat in every millennial. For the skeptical cruiser, the insular realm of some of the world's largest cruise ships means that you might not even know you're moving -- heck, there's even a boardwalk and a fully planted park to keep you grounded. Countless distractions nip at attention spans, so one moment you might be sipping your favorite Starbucks blend, browsing Kate Spade and contemplating a whirl on a skydiving simulator; and the next you'll be penciling in martinis made with a robotic arm at the Bionic Bar before dinner at Jamie Oliver's rustic Italian restaurant, Jamie's Italian.

Voom, Royal's high-speed internet, also ensures that you can share each passing moment in real time. Live your best life getting a workout on the trapeze at circus school, indulging in molecular gastronomy at an Alice in Wonderland-themed venue and relaxing in your loft suite (OK, they're pretty swanky, but there are tons of appealing room options including interior rooms with virtual balconies). For families, a DreamWorks partnership means parades with Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, and an escape room that encourages groups to work together to solve a series of puzzles. We haven't even touched on art installations, immersive theater experiences or the spa.


5. Disney Cruise Line

If the popularity of Disney-themed honeymoons is any indication, the House of Mouse is definitely not just a place for visitors who still bring home report cards. The same hallmark attention to detail is given to the bars, lounges and adults-only restaurants onboard a Disney cruise, as it is to the unbeatable kids clubs, shows and activities. A state-of-the-art presentation of "Tangled" in the theater is paired well with a multicourse Northern Italian meal at Palo, where the only costumes are the delicate Venetian masks that line the walls. Nostalgia is heavily present in kids of the '80s and '90s; chances are we want to relive the golden era of our Aladdin- and Beauty and the Beast-filled youths as eagerly as kids might fawn over the latest animated hero. Plus, who can pass up a selfie with Elsa from Frozen?

And it's not weird! Adults cruise Disney without tots all the time. Of course, if you can manage to get any members of your family -- young or old -- on a Disney cruise, no one will be disappointed. A surprisingly peaceful Quiet Cove pool and relaxation area juts up against the cheerful water slides and rides for kids of every age. Disney's affiliations with Star Wars and the Marvel Universe mean first-run movies in its 3D theater and the chance to board a themed sailing to fully geek out among superheroes or Jedi.


6. MSC's Seaside Class

What's not to love about a ship modeled after a Miami South Beach condo? MSC Seaside is the first foray into the U.S. with a custom-built ship by MSC Cruises, a Mediterranean-influenced international cruise line. If you're looking forward to soaking in those ocean breezes while you're sailing, Seaside-class ships will have the most outdoor space of any ship at sea. A 360-degree promenade with glass balustrades will wrap the ships allowing passengers to eat and drink alfresco from a variety of bars and restaurants; some boutiques will have an outdoor space.

A celebrity chef partnership with Roy Yamaguchi brings surprising pan-Asian flavors to Asian Market Kitchen, a sushi and raw bar, a teppanyaki grill and a sit-down restaurant. After you satisfy your craving for poke, give the longest zipline at sea a whirl (426 feet). Adjacent are water slides that can be raced or a slideboard that has lights and effects like a video game. A huge selection of rooms means that you can connect cabins with family or friends, or spring for a VIP suite with a dedicated restaurant, pool and more in the Yacht Club. Did someone say bottle service? MSC Seaview will follow in June 2018, with many of the same features.


The Havana Suite Patio on Carnival Vista

7. Carnival's Vista Class

Carnival, a line perhaps best known for short party cruises, is growing up but is still fun as ever. The Vista Class comprises Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, with each ship showcasing an IMAX movie theater, ropes course, rooms with a hammock on the patio and a private lounge, and a working craft brewery. The ships are sleeker than their predecessors (most millennials just don't get the over-the-top design aesthetic of older Carnival ships) and offer accommodations and price points for young couples to extended families. Carnival's Family Harbor staterooms, currently only available onboard Vista-class ships, even offer an evening of free babysitting included.

If you are someone who readily admits to eating Chipotle at least one meal a week, you'll appreciate BlueIguana Cantina, where you can snag a breakfast burrito for brunch, any day of the week, free of charge. At night, it's hard to be bored with shows in the theater, the comedy club, a 4D Thrill Theater, casino, nightclub and more than a dozen drinking options including Alchemy, a bar with an apothecary theme that will be the remedy for any millennial's mixology-loving heart (flaming orange peels and all).


8. Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic

When the argument is that someone is "too active" to relax on a cruise, try expedition cruising. The ships are certainly smaller and sparer than the mega-ships of mainstream lines, but you won't sit still except to pass out at night from exhaustion. Hiking, snorkeling, Zodiac boat rides, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and swimming with whale sharks might fill your day, while intimate talks over drinks and local cuisine -- maybe a bonfire on shore -- will cap the night. Wellness cruises are also offered -- health-obsessed millennials take note -- with specific instruction, yoga classes and meal planning.

What's neat about Lindblad is their partnership with National Geographic brings certified naturalists and photographers onboard to enhance your cruise experience to the Galapagos, Alaska and the Baja Peninsula, to name a few destinations. Furthermore, if you're an active family with inquisitive kids in tow, Lindblad's Global Explorers kids program engages the youngest expedition cruisers to be aware of their surroundings through field notebooks and storytelling.


9. Norwegian's Breakaway Plus Class

Norwegian Cruise Line is sort of a catchall for cruising; due to its extensive cabin categories, kids' clubs and programming, it's great for families, couples and even solo travelers. The line's newest cruise ships, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss, are part of what's called the Breakaway Plus Class and offer a variety of innovative additions to life at sea like an electric go-kart track on the top of the ship and cabins designed and priced for single cruisers featuring virtual ocean views (both on Bliss).

Partnerships with Miami-based craft brewery Wynwood Brewing Company, the Michael Mondavi family of vintners, Tobacco Road mixologists and Iron Chef Jose Garces mean wining and dining onboard is elevated way beyond a plate from the buffet and a pina colada. Norwegian is highly rated for its entertainment and nightlife, with massive water parks and familiar Broadway hits like "Jersey Boys" debuting on Bliss, and "For the Record: Brat Pack" on Escape, a show inspired by the '80s cult teen classics of John Hughes like "Pretty in Pink" and "Breakfast Club" -- hey, we might not have been born yet, but we know our pop culture.

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