The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023
The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023 - Top-Rated Mega Cruise Ships Setting Sail This Year
For travelers seeking a mega cruise ship experience in 2023, there are some exciting new launches and refurbished ships ready to set sail. Mega cruise ships are defined as those carrying over 3,000 passengers, offering a plethora of dining, activity, and entertainment options. With larger ships comes more space for innovative attractions like roller coasters, go-kart race tracks, multicourse dining rooms, Broadway-style theater productions, and lavish spa and fitness centers.
Royal Caribbean leads the way in the mega ship segment, with behemoths like Wonder of the Seas, the new largest cruise ship in the world debuting in 2022, and sister ship Oasis of the Seas unveiling a $165 million amplification. Oasis now touts the tallest slide at sea, a revamped pool deck experience, and new dining and entertainment venues. Travelers can ride the tallest slide at sea, dubbed The Ultimate Abyss, plummeting 10 stories from the sports zone to the boardwalk neighborhood. New dining venues include Portside BBQ and The Mason Jar Southern Restaurant & Bar, while the stunning coral-inspired neighborhood The Lime & Coconut brings island vibes with live music and cocktails.
MSC Cruises competes in the mega ship space with the Meraviglia class ships, including MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima. At 171,598 tons with a capacity of 4,500 passengers, Meraviglia class ships introduced signature features like a 96-foot LED Sky Screen planetarium and a theme park-style amusement park with simulators, video games, races, and more. The ships offer 12 dining venues, an expansive spa, waterpark, aquapark, F1 racing simulators, and Cirque du Soleil at Sea shows. Upcoming in late 2022 is the launch of MSC World Europa, the line's first liquified natural gas (LNG) powered ship touting an environmental focus.
For those seeking luxury on the high seas, look no further than Norwegian Cruise Line's newest Prima Class ship, Norwegian Prima. Weighing in at 142,500 gross tons and accommodating 3,215 guests, Norwegian Prima debuts August 2022 as the most spacious new ship from the line in a decade. Expect indulgence with more wide-open spaces, more dining choices, endless ocean views, and extravagant design as only Norwegian's ship "godmother" Italian designer Piero Lissoni could envisage. Standout features include the fastest freefall drop dry slides at sea with The Rush and The Drop and expansive pool decks to enjoy sea breezes. Foodies indulge in a lineup of 28 dining options spanning food hall-style Indulge Food Hall to upscale Mexican eatery Palomar. There are striking three-story aft ocean views, the scholarly Connoisseur Club lounge, and new entertainment offerings with the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical SIX performing on board.
For a crash course in all things New Zealand, Ponant's new luxury expedition ship Le Commandant Charcot is poised to sail the homeland of the Maori people and stunning Fiordland National Park in 2023. Part of the line's luxury expedition class of ships, Le Commandant Charcot features some never before seen features like an underwater lounge with panoramic views below sea level and a snow groomer for enjoying cold weather adventures off board. The ship accommodates up to 270 privileged guests in all balcony staterooms who will experience Zodiac excursions, hiking treks, and culturally immersive shoreside experiences led by expert expedition guides. Indulge in regional delicacies and fine French cuisine, get pampered in the spa, relax in the swimming pool, and take in fascinating lectures delivered in the state-of-the-art theater.
Families and multigenerational groups have an exciting new offering for 2023 with Carnival Cruise Line's transformation of Carnival Radiance. After a $200 million dry dock renovation, the former Carnival Victory will emerge refreshed with expanded retail shopping, the cruise line's first Big Chicken restaurant from founder Shaquille O’Neal, a new WaterWorks aqua park, hardwood spa suites, and 98 balcony staterooms. Carnival Radiance will sport a 1950s-esque swanky vibe, with adults relaxing in the vibrant Havana section and enjoying drinks at the Sunshine Bar and Latitudes, while kids and teens have their own hangouts and activity spaces. New entertainment includes the Playlist Productions shows and Hasbro Game Night at the ship's Atrium.
The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023 - Small Ship Cruises Offering Intimate Onboard Experiences
While mega cruise ships attract travelers seeking action-packed getaways, small ship cruises appeal to those craving a more intimate voyage. Defined as ships with under 350 passengers, small cruise ships provide a boutique hotel ambiance with refined amenities and attentive crew. With fewer crowds, small ships offer a relaxed pace exploring off-the-beaten-path ports inaccessible to massive cruise liners.
