Top 10 Most Fun Cruises in 2024

most fun cruise ships

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If you’re looking for the most fun cruise to plan this year, there are some truly amazing cruise ships to choose from. Top cruise lines have built some of the coolest features and fun attractions on their newest cruise ships.

As someone in my early twenties who loves to have fun and party on cruise ships, I’ve curated a great list of the 10 most fun cruises you can take this year.

With that being said, here are the top 10 most fun cruise ships you’re sure to love.

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10 Most Fun Cruises

1. royal caribbean wonder of the seas.

cool cruises to go on

Royal Caribbean is one of the best cruise lines, because they have something for everyone. Whether if you’re cruising with kids, as a couple or on your own, a Royal Caribbean cruise will be extremely fun.

The Wonder of the Seas is an Oasis class ship and is currently the largest ship in the world. This cruise ship weighs over 236,000 tons and holds just under 7,000 passengers.

When it comes to fun activities on a cruise ship , it’s hard to beat what Wonder of the Seas has to offer. Additionally, the Wonder of the Seas has great entertainment, featuring live music, an ice skating show and the aqua show in the AquaTheatre.

One of the greatest parts about going on a Royal Caribbean ship, is that they have plenty of delicious dining options and bar areas. There’s never a dull moment on a Royal Caribbean cruise!

If you’re cruising with children under 17 and under, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean kid’s club is a great place for your kids to participate in activities and make new friends.

Features & Activities:

  • Water Slides
  • Splash park
  • Surf Simulators
  • Basketball court
  • 10 story dry slide
  • Ice skating
  • Fitness classes
  • Rock climbing

Related: Best Royal Caribbean Ships For Families – Complete Guide

2. Carnival Mardi Gras

Carnival cruise line is known as “The Worlds Most Popular Cruise Line”, carrying millions of cruise passengers every year. Since getting their start in 1972, Carnival cruises are known for their fun ships, joyful vacations and affordable prices.

The Carnival Mardi Gras was launched in 2020 with some exciting new onboard attractions and dining options.

The casual food options on Carnival Mardi Gras are some of the best at sea.

Big Chicken, BlueIguanna Cantina and Guy’s Burgers are amazing choices. Of course, there’s the popular Maketplace Lido Buffet and the main dining room to choose from as well.

A key features on the Carnival Mardi Gras are Bolt Sea Coaster, the first roller coaster at sea, and the ropes course. These are two fun activities that you have to try when you go on the Carnival Mardi Gras.

Onboard the Carnival Mardi Gras, you can expect a fun and laid back atmosphere. While Carnival is family friendly, many Carnival cruise passengers also like to party, drink and have a good time.

If you’re cruising with young adults , teenagers or children, there is no shortage of activities for them to enjoy!

Carnival’s Kid’s Club, Camp Ocean is geared towards children ages 2-11. Circle C (ages 12-14) and Camp 02 (15-17) caters to the tweens and teens. The youth program on is a great way to make new friends and hang out in a supervised environment throughout the cruise.

  • Bolt roller coaster
  • Water slides
  • Sports court

Related: What’s Included on a Carnival Cruise – Everything You Need to Know

3. Norwegian Prima

The Norwegian Prima is Norwegian Cruise Line ‘s newest cruise ship. This cruise ship weighs over 143,000 tons and holds up to 3,099 passengers.

NCL cruises are extremely fun and have a fantastic night life. Whether you like to watch sports, go to comedy shows, enjoy live music or go to the club, there is always something going on in the evenings.

Onboard the Norwegian Prima, there are plenty of fun activities. This includes a cool race track, two dry slides and even beer pong tables. If you’re looking to have a fun and action packed vacation, then the Norwegian Prima is a great option.

If you’re cruising with kids or teenagers, be sure to check out the kid’s club, Splash Academy (ages 3-12) and Club Entourage (13-17). The kid’s camp is a great place for your children to participate in activities and to make new friends.

  • 3 story Go-Kart track
  • Infinity pool
  • Splash area
  • Virtual reality
  • Escape room

Related: Is Norwegian Cruise Line Worth It? Pros & Cons

4. MSC Meraviglia

MSC is an Italian cruise line, known for their beautiful and elegant ships. Onboard an MSC cruise ship, you can expect a unique culinary experience, good service and a fun atmosphere.

The MSC Meraviglia launched in 2016. This cruise ship is over 167,000 tons and holds 4,500 passengers. This ship is absolutely stunning and has amazing bar and restaurant areas.

One of the unique features on the MSC Meraviglia is the Galleria Meraviglia. This area has the longest LED dome ceiling at sea, restaurants, bars and shops.

When it comes to activities onboard the MSC Meraviglia, there are 3 water slides, a splash park and a ropes course. There is also a pool area with pools and hot tubs.

If you’re cruising with children, you’ll be happy to know the MSC cruise ship has a fun kid’s club . The kid’s camp has video games, areas to hang out and planned activities.

  • Bowling alley

Related: Best MSC Cruises For Families & Kids – Complete Guide

5. Disney Wish

Disney Cruise Line is a family friendly cruise line, which is super popular for Disney lovers and families with younger children. Disney is the perfect cruise line for a fun family vacation.

The Disney Wish has a large pool deck that has multiple pools, hot tubs and lounge chairs. The food onboard the Disney Wish is very good and the staff are extremely friendly.

Since this is a Disney themed cruise, the cruise ship designed for younger crowds. However, the Disney Wish has an adult only area, which is perfect for relaxing without kids.

On the Disney Wish, you’ll find the Hero Zone, which is sports court. There are organized activities like the “Incredi-Games” and it can also be used as a basketball court.

If you’re cruising with young kids or teenagers, they will absolutely love Disney Cruise Line’s kid’s clubs. The kid’s club has couches to hang out, video games and fun organized activities.

  • Splash zone
  • Multiple Pool Areas
  • Inflatable obstacle course
  • Indoor sports court
  • Complimentary table games

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cool cruises to go on

6. Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Joy

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for being fun and exciting casual cruise vacations. On a Norwegian cruise, you’ll find young people as well as those who are young at heart.

The Norwegian Joy has exciting activities, great dining options and amazing entertainment. The theatre onboard the Norwegian Joy, is spectacular and a great place to catch a Broadway style show and special guest entertainers.

If you’re someone who enjoys gambling, then you will love the casino onboard the Norwegian Joy. On the Norwegian Joy, the casino is massive and has slot machines, blackjack tables, poker tables and even a high rollers room.

The Norwegian Joy has a super fun kid’s and teen club. As someone who has cruised since I was a kid, I can say that Norwegian has one of the best kid’s clubs at sea.

If you’re cruising with kids, teenagers or young adults, they will love the kids club and enjoy the activities onboard the Norwegian Joy .

  • Go-kart tracks

Related: 6 Best Norwegian Cruises for Families

7. Anthem of the Seas

Although the Anthem of the Seas isn’t as big as the Wonder of the Seas, it is still a large cruise ship. This cruise holds over 4,000 passengers and weighs 167,800 tons.

One of the unique features on the Anthem of the Seas is the North Star. The North Star is a gigantic robotic arm that goes 300 feet above the ocean and offers stunning views.

Some other activities on the Anthem of the Seas include indoor roller skating, bumper cars, water slides, rock climbing walls and a skydiving simulator.

If you love technology, then you will love this cruise. The Anthem of the Seas is one of the most technologically advanced cruises and it even has the Bionic Bar (robotic bartender).

The Anthem of the Seas is perfect for cruisers who want to have fun, try new attractions and enjoy a beautiful cruise ship.

  • Skydiving simulator
  • Surf simulator
  • Bumper cars
  • Roller skating
  • Rock climbing wall

Related: Is a Royal Caribbean Cruise Worth It? 10 Things You Need to Know

8. MSC Seascape

cool cruises to go on

The MSC Seascape is one of MSC Cruises newest cruise ships, officially named on December 7, 2022. Coming in at over 170,000 tons, the MSC Seascape holds nearly 6,000 passengers.

One of the cool things about the MSC Seascape is that it’s New York City themed. This means that venue names, decor and design features are New York City themed.

This is a stunning cruise ship, which mixes fun attractions with calm relaxation areas. The Jungle Pool Lounge is a jungle themed solarium area which has lounge chairs, a pool and hot tubs.

For kids, there is the Pirates Cove Aqua Park that has water canons, bridges and mini slides to play on. There are also water slides, a sports court and the kid’s club, where your children will have the time of their life.

One of the unique features onboard the MSC Seascape is ROBOTRON. ROBOTRON is a robotic arm which will lift you 53 metres above sea level and flip you upside down.

Overall, the MSC Seascape has the perfect mix of relaxing areas, good dining options and amazing attractions. If you’re looking to have a fun and enjoyable vacation, the MSC Seascape is a great choice.

  • Racing simulator

9. Celebrity Beyond

cool cruises to go on

The Celebrity Beyond may not have water slides, roller coasters or zip lines like some other cruise ships. However, the Celebrity Beyond is a stunning ship that has a super fun vibe for adults.

If you’re someone who likes to spend time in hot tubs, at bars or by the pool, then you will love the Celebrity Beyond. When you’re on the Celebrity Beyond, it feels as if you’re on a luxurious mega yacht.

Celebrity Cruises is known for having great service, fine dining and beautiful ship designs. The Celebrity Beyond is Celebrity’s newest ship. This Edge class ship is like no other.

The highlights on Celebrity Beyond, include the beautiful and fun bar areas. The Magic Carpet, Sunset Bar and Martini Bar are some of the most lively and fun bars at sea.

The Celebrity Beyond also has champagne glass designed hot tubs, a solarium pool and plunge pools , which look over the edge of the cruise ship.

If you’re cruising with a family, you’ll find a kid’s club onboard the Celebrity Beyond. However, the Celebrity Beyond isn’t as family friendly as other cruise ships, and is more geared towards adults.

The Celebrity Beyond, will be a fun cruise for adults who are looking for a luxurious cruise experience.

  • Magic Carpet
  • Plunge pool
  • Sunset Garden
  • Martini bar

Related: Celebrity Beyond Infinite Veranda Honest Review

cool cruises to go on

10. Virgin Valiant Lady

Virgin Voyages is an adult only cruise line , which has recently entered the cruise industry. The Virgin Valiant Lady was launched in 2020 and it can hold up to 2,700 “sailors”.

Virgin is fun for a few reasons, in part because they are doing things differently than many other competitor cruise lines. Virgin Voyages has an unconventional approach to cruising and is known for having great food and dining, amazing entertainment and crazy pool parties.

Since Virgin is an adult only cruise line (18+), their entertainment, activities and parties all cater towards an adult demographic. On Virgin Voyages, you’ll find a truly unique and fun cruise experience that is like no other.

  • Balcony hammocks
  • Included fitness classes
  • Record shop
  • Karaoke bar with individual booths
  • Tattoo parlour

Honourable Mentions:

  • Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
  • Norwegian Encore
  • Carnival Celebration
  • Carnival Panorama
  • Carnival Glory
  • Holland America Rotterdam
  • Celebrity Summit

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Final Thoughts on Most Fun Cruises in 2024

Well there it is, the top 10 most fun cruises!

If you’re planning a cruise and like to have fun, it’s important to know which cruise has the best activities, entertainment and attractions.

Cruising is a fun way to travel. You get to enjoy time on the cruise ship as well as visit some beautiful destinations. Choosing the most fun cruise depends most on what you like to do and enjoy.

In this post, I shared the top 10 most fun cruises.

What cruise ship or cruise line do you think is the most fun? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!

P.S. If you found this helpful, please don’t keep it to yourself ;-). Please share on Facebook or PIN to your favorite Pinterest board (share buttons at the top). Thanks so much!

Author Bio: Ethan Schattauer writes about fashion, travel and college advice on the website . As a frequent cruiser, Ethan shares his unique perspective on what cruising is like for teens and young adults.

Featured photo: Photo credit Royal Caribbean

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The 16 Best Cruises to Book in 2023, According to T+L's Expert

Travel + Leisure hand-selected 16 different types of on-the-water adventures to consider in the year ahead.

Paul Brady is the news director at Travel + Leisure and the brand's expert on cruise travel. He has been covering the travel industry for more than 15 years for outlets including Condé Nast Traveler , Skift , and The Huffington Post .

cool cruises to go on

Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Cruising is in the midst of an epic comeback . Travelers are turning to trusted lines to help minimize the hassles of country hopping and maximize relaxation time in each destination. With 2023 poised to be a big year for both new and frequent cruisers — thanks in part to an abundance of new ships and itineraries — Travel + Leisure has hand-selected 16 different types of adventures to consider in the year ahead.

The Nile on Viking Osiris

Alastair Miller/Courtesy of Viking

Viking Osiris is the line’s newest on the Nile, with just 41 suites and staterooms, a pool deck, and cool Scandinavian design. The ship sails between Aswan and Luxor, with pre- and post-sail touring in Cairo included with the 12-day itineraries.

Alaska on Ocean Victory

The Alaska trips on Ocean Victory , a fuel-efficient, 93-cabin ship from American Queen Voyages, come with the opportunity to kayak past glaciers and spot bald eagles and grizzlies. The vessel, which first debuted in 2021, represents an evolution in ship design for American Queen, with its cutting-edge X-Bow design (which helps reduce fuel burn) and chic suites, including many with private verandas.

