It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at the myriad of cruise lines currently available. There are cruise companies catering to families, lines for those seeking a luxury getaway, river cruise lines and even companies that specialize in expeditions and adventure cruises.
To help you navigate this complex world of cruise options, we’ve put together a roundup with every cruise line company in their respective category, including mainstream, river and luxury cruise lines, as well as different cruise lines offering unique expeditions to far-flung places such as Antarctica.
Whether you’re a seasoned cruiser or a first timer, our list of cruise lines below is a great starting point when planning your vacation.
Mainstream cruise lines offer what most of us picture when we think about cruising: large ships, multiple free and specialty restaurants, streamlined cabins and luxurious suites, daily entertainment and a lively pool deck. Prices vary, as do the level of luxury, the atmosphere and the inclusions -- but they all offer a similar experience overall.
Just bear in mind that each cruise line company will cater to a specific demographic group. A few are adults-only, while others are very much geared towards families and groups.
Here is our list of mainstream cruise lines, serving as an overview of the most popular cruise lines in the market.
River cruises offer a more intimate, relaxed way of exploring multiple destinations in just a few days.
River cruise ships carry about a couple hundred passengers, and the vibe is generally more low-key than on mainstream cruises. Daily activities -- if offered -- focus on cultural experiences, such as wine tastings or history lectures, and evening entertainment is more adult-oriented and mellower than on bigger cruise ships. Chances are fellow cruisers will be couples rather than families with children in tow.
Common river cruise destinations include Europe, Southeast Asia and the Mississippi.
Luxury cruise lines don’t just offer a more upscale experience; they set themselves apart with a distinct offering that you won’t be able to find in a mainstream cruise. Some lines focus on smaller ships, impeccable service and inclusive fares. Others care more about delivering immersive experiences in bucket list destinations.
You can expect gourmet dining and premium drinks, upmarket cabins and suites with high-end features and services (think personal butler service), and decadent spas. Rates will most likely include a wide range of services and perks, such as free Wi-Fi, shore excursions and unlimited dining in specialty restaurants.
Take a look at our alphabetical list of luxury cruise lines offering high-end experiences below:
While traditional cruises are as much about what you do on shore as about the onboard experience, expedition cruises focus mostly on offering unique itineraries in hard-to-reach places. Antarctica, The Arctic, Greenland and Galapagos are common destinations. Activities could include anything from wildlife-watching to spelunking, photography and even submarine rides.
Unlike ocean liners, expedition cruises are small and have flexible schedules that adapt to the weather and wildlife sightings. These cruises are not for those seeking all-night dancing, drinks by the pool and multiple dining options. Rather, expedition cruises cater to those seeking immersive nature experiences and a certain degree of adventure.