I recently sailed with Windstar Cruises to experience their yacht-style cruising firsthand. Stepping aboard the 212-guest Star Breeze, I was immediately struck by the hushed atmosphere and cozy interiors. The handsome teak decks and multiple lounges oozed nautical charm, dotted with comfortable chaises for gazing out floor-to-ceiling windows. My ocean view stateroom felt spacious and bright, with a sitting area and indulgently comfortable bed where I could nestle in with a book.
Windstar prides itself on culinary excellence, with farm-to-table fare celebrating local cuisines. I delighted in regional Thai cuisine on an Asia voyage and Mediterranean delights along the Adriatic Sea, prepared using locally sourced ingredients. Menus changed daily keeping dining exciting without overwhelming choice. While the main dining room and casual Veranda restaurant shine, I favored the outdoor Star Bar for eating al fresco on sea days. Star Breeze also has a fantastic water sports marina for launching activity right from the ship’s stern. My favorite outing was on the line’s signature watersports platform, where I learned to stand-up paddleboard off the Maltese coast.
Travelers seeking ultra-luxury gravitate towards Silversea Cruises, where butler service and ocean view suites are standard. I booked passage on Silver Muse, their 596-guest flagship catering to well-heeled travelers with discerning tastes. The inclusive nature of Silversea hits the sweet spot for those wanting luxury without nickel and diming.
From my marble-clad suite, I had a personal butler to unpack for me and shrewdly anticipate my needs. Public spaces like Dolce Vita lounge, pool deck, Zagara spa, and multiple gourmet restaurants shared an elegant residential vibe. Rather than intrusive announcements, discreet digital signage directed me to enriching activities, from cooking demonstrations to fascinating Port Talks. The ease of knowing gratuities, fine wines, spirits, WiFi, and room service are included let me fully immerse in travel.
Silversea's smaller expedition ships unlock once-in-a-lifetime experiences in the earth's most far-flung pockets. A top choice for intrepid travelers is Silver Cloud, with its strengthened hull allowing for smooth sailing in remote polar regions. Carrying just 254 privileged guests, she navigates narrow waterways inaccessible to large ships. Zodiac excursions transport you to close encounters with nature and fascinating cultures without being overrun by crowds. I still reminisce about a Zodiac cruise along the Antarctic Peninsula with otter sightings and a breeding colony of noisy penguins. Knowledgeable expedition guides make the destination come alive through riveting lectures and meaningful shore experiences.
For Francophiles and foodies, Ponant Yacht Cruises and Expeditions radiates French joie de vivre with ships designed expressly for intimate exploration. With an average capacity of only 132 passengers, Ponant ships feel like private yachts, designed for privileged access. The cruise line’s newest explorers feature the industry’s first underwater lounges for surreal underwater viewing. On my sailing from Nice to Barcelona aboard Le Bougainville, these underwater salons delivered magical front-row seat views of playful schools of fish and kaleidoscopic coral reefs.
The sailing experience onboard Ponant feels blissfully unhurried, harmonizing refined service, cultural enrichment, and culinary excellence. Le Bougainville has multiple dining venues that made mealtimes special, from fine French cuisine to casual al fresco dining on the pool deck. Daily excursions capture the essence of each port, from a market shop with a Michelin-starred chef in Capri to a private classical concert in a Croatian medieval fortress. For cruising in refined comfort with ample opportunities to dive into local cultures, Ponant is unparalleled.
SeaDream Yacht Club captivates cruisers seeking a private yacht style of travel with excellent service. Their intimate ships accommodate just 56 or 112 guests for an exclusive atmosphere. Having sailed on both SeaDream I and SeaDream II, I appreciated the unstructured days at sea and watersports marina. Guests could enjoy maritime pleasures like waterskiing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding right off the back of the ship.
With no set dinnertimes or dress codes, SeaDream's resort casual vibe encourages true relaxation. I could enjoy breakfast in bed each morning simply by filling out a card the night before. Days were spent sunbathing on Balinese dream beds, enjoying exhilarating mountain biking on shore, or indulging in a bamboo massage in the spa. SeaDream's signature Champagne Splash sees the crew wading into the sea with frosty flutes of bubbly to toast a splendid afternoon. For cruisers seeking a private yacht experience without the fuss, SeaDream excels.