The Galápagos Islands on Quasar Expeditions’ Evolution

In June, Quasar Expeditions is offering a Galápagos cruise on the 32-passenger Evolution for children with autism spectrum disorder, hosted by an expert in supporting families with special needs. The trip, which departs June 24, is a seven-night expedition that takes in many of the most notable sites on the islands, with programming specially tailored for both kids and adults.

Cruising Antarctica on Silver Cloud or Silver Endeavour

Adrian Wolodarczyk/Courtesy of Silversea

Silversea gives Antarctica travelers the option to skip two days of sailing the often-rocky Drake Passage. Instead, they can fly in comfort over the waters separating South America from the continent, then hop aboard the 127-suite Silver Cloud and 100-suite Silver Endeavour for trips along the frosty coastline.

The Caribbean, South Pacific, and Australia With Windstar Cruises

Windstar has a series of 2023 itineraries on the 156-cabin Star Pride and 171-suite Wind Surf that hit yachty Caribbean ports like Jost Van Dyke, in the British Virgin Islands, and Anguilla. The small-ship line, which is known for both its sleek “Star Plus Class” ships and its classic vessels with their dramatic sails, also has an array of itineraries along the coast of Australia and in the South Pacific.

Cold-weather Cruises on Le Commandant Charcot

A game changer in lowering emissions, Ponant’s brand-new hybrid-electric Le Commandant Charcot can operate on less-carbon-intensive battery power and liquefied natural gas and has room for 245 guests. The game-changing ship, which has already hosted eclipse watchers on a trip to Antarctica and sailed to the geographic North Pole, also offers adventures in places such as Iceland and Svalbard.

Cruises Closer to Home With American Queen Voyages

Michel Verdure/Courtesy of American Queen Voyages

American Queen Voyages will offer the longest trips in the line’s history in 2023, with two 23-day river itineraries on the Mississippi and Ohio aboard the 123-stateroom American Countess . “The ship will sail more than 1,700 miles from Minnesota down the Ohio River and Upper Mississippi River , calling on more ports and offering more guided tours than ever before,” as T+L reported in August .

The South Pacific on Paul Gauguin

Just refurbished, the 165-cabin Paul Gauguin will be exploring the Pacific in 2023, with trips to the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Marquesas, and the Society Islands. The single-vessel brand was voted the very best small-ship cruise line in the World’s Best Awards 2022 , as T+L readers gave particularly high marks to the Paul Gauguin ’s on-board staff.

Mystery Cruising With Uniworld

Courtesy of Uniworld

Next year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises will offer two nine-night “mystery cruises ,” with the European destinations revealed only as guests depart: similar trips in 2022 sold out. Travelers on the June 2023 trip will meet in Amsterdam, while the July 2023 sailing rendezvous in Nice, France — from there, the itinerary is anybody’s guess.

Expedition Cruising With Seabourn

Courtesy of Seabourn

Seabourn Venture , the luxury line’s first 132-suite expedition ship, launched in late summer with itineraries in northern Europe; trips in Japan, the South Pacific, and Antarctica are on tap for 2023. Seabourn Pursuit , which will be a sibling ship to Venture, is scheduled to arrive in 2023, the second in Seabourn’s growing expedition fleet.

Seeing Europe’s Gems by Small Ship

Slated to launch in the spring, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse II will visit ports from Dublin to Lisbon, as well as both polar regions, in 2023 and 2024. The innovative vessel, which is similar in design to Scenic Eclipse , will have luxurious suites complete with butler service and all sorts of extras, including helicopters (plural) and a submarine.

Visiting Wild Places With Fewer Impacts

Aurora Expeditions, whose newest vessel is the 71-cabin Sylvia Earle , guarantees that all operations are carbon neutral, pledging to offset all emissions. The newly launched ship, with its fuel-saving X-Bow design, doesn’t skimp on expedition necessities: guests on Antarctica expeditions can explore by Zodiac or snowshoe and even, when conditions allow, go scuba diving in polar waters or camping on the ice.

Solo Cruising With a New Line

Upstart cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages offers all-inclusive fares on its two 98-suite vessels, and, in a departure from industry norms, the brand doesn’t charge solo travelers a single supplement. The line’s second ship, World Traveller , launched in November 2022 . It will sail nine-, 10-, 11-, and 12-night round-trips from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica through March 2023 before heading to the Mediterranean to hit Spain, France, and Portugal.

The Galápagos Islands on Celebrity Flora

Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Another ship that sails the Galápagos, the Celebrity Flora , has 50 suites, many with large verandas, plus a stargazing deck and a fleet of comfortable tenders. Two itineraries are available, the first of which is a seven-night “northern loop” that visits the volcanic island of Santiago and has guests spotting red-footed Boobies on Genovesa Island, a place sometimes called Bird Island thanks to its famed animals. The line’s “outer loop” also includes plenty of wildlife watching, plus a stop at the less-frequented Daphne Island.

Doing Wine Country on Seadream II

SeaDream Yacht Club has two Wine Voyages in 2023, which include vineyard visits in Greece, Italy, and Spain and a winemaker-hosted dinner on the 112-guest Seadream II . The highly regarded intimate-ship line wins frequent accolades from T+L readers for its on-board service and well-appointed vessels.

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The 15 best cruise ships for people who never want to grow up

Gene Sloan

Editor's Note

Wouldn't it be great to be a kid again?

Even if you're just a few years out of school and only beginning your toils in the workforce, you've probably already found yourself pining for those carefree days of childhood.

Maybe you want to relive the thrill of endless afternoons racing your friends around go-kart tracks or hunting them down in laser tag battles. Maybe you want to be back at the arcade, rolling 100s in Skeeball. Maybe you just want to spend a day getting soaked at a waterpark again — without needing the excuse of bringing a child or grandchild along to do it.

For more cruise guides, news and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.

We've got some good news: Your misspent youth is still there, waiting for you — on a cruise ship.

One of the biggest trends in cruising over the past couple decades has been the transformation of mass-market cruise vessels into giant floating megaresorts that offer every sort of amusement known to humans — from massive water coasters to bumper cars and skydiving simulators .

Often these amusements were designed with teens and tweens in mind. After all, family cruising is one of the hottest things going in the industry these days. But a quick glance at all the millennials, Generation Xers and, yes, even baby boomers waiting in line for many of these attractions on ships proves they aren't just for young cruisers.

Indeed, if you're the kind of person who has never wanted to grow up — and aren't we all — there are few more enticing vacations than a week spent on one of today's giant megaships.

The best ships for childlike fun

In the early days of cruising, in the 1970s and 1980s, the biggest deck-top attraction on most ships was the pool. Shuffleboard was another hot activity — really, that's not just a cliché. By the late 1990s, a few waterslides had begun popping up on vessels, as well as such then-wow-inducing activities as miniature golf courses and rock climbing walls.

But it's only in the last 15 years or so that we've begun to see truly over-the-top fun zones at sea. And we do mean over-the-top. In the last few years, we've seen cruise lines add everything from sprawling go-kart tracks to a roller coaster to the top of ships. Deck-top waterparks with multiple waterslides are increasingly common. So are features like surfing simulators, zip lines, virtual reality play zones and even ice skating rinks.

cool cruises to go on

Among cruise lines marketing to North Americans, there are four lines, in particular, that have been at the forefront of the trend: Royal Caribbean , MSC Cruises , Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line .

The first three of those lines dominate the world of big, bustling megaresorts at sea, with vessels that are as much as twice the size of the biggest cruise ships that existed 25 years ago. Carnival hasn't gone quite as big with its ships, for the most part. But Carnival still packs its vessels with a lot of fun-focused activities.

Related: TPG's ultimate guide to picking a cruise line

For the biggest array of back-to-your-youth amusements, you'll want to stick to the newest, biggest ships from each of the brands, which also boast an overabundance of restaurants, bars, showrooms, spas and casinos. They are, as your kids would say, sick. Or is it dope ? While you're waiting in line for the go-karts, you can ask the nearest 15-year-old.

Here, the four ships that we rate the best for reconnecting with your inner child (along with eight similar sister vessels that expand your choices to 15):

Wonder of the Seas

Line: Royal Caribbean

Similar sister ships: Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas

cool cruises to go on

If your goal is to relive your childhood on a cruise ship, we can think of no better vessel than Wonder of the Seas. It is, quite simply, the ultimate floating fun zone.

At 235,600 tons, Wonder of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship ever built (although it's about to be eclipsed by the even bigger Icon of the Seas ), and it's packed with every sort of amusement you could imagine, including a trio of monster waterslides, two surfing simulators, two rock climbing walls and a zip line.

There also are multiple pool zones, a miniature golf course, a basketball court, an ice skating rink and an entire New Jersey shore-like Boardwalk area with its very own handmade carousel.

cool cruises to go on

Whether you're a teenager or teenage-wannabe, you'll also get a rush from The Ultimate Abyss — the longest slide ever on a cruise ship. It drops nine decks (from the Sports Zone on Deck 16 to the Boardwalk area on Deck 6). Royal Caribbean says this is a 10-deck drop, but don't be fooled: There's no Deck 13 on Wonder of the Seas.

cool cruises to go on

In addition, the interior of Wonder of the Seas is chock full of restaurants, bars, a spa, a casino and a giant theater that's home to Broadway productions.

Unveiled in 2022, Wonder of the Seas is the newest and biggest of Royal Caribbean's five Oasis Class vessels, which began debuting in 2009. You'll find many — but not all — of its attractions on the other Oasis Class ships, too, and all five of the ships are mind-blowing in their size and offerings. There's really nothing quite like them at sea: All five Oasis Class ships are bigger than any other cruise vessel afloat.

A sixth Oasis Class vessel, Utopia of the Seas , is scheduled to debut in July.

Where to find it: Wonder of the Seas sails to the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Port Canaveral, Florida.

Norwegian Encore

Line: Norwegian Cruise Line

Similar sister ships: Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy, Norwegian Escape

cool cruises to go on

At 169,116 tons, Norwegian Encore isn't quite as super-sized as Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas. But it still features an insane array of over-the-top activities to excite your inner child.

For starters, there are two serious water slides on the deck top — Aqua Racer and Ocean Loops — that are sure to get your heart racing. Ocean Loops, in particular, is a doozy. It's one of those horrifying "drop" waterslides that start with you standing above a trap door that opens to send you plunging downward. At one point, you go spinning over the side of the ship.

Still, the standout feature for fun seekers on Norwegian Encore is its massive go-kart track. Nearly 1,150 feet long and sprawling over two decks, the so-called Norwegian Encore Speedway is truly a sight to behold. It includes four sections that extend up to 13 feet over the sides of the vessel. Just to amp things up a bit, it also has a middle-of-the-track observation area where your family and friends can shoot you with "lasers" that'll give you a power boost.

Note that this is some serious go-karting. The cars that Norwegian uses can hit speeds up to 32 miles per hour, as I experienced firsthand during a test run when Norwegian Encore first debuted.

cool cruises to go on

Norwegian Encore also is home to the largest laser tag arena ever put on a ship and a massive gaming and virtual reality zone. Themed after the lost city of Atlantis, the former is at the very back of the vessel and is a romp. The latter area, called Galaxy Pavilion, has an amazing line-up of high-tech virtual reality experiences, including incredibly realistic race car simulators, hang-gliding simulators, virtual mazes and a virtual reality "Jurassic Park" jeep ride (watch out for dinosaurs!).

Just be warned that none of these attractions come cheap. You'll pay $15 per person for an eight-lap race on the go-karts. Joining a five-minute laser shoot-out costs $10 per person. In both cases, you can buy a week-long pass for $199, and there's a similar pass available for the Galaxy Pavilion.

cool cruises to go on

Norwegian Encore's sister ships — Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Joy and Norwegian Escape — offer many of the same features, but the lineup varies from one vessel to the next. Only Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy have go-kart tracks, for instance, and their versions of the attraction aren't quite as big.

Where to find it: Norwegian Encore spends its winters sailing to the Caribbean out of Miami. During the summer, it says to Alaska out of Seattle.

Line: Carnival Cruise Line

Similar sister ships: Carnival Celebration, Carnival Jubilee

cool cruises to go on

Leave it to the so-called Fun Ship line to come up with what just may be the ultimate playground at sea for people who never want to grow up. Unveiled in 2021, this 17-deck-high megacruiser, the new flagship for Carnival, has all sorts of deck-top amusements, including — we kid you not — a full-blown roller coaster.

Dubbed Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster, the first-ever roller coaster at sea is far from the biggest roller coaster in the world, with just under 800 feet of track. The coaster vehicles — which hold two people each — only will reach speeds of 40 miles per hour. But you've got to give Carnival top marks for chutzpah.

cool cruises to go on

Other fun-focused diversions on the top deck of Mardi Gras include one of Carnival's signature WaterWorks waterparks with multiple waterslides, a miniature golf course, a basketball court and a suspended-in-the-sky ropes course.

Mardi Gras was the first of a new series of bigger Carnival ships designed to take the line's Fun Ship shtick to a new level, and it has since been joined by two more vessels in the, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee.

In addition to a deck top full of amusements, it also has a far broader array of suites than earlier Carnival vessels and new dining venues such as the first Emeril Lagasse restaurant at sea. It's also notable as the first ship from a North America-based line designed to operate on liquid natural gas. The fuel is touted as being cleaner than traditional ship fuel.

