The best cruise lines can surround you in luxury, provide non-stop family entertainment, expose you to breathtaking adventures, and much more. A cruise can be anything you want it to be, from a stress-relieving getaway to a non-stop party ship. Consider the following top cruise lines to plan the vacation of your dreams.
1. Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises earned the top spot in Travel + Leisure's list of the "Top 10 Large-Ship Cruise Lines." The Hillman Wonders of the World Cruise Guide gave the cruise line the title of best dining, mentioning a dedicated staff of chefs and appealing food presentation. In the 2008 Readers' Travel Awards, Condé Nast Traveller readers listed the line as the number two large cruise line. Onboard amenities include the Crystal Casino, computer classes, and celebrity entertainers.
Website: Crystal Cruises
2. Silversea Cruises
In addition to naming it the best small ship cruise line in 2008, Travel + Leisure included Silversea Cruises in its list of the "10 Best Cruises for 'Non-Cruisers.'" Hillman Wonders of the World also named it the best luxury small ship cruise line, and Silversea is certainly designed with luxury in mind. Travelers enjoy amenities such as private verandas, upscale activities like vineyard tours, and a "Personalized Voyage" feature that allows them to choose their cruise ports. Condé Nast Traveller readers gave Silversea Cruises a 98% rating for food quality, the highest score received by a cruise line in any category.
Website: Silversea Cruises
3. Celebrity Cruises
The readers of Condé Nast Traveller named Celebrity Cruises the best among large ships, giving the line especially high marks for décor and service. It also came in at number six on Travel + Leisure's list of the best large cruise ship lines. Although most cruise lines offer spa services, SmarterTravel.com felt that Celebrity's AquaSpa stood out among the rest, naming it one of the best cruises for spa lovers. Travelers can take a dip in the Thalassotherapy pool, scrub down with seaweed soap, or enjoy a Hawaiian four-hands massage.
Website: Celebrity Cruises
4. Disney Cruise Lines
Disney Cruise Lines are easily the best cruise lines for families, as shown by its designation as the best children's cruise at Hillman Wonders of the World and one of the best cruises for families at SmarterTravel.com. However, its appeal is also universal, as Travel + Leisure named it the overall third best large ship cruise line in 2008. Younger travelers will enjoy the kid-focused activities and visits from popular Disney characters. Adults can enjoy an adults-only pool and the services they would expect from any cruise line, including spa treatments and romantic dining options.
Website: Disney Cruise Lines
5. Windstar Cruises
For Condé Nast Traveller readers, Windstar was the top small cruise ship provider, earning especially high marks for destination variety and child-friendliness. The line won the title of Best Cruise Line for Honeymoons in the 2008 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards and was also named one of the best cruise lines for honeymooners by SmarterTravel.com. Much of Windstar's appeal comes from its unconventional ship style, more like a yacht than a traditional cruise ship, complete with full sails. However, the ships also offer luxury accommodations and fine dining.
Website: Windstar Cruises
6. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Hillman Wonders of the World considers Regent Seven Seas Cruises the best luxury option among larger ships, in addition to being a top honeymoon destination. The line also holds the number two spot on Travel + Leisure's list of the best large cruise ships. SmarterTravel.com names Regent one of the best cruising options for seniors. As a mid-size ship, Regent offers more options than some of the smallest cruise lines without becoming overwhelming. The setting is high-class while still remaining casual.
Website: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
7. Royal Caribbean
According to the Condé Nast Traveller reader survey, Royal Caribbean is the third best among larger cruise lines, rating highest among all large ships for the quality and variety of its nightlife and entertainment options. It also makes the Travel + Leisure list of the top large ship lines, coming in at number nine. Affordable fares lead Hillman Wonders of the World to name it the best cruise in the mid-price range, touting its "middle-of-the-road mix of passengers" as the perfect environment for first-time cruisers. A large variety of shipboard activities, including fitness centers, rock climbing, water parks, shopping and shows, give the cruise line wide-ranging appeal.
Website: Royal Caribbean
A testament to the variety of activities and amenities it offers, Hillman Wonders of the World names Carnival both the best family cruise line and the best party destination for 20-somethings. SmarterTravel.com also notes the line's full slate of activities for children aged two to seventeen. It ranks number five among Condé Nast Traveller readers. Although Carnival lacks the luxurious setting of some other cruise lines, it offers a more accessible cruise experience that promises entertainment options for nearly every taste.
Noted by SmarterTravel.com for its "glitz and glamour", Cunard maintains the standards of traditional high-class ships. Travelers are more likely to be seen in black tie than resort casual. If afternoon tea and theater performances are more in line with your idea of a cruise than rock climbing or a kiddie pool, this is the ship line for you.