See the lines and ships that best represent excellence in ocean, luxury, river and expedition cruising, chosen by Cruise Critic's international team of editors
Resilient Lady isn't first in class, but it might be the best. Virgin perfected onboard entertainment in 2023, introducing fresh, eye-popping shows like Lola's Library and Persephone. The ship's 2023 Eastern Mediterranean itineraries match its beachy vibe, and the detox-retox atmosphere carries over to ports like Santorini and Mykonos, thanks to exceptionally generous shore time. It should fit in well Down Under, where it just redeployed for its inaugural season there.
Carnival has achieved the impossible: taking a ship built for Chinese passengers, with a strong Italian theme throughout, and successfully rebranding it for U.S. guests. Carnival Venezia embodies “Carnival Fun, Italian Style” – frescoes, statues and marble, combined with Italian twists to Carnival favorites like the Heroes Tribute Bar and Guy’s Burger Joint. New features include bar mashups like the rebranded Alchemy – Amari – featuring Italian cocktails, plus an outstanding restaurant, Il Viaggio.
Celebrity seems to have thought of everything you could ever want in your cabin, from exceptional storage space and multiple charging options, to a breathtaking, modern design. Best of all, it doesn't matter if you're sailing the newest ship in the fleet or the oldest, in a suite or an interior stateroom: Celebrity's cabins are consistently outstanding, and the wide variety ensures there's something for everyone.
Modern food and flavors, done exceptionally well – and with all specialty restaurants included: That’s what you get throughout the Virgin Voyages’ fleet. Whether you crave Mexican or Italian, ramen or poke, vegan or Korean, tapas or a tasting menu, you’ll find it onboard, at no extra cost. Virgin has the pulse on what people want, with a creative spin that keeps us coming back for seconds and thirds.
Virgin Voyages is light-years ahead of the pack when it comes to cruise entertainment. But don't expect microwaved jukebox musicals. Instead, Virgin scouts acts from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and works with underground theaters in NYC to create something all-new at sea. Intimate venues quite literally immerse passengers in some shows, and the effortlessly diverse casts further the line's come-as-you-are ethos. Expect drag queens, Greek mythology, existential gameshows and quite a bit of skin.
With its endless dedication to kids, Disney Cruise Line breezes to the top of the pack when it comes to the family cruise experience. Larger-than-average staterooms with double-bathrooms, free room service and fountain sodas, and Disney’s spectacular kids facilities and production shows help set the line apart. But Disney doesn’t forget that adults are footing the bill and crafts a memorable experience for them, too.
There aren’t many lines where, when the clubs and bars wind down, the party continues deep into the night. MSC has mastered fun nightlife. Whether it’s a 70s theme night with the entertainment team dressed like the Village People, live DJs in the main promenade or a White Night Party with live music on the main pool deck, there is always something happening on an MSC ship.
Nearly every cruise line offers a high standard of onboard service, but Holland America Line’s gracious crewmembers craft something truly special. Service is thoughtful and casually personal, with crewmembers remembering names and preferences. The genuine care and thought put in by each crewmember is what keeps Holland America’s loyal passengers coming back – and it’s exactly that atmosphere that keeps crews coming back year after year, too.
Norwegian Cruise Line has proved it’s the clear leader when it comes to solo travelers. The cruise line offers cabins for singles across a multiple ships. Cabins are cleverly designed, proving efficiency doesn’t have to be boring. Even better, Norwegian's ships offer an exclusive studio for solo guests, where passengers can chat, grab snacks and get to know one another. The line's not stopping there -- it's expanding the number of solo cabins across its entire fleet.
The modern spa is more than a place to relax; it’s a true escape, where the atmosphere and thermal suite complement state-of-the-art treatments. Norwegian Cruise Line has always recognized this in its Mandara Spa, which keeps getting better. Norwegian Viva and Prima boast the first charcoal saunas at sea in a thermal complex that includes a two-story waterfall, gorgeous salt pools, an ice room and infrared sauna.
Whether you want to blow the budget on the Ultimate Family Suite on Symphony of the Seas, enjoy the double-height views of a Duplex Suite or see the show from an Aqua Theater Suite, there's a suite to suit your needs on a Royal Caribbean ship. Throw in all the perks, including Royal Genies and private dining, a dedicated bar and sun deck, and it’s clear why Royal Caribbean has some of the best suites at sea.
MSC’s gorgeous MSC Yacht Club is proof that not all luxury suite complexes are created equal. This private enclave boasts all the requisite perks you might expect, from lavish suites to grand lounges and private dining areas. MSC sets itself apart by making that complex more accessible than ever before, thanks to the line’s value-priced MSC Yacht Club Inside Staterooms that provide a lot of luxe for a little dough.
With each new ship, Carnival packs more and more into its fares – with fewer upcharges than most lines. On Carnival, you know you’re never going to be nickel and dimed. The included food options are tasty and satisfying, the drink packages remain reasonably priced and there’s nonstop entertainment and activities all day. Whether you’re with friends, a significant other or your family, you’re bound to have a good time, with minimum damage to your wallet.
PortMiami’s enviable location, near Miami Beach, and ease of access has long made it the world’s busiest cruise port. Cruise lines have also imprinted their personalities on the port’s terminals, with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival and Virgin Voyages serving as land-based extensions of the onboard experience. Plus, sailing in or out of PortMiami as the city unfolds or fades in the distance is one of the most magical moments in cruising.
Gone are the days when a Pride Month advertisement and sparsely attended LGBTQ+ gathering were the norm. Virgin Voyages has blasted away the competition by providing a naturally inclusive cruise where LGBTQ+ people are visible from the moment you board. That includes the entertainment cast, crew and passengers themselves. You'll find the latter openly dancing on dance floors, kissing and hugging in bars, and holding hands over dinner. These things matter—now more than ever.
A great cruise ship specialty restaurant should feel like date night at an exciting venue – and that’s exactly what Norwegian Cruise Line delivers on its ships. Passengers are spoiled for choice, from upscale Italian in Onda by Scarpetta and delicious Teppanyaki and sushi, to fine French food or Mediterranean fare. The line also offers thoughtful dining packages to help make visiting these venues less restrictive and costs more manageable.
Beyond enhancing the service levels onboard the ship, Medallion's technology makes us appreciate all the little things it does, like opening the cabin door before you arrive, alerting the steward when you’ve left your cabin and allowing guests to enjoy more speedy check-in and departure times. Add the line's new immersive dining 360: An Extraordinary Experience, and it's clear Princess is leading the way when it comes to technology and innovation.
While many apps at sea are still finding their footing, Royal Caribbean's delivers an experience that is seamless and fun. Guests can use the app to make reservations for things like shore excursions, can manage their cruise (from home or the ship), and even view interactive deck plans and chat with other members in their party – all serving as the perfect companion before and during their cruise.
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