At around 180,000 tons, Mardi Gras and its sisters Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee are each nearly 35% bigger than Carnival's next-bigger ship, Carnival Panorama , and one of the biggest new ships to debut in the last two years.

Where to find it: Mardi Gras sails to the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Port Canaveral.

MSC Meraviglia

Line: MSC Cruises

Similar sister ships: MSC Bellissima, MSC Grandiosa, MSC Virtuosa

cool cruises to go on

Fast-growing MSC Cruises jumped into the activity-packed megaship game in a big way in 2017 with the debut of the U.S.-based MSC Meraviglia. At 171,598 tons, the 15-deck-high MSC Cruises vessel is one of the 20 biggest cruise ships in the world, and it offers such deck-top diversions as a polar-themed waterpark with three waterslides.

There's also a suspended-in-the-sky ropes course called Himalayan Bridge — the latter also has a polar theme.

cool cruises to go on

Still, it's not just deck-top activities on MSC Meraviglia that will set off your fun meter. The interior of the vessel is home to one of the coolest virtual reality play zones at sea. Among its highlights: Two of the most sophisticated Formula 1 race car simulators anywhere.

MSC Meraviglia also houses a multisensory, motion-simulating XD theater. For something a little less hardcore, there also are two full-size bowling lanes.

cool cruises to go on

Designed to hold 4,488 passengers at double occupancy, MSC Meraviglia also offers a dozen dining venues, a spa, a casino and a custom-built, high-tech, 450-seat theater that houses exclusive Cirque du Soleil shows.

A nearly identical sister ship to MSC Meraviglia, the MSC Bellissima has a similar array of attractions, as do the slightly bigger MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa. Of the four vessels, MSC Meraviglia is the most appealing to the North American market as it's based year round in the U.S.

Where to find it: MSC Meraviglia sails year-round out of New York.

Bottom line

You don't have to be a kid to enjoy the wild array of attractions on the new crop of floating megaresorts. If it's carefree fun you're after in a vacation, a cruise on one of the giant vessels of Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, Norwegian or Carnival may be the perfect choice.

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10 best cruise lines for every type of traveler, from adventurers to families

Danielle Bauter

May 6, 2024 // By Danielle Bauter

By Danielle Bauter May 6, 2024

Find your people on Carnival Cruise Line, one of the best for social butterflies

It's time to cast off your worries and set sail toward unforgettable experiences, charting a course for your dream vacation. But not everyone craves the same itinerary or type of cruise — some souls yearn for heart-pounding adventure, while others seek relaxation on idyllic beaches.

The good news? There's a perfect cruise vacation waiting for every type of traveler. From luxurious foodie adventures to social escapades and wellness wonders, we'll help you find the best cruises to indulge your desires. So, grab your swimsuit (or maybe your hiking boots), pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to plan your next cruise vacation.

Best cruise for the adventurer: Adventure Canada

Explore Devon Island in Nunavut during an Adventure Canada cruise

If adrenaline-fueled is how you like to cruise, then Adventure Canada is the perfect conduit. It's been a USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice favorite for Best Adventure Cruise Line for many years, and most recently it landed on the list for Best Cruise Lines for Families .

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Offering small-ship expedition cruises to remote areas like Greenland, Antarctica, the Canadian Arctic, and Iceland, Adventure Canada prioritizes exploration and education over typical cruise activities. Their itineraries get you off the ship and into the heart of the action, with zodiac landings, hikes, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Itineraries that travel to Greenland and Nunavut, Canada, literally take you off the map, visiting uninhabited archipelagos like Devon Island or towns like Ilulissat, Greenland, where you could potentially spot polar bears, narwhals, and beluga whales.

Watch out for calving icebergs, though — the possibility of a tidal wave capsizing your zodiac after ice plummets into the ocean is enough to get your blood pumping.

Best cruise for the wine enthusiast: AmaWaterways

Sample wine-themed excursions with AmaWaterways

Board a dedicated "Celebration of Wine" on Best River Cruise Line winner AmaWaterways and savor itineraries that sail through famous European wine regions like France's Bourdeaux, Germany's Rhine Valley, or Portugal's Douro Valley.

The cruise becomes part of the wine experience and often features partnerships with North American wineries that bring knowledgeable wine hosts on board to lead informative tastings and discussions.

The Rhine River cruise explores towns like Rüdesheim, a German winemaking town lined with tasting rooms and vineyards. In France, Riquewihr is one of the highlights of the Alsace Wine Route. You'll then venture on to charming Strasbourg, which claims to be home to the oldest wine on Earth. Stroll through historic vineyards and choose from a carefully selected wine list that showcases local wines from the regions you explore.

Best cruise for the hopeless romantic: Windstar Cruises

Find romance on Windstar Cruises' intimate yacht cruises

Imagine sailing around the rivieras of the Mediterranean, the crystal blue water sparkling under golden rays. The gentle sway of the vessel and the vastness of the ocean set a naturally romantic tone, especially when the sails rise over the setting sun. Unlike mega-ships with thousands of passengers, Windstar keeps things intimate.

Windstar Cruises travels to dreamy destinations like Tahiti and the French Riviera with three classic sailing yachts and three all-suite motor yachts. (Its Wind Spirit vessel took the top spot for Best Adults Only Cruise this year.) The cruise line also partnered with the James Beard Foundation to offer tantalizing meals on board. Windstar caters to romance with packages and add-on options, inviting you to enjoy dreamy spots like Bora Bora with an intimate dinner under the stars or a champagne breakfast in bed.

Best cruise for the wellness warrior: Oceania Cruises

Relax with a spa treatment at Oceania's Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center

Embrace the zen: Oceania Cruises offers a comprehensive wellness experience that caters to your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The state-of-the-art Aquamar Spa + Vitality Center offers a wide range of treatments designed to promote relaxation and rejuvenation.

Ranking for Best Boutique Cruise Line , Oceania is also known for its "finest cuisine at sea" philosophy, which translates to delicious and healthy cuisine (including extensive plant-based menus) alongside its more indulgent offerings.

Aquamar's Wellness Discovery Tours are shore excursions designed to complement your onboard wellness journey. For example, you can meditate with a monk in Thailand or learn to harness the power of spiritual drumming in Australia. Oceania travels across the globe on small, luxurious ships — from Africa to the Amazon, the Baltic to the South Pacific.

Best cruise for the culture vulture: Viking

Soak up some culture with Viking's classical performances

Designed for experienced travelers ages 55 and older who are interested in topics like science, history, and gastronomy, Viking has carved a niche for itself as a leader in cultural enrichment cruises. It steers away from the typical focus on onboard activities and entertainment. Instead, meticulously crafted itineraries immerse you in the history and culture of the places you visit.

Expect longer stays in ports, allowing you to explore destinations in greater depth. A Viking Resident Historian accompanies each ocean voyage, leading roundtable discussions and lectures about a specific topic. Along with classical musicians on board, Viking invites local musicians and ensembles for special performances. With an array of itineraries on their river, ocean, and expedition cruises, Viking travels to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and North America.

It's no wonder Viking's extensive fleet of vessels has consistently ranked as reader-voted favorites for Best Boutique Cruise Line , Best Cruise Line for Solo Travelers , and Best Ocean Cruise Line .

Best cruise for the social butterfly: Carnival Cruise Line

Party with fellow social butterflies on Carnival Breeze

Party lovers, unite! Carnival Cruise Line has you covered if you're constantly seeking social stimulation. The cruise line thrives on creating a fun and lively atmosphere on all of its ships. Carnival Vista, Carnival Breeze, and Carnival Celebration took the top three spots for Best Cruise Ship for Entertainment , making them great picks for social butterflies. Known for its energetic onboard entertainment that ranges from stage shows and dance productions to poolside games and deck parties, Carnival Cruise Line offers many opportunities to mingle with other passengers.

Download Carnival's HUB app to reserve select shows, specialty dining, and spa services. With an average of about 3,000 guests on board each ship, you're sure to find other like-minded individuals who want to check out the casino or comedy club, play an intense bingo game, or dance the night away at the nightclub. Destinations include the Caribbean, Europe, Canada, and Hawaii.

Best cruise for the solo traveler: Norwegian Cruise Line

Sail into the sunset with Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line goes above and beyond to cater to solo cruisers, from dedicated living quarters and social spaces to organized activities. The studio staterooms are designed specifically for solo travelers; solo-occupancy options for balcony and ocean view staterooms provide more personal space and a touch of luxury.

Whether you choose to visit destinations like Hawaii, South America, or the Greek Isles, you'll do so in style on this USA TODAY Readers' Choice Award winner for Best Cruise Line for Solo Travelers .

You'll also have exclusive access to the Studio Lounge, a social hub where you can relax, meet other solo cruisers, and enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks throughout the day. Norwegian Cruise Line organizes social events specifically for solo travelers, ranging from casual meet-and-greets to group shore excursions, providing opportunities to connect with others and avoid feeling isolated. And if you crave solitude, you can find that too.

Best cruise for the LGBTQ jet-setter: Celebrity Cruises

Celebrate Pride in style every day of the year with Celebrity Cruises

"Love is love" perfectly describes the mantra of Celebrity Cruises , which goes beyond mere tolerance by actively celebrating diversity and creating an environment for LGBTQ travelers to relax and have fun. The cruise line fosters a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for all passengers, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Board one of the 16 ships that travel to hundreds of ports worldwide and embark on group excursions or private journeys.

Celebrity pulls out all the stops in June with Pride Month celebrations, including theme parties and dazzling entertainment. (Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Beyond is a repeat winner for Best Cruise Ship for Entertainment .)

Many Celebrity cruises host LGBTQ welcome parties on the first night, allowing you to meet fellow travelers, mingle with crew members, and set the tone for your voyage. They also have become a champion for marriage equality at sea, offering legal same-sex wedding ceremonies on board their ships.

Best cruise for the foodie: Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Indulge your foodie fantasies on Regent Seven Seas' culinary cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises isn't just a cruise line; it's a culinary odyssey for discerning palates. The brand boasts an impressive array of specialty restaurants onboard, from French bistros to sizzling steakhouses and Asian fusion experiences, all with impeccable service and world-class cuisine. USA TODAY 10Best readers voted Seven Sea Explorer among the top 10 for Best Cruise Ship for Dining (twice!).

The Compass Rose, Regent's main dining room on all ships, transforms into an extension of the specialty restaurants, ideal for those who crave variety and exquisite flavors.

Regent also offers curated shore excursions designed for food enthusiasts, such as truffle hunting in Italy or cheesemaking tours in France, elevating your gastronomic exploration like never before. Gastronomes also can delve deeper with hands-on cooking classes led by culinary experts. Learn the secrets of French pastry or master the art of sushi making. These interactive sessions elevate your appreciation for food and empower you to recreate these dishes at home.

Best cruise for the family-friendly traveler: Royal Caribbean International

Enjoy water parks, tons of entertainment, and family-friendly dining on Royal Caribbean International

Have family, will travel! Royal Caribbean International offers something for everyone, from toddlers to teens (and parents or grandparents!). Voted among the Best Cruise Lines for Families , the award-winning Adventure Ocean youth program separates themed activities by age group, whether scavenger hunts or arts and crafts. You might have trouble luring them away.

What's a family vacation without some splashy fun? Royal Caribbean takes cruise decks to a new level with waterslides, kid-friendly splash zones, rock climbing walls, arcades, and laser tag arenas. Understanding that family vacations are about creating lasting memories, you'll also find family-friendly shore excursions like zip-lining through rainforests or exploring ancient ruins.

Danielle Bauter

About Danielle Bauter

Born and raised in Southern California, Danielle Bauter spent a few years living in San Francisco after college before settling into her current home in Orange County.  Her work has been published in Conde Nast Traveler, Fodor's Travel, Lonely Planet, Wine Enthusiast, and the Roadtrippers Magazine. In her spare time Danielle enjoys hiking the trails in her area, exploring new wine regions, and relaxing on the beach with a good book.

Read more about Danielle Bauter here.

Connect with Danielle via: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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What to Do on a Cruise? 70 Fun Things to Do on the Ship

If it’s your first time taking a cruise, you might be wondering exactly what there is to do on the ship.

First things first, there’s a lot more things to do on a cruise ship than most people realize. In the past, it might have been that the majority of your time would be hanging out on the pool deck and having a drink. These days there is no end to the fun you can have on a cruise, and there are activities nearly around the clock.

Whether you want to relax and do the bare minimum, or have a thrill a minute, modern cruise ships have no end to how you can have fun. To give you just an idea of how you can spend your time while sailing, we’ve offered up a massive list of 70 things to do on a cruise ship.

Create Your Own Bar Crawl Across the Ship

Atrium Bar on Norwegian Encore

Alcohol flows freely on a cruise ship. It’s normal for a ship to have a dozen or more bars, and you can get a drink whether you are hanging poolside, watching a show in the theater, or trying your luck in the casino.

Just like restaurants, these bars all have different themes and menus. There are fun poolside bars, classy lounge bars, and even trendy hip bars with “mixologists.” Check them out and take a look at the menu to see what sort of cocktail speaks to you. Nowhere can we think of do you have the opportunity to try as many different drinks all in one place than on a cruise.

Take Part in the Poolside Competitions (Or Just Watch for Laughs!)

Belly flop competition

A belly-flop contest? Sexiest legs competition (for men only)? These are classic poolside events that are must-sees.