The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023 - Luxury Cruise Lines Providing All-Inclusive Amenities
For cruisers accustomed to ultra-luxury standards, inclusive amenities elevate the experience to new heights. By bundling desirable amenities into the cruise fare, luxury lines remove the stress of parsing cruise costs. With gratuities, fine dining, premium beverages, WiFi, room service and more pre-paid, travelers are free to fully indulge.
I recently experienced the all-inclusive life sailing with Regent Seven Seas Cruises, long considered the gold standard in luxury inclusiveness. From the moment I stepped aboard Seven Seas Explorer, I was cocooned in luxury, starting with a glass of vintage champagne delivered by my personal butler. My palatial suite felt more like a tasteful residence, with walk-in closets, Italian marble bathrooms, and a spacious private veranda for watching sunsets. I appreciated touches like personalized stationery and free unlimited laundry service, making longer voyages effortless.
Regent's inclusiveness translates to unparalleled dining flexibility, with up to six restaurants and no reservations required. I delighted in filet mignon and smoked duck breast at Chartreuse, Asian fusion at Pacific Rim, and jerk chicken salad poolside without pulling out my wallet. Premium spirits flowed freely at bars and lounges, though I favored sommelier-selected wines with dinner. I never thought twice about booking multiple spa treatments or ordering midnight room service. Regent's pre-paid gratuities meant crew were incentivized to provide personal service without awkward tip envelopes. With nearly everything included, I could focus my time and budget on superlative shore excursions.
For Francophiles, Ponant Yacht Cruises and Expeditions radiates French art de vivre in an all-inclusive small ship environment. I recently experienced their version of inclusivity aboard Le Dumont-d'Urville off the island of Malta, where 132 privileged guests moved with the intimacy of a private yacht. My stateroom attendant Darja unpacked for me and kept ice buckets filled with Veuve Clicquot, my preferred champagne. With an international crew to guest ratio of 1 to 1, service never missed a beat.
At dinnertime, Ponant's French chefs delighted me with a different gourmet menu each evening, paired with premium wines selected by the sommelier. For more casual fare, I enjoyed lunch buffets on the pool deck where grilled shrimps, chilled wine, and desserts were included. Post-dinner, the piano player in the cozy Blue Eye lounge set the mood for after-dinner cocktails. In every restaurant and bar, tips were already accounted for in my cruise fare. Every moment of my journey was infused with that inimitable French art of living well.
Silversea Cruises has long set the standard for onboard inclusiveness, bundling value-adds like gratuities, fine dining, and WiFi into cruise fares. This format encourages guests to fully enjoy Silversea's ultra-luxury product without nickel and diming. I experienced their signature all-inclusiveness on Silver Spirit from Civitavecchia to Venice, where abundant choice never translated to decision fatigue. My ocean view suite came equipped with laptop and an iPad for shipboard use, Bulgari bath amenities, and a fully-stocked bar. With eight restaurants, a dinner reservation was always available at my preferred time, from sushi at Seishin to steaks at The Grill.
Silversea's sociable atmosphere sees like-minded travelers mingling in lounges like Dolce Vita and poolside without cliques. Enrichment activities spanned trivia games and dance classes to fascinating Guest Speaker lectures. The sense of community was further enhanced with WiFi, gratuities, and most experiences included. For those desiring the indulgence of a luxury resort at sea, Silversea masters the all-inclusive concept.
SeaDream Yacht Club takes an ultra-casual approach to all-inclusiveness with fares bundling fine dining, top-shelf spirits, gratuities, and more. I tested their version of all-inclusive yachting onboard SeaDream II along the Amalfi Coast. The laid-back days started by enjoying breakfast from an expansive menu in my queen bed or on my private outdoor balcony. Whether I dined on Dover sole in the elegant restaurant or burgers by the pool, the menu was complimentary, as were house wines, cocktails, and champagne from the honor bars. With a nearly 1:1 crew to guest ratio, flawless yet friendly service was my constant companion without worrying about tips.
The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023 - Family-Friendly Cruises Catering to Kids and Teens
While childless couples may prefer sophisticated adults-only ships, families and multigenerational clans require cruise lines catering specifically to kids and teens. After all, a memorable family vacation keeps all ages engaged, active, and enjoying quality time together. The best family cruise lines entice youngsters with dedicated youth clubs, family shore excursions, and cabins configured to accommodate families. From toddlers to teens, top family cruise lines ensure their ships make children feel welcome with tailored experiences.
