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Best Luxury Cruise: Silversea "Silversea’s five-star service and all-inclusive pricing is difficult to beat."
Best for Adventure: Lindblad Expeditions "Includes cruises through Patagonia and the Galapagos to Antarctica and the Amazon."
Best River: Viking River Cruises "Operates more than 70 vessels and continues to rake in awards and accolades."
Runner-Up, Best River: Avalon Waterways "Known for its signature 'Suite Ships' that are 30 percent larger than other river cruise ships."
Best for Couples: Celebrity "Celebrity’s ships depict modern, elegant décor and cutting-edge designs to create a romantic atmosphere."
Best for Families: Disney "Expect evening fireworks, high-speed waterslides, Disney movies in 3-D, deck parties, pirate nights and a lot of Disney characters roaming the ships."
Best Mainstream: Norwegian "Known for its 'Freestyle Cruise' approach – meaning casual attire and the flexibility of no set dining times."
Best Boutique: Azamara Club Cruises "Established its niche in unique itineraries and enriching shore excursions."
Our Top Picks
Best Luxury Cruise: Silversea
If you’re ready to be completely pampered, Silversea’s five-star service and all-inclusive pricing is difficult to beat. Onboard, passengers enjoy free-flowing wines, in-suite dining, gourmet cuisine, enrichment lectures, 24-hour butler service and included gratuities. Since most Silversea ships carrying less than 300 guests, Silversea is a hybrid between yachting and cruising, with all-suite, oceanview staterooms and smaller-sized vessels that go where larger ships cannot. Silversea’s entertainment is more subdued, so expect to unwind in luxurious lounges or in the onboard spa. There is no shortage of dining choices on Silversea vessels ranging from intimate venues serving Asian fusion to open-air patios highlighting regional specialties.
Best for Adventure: Lindblad Expeditions
Ocean cruise ships aren’t always floating theme parks, and there are a number of cruise ships designed for expedition-style voyages into the far corners of the Earth. Lindblad Expeditions partners with National Geographic to explore natural wonders by boat. From cruises through Patagonia and the Galapagos to Antarctica and the Amazon, Lindblad is a top choice for adventure travelers. The ships anchor in remote ports and shorelines where passengers board zodiacs to get up close with flora and fauna. Excursions include activities like kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. These bucket-list voyages tend to be longer than mainstream ships – and more expensive – but are unforgettable.
Best River: Viking River Cruises
When it comes to river cruising, the Viking River Cruise brand is one of the most widely-recognized – and with good reason. The company operates more than 70 vessels and continues to rake in awards and accolades. Best known for cruises in Europe’s rivers like the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, and others, the company also explores Asia and Egypt. Passengers cruise in comfort aboard the famous “Viking Longships” with elegant décor, floor-to-ceiling windows in the restaurant and public viewing lounges, organic herb gardens, a putting green, walking track, and luxurious staterooms with premium bedding. Viking also bundles educational shore excursions into the cruise pricing in every stop.
Traveling to England? Check out our selection of the best Thames River cruises.
Runner-Up, Best River: Avalon Waterways
Avalon Waterways is known for its signature “Suite Ships” that are 30 percent larger than other river cruise ships and feature panoramic, wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows for prime viewing right from the stateroom. On an Avalon river cruise, guests can relax in bed – which have been situated to face the windows – while they watch the changing countryside, ancient castles, and sleepy towns float. by. Dining on Avalon is a treat – with fresh produce brought in by local growers, complimentary wine pairings with sommeliers, and flexible dining times. The fleet consists of some of the newest ships in the industry, and they cruise the rivers of Europe, Asia, the Amazon, and Galapagos.
Best for Couples: Celebrity
Celebrity is a mainstream cruise line that has found its niche as the more chic, graceful brand under of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. While Royal-Caribbean branded ships cater to families and cruisers seeking over-the-top thrill-seeking amenities (zip lines, skydiving, surfing) Celebrity’s ships depict modern, elegant décor and cutting-edge designs to create a romantic atmosphere. Expect features like rooftop gardens, outward facing public spaces, or the industry-first floating deck that reinvents itself on each floor (on Celebrity Edge). Staterooms have a variety of opulent options like the infinite verandas with floor-to-ceiling windows, marble-styled baths, and King-sized beds with cashmere mattresses, while aqua-class cabins offer special spa privileges.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best cruise lines for couples.
Best for Families: Disney
Disney knows how to take movie and theme park magic and transform a cruise experience to an unforgettable family getaway at sea. Expect evening fireworks, high-speed waterslides, Disney movies in 3D, deck parties, pirate nights and a lot of Disney characters roaming the ships. The live musicals in the theater are top-notch (think Frozen or Aladdin). Planned activities in several kids’ clubs are geared toward each age group and evening dining rooms incorporate favorite movies. Disney doesn’t leave out parents either: there are adults-only lounges, restaurants, nightclubs, and bars plus a spa and salon (although the ships do not have casinos). Plus, themed cruises like Star Wars or Marvel at Sea are a big hit with families.
Read more on some of the best cruise lines for families you can book today.
Best Mainstream: Norwegian
Norwegian’s cruise ships have something for everyone: kids clubs and waterslides for families, swanky new nightclubs and lounges for the Millennial crowd, romantic, a-la-carte restaurants and wine bars for couples, and exclusive, quiet enclaves for those who want to recharge. Norwegian’s fleet varies from traditional-style cruises with a large roster of classic daytime activities (pool games, trivia) to behemoth new ships with wild amenities like race tracks at sea and Cirque du Soleil-style shows and Broadway performances. The cruise line is known for its “Freestyle Cruise” approach – meaning casual attire and the flexibility of no set dining times. Cruisers have their pick of a range of staterooms, from affordable interiors to sprawling garden villas.
Best Boutique: Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises operates two upscale vessels carrying just 690 passengers that travel around the globe – calling in smaller, lesser-visited ports that others do not. While many cruise lines on this list focus on the onboard experience, Azamara has established its niche in unique itineraries and enriching shore excursions. Azamara is one of the few companies that stay in port overnight – and in doing so they include evening excursions often bundled into the price (select wine and spirits, as well as gratuities, are included in the fares). The company puts an emphasis on “destination immersion” so shore excursions dive deeper into the culture and also connect passengers with local experiences.