They typically take place in the afternoon on sea days, and all the contestants are sourced from your fellow passengers. It’s a riot with people packed around the pool to see. If you want to participate, get in on the action by heading down to the host. If you plan to just watch, we suggest getting there early. With hundreds — if not thousands — of people watching, great spots to get a view can fill up fast.

Find “Your” Spot on the Ship

Over the course of a cruise, something surprising happens. Since people are creatures of habit, we tend to find a spot that we really like and find ourselves going back again and again.

For some people it’s a special spot near the pool. For others it’s a bar that they just love. Still others find the most secluded spot they can because it’s perfect for reading a book.

During the course of your cruise, it’s always fun to spend some time exploring and find what “your” spot is on the ship.

Stock Up Your Liquor Cabinet With Duty-Free Shopping

Like airports, cruise ships are able to sell items duty-free. This means you can save cash since taxes and duty aren’t included in the price.

Every ship will have a store onboard that sells items normally subject to these fees like alcohol and cigarettes. Take advantage to stock up on what you might be missing back home and save a few bucks while you’re at it. Just keep in mind there are limits to how much you can bring home.

Also, you can’t buy bottles in these stores to enjoy on your cruise. They will be packaged and delivered to you at the end of the trip.

Try Out a Specialty Restaurant for Different Flavors

Lobster and steak dinner

If you’ve never taken a cruise, you should know that not all food on the ship is free. There are many spots to eat, including the main dining room and the buffet, that are included with your fare. Many other restaurants on cruise ships now carry a charge.

It might be off-putting to have to shell out more money for a restaurant when you’ve already paid for the cruise and there are free options available. Don’t automatically discount these options, however.

Most specialty restaurants serve food you can’t find elsewhere on the ship, and if you like higher-end dining, it’s your best bet for a meal that you’ll love.

Take Advantage of the Kid’s Area

If you are a family going on a cruise, your kids will probably want to go check out the dedicated kids area on the ship. Parents are typically happy to oblige.

Major cruise ships have spaces made just for children that are staffed by the cruise line. They are split into different age groups with areas and activities that are interesting to each age. This way a 14-year-old doesn’t have to do the same things as a 5-year-old.

The kid’s areas are free and a big hit. Kids love having something they want to do while parents enjoy some time to relax without having young ones in tow.

Try Your Hand at Shuffleboard

There’s nothing more classic than playing shuffleboard on a cruise. It’s a reminder back to the older days of sailing, but the game is surprisingly fun. Each player takes turn sliding a disc onto a numbered board. While you are trying to score points by sliding the disc on a numbered spot, you are also trying to knock your opponent’s discs off the board.

It’s relaxing to play and a fun way to get a little competition while on the ship. Best of all, it’s free to play; sticks and discs are normally kept right by the boards on the ship.

Work on Your Tan

It’s hard to think of anything that’s more synonymous with cruising than sunshine. That’s why it’s no wonder that getting some sun and working on your tan is one of the most popular things to do on the ship.

The top deck on a cruise ship will feature tons of chairs, although those closest to the pool get picked first.

One thing to keep in mind is that the sun can be strong at lower latitudes in the Caribbean. Use plenty of sunscreen and keep track of your time in the sun. You don’t want to get burned early in your trip and not be able to enjoy yourself the rest of the cruise.

Hit the Hot Tub

There’s no better way to relax than by some time in the hot tub. On today’s cruise ships hot tubs dot the entire top deck. While there are usually multiple whirlpools around the main pool, other hot tubs are found around the ship, including adults-only areas. So while a ship might have a couple of pools, it could have 8-10 hot tubs.

These spots are especially popular in the evenings or during the winter months when the ship is sailing in cooler weather. There’s not much better than keeping warm on a cool night in a whirlpool.

Take a Dip in the Pool

Open pool deck on a cruise ship

Of course, most people go on a cruise to get warm, but sometimes you need to cool off. The classic way to chill out it to take a dip in the pool. Modern ships will have two or even three pools, sometimes including one in a covered solarium that can stay warm year round.

One thing to keep in mind is that swimming pools on a cruise ship might be smaller than you imagine. Remember that water is heavy, so having too large a pool up on the top of the ship could cause problems. Still, pools are large enough for dozens of bathers at once.

Try Your Luck in the Casino

Nearly every cruise ship you sail will have a casino; it’s a point of emphasis. Casinos are almost always centrally located on the ship, usually near the main promenade deck where there is lots of foot traffic.

Casinos are open when the ship is at sea, but closed in port. So most of your play will either be on sea days or in the evening as the ship is heading from port to port. Games include all your favorites including roulette, blackjack, craps, and slots. There are also some unique games you won’t find in most land-based casinos like coin-pusher machines that play for real money.

Careful, the payouts on a cruise ship are normally pretty stingy compared to many land-based casinos.

Get Your Mile in on the Jogging Track

A popular thing to do in the mornings, just about every major cruise ship will include a jogging track around the top deck. Only a couple of lanes wide, you might have to dodge a few people walking and a couple of deck chairs. That said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better view than the open sea while on a jogging track.

We’d suggest going early in the morning as more people come out as the day goes on. This causes lots of traffic on the track and makes it harder to jog. Running before about 9 a.m. should be feasible, but going for an afternoon jog is impossible.

Relax on Your Balcony

Row of balconies on a ship

If you’re fortunate enough to have booked a cabin with a balcony, then take advantage! There’s nothing better than spending some time just relaxing while watching the ocean roll by. Given how fast-paced most of our lives are these days, it’s the ultimate luxury to just be able to sit still in your own private space without having to do anything at all.

Balconies usually aren’t that large; it’s just enough space for a couple of chairs and a small side table. Still, they are big enough to get some fresh air and take in the view. Sitting out here in the evening as the sun sets is one of our favorite things to do on a cruise.

Pamper Yourself at the Ship’s Spa

All the major cruise ships have a spa where you can get tons of different treatments. Whether you want a massage, or manicure, teeth whitening, or any other thing under the sun, it’s likely the staff on the ship can accommodate.

Rates will vary across lines, but you can expect the cost of an hour-long massage to run about $100-150. Most spas will also give you a free tour so you can get a look before committing. We highly recommend you take advantage of the tours as you will be amazed at some of the facilities on a modern ship. We’ve even seen one spa with a “snow” room that has literal snow in it to help improve circulation in the cold air.

Tip: You can also usually purchase a day pass to hang out in the spa for much cheaper than a massage.

Watch a Movie on the Pool Deck Under the Stars

Ship's deck at night with movie showing

In the evening the pool deck crowd thins out considerably. To still utilize this space, the cruise lines often show feature films on the big screen that overlooks the deck. You can grab a pool chair or hang out in a hot tub and watch a flick.

In our experience the films are family-friendly, with them often being one of the newest superhero films. One more thing — sometimes the cruise line even serves free popcorn to movie-goers. It’s definitely one of the more unique places to watch a flick.

Enjoy Some Live Music Around the Ship

Are you a live music fan? In the evenings you’ll find live music being played at locations around the ship.

Styles vary, and the lineup will be mentioned in your ship’s daily planner. It’s almost always something easy to listen to (don’t expect any heavy metal), and usually the bands play covers ranging from classic hits to new favorites.

Find a musician you like, grab a drink, and settle in while you enjoy the evening.

Let the Kids Splash at the Waterpark

Splashaway Bay on Liberty of the Seas

As cruise ships get larger, that means more space for things to do. One popular addition is a waterpark for kids. They aren’t on every ship, but if you are sailing a vessel that’s been built or updated in the past several years, it’s likely to have one.

These waterparks won’t be confused with anything you might find on land, but for a cruise ship they can be impressive, including waterslides, splash pads, and more. One of our favorites is Splashaway Bay on Royal Caribbean ships (shown above).

This waterpark features tons of features that will soak any kid who plays. It also has a reserved area for kids who aren’t yet potty-trained so that they can enjoy as well (typically kids not yet potty-trained aren’t allowed in pools or water features for health reasons).

Spend Some Time (and Money) in the Arcade

If you have kids (or you’re a kid at heart), don’t miss spending some time in the arcade on the ship. They feature games ranging from air hockey to racing to shooting genres, and you can play them all with a swipe of your keycard.

Arcades can vary widely on cruise ships. We’ve seen large ones with dozens of games, and others that have been relatively small. Games are usually higher priced — expect it to cost $1-2 to play anything. We have been on cruises where there is a “Happy Hour” where arcade games are discounted 50% for a short period. Take advantage if you see this sort of deal. It’s a great way to spend an hour that the kids will love.

Grab a Bite to Eat… Around the Clock

Cruise ships and food go together like peanut butter and jelly. Every ship will have lots of places to eat around the ship, ranging from the buffet to the high-end steakhouse. But whether you just want a snack or a full-blown meal, you’ll always be in luck.

These days food is served somewhere on the ship around the clock. Of course the most restaurants are open during meal times. However, ships will usually have a 24-hour restaurant you can visit or at least a buffet that’s open extended hours.

So no matter when you get an urge, you can grab a bite to eat.

Watch the Game in the Middle of the Ocean

Is there a big sporting event happening while you’re on your cruise? It doesn’t mean you have to miss it just because you are at sea.

Cruise lines offer feeds of popular sporting events, such as NFL games, during the trip. And while not every ship has a sports bar, many do, making it the perfect place to watch. No matter, you’ll be able to find games being broadcast somewhere on the ship to enjoy while you sail.

Take in the Evening Entertainment

What do you do if you’re a cruise line and need to keep hundreds of people entertained at once? Put on a show!

These days most cruise lines have moved beyond the typical song and dance routines. Evening shows on cruise ships look more like Broadway. For instance, Norwegian has productions of Footloose and Kinky Boots aboard its newer ships.

No matter which line you sail, you’ll be impressed with the talent and production of these programs. Evening shows typically run twice a night, with a rotating lineup during the cruise so that you have something different each day of your cruise.

Get Your Workout in While Setting Sail

Cruise ship gym

When it comes to things to do on a cruise, not too many people consider working out. That’s a shame because cruise ships offer some of the best gym facilities you’ll find.

First, there is a wide variety of equipment in gyms; it’s not at all what you’d find at a chain hotel. From aerobic machines (treadmills, bikes, etc.) to weight lifting machines and dumbbells, there’s something for everyone. As well, gyms on cruise ships are usually spacious with plenty of room.

But what always wows new cruisers are the views. Gyms are usually high up on the ship with massive windows that look out over the water. It is one of the most breathtaking views you can imagine while getting a workout.

Catch Up on Netflix

There’s so many things to do on the ship, it might seem silly to talk about Netflix. We know, however, that some people’s favorite thing to do is catch up on all those shows they want to watch. And it’s your vacation; do what you want!

We personally love watching a show after coming in from a long day in port. After being in the sun all day, it’s nice to relax in the cool cabin. If you feel the same, bring along your tablet, phone or computer with your Netflix account.

We suggest that you download the shows at home beforehand. That way you don’t have to stream over the ship’s wi-fi, which can be choppy and expensive. Many ships also won’t let you stream over their connection.

Order Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, or a Midnight Snack from Room Service

One of the guilty pleasures on a cruise is that you can order room service and eat in your pajamas. Every cruise line offers room service.

Most of the time breakfast is free, but there is normally a small charge for lunch, dinner, or late-night meals. Rates are usually around $8 per trip, but you can order whatever you want. Other lines do charge ala carte, so your bill can rise or fall with how much you order.

One thing to remember is that it’s customary to tip the staff that brings your meal a few bucks.

Book an Excursion For Your Day in Port

Small boat in blue water for a cruise shore excursion

While there’s a lot to do on the ship, there’s also a lot to do in port. The best way to explore the area is on an excursion. You can always just plan your own day, but it’s much easier to pick from a menu of options and have your day planned for you. Excursions do exactly that.

Every ship has an “Excursions Desk” that you can visit to learn more about all your options, ask questions, and book your spot.

While these day trips can get pricey, we suggest that passengers book at least one excursion during their trip. They can offer some of the most memorable moments of your entire cruise and an opportunity to do something that you would never be able to experience back home.

Enjoy Some Quiet Time in the Library

Cruise ships have libraries, and compared to other parts of the ship, they are barely used. Inside you’ll find plenty of books covering all genres from poolside paperbacks to serious historical volumes.

What some folks may like is that the libraries are a nice quiet spot out of the way. If the pool is too loud and you simply want to get away from some of the crowds, head to the library for some peace and quiet.

Play a Board Game or Some Cards

Usually near the library you can find a game room on a lot of cruise ships. If you want some time out of the sun, head here to see what they offer. The board games are basic — checkers and chess — and there are usually decks of cards.

While there will be tables in the game room, don’t think you are stuck playing there. Take the games with you to find a spot to play (you’ll often see people playing near the pool in the fresh air), just be sure to return the games when you are done so that other passengers can enjoy them.

You can also bring your own favorites and play whenever you want.

Get Online to Send a Selfie Home

Want to show off what you’re doing on your vacation? You can, even if you are in the middle of the sea.

Cruise ships all have Internet service. While it can be expensive (expect to spend $20-30 per day), there are often “social media” packages available for cheaper. If you’re online, then snap a few poolside selfies to post to Facebook, Instagram, or send back home to let everyone know you’re enjoying your vacation.