MSC Cruises caters to families with action-packed offerings and flexible dining options. Family-focused activities include theme nights like Kids Talent Time, family game shows, arts & crafts, and the Doremi Lab sound and music experiment area. The Young Club entertains kids ages 3-11 with activities tailored for different age groups. The Teen Club keeps ages 12-17 occupied with dance parties, sports tournaments, video games, movies and more. Dining options satisfy picky eaters with kid favorites like chicken fingers available fleet-wide. MSC’s new family experience, the Family Panda Adventure, brings interactive games and activities themed around the iconic bear. MSC also offers discounts for 3rd and 4th passengers in a stateroom and reduced rates for kids under age 17.
Norwegian Cruise Line provides plenty of family fun with youth programs divided by age, family-friendly shows, Nickelodeon character experiences, and action-packed attractions. Child-proof cabins provide safety features like night latches and corner guards. Guppies is Norwegian’s award-winning program for ages six months to three years providing developmental activities and dedicated Sensory Play spaces. Kids ages 3-12 are entertained at Splash Academy with parties, arts & crafts, kids’ pools and more. Entourage caters to teens thirteen to seventeen with video games, outdoor sports, parties, and nightly entertainment. Stage shows like Nickelodeon’s Lip Sync Battle and Dora’s Best Friends Adventure delight all ages. The onboard Aqua Parks with multistory waterslides keep kids grinning all day long.
Disney Cruise Line leads the pack for families, blending legendary Disney storytelling and world-class entertainment with family dining and youth clubs tailored to various ages. Family activities include meet-and-greets with Disney princesses and Marvel superheroes, Mickey’s Tree Lighting Magic show, and Disney’s Believe, a Broadway-style show. Youth clubs foster age-appropriate fun from toddlers to teens with arts, science activities, gaming, and more. Disney also offers a convenient service letting parents drop kids off for dedicated playtime with youth counselors so adults can enjoy “me time.” Restaurants have Kids’ Menus, and upscale Palo and Remy restaurants offer family-style dining options. Disney's Oceaneer Club is a trusted haven for kids aged 3-12 years old, with spaces like Marvel Super Hero Academy and Fairytale Hall. Edge caters to 11-14 year-olds with videogames, parties and the Vibe teen club keeps 14-17 year-olds entertained.
Princess Cruises accommodates families with come-one, come-all activities like movies under the stars, family talent shows, and outdoor games. Youth and Teen Centers tailored for different age groups give kids their own space for games and age-appropriate fun. Princess offers Junior Chef@Sea culinary classes teaching kids cooking skills firsthand from top chefs. Ports of Call programs help families make the most of shore excursions with kid-friendly tours, beach activities, interactive displays about destinations, and themed youth center events tied to the port. Staterooms feature extra berths or connecting doors, while Family Dining options provide expedited service and healthier dishes tailored to kids’ preferences.
Carnival Cruise Line lives up to the moniker of “The Fun Ships” with plenty to entertain families and multi-gen groups. Their fleetwide Seuss at Sea program brings beloved Dr. Seuss characters onboard through parades, character interactions, Dr. Seuss Bookville family reading time, and immersive dining experiences. Outdoor attractions like SkyRide suspended cycling, waterslides, mini-golf, and rope courses delight all ages. Carnival makes dining flexible for families, with options like family-style dinner at Chef’s Table, Family Harbor staterooms with in-room dining, and kids’ favorites fleetwide like Kraft Mac & Cheese. Supervised youth programs divided into Camp Ocean (2-11 years) and Circle C (12-14 years) keep kids engaged with activities tailored to their age and interests. Night Owls hourly childcare (fees apply) means parents can enjoy evening adult time while kids slumber.
Royal Caribbean International goes big accommodating families with action-packed attractions, complimentary youth programming starting at age three, and staterooms able to sleep up to eight guests. New for 2023 is WonderPlay, an interactive game combining digital and physical play throughout the ship for a choose-your-own-adventure style experience families can enjoy together. Youth activities are divided into Aquanauts (ages 3-5), Explorers (6-8 years), Voyagers (9-12 years) and teens. Family shore tours include excursions to swim with dolphins, zipline adventures, 4x4 safaris and more. Onboard activities range from glow-in-the-dark laser tag to ice skating shows and kids’ favorite parades. Dining satisfies all appetites with options like family dinner at Wonderland Restaurant’s enchanted tables and Royal Babies and Tots nursery program for infants and toddlers 6-36 months.
