When it comes to facilitating relaxation, cruises have the upper hand on virtually all other vacation options. They take care of everything: the itinerary, the food, navigation, and just about anything else you can think of that can cause headaches when traveling on your own. So the hard part comes down to deciding whether you want to take a vacation as a couple, or with the whole extended family. We can’t make that call for you, but we can narrow down your best options based on what kind of vacation you decide you want.
Best Cruises for Couples:
If you’re looking for some solid “us time,” some cruise lines tend to cater to couples better than others. And don’t be frightened by the phrase couples cruise, either. It’s not like they’re going to make you put your keys in a basket when you check in, like some kind of swingers’ party. It’s just a way of marketing to the folks who feel the same way about their down time and who they want to spend it with.
There’s a pretty solid consensus amongst aficionados that Viking Cruises are the hands-down best option for cruising as a couple. The smaller ship size of both their river and ocean liners (we discuss this at length in Why River Cruises Rock) and more variable itineraries make their cruises cozier, more romantic settings for traveling. Plus, because Viking has an age policy on most of its cruises, cruising couples won’t have kids under the age of 12 ruining romantic dinners or splashing in the pool while they’re trying to sip a mojito in peace.
Princess Cruises has a reputation for being one of the best cruise lines for older couples. Like many other cruise lines, they have various departure cities, one-way and round-trip cruises, and provide for an exciting number of interesting excursions when in port. The reviews of their restaurants are often top-notch, as well. Their reputation amongst the older crowd also seems to stem from their educational and adventurous excursions and opportunities, and doing it well.
Holland America Line
Many oceangoing cruises offer variations on the same types of trips, but Holland America has set itself apart by being clean, luxurious, and remarkably friendly to those in need of mobility assistance. They offer staterooms that offer special accommodations for those who need wheelchairs, scooters, or other adaptive necessities, so one need never worry about whether they can physically manage. They cruise all over the world, from Alaska to New Zealand, so the opportunities are endless.
Best Family Cruises
Family vacations are tough to arrange, especially once the families start getting older and schedules are harder to organize, and more rooms become necessary to house the same number of people. Cruising together solves all those problems in one foul swoop (well… you still need to coordinate schedules) while providing a wide variety of entertainment for all ages.
It should come as no surprise that Disney has mastered the art of family entertainment. Disney cruise ships have so much to offer it’s almost mind-boggling; their excursions range from educational to adventurous, and while on the boat there is always something to do. The younger crowd can join a “kids club” where they can check into and basically spend all day — a burnt-out parents’ dream. (They entertain and feed the children while they’re at the club. It’s magic.) When the kids do wander out from the club, Disney cruises offer water slides, character meet n’ greets, live shows, movies, and other organized festivities. And while adults are highly encouraged to participate in all the ships’ entertainments, some offerings are just for adults, such as a few adults-only pools, on-ship programming, and some restaurants and lounges. (We’ve taken a Cocktail Mixology course with them while on their Alaska cruise, and it was a highly informative and fun two hours. We were doubly thankful for the kids club providing supervision of the kids afterwards, as well.) Even dinners are filled with Disney entertainment, so there’s hardly a moment they haven’t planned out in full detail. The only thing that could ruin a Disney cruise is if you don’t enjoy their whimsical style… in which case, other cruise options exist.
The big cruise lines realize there’s good money in making things more family-friendly, so their newest ship, the Panorama, has a ton to offer, including supervised kids programs in three different age group categories, a water park, a ropes course, and the first SkyZone trampoline park at sea. For the more mature crowd they have casinos, piano bars, comedy acts and nightclubs. The ships are massive, so everyone should be able to find dining experiences that will satisfy any needs they may have. Their excursions offer options for all ages, and, like Disney, range from sedate but educational to wild and adventurous.
Ranked #3 in Best Cruise Lines for the Money, and #2 in Best Cruise Lines for Families by US News & World Report, Royal Caribbean International offers much of the same opportunities that Carnival does, but perhaps slightly better, with ratings for services rendered being a bit higher. There are dozens of eateries and activities on board for all age groups, as well as kids programs and adults-only pool areas. Frankly, with ships the size of floating metropolises, it would be awfully hard to be unsatisfied, but some vacationers have mentioned the ships feeling crowded during peak vacation seasons.
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