In addition, online access gives you the chance to check in back home, catch up on emails, and keep up with the news even while you’re in the middle of the ocean.

Learn a New Game in the Casino

Cruise ship casino with slot machines and table game.

Have you always wanted to play blackjack but have been too intimidated? Or maybe you want to try craps but are scared of losing money?

If you’ve ever wanted to try a new game, a cruise ship casino is a great place to start. Ships will have beginner lessons on all sorts of games. Best of all, they are free to play while learning. You’ll see the times listed in your ship’s daily schedule, but classes are usually in the morning when the ship is as sea.

Simply show up and the staff will walk you through the games and let you play some practice rounds to get you up to speed.

Play in a Slot Tournament on the Ship

Slot tournaments are simple — get the highest score at the end of a certain time and you are the winner. Ships often have tournaments during the day in casinos and they can cost little to enter — about $20 or so.

Prizes vary, but even if you don’t win, it’s a fun way to spend some time in the casino without having to spend a fortune.

Bid on a New Piece of Art

If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you might be surprised at how heavily the art auctions are promoted on the ship. You’ll receive lots of flyers, and you’ll see the artwork for sale as you walk around.

Styles range the gamut, so just about everyone can find something that they would like to bring home. If a piece catches your eye, talk to the clerk to see what it costs. They can get you all set up to bid on the piece and help you get it home.

Play a Round of Putt-Putt

Cruise ship putt putt course

Putt-putt has become a favorite on a cruise. Most ships have a course that you can play 24 hours a day. Simply walk up, grab a club and ball, and start swinging.

What’s nice is that it’s an easy go-to when you have kids as they seem to love to play. It’s also an easy-going activity and only takes about 20-30 minutes to play a round. So when you’re bored or have a few minutes to kill before dinner, you can get a round in as easy entertainment.

And did we mention that it’s free to play?

Go Shopping… In the Middle of the Ocean

These days some sections of new cruise ships look more like a mall than a ship. Shopping is a big draw, with a number of stores offering everything from souvenir keychains to high-end expensive watches.

Even if you aren’t in the market for anything, going window-shopping is a fun thing to do on a cruise. One thing to note is that cruise lines will often have sales in their stores. We’d suggest scoping things out early on the cruise. If there is something you like, give it some time during your trip to see if it goes on sale before you buy.

Grab an Ice Cream Cone by the Pool

What’s better than ice cream on a warm day? Not much. That’s why cruise ships often have ice cream stations located near the pool. Sometimes it’s free soft-serve, other ships might have gelato that costs a few bucks.

If you’re out at the pool, grab a cone to help you cool off.

Play Ping-Pong to See Who Is Better

Ping-pong is such a simple game, but for some reason it brings out the competitive spirit. Maybe that’s why everyone seems to love to play.

On a cruise ship you are in luck. Ships have spots dedicated to the game, often with multiple tables in a place outside, but with minimal wind so that you can play even when it’s breezy. (Tables are normally located on the pool deck, tucked in a corner.) Just head up and pick up a couple of paddles (which are provided) to play.

Score Big in a Blackjack Tournament

Similar to the slot tournament mentioned above, casinos often offer blackjack tournaments as well. Pay the entry fee and do your best to come out in the lead at the end of the time. Be the big winner and you could go home with some cash or prizes.

It’s also a good way to get the hang of the mechanics of the game if you’re a beginner, without risking a lot of money.

Hit the Comedy Show For Belly Laughs

Think that the entertainment on the cruise ship is going to all be PG-rated? Most is, but the comedians that perform during the trip can get a little dirtier… and a lot funnier.

Many ships have comedy clubs while others simply have a lounge or theater where the comedian performs a set. As well, there is usually a “clean” routine earlier in the night and then a more adult routine late at night.

The comedians brought onboard may not be the biggest names, but they are often well-accomplished, including appearances on TV shows and specials.

Belt Out a Tune During Karaoke

Love to be the center of attention? Check out the karaoke on the ship. It’s may not be on your specific cruise, but some ships offer karaoke times where you can go listen to others sing their favorite songs… or try your own favorite tune.

Don’t be intimidated — everyone is there to have a good time, whether good or bad — but we have been to some shows where the singers are top-notch.

Buy Your Next Cruise

Cruise ship docked at Port Canaveral

Did you know that you can book your next cruise… while still on your current cruise? There’s a big push to get you to book again, and the cruise like will offer perks to entice you. That can include discounts and onboard credit.

During your cruise you can stop by the booking desk to talk to an agent. They will explain all the options and help you find the perfect cruise to match your schedule and budget. Best of all, having an agent there can help you with any questions you might have about the trip.

Dress to the Nines for Formal Night

Part of the tradition of cruising is getting dressed up for dinner. These days there are usually two formal nights on a 7-day cruise and one formal night on shorter trips.

Formal nights give you a chance to glamour up and have a “date night” with your significant other.

You don’t have to get dressed up on these nights (if you aren’t dining in the main dining room, then casual wear is fine), but it’s a fun thing to do during your trip. And don’t think you have to get dressed in a formal gown or a tuxedo. Just getting a little dressier is fine. You will want to leave the t-shirt and jeans in the cabin.

Test Your Brain with Daily Trivia

The library on your ship will have a sheet of daily trivia and puzzles that you can pick up each morning. It’s a simple sheet with maybe a crossword puzzle, Sudoku, and some trivia questions. Lots of people like to work this into their daily routine as a fun way to get their day started.

There are also trivia contests later in the day where you can compete against other passengers for bragging rights… and maybe a small trophy.

Meet the Ship’s Captain

While there is an entire team of people who handle the navigation and maneuvering of a cruise ship, there’s one person that’s in charge above everyone else — the ship’s captain. And while you might think the captain is some far-away person who the passengers will never see, you usually get a chance to meet him or her during your cruise.

The captain often hosts a welcome party or some other get-together on the ship where you can meet and get a picture. Note that the pandemic has changed this some as cruise lines don’t want the captain to get sick!

Try Your Luck at Bingo (And Possibly Win Some Dough)

While it might seem old-fashioned, bingo is big on cruises. Best of all, you can win some cash playing. Cards are for sale before the games begin and usually cost around $10 each. Games are normally played on days at sea.

Get a bingo on your card and you could sail home just a little bit richer as there are cash prizes often given to the winners.

Dance All Evening (’80s, White Parties, Disco Themes)

Pool deck hosting an '80s glow party.

Dance parties are a popular thing to do on a cruise in the evenings and late-nights. There are clubs that play music, but the big events are the themed parties that usually take place on the pool deck at night.

The theme will differ among cruise lines, but some of the popular themed dance parties are the ’80s (everyone dresses like a flashback to the 1980s), white parties (dress in all-white), and disco themes.

Don’t worry if you don’t have anything that matches the theme. While it’s nice to dress up, you won’t be shunned if you don’t. Just be sure to have a good time!

Try to Win a Sports Tournament

Volleyball, soccer, free-throws, ping-pong… if you think you’re good enough then enter one of the tournaments that the cruise line hosts.

These games usually aren’t too competitive, but a fun way to to pass the time while at sea. They are normally hosted on sea days; just check your daily planner for the schedule. Sign up, and you could take home bragging rights as the best ping-pong player on your cruise. You might even get a medal or a trophy to prove it.

Get Away From the Kids in the Adults-Only Area

Not every ship has it, but many have an area on the pool deck that’s reserved only for adults, such as the Serenity area on Carnival.

What we find is that often not only are the spots kid-free, but they are just less crowded in general. If you’re looking for a spot to get away, it’s a great choice. You’ll often find a dedicated pool or hot tubs, seating, and a bar, meaning you have everything you need to enjoy the day, just without as much noise or as many people.

This is a great place to visit if you want to enjoy a space that’s a little quieter.

Get a Professional Photo Taken

From the moment you board the the ship, you’ll see the ship’s photographers out to take souvenir photos for your cruise. As well, they are prominent on formal night when many people are dressed up for the evening.

If you’d like a great photo, then take a couple of minutes to pose for the photographer. They feature professional lighting and backdrop and can work with you to get the perfect picture. Best of all, it’s free to take the pictures. You only pay if you decide to purchase the photo in the ship’s gallery.

Try Your Luck With Scratch-Off Tickets

We mentioned that the ship’s casino has some games you don’t normally find on land. That includes the coin-pusher machines that use actual coins and even electronic “skill” games where you normally win a prize but win cash instead.

One unique thing we’ve seen on some ships are their own scratch-off lottery tickets. You can buy a ticket, and if it wins, you cash in.

Get Romantic With the Ocean Air

Maybe it’s the relaxed mood that comes with being on vacation. Or maybe it’s that everyone is dressed in a little less around the pool. Or maybe it’s that there’s plenty of adult beverages around. No matter the reason, cruises definitely spark romance between couples.

If you have a balcony cabin, then you have an opportunity to open up that door and let in the wonderful ocean air and the sunshine to the cabin while you enjoy each other’s company. Just know that balconies aren’t completely private (sounds can travel and there are usually gaps around dividers) if you do decide to get frisky, so keep it in the room.

Take a Nap!

Is a nap a little boring for a vacation? Sure. But can it be one of the best things ever? Absolutely.

Remember, your time on the cruise ship is yours. While there is no shortage of things to do, don’t think you have to go 100 miles per hour the entire cruise. Sleep in, take a nap, just relax. Spend your cruise doing what you want to do.

Do Some Major People Watching

There’s hardly a better place to do some good old-fashioned people watching than on a cruise. We’re not talking about staring at folks as they go about their vacation. We’re talking about just simply sitting in a spot, watching people pass.

Major areas like the pool deck and the main promenade see nearly everyone on the ship pass by at one point or another, and they have lots of seating. It’s relaxing to sit down, have a drink, and just watch as everyone on the ship eventually passes by.

Try New Foods

Cruise ships are one of the best spots ever to try new foods. Whether you are a foodie or simply want to expand your palette, take advantage.

First, there are a number of restaurants within a close proximity so you don’t have to go far to try something unique. Literally within steps of each other can be an Asian restaurant and an Italian restaurant.

Second, while not every restaurant is free, many are. That means you can try new things without worrying about if you will like it or not. After all, if you get something and don’t like it at a free restaurant, you aren’t out any money.

Ship-Specific Things to Do on a Cruise

So far the items we’ve covered apply to most, if not all cruises. But every cruise ship is different. Below, we cover some things to do that are available only on some ships or cruise lines.

Get Racing in a Go-Kart

cool cruises to go on

One of the most unique things you can do at sea is to race go-karts . Norwegian Cruise Lines allows you to do just that on several of their newer ships.

The speedways on these ships feature tracks that twist and turn, and even span multiple decks. You’ll be in control of your own electric car as you race against other passengers around the course. Now it does cost money, but it’s a sure way to get your adrenaline pumping while at sea.

Ride on a Roller Coaster

Carnival is making waves with its new ships like Mardi Gras and Celebration. Not only are they completely different ships compared to the rest of Carnival’s fleet, but they also feature the only roller coasters at sea.

Strap in and hang on as the ride takes you all around the top deck of the ship. It’s a ride that just a few years ago wouldn’t even be imagined, but the cruise line has made it a reality — and one of the more memorable things you can do on a cruise ship.

Practice Surfing on a Standing Wave

Flowrider standing wave on Royal Caribbean

Many Royal Caribbean ships have a water feature on the top deck that’s called the Flowrider. This ride is free, and spits out a thin layer of fast-moving water. With some practice you can ride a boogie-board or a special surfboard over the water, carving back and forth.

What if you fall down? Don’t worry, everything is padded. All that should be hurt is your pride (lots of people like to hang out and watch the surfers try their luck).

Ride a Zipline… Across the Ship

How big are cruise ships these days? So big that you can zipline across them. Several ships, including those from Royal Caribbean and MSC have zipline rides that will sail from one end of the ship to the other. So you can sail over the ship as it cruises over the water. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Just be sure before you strap in that you aren’t afraid of heights!

Take a Turn on a Waterslide

Ocean Loops waterslide

While older ships might not have them, most newer ships come with waterslides onboard. And before you think these are simple slides that make a turn or two and let you out… that’s normally not the case.

For example, Norwegian has the Ocean Loops (pictured above) — an extreme slide that juts out over the side of the ship. After a nearly vertical drop, you’ll go out over the side of the ship before doing a sharp turn back. And did we mention the clear tube so you can see the water below?

Go Ice Skating at Sea

We can’t think of anything that seems more unlikely than ice skating while sailing the Caribbean. Yet many Royal Caribbean ships have an ice rink. While it’s used for performances put on by the entertainment staff, there is also a chance for passengers to skate as well.

Look at your daily calendar for the times. Most of what you need — including skates — are provided for you. Be sure to bring long pants and socks. You’ll need them to skate.

Have Some Fun in Bumper Cars

Another Royal Caribbean activity on some ships is the chance to ride bumper cars while at sea. Passengers need to be at least five years old to ride tandem, but eight years old and above can drive their own car.

Don’t worry, you won’t go fast enough to get hurt, but the bumps can come suddenly enough that you might not stop laughing while you drive around.

Take a Class You’ve Always Wanted to Learn

On many higher-end cruise lines, classes are a big draw. Whether it’s learning more about the history of a country or port you’re visiting or learning some new cooking skills under the leadership of a chef, it’s a fun way to get something more “cultural” out of your cruise.