The 10 Best Cruise Lines for 2023 - Adventure Cruises Taking You Off the Beaten Path
While many cruisers seek relaxation lounging poolside or indulging in culinary delights, adventure travelers crave active exploration off the predictable tourist track. Adventure cruising brings together like-minded explorers on intrepid itineraries unlocking once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ships with ice-strengthened hulls navigate remote polar regions and the Amazon River alike, while nimble smaller expedition ships access isolated islands and coves.
I spoke with avid adventurers about their experiences on expedition cruises taking them to captivating destinations far beyond predictable Caribbean or Mediterranean sailings. Sara raved about her recent sailing to Antarctica and South Georgia aboard Hurtigruten Expedition’s 530-guest MS Roald Amundsen. The state-of-the-art hybrid powered ship allowed her to responsibly explore the planet’s final frontier up-close with minimal environmental impact. Each day brought new wildlife sightings from waddling colonies of penguins to breaching whales while respectfully keeping her distance. Snow-shoeing treks took Sara to serene vistas where she was often the only soul around for miles. The expedition team enriched her experience with fascinating history talks and led kayaking excursions between glistening blue icebergs. For an adventure combining comfort with conscientious exploration, Hurtigruten Expedition exceeded her expectations.
Thomas recommends Abercrombie & Kent’s luxurious small ship cruising as the epitome of adventure in style. He recalls exhilarating shore excursions via Zodiac accessing isolated coves and villages, while knowledgeable expedition guides revealed hidden histories. A highlight was exploring the jaw-dropping Kimberly Coast in Australia, where they were dwarfed by red rock gorges million years old, witnessed ancient aboriginal rock art, and went pearl diving. Back aboard Le Laperouse, Thomas enjoyed lectures from A&K's Resident Historian while indulging in exceptional regional cuisine and sampling top-notch wines. The small ship experience allowed privileged access for hiking, snorkeling, cultural encounters, and viewing wildlife up-close in sublime comfort.
Gina raved about completing her travel bucket list on Ponant's Le Commandant-Charcot, experiencing the raw beauty of immeasurable icebergs and breaching whales on her Arctic expedition voyage. The state-of-the-art hybrid electric polar exploration ship allowed her to sail deeper into icy frontier waters with sensitive low environmental impact. Daily excursions aboard Zodiacs brought Gina up close to natural wonders like glittering ice caves, lounging walruses, prowling polar bears, and chattering Arctic terns. The passionate expedition team enriched her experience with fascinating lectures, citizen science projects, and leading kayaking forays from the ship's marina. After exhilarating days exploring, Gina could unwind over haute cuisine and fine French wines in refined elegance. From polar plunge swims to hiking across remote landscapes, Ponant Le Commandant Charcot exceeded her wildest expectations.
Jerry recommends UnCruise Adventures for active travelers preferring an unscripted itinerary where nature takes the lead each day. He recalls mornings waking up anchored along the Alaskan coastline not knowing what wilderness treasures the day would unlock. His favorite adventures included watching grizzlies feast on salmon along creek beds, soaring over rainforests in floatplanes, and walking pristine beaches rarely touched by man. Back aboard the 88-guest Wilderness Explorer, Jerry enjoyed discussing the day's adventures over exceptional regional fare with like-minded cruisers. With keen naturalist guides, he gained deep insights into Alaska's complex natural and cultural history. For an authentic Alaskan adventure where nature takes center stage, UnCruise delivered.
Debbie appreciated the flexibility of Star Clippers cruising under billowing sails along seldom-visited islands of Indonesia. A highlight was when her cruise took an unscheduled detour to Komodo Island after recent sightings of the legendary dragons there. She spent an unforgettable morning ashore watching the prehistoric giants lumbering along the beach and observing incredible coral formations on an impromptu snorkeling excursion. With just 170 privileged guests, she gained access to remote coves ideal for snorkeling, watersports off the marina platform, and hiking pristine beaches. Debbie loved the sailing camaraderie onboard, learning to hoist sails alongside the crew and stargazing on deck at night. For an authentic tall ship experience Exploring off-the-grid destinations at nature's whim, Star Clippers was perfect.