The Cruise Lines to Travel in 2018

The major cruise lines may look the same on the surface, but a little digging with uncover the subtle differences that will make all the difference.

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but if you break the surface, you’ll find that there are plenty of cruise ships on the sea. Excluding luxury river cruise lines, like Viking, which are almost exclusively Europe-based, there are over a dozen major cruise companies with a combined fleet of over 100 ships scattered throughout the world at any given moment. With this many options, how is one supposed to pick, especially when so many hit the same locations? Here’s what you need to know about the biggest and the best:

Royal Caribbean International – While it has the most ships (25 vs. Carnival’s 24) the name might cause many to believe they’re only limited to the islands of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. Not so, as destinations as far as Mexico, Alaska and Europe are among its itineraries. Having the most boats means the most options. A “small” ship for Royal Caribbean carries about 2,300 people, while their bigger boats take care of over 6,000. Depending on your schedule and budget, you can book anything from a three-day mini excursion to vacations of a lifetime lasting nearly a month.

Carnival Cruise Lines – Carnival is probably the most well-known cruise line in North America, catering to a younger demographic and pushing the idea of “fun.” However, don’t let that make you think they skimp on the basics. With a 3-to-1 passenger-to-crew member ratio and among the highest sanitary and safety rankings in the industry, vacationers are assured that corners aren’t cut for their vacation. Carnival also regularly ranks among the best cruise lines when it comes to quality and variety of cuisine.

Princess Cruises – If it were not for this company, the cruise line industry wouldn’t be where it is are today. It was Princess Cruises that was featured every week on The Love Boat–for those wondering, yes, the Pacific Princess is still one of the ships in the fleet. Not surprisingly, it’s highly-ranked for singles. The rest of the 17-ship Princess fleet offers a wide array of excursions with our favorite being the 111-day cruise around the world. For $23,000 per person, you will literally see the world while being out at sea for almost four months.

Crystal Cruises – Crystal regularly ranks as the most luxurious cruise line company in most surveys. Instead of a two-dozen boat fleet, Crystal focuses on quality over quantity, with only two ships, but a constantly rotating destination and itinerary list. Passengers can expect to spend anywhere from two to five times what one of the mammoth companies charge, but the high-end rooms, high-end restaurants, personal service and other amenities leave most feeling like it’s worth it.

Disney Cruise Line – It should come as no surprise that Disney gets top marks as the most kid- and family-friendly cruise line on the water. If you’re looking for a quiet, romantic or retirement cruise, this probably isn’t it. If you’ve got the family and you’re looking for plenty of stimulation, get on board. With four boats, the company’s most popular itineraries are in the Caribbean, but they’ll also take you Alaska or Europe if you so desire. There are plenty of activities, including many opportunities to get up close and personal with your favorite characters.

Celebrity Cruises – If you’re looking for the best deal for your money, Celebrity Cruise Line should be at the top of your list. You won’t have a room that looks like a penthouse or dine on the finest filet mignon possible, but you can cruise the Caribbean for a week for under $800. Don’t let the low price make you think it’s low class, though. U.S. News and World Report ranked Celebrity as the best cruise line company for both Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises, beating out the big guys.

Featured Tip

Don’t let your vacation days go to waste – make sure you travel! Only 23% of full-time employees use all of their days off each year, Forbes reports.