Classes often have a fee associated. You’ll be able to find out more once you are on your cruise.

Listen to The Beatles Play (Or at Least a Cover of Them)

The Cavern Club in Liverpool is where The Beatles got their start. The Cavern Club on Norwegian Cruise Lines is a re-creation of the famous club on some of the ships.

Walk into the dimly-lit joint and you can get a drink, hang out, and in the evenings there is a recreated Fab Four that plays covers of the band. If you’re a fan, it’s a must see. Even if you aren’t, it’s a fun thing to check out while on the ship.

Pour Your Own Beer

Pour your own beer

Want to get a cheap beer? Suds on a cruise can cost a bit. It’s normal to pay between $6-8 for a beer.

But some cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are putting in self-serve taps. You swipe your card, pour your beer, and you are charged by the ounce. Best of all? You don’t have to wait on a bartender for a beer, and it’s also among the cheapest options on the ships. We’ve found beers for about $5 a glass.

Get Your Drink Made by a Robot

One of the more unique things you’ll find a cruise, some Royal Caribbean ships have the “Bionic Bar.” What makes this special is that it’s a robotic arm that grabs all the ingredients and makes your entire drink without human interaction (you even order from an electronic pad). While it might not replace the traditional bar anytime soon, it is something unique to try on your cruise.

See How Fast You Are on an F1 Simulator

F1 simulator

If you love to race, you already know some ships have go-kart tracks. But what if you want to go faster? Some ships, including those from Norwegian and MSC have F1 simulators. This includes a full-sized car replica that you sit in and wide screens to make you feel like you really are driving around the course.

Jump 10 Feet in the Air with the Sky Pad

Royal Caribbean has a feature on some ships — a huge sphere that sits high atop the ship. The massive ball contains the Sky Pad. It’s a thrill where you are attached to bungee cords via a harness and then start jumping on a trampoline.

What’s surprising is how high this can make you jump. You can choose to free jump, or there are also virtual reality headsets that allow you to play games as you jump (such as blocking virtual soccer balls). Either way, it’s unique to be jumping so high while you are on top of a cruise ship.

Get a Taste of Virtual Reality

Norwegian has a place called the Galaxy Pavilion on some of its newer cruise ships. If you have kids, they will likely beg you to go.

The area features a ton of virtual reality games. From a Jeep ride that moves as the virtual reality headset takes you on a run from chasing dinosaurs to walking a balance beam high above a city to rescue a kitten, the experience can make you feel like you are really there.

The Galaxy Pavilion does cost extra, but it’s a pretty memorable thing to do on a cruise and the entire family will have fun.

No Shortage of Things to Do on a Cruise

The good news is that whether you like it quiet and relaxing, or you love to be on the go your entire vacation, there’s something for everyone on a cruise. There are dozens — if not hundreds of things for you to do. But the most important thing is to remember that your time is your own on vacation. Spend it how you want without worrying about if you’re making the “most” of your trip.  

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Cool Breezes and Warm Seas: Planning Your Perfect Summer Cruise in 2024

By Carnival Cruise Line

Ready to dive into the world of summer cruise planning? Whether you’re dreaming of soaking up the sun in the Caribbean , exploring the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean , savoring fresh tacos in Mexico or setting sail to the glacial frontiers of Alaska , it’s time to gear up for a journey you won’t ever forget. 

Summer cruise scheduling and planning is an adventure all in itself, which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you navigate these waters with ease while you’re having a blast on your Carnival vacation. Discover the ins and outs of planning shore excursions, the kinds of fun summer activities you can expect on board a Carnival cruise, our top summer destinations and more! Let’s get started.

Summer Fun On Board

Okay, imagine it— you’ve just stepped on board your summer Carnival cruise. The entire ship is now yours to explore and enjoy! If you want to cool off, dive into fun with Carnival’s thrilling onboard waterparks , relax by one of your ship’s pools with a refreshing drink in hand, or sit on deck and enjoy the ocean breeze.  

When it’s time to refuel, choose from delicious dining experiences across the ship. And don’t worry about the kids— Carnival has you covered with kid’s clubs , exclusive teen hangouts and dining options the whole family can enjoy , guaranteeing an unforgettable vacation experience for all!

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Carnival also hosts special summer events like the Memorial Day celebration— a fun and festive start to the summer— the 4th of July, summer solstice and tropical themed dance nights on the deck. 

How to Plan Your Summer Shore Excursions 

Let’s talk off-ship adventures! If you’re wondering how to book your summer shore excursions, you’ve come to the right place. First of all: if you prefer to relax and enjoy the quiet moments on board, you really can’t go wrong. However, we do highly recommend them! We partner with top-tier tour operators across the world to bring you some of the most incredible shore excursions and experiences that you absolutely won’t want to miss.

Reserving your summer cruise excursion is as easy as browsing through our selection of available excursions , then booking directly through ! Before you book, make sure you have the following:

  • Internet access
  • An email account
  • A fully deposited cruise booking
  • Your cabin level booking number
  • Registration through

You can book your shore excursion before you set sail up until the “Pre-Sail cut-off time,” which is the night before your departure at 11:59pm Eastern Time (around the same time you’re so excited that you can’t sleep). After this time, excursion booking will be available on departure day on board your ship. We strongly suggest making Pre-Sail reservations so you can nab a spot on your dream adventure!

Still have questions about how shore excursions work? Click here to read our Shore Excursion FAQs .

Best Time to Start Planning for a Summer Cruise

It probably goes without saying that when it comes to cruise planning, timing is everything. It’s generally considered best to book around 6 – 12 months before you want to set sail so that you have your pick of itineraries, sailings, excursions, cabins and more. You can also keep an eye out for cruise deals that may pop up during the planning period! 

6 Summer Cruise Packing Tips

cool cruises to go on

Whether you’re a type-A planner, a spontaneous adventurer or something in between, packing the right items for your cruise is an absolute must. Here’s are some quick tips to remember next time you’re packing for a summer cruise:

  • Sun Protection is Essential : It’s fun soaking up the summer sun, but a sunburn isn’t! Always remember to pack sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, plus hats, sunglasses and cover ups to protect your skin. 
  • Don’t Forget a Backpack : No matter what you’ll be doing on your summer cruise, one thing is for sure: you’re going to need a backpack. It’ll be your trusty sidekick for all kinds of adventures, and your stash for essentials like sunscreen, water, electronics and more.
  • Bring Any Over-the-Counter Medications You May Need : While you’re exploring the world, you may encounter ailments like headaches, allergies or an upset stomach. Never fear! You can come prepared with travel-sized versions of any over-the-counter medications you use regularly, or might need during your trip. We recommend keeping them in a travel-friendly pouch so they’re easily accessible if you need them. Your future self will thank you!
  • Roll, Don’t Fold : Rolling your clothes can help you avoid unsightly wrinkles and maximize your luggage space, allowing you to pack that extra outfit for unexpected occasions. For items that tend to wrinkle easily, try rolling them with tissue paper to keep them smooth and wrinkle-free upon arrival.
  • Bulky Items First : Rolling clothes is a game-changer, but let’s face it—some things just won’t roll! Start packing with the bigger items like your tennis shoes (perfect for your outdoor adventures) and layer them at the bottom of your suitcase. Don’t let them sit empty! Stuff those shoes with small essentials like socks, belts, and other accessories to maximize room in your luggage.
  • Wear your Layers : To save valuable packing space, think about layering your travel outfit. Even when heading to a warm destination, packing a denim jacket or cozy sweater is a good idea for cooler evenings or chilly air-conditioned restaurants!

Click here for more summer cruise packing tips .

Summer Destinations You Can’t Miss 

Not sure where to sail? Check out these popular destinations to help with your summer cruise scheduling!

cool cruises to go on

Ready for a Caribbean cruise that promises all kinds of fun in the sun? Celebration Key , a dreamy Carnival exclusive destination, boasts a mile of white sand beach and the largest fresh water lagoons in the Caribbean (based on publicly available data of surface area measurements as of 01/22/24) for all your aquatic adventures. At Mahogany Bay , located on Roatán Island, you can dive deep into the island’s colorful culture and explore its stunning coastline. Last but certainly not least, exclusive destination Half Moon Cay is a slice of tropical paradise that invites total relaxation with warm shores and crystal-clear waters.


cool cruises to go on

The Mediterranean is where history meets elegance, a breathtaking blend of beauty and discovery around every corner. Málaga , one of Spain’s oldest cities, was influenced by both the Romans and Moors to create a city budding with character. Santorini’s dramatic cliffs, sparkling blue waters, and iconic architecture tell their own stunning story– and it’s one you definitely don’t want to miss. Over in Malta , this little-yet-lively island packs a punch with its bustling historic streets and unique flair. Prepare for the journey of a lifetime through some of the most enchanting spots in the Mediterranean!

cool cruises to go on

Maybe you’d rather cruise to the sparkling shores and ancient wonders of Mexico? We wouldn’t blame you! Cozumel offers a large variety of entertainment for all who visit, but especially for divers— it boasts some of the best coral reefs in the entire world! Ensenada , known for its stunning coastline and delicious cuisine, also features charming streets and bustling markets. Meanwhile, Costa Maya has an irresistible blend of beaches and fun-filled excursions that suit every traveler’s preferences. 

cool cruises to go on

Alaska’s awe-inspiring wilderness and lively communities await! This summer, think about cruising to Alaska and getting a taste of this stunning northern frontier. Ketchikan , known as the salmon capital of the world, is famed for its historic waterfront and passionate fishing community. Larger than NYC, Sitka stands as the largest city-county in the country, jam-packed with mountains, green forests and a blooming community. Don’t forget Juneau , surrounded by ice-capped mountains, and offering a perfect path to fresh air and the great outdoors.

Your Summer Cruise Planning Checklist

Ready to set sail this summer? Let’s just make sure you have everything you need for smooth sailing. Here’s a checklist to guide you through your summer cruise scheduling and planning:

  • Choose your destination
  • Choose your travel dates
  • Set a budget
  • Select a cabin
  • Book your cruise!
  • Research & book shore excursions
  • Prep your packing list

Ready for the summer cruise of a lifetime? No matter how and where you decide to soak up the sun, the real secret to an epic cruise is making the most of every single second. We hope this guide to summer cruise scheduling and planning sets you up for success with some excursion and packing tips, plus destinations you absolutely can’t miss. Whether you’re diving into adventure or lounging in relaxation, always remember to embrace the fun and let the good times roll!  Ready to find your dream summer cruise vacation? Click here to get started !

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12 Themed Cruises You Should Have On Your Radar In 2024

T aking a cruise is an experience unlike anything else. Days at sea on a ship full of entertainment and relaxation make for a fantastic vacation. But what if you want even more from your cruise? A theme might be what's missing. In addition to all the usual cruise experiences, themed cruises allow fans of a particular artist, lifestyle, hobby (or even animal), to celebrate their passion on the high seas with activities, events, surprises, and sometimes special guests.

There are dozens of themed cruises on offer each year, usually hosted by major cruise lines like Norwegian , Carnival, and Royal Caribbean. But don't let their numbers fool you. According to  Business Insider , themed cruises are rapidly climbing in popularity, and some trips are selling out in record time. That means it's important to find your dream-themed cruise and reserve your tickets as early as possible.

Fortunately, even if they're sold out, most themed cruises will let you join a waiting list, so there's still hope! Here are 12 themed cruises that will set sail in 2024 and are well worth boarding, either now or the next time they hit the high seas.

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The Emo's Not Dead Cruise

If you truly know it's not a phase, the Emo's Not Dead Cruise is perfect for you. Gather with fellow emo fans for four days (and nights) of concerts, activities, and even a private party at Great Stirrup Kay in the Bahamas. Over a dozen bands will perform, including Yellowcard, Senses Fail, and Armor for Sleep. Alongside themed activities like a masquerade ball, cruisegoers can also enjoy surprisingly cheerful activities like a bellyflop competition in the ship's pool.

The first Emo's Not Dead cruise was in 2022. Cruisegoer and emo fan TheReelChris shared highlights on  YouTube , calling it "EPIC." Fans in the comments section agree, with Schecterplayer92 adding, "This was one of the best experiences of my life." With a killer lineup and entertaining activities scheduled, it seems like Emo's Not Dead 2024 will also be a rad experience. The cruise will be hosted on the Norwegian Pearl, leaving from Miami on February 26 and returning on March 1, 2024. But what would an emo-related cruise be without a little sadness? Unfortunately, the cruise is already sold out. If you're interested, you can  sign up for the waiting list  and hope.

Meow Meow Cruise

Some of us know that no matter how great a vacation might be, cats would make it even better. Meow Meow Cruise has solved that problem. While guests unfortunately aren't allowed to bring their own furry friends aboard Virgin Voyages' Scarlet Lady, the four-day cruise will give them their feline fix in plenty of other ways. 

Activities include cat-themed trivia and a scavenger hunt. But the best part may be communing with fellow cat people (many of whom stroll around the ship wearing cat ears). You'll also be able to mingle with real cats -- one of 2024's ports of call is Key West, where you'll find the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and its community of about 60 friendly polydactyl kitties, many of them descended from one of the author's own pets.

It's hard to find reviews for Meow Meow Cruise, but the fact that this themed cruise has been going on annually since 2015 speaks for itself. The 2024 Meow Meow Cruise sets sail from Miami on February 21, with a return date of February 25. Tickets are still available, but to be sure you don't miss out, consider booking right now.

In My Cruise Era

Sure, cruises are great — and cruising is a multi-billion dollar industry — but is anything more popular than Taylor Swift? For those who can't imagine anyone saying "no" to that question, there's no better cruise than In My Cruise Era. While not officially affiliated with Taylor Swift, this themed cruise is a passionate fan homage. Swifties will be able to dress up in their favorite Taylor-inspired looks, exchange friendship bracelets, perform their idol's songs during karaoke sessions, and more. We're also guessing there will be of lots impromptu song breaks throughout the ship from Taylor's extensive catalog.

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas will host this cruise, which sets sail from Miami on October 21, 2024 -- which, as People Magazine points out, is one day after the Eras Tour will be in the city. Fans lucky enough to attend the concert can continue their Taylor euphoria for four more days on the high seas. Since this is a new themed cruise, there aren't any reviews, but based on the positive fan vibes from Eras Tour concerts and movie viewings, among other events, we're guessing it's going to be a great time for Swifties. Swifties must agree, since the cruise is already sold out. Cancellations do happen, though, so hopeful fans can join the waiting list.  Contact the cruise's organizers to sign up.

Disney's Halloween On The High Seas

Go on just about any cruise-related blog or website and you'll see that Disney Cruise Line's Halloween-themed cruise, officially called Halloween on the High Seas, is a popular favorite. As you probably expect from Disney, this themed cruise is perfect for a family vacation , so it's not too scary. The cruise is hosted on multiple Disney Cruise Line ships, and each one is decorated with the care and attention to detail you'll find in most Disney-related enterprises. The Pumpkin Tree is the highlight of the decor, with pumpkins that eventually appear on its branches and transform into lit and unlit jack o'lanterns.

Halloween on the High Seas also features Halloween activities (including a trick-or-treating night) and exclusive Halloween-themed desserts. Disney cruises in general are known for their opportunities to meet the studio's beloved characters, and during the Halloween on the High Seas cruises, some of those characters are in costume. Notably, Disney Cruise Line's official site tells us, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, and Clarabelle Cow will be dressed as the Sanderson Sisters -- who wouldn't want to see that? 

This magical mixture of whimsy, fun, and exclusive opportunities is the perfect way to cast a spell on Disney fans of all ages. Luckily, Halloween on the High Seas is held during a number of different times in September and October, so you and your family should be able to find a place on board!

The Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise

Sure, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies might be a little on the cheesy side, but let's be honest: lots of us dream of being in one in real life. You can get a little of the real-life Hallmark movie experience by visiting some of the movies' filming locations , but now there's a way to have an even more immersive experience: The Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise.

Passengers will get to meet Hallmark Channel movie stars, attend panels and photo ops, and get to see a new Hallmark Christmas movie before its world premiere. Maybe best of all, passengers can take part in lots of Hallmark Christmas movie-inspired activities, including tree lighting and cookie decorating -- all while wearing their favorite ugly Christmas sweaters.

2024 is the first year of the Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruise. It was originally intended to be just one cruise, but a second one was added after the first one sold out. As of now, two Hallmark Channel Christmas Cruises are scheduled for 2024. Both go from Miami to the Bahamas and back and last four days in November. ... And both are sold out. But Christmas is a time of miracles, so if a Hallmark Channel Christmas experience on the high seas sounds like your dream come true, sign up for the waiting list as soon as you can!

Hurtigruten Northern Lights Cruises

Themed cruises are often about fandoms and hobbies. But Norway-based cruise line Hurtigruten offers a themed cruise that's about something even bigger: the Northern Lights . There are several Northern Lights-themed cruises out there, including some luxurious options by Cunard. Unfortunately, the Northern Lights aren't always visible, but Hurtigruten stands out by offering a Northern Lights Promise for cruises scheduled between September 26 and March 31 and lasting longer than 11 days. If the Northern Lights aren't visible during your cruise, they'll give you another one. So if you're serious about seeing the Aurora Borealis, this is the company to choose.

The Northern Lights are the focus of Hurtigruten's eponymous cruises, but there are also other things to do on board, including scientific lectures and photography lessons. There are excursions, too -- notably a dog sledding option. Passengers who've taken one of Hurtigruten's cruises unanimously praise the stunning fjords and landscapes you can admire from the ship and during excursions, not to mention their experiences of seeing the Northern Lights. Some warn that the ships aren't as luxurious or modern as many other cruise ships, primarily because Hurtigruten's ships are also functional vessels intended to transport and deliver mail to various points on the Norwegian coast. Still,  Cruise Critic reviewers like cmolaison praise the friendly crew, the surprising level of comfort, and the "stunning vistas" you'll see, saying he and his family "highly recommend" taking a Hurtigruten cruise.

Cruise & Crop Crafting Cruises

If the perfect vacation for you is a combination of R&R and crafting, you're in luck! There are several crafting-themed cruises. One of the most popular is organized by Cruise & Crop, with ships around the world hosting different crafting- and arts-themed trips. This makes them the most accessible themed cruises on our list, with different price ranges, departure points, itineraries, and ports of call. One thing all crafting cruises have in common, though, is groups of like-minded people exploring their creativity amid the other joys of cruising.

For instance, one of Crop & Cruise's 2024 offerings is a Mexican Riviera cruise aboard Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas, featuring scrapbooking and other papercraft classes taught by artist Barb Warne. The ship departs from Los Angeles on April 19, returning April 26. Many Cruise & Crop cruises sell out quickly, so if this idea has sparked both your wanderlust and your creativity, be sure to check their list of 2024 cruises and reserve as soon as you can.

Star Trek: The Cruise

For seven days and nights every year, thousands of Star Trek fans gather to be a part of a fandom extravaganza at sea. Star Trek: The Cruise is an experience that features celebrities aboard (2024's guests include LeVar Burton and Wil Wheaton, among many others), costume and cosplay events, and lots of fun activities. 

But what makes Star Trek: The Cruise truly unique is that audience participation is very much encouraged. Passengers and celebrity guests are all considered the crew of one great, big, intergalactic vessel. Passengers get to interact with the guest stars in events like karaoke battles, and stars share parts of their earthly lives with Q&A sessions and even glimpses at other projects they may be involved in.

The first Star Trek: The Cruise was held in 2017 and since then it's been a fan favorite. Star Wars and cruising aficionado Aaron Bossig writes on  Trek that many fans go on the cruise every year, and proudly wear t-shirts from the previous ones. He calls Star Trek: The Cruise "an extra special convention experience." 2024's edition will be held on the Mariner of the Seas, departing from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on February 22 and returning on February 29.

Literature Festival At Sea

Once a year, aboard the legendary Queen Mary 2, passengers can mingle with writers, poets, journalists, and critics in a full-blown literary festival in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Literature Festival at Sea invites writers in all genres to host round table discussions, participate in Q&As revolving around their work and areas of expertise, host workshops, and converse with passengers.

Whether passengers want to participate as much as possible or just attend a few events, the Festival seems to be an excellent addition to a typical Queen Mary 2 voyage. On TripAdvisor , passenger Artemis C writes of her experience at a previous Literature Festival at Sea that "the whole week was a joy". 

2024's lineup features crime novelists, journalists, historians, and more, for what's sure to be a fascinating week of discussion and discovery. If you'd like to combine an elegant transatlantic cruise and a literary experience, 2024's Literature Festival at Sea will take place from November 13-20, departing from Southampton, U.K., and arriving in New York. Cunard has also launched an Australian Literature Festival at Sea, scheduled from December 11-16, 2024, on the Queen Elizabeth, which departs from and returns to Sydney. 

Chefs Making Waves

Many cruise lines are proud of their food offerings. Some cruises feature dishes created by world-famous chefs, and others even host food and wine festivals. But no culinary cruise event seems quite as, well, fun, as Chefs Making Waves. This culinary-themed cruise will set sail for the first time in 2024. Onboard will be a number of beloved celebrity chefs, including Anne Burrell and the Cake Boss himself, Buddy Valastro. Cooking demos and, of course, food tastings of all kinds (including sit-down meals, desserts, and street food) are on the menu. Best of all, Chefs Making Waves is an all-inclusive cruise, so everyone can eat and drink without having to pay extra!

There will be all of the usual cruise-related fun, from swimming to excursions, to help you work up an appetite. There will also be unique games, with some of the chefs participating in events like bingo and a celebrity chef sing-off. If this sounds like an awesome cruise, you're not the only one who feels that way. Chefs Making Waves will take place from March 25-29, departing from Miami with excursions in Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas ... and it's already sold out. But you can still  sign up for the waiting list . With a little luck, you'll be able to enjoy this delicious, themed cruise experience.

Soul Train Cruise

Imagine a festival with a lineup featuring some of the best soul and R&B acts of all time. Now imagine it's on a relaxing cruise ship. This dream is actually reality -- it's called the Soul Train Cruise. The popular themed cruise will be celebrating its 11th year in 2024 and the lineup is on fire. Dozens of groups and artists will perform, including The Temptations, Boyz II Men, and En Vogue. Passengers can also learn how to dance like people did back in the old school days of Soul Train's TV show, with lessons from some of the show's actual dancers. There will also be wine tastings, Q&A's, comedy shows, and a lot more.

With all of this on offer, it's no surprise that the Soul Train Cruise is sold out. But sign up on the waiting list and keep your calendar free from January 27-February 3, and you may get lucky. If you do, the cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale, with ports of call in Tortola (British Virgin Islands) and St. Maarten.

The Gothic Cruise

The Gothic Cruise is an annual event held on an ordinary cruise ship. Goths mingle with "norms" but have their own private events on board, mostly DJ sets and concerts. There's also a masquerade ball, with Goths decked out in their finest Victorian-style garb ... as long as it meets ship safety requirements, that is. The cruise's website specifies that simulated weapons aren't allowed and notes that hoop skirts are fine for the ball but not in the ship's dining areas, "due to the close proximity of the tables". And yet, the Goth community thrives on these cruises -- and even gains norm fans along the way. 

In a Porthole Magazine article about the Gothic Cruise, longtime attendee Spike Pittman says that many mainstream passengers are wary of the Goths at first, "But by the end they're begging to get into our private events." Some even book their future cruises to coincide with the Gothic Cruise, even if they don't plan on attending every event. 

The Gothic Cruise has been held since 1989. Cruising doesn't seem very Goth, but in the end, the article points out, it comes down to what all themed cruises offer: a sense of community (in this case, one that often stays up all night and sleeps during the day). If this moves your little black heart, the 2024 Gothic Cruise will be held on the Norwegian Escape (but book through the Gothic Cruise's website for private event access), departing from Orlando on March 2, and returning March 9.

Read the original article on Explore .

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The perfect way to end your summer

Make summer memories that will last a lifetime on an August cruise with Celebrity. Sail the glamorous coasts of Italy, France, and Spain, a feast of glorious architecture, exquisite art, and gelato in every shade of the rainbow. Or head for Greece for endless sandy beaches and breathtaking antiquities. Further north, take in the dramatic landscapes and cool cities of Iceland.

August is still a great time to cruise Alaska, with bears fishing for spawning salmon and opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and flightseeing over vast, creaking glaciers. If you’re in the mood for the warmth of the tropics, head to the blissful islands of The Bahamas, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, surrounded by dazzling reefs. In August, you can also visit the Galapagos Islands, thrilling at any time of the year, for close encounters with the sea lions, iguanas, and giant tortoises that inhabit these wild, volcanic islands.


Featured august cruise destinations, italy, france & spain.

Enjoy a sun-drenched adventure to some of Europe’s most glamorous ports in August. Explore sleepy medieval hill villages in Provence, or wander through the winding lanes of the Cinque Terre fishing hamlets, spilling over impossibly steep cliffs. Marvel at the ruins of Pompeii and the extraordinary art treasures of the Vatican. Sample tapas in the sunshine in Palma, Mallorca’s elegant capital, and make time before or after your cruise to explore Barcelona’s wonderful art nouveau architecture.

On our August cruises to Alaska, choose from four thrilling itineraries and multiple sailing dates. Cruise from Seattle, Seward, or Vancouver and spend seven nights sailing through the rugged beauty of the last frontier. Go whale watching in the spectacular Kenai Fjords National Park. Ride an ATV in Icy Strait Point or fish for salmon in Sitka. Head to a private island for the chance to see brown bears and sea otters before dining on a local feast.

On a cruise to Greece, admire the graceful Parthenon in Athens and feast on seafood in Thessaloniki. Shop for island fashions in the whitewashed alleys of Mykonos Town, and soak up Santorini’s fiery sunsets. Travel back through time, from the archaeological site of Olympia, near Katakolon, to medieval Rhodes Town, and the elegant Venetian mansions lining Chania’s old harbor. Make time for the white sandy beaches of Zakynthos and swimming in the crystal-clear waters off Hydra.

Bimini, Grand Cayman & Mexico

Bask in the warmth of the tropical sun on a cruise to unforgettable ports like Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Bimini. Admire the marine life at Grand Cayman’s Stingray City, or stroll the magnificent Seven Mile Beach. In Cozumel, snorkel among shoals of tropical fish over rainbow-colored corals, taste tequila, or take a day trip to the clifftop Mayan city of Tulum. Tiny Bimini is the place to unwind on pure white sands and swim in water that’s an almost unbelievable shade of turquoise.

The Galapagos

All-included August cruises to the Galapagos satisfy all kinds of travelers, from nature and animal lovers to adventure seekers. A certified naturalist will be your guide, and you’ll get deep knowledge of this exotic and enticing destination while on board. All of our Galapagos cruises come with guided excursions, gourmet food and drinks, and much more. Snorkel alongside sea turtles, board a Zodiac and spot blue-footed boobies, and end the day with a delectable meal.

Follow the routes of the stark, volcanic landscapes of Iceland, shaped by fire and ice. Bathe in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik and join a trip from Akureyri to spot whales. Admire Iceland’s thundering waterfalls, creaking glaciers, and steaming geysers.

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Lily-Rose Depp Slides Into Black Cap-Toe Slingback Shoes at Chanel Cruise 2024 Show

Mikelle Street

Mikelle Street

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Lily-Rose Depp went stylish but relaxed in classic black Chanel slingback shoes at the luxury brand’s cruise 2024 show in Marseille, France today.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - MAY 02: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Lily-Rose Depp attends the Chanel Cruise 2024-2025 show on May 02, 2024 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)

The model is often spotted wearing the brand, having been an ambassador since 2015. She’s worn Chanel slingbacks before while walking around Los Angeles with friends, but has also worn other styles from the brand like trainers .

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - MAY 02: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Lily-Rose Depp attends the Chanel Cruise 2024-2025 show on May 02, 2024 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Marc Piasecki/Getty Images)

The celebrity sat front row at the outdoor presentation. Held on the rooftop of Le Corbusier’s Cite Radieuse, the showing is the latest in Virginie Viard’s traveling collections. Others in attendance included Sadie Sink, Marion Cotillard and Nathalie Emmanuel.

Lizzo Sizzles in Strappy Sandals at Met Gala After Party

Venus williams wears silver gianvito rossi shoes to met gala 2024 after parties, matt damon's wife luciana barroso swapped stilettos for veja sneakers for a comfortable night of met gala after parties, about the shoe.

Depp naturally wore Chanel for the occasion. The 24-year-old slipped into a pair of black-on-black shoes that retail for $1100 and feature the brand’s famed interlocking C logo on the 3.5-inch blocked heel. Most of the shoe, including the strap that creates the slingback, is made of black lambskin. The almond-shaped toe of the style is made of grosgrain. Chanel lovers can also purchase a pair of the same design in white with a black toe.

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Chanel and the History of the Slingback

There’s a long history between the slingback silhouette and Chanel. Created by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel herself in 1957 , the style was often two-tone in beige and black or black and white. After Coco’s death in 1971, Karl Lagerfeld took over designing and continued the brand’s iterations on slingbacks. Following his death in 2019, Virginie Viard became the brand’s creative director and the shoes have remained a staple of the brand. They are one of many contributions Chanel has made to the fashion industry, where it remains one of the largest and most successful luxury brands today.

MARSEILLE, FRANCE - MAY 02: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY - For Non-Editorial use please seek approval from Fashion House) Lily-Rose Depp attends the Chanel Cruise 2024-2025 show on May 02, 2024 in Marseille, France. (Photo by Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

Chanel owns Massaro Paris, a bespoke atelier which creates all of the company’s couture footwear. Founded in 1894, Massaro Paris didn’t begin working with the Chanel brand until the 1950s. Massaro was responsible for deciding to put elasticized leather on the slingback in place of a buckle.

Lily-Rose Depp

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Jon Batiste Stayed Comfy in These Cushioned Hoka Sneakers Ahead of the Met Gala 2024 Red Carpet

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Cruise packing list: the essentials chosen by experts.

This cruise packing list includes all of the essentials – plus items you didn't know you needed.

Essentials to Pack for a Cruise

Downloadable Cruise Packing List

Packing for any trip takes some planning, but cruise vacations present a unique challenge – particularly due to limited stateroom storage space and sparse (or overpriced) options for purchasing accidentally forgotten items.

To help you decide what to pack for a cruise, we've curated a list of essentials recommended by cruise experts who regularly sail the high seas. Download the U.S. News Cruise Packing List pictured above to reference while you pack, and read on to learn more about the recommended items and where you can purchase them if needed.

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Carry-on bag

Regardless of whether you bring checked luggage, you'll need some type of carry-on bag . Since checked bags need to go through security as they do at airports – and because you may need to wait for your stateroom to be ready, just like at a hotel – you'll want to be able to access any necessities pre-cruise. These might include a swimsuit, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat for the pools; medications; a bottle of water; and your smartphone, of course. You'll also want to keep your credit card , passport, and any other important documentation or valuables close by. A carry-on backpack works especially well since it can double as a day bag for shore excursions.

Checked bag

While you'll likely want to bring a checked bag, consider sharing one with your ship mate(s) to maximize stateroom storage space. Or, consider bringing medium-sized luggage, such as the The Medium by Away , for checking in.

Read: The Best Checked Luggage Options

Garment bag

Halfday The Garment Duffel in blue against white background.

Courtesy of Halfday

While many cruises are less formal these days, a garment bag can still be handy for keeping select garments wrinkle-free (since clothing irons are prohibited on cruise ships). Top-rated options include the The Garment Duffel by Halfday and the Briggs and Riley Baseline 22" Carry-On 2-Wheel Garment Bag , both of which double as traditional luggage. If you pack your luggage right, you can make this your only suitcase, in addition to a carry-on bag.

Packing cubes or vacuum-sealed bags

Packing cubes are one of the best ways to organize your belongings for travel – especially in a tight cruise ship cabin. Top-rated options include the Veken packing cubes on Amazon (usually priced around $20) and all of the Pack-It Sets by Eagle Creek. The Pack-It Starter Set is especially ideal for cruising since it includes a garment folder designed to minimize wrinkles in clothing. Some cruisers also swear by vacuum-sealed bags , even though they can be a bit more tedious to pack.

Carry-on caddy

Ashley Kosciolek, senior cruise writer at The Points Guy, recommends a carry-on caddy , particularly if you're flying to your embarkation point. "I have a fabric sleeve that slides down over the telescoping handle on my carry-on to provide pockets for my passport, phone, coffee – all the things I used to have to juggle during check-in."

Digital luggage scale

The compact Etekcity scale – approximately $10 on Amazon – can weigh bags up to 110 pounds and help you avoid overweight baggage fees.

Bungee cord

"Especially for travelling with the family, I use a bright-green bungee cord to strap multiple pieces of luggage together," says Aaron Saunders, senior editor at Cruise Critic. "It's a lifesaver when boarding trains or disembarking ships, particularly when you ' re maneuvering a stroller and a little one around, too."

Luggage tracker

Front and back of Apple AirTag against white background.

Courtesy of Apple

A luggage tracker isn't just useful for air travel. Attach one to your checked cruise luggage to see when it has arrived in your stateroom (or if it's stalled at security). Chris Gray Faust, executive editor at Cruise Critic, doesn't go anywhere without her Apple AirTag after her luggage got stuck in Vancouver for over a week last June. "My AirTag use has expanded beyond my checked luggage, too. I also have AirTags in my handbag, my carry-on, my keychain and my wallet."

Cruise insurance

Due to the unpredictable nature of travel, cruise insurance can be a wise purchase ahead of your voyage. Travel policies can cover unforeseen expenses such as trip interruptions and medical emergencies.

While a passport is often required for cruising, rules can vary depending where you're traveling. Determine whether you need a passport for your upcoming cruise ; if you do, triple-check that you have it packed the day of departure.

Credit cards and local currency

When cruising internationally, consider getting small amounts of each country's currency to have on hand in port. Depending where you go, some local markets may only accept their own country's currency, not U.S. dollars or credit cards. It's also nice to leave cash gratuities for cab drivers, tour guides or servers; in the European Union, 1- and 2-euro coins are convenient and appropriate tips. In ports with vendors that do accept credit cards, be sure to carry a Visa or Mastercard , as some shops and restaurants do not take American Express .

RFID wallet

It's important to protect your travel documents with an RFID wallet like the TIGARI Passport Holder or the ZOPPEN RFID Travel Passport Wallet , the latter of which can hold multiple passports for a family. "Thieves and hackers can steal your credit card information just by using skimming devices," explains Jill Schildhouse, a cruise expert and U.S. News contributor who always travels with her RFID wallet. "And because your wallet wasn't even touched, you won't know it happened until you see your credit card statement."


Pack more than enough of your prescription medications as well as any over-the-counter medicines you'll need, just in case you encounter an itinerary change or travel delay. While some travelers find it easiest to bring personal medicines in their prescription bottles, others find travel pill boxes to be especially helpful for organization. The Sukuos Weekly Pill Organizer is a well-rated option, with detachable boxes for each day as well as compartments for morning and evening medications.

Sheet masks

Since flying can be so drying for the skin, Faust likes to use sheet masks. "My first step the night before I board (because you should always fly in a day early) is to hydrate with a sheet mask (usually from a Korean brand like Ballon Blanc or FaceTory )," she says. "If I'm meeting up with a friend, I bring an extra sheet mask so our trip starts out feeling a bit like a spa day!"

Magnetic hooks

A surprising fact: Cruise ship cabin walls are made of metal, which means you can optimize your storage space by hanging some of your belongings on magnetic wall hooks. The hooks are perfect for holding bulky coats or boots if you're traveling to a colder climate. You can also use them for wet gear on expedition ships and adventure cruises, or for drying out bathing suits after days at the beach or pool. Purchase a set of magnetic hooks for less than $10 on Amazon .

Like hotels, cruise ships can only provide so many hangers. Bring a few extras from home or pick up a pack from your local dollar store. You might also try packable hangers .

Wrinkle release spray

Whether or not you bring a garment bag, a travel-size bottle of wrinkle release spray, such as Downy Wrinkle Releaser spray , is useful to have on board. If you combine a spritz or two with the steam from your shower, you should be able to smooth out some of the wrinkles in your clothing.

Laundry detergent

"If you don't want to pay for laundry service or spend precious time in the self-service laundry room, bring a small bottle of laundry detergent like Woolite to wash key items in the sink: underwear, bras, quick-dry hiking shorts, bathing suits, etc.," recommends Schildhouse. "Every cruise ship shower has a retractable clothesline you can extend to drape the clothes over while they dry. This can also help cut down on the number of items you need to pack."

Over-the-door organizers

Over-the-door organizers with clear or mesh pockets allow you to find your feminine hygiene products, makeup, jewelry and other small items quickly – without having to hunt through multiple drawers or a tight stateroom closet. It's a good idea to purchase a two-pack like this option by Simple Houseware Store (available on Amazon), since you can also use one to store shoes and maximize floor space.

Poo-Pourri bottle against white background.

Courtesy of Poo-Pourri

It goes without saying, but to say it anyway: A toilet spray like Poo-Pourri is a must for your cruise packing list. Any smell – pleasant or not – will travel quickly in small staterooms with small bathrooms. Buy a travel-size bottle to keep in your cabin.

Shampoo and conditioner

Cruise experts agree it's best to bring your own shampoo and conditioner in travel-size bottles, as most cruise ships don't provide separate shampoo and conditioner anymore; instead, they offer all-in-one dispensers. Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic, likes to pack her shampoo and conditioner in the popular Cadence Capsules , noting she also uses them for another essential: sunscreen. "These capsules are easy to fill, never leak and have clear labels, which you can customize," she says.

Wine or Champagne

Most major cruise lines allow each guest to bring one to two bottles of wine or Champagne on board, while some luxury cruise lines allow even more than that. Disney Cruise Line also gives guests the option to bring a six-pack of beer instead of wine or Champagne. Be sure to consult your cruise line's policies when packing for your trip.

If you plan to bring wine or Champagne, you'll likely need a corkscrew . While some cruise lines may prohibit corkscrews, others allow them onboard; check your cruise line's policy before sailing. Bringing wine with a twistable cap may be a good alternative.

Portable humidifier

Cruise ship cabins can feel dry – especially in the colder months. A portable humidifier like the GENIANI Erie (around $25 on Amazon) can provide some relief. At about half a pound, this USB-powered device will fit neatly into your checked bag or carry-on luggage. The travel humidifier features two mist settings and has an automatic shut-off option, plus a night light to help you see around your cabin in the dark.

International travel adapter or converter

You'll likely need a travel adapter, since cruise lines homeported in international locales may have different electrical sockets and voltage strengths than you're used to in the U.S.

McDaniel recommends the OneWorld65 Travel Adapter . "I've used a lot of different travel adapters over the years, but this is my favorite. It charges up to six devices at once, has USB and mini-USB options, and works in over 200 countries," she says. "While many cruise ships have U.S. outlets, most usually also have European outlets. This adapter lets me take advantage of that outlet I'd otherwise ignore." She also notes that while cruise lines are getting better about having more outlets on their ships, it never feels like enough to keep your phone, camera battery, tablet, watch, headphones/earbuds and laptop charged (times two or more if you're traveling with others).

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Sound machine

Cruise experts agree a sound machine can be helpful for blocking out the sound of late-night partiers returning to their staterooms (or your snoring spouse). Schildhouse likes the LectroFan Micro 2 for cruising. "It plays non-looping white noise and doubles as a speaker to play tunes while you get ready for dinner."

Tech organizer

Open Bagsmart Electronics Organizer fills with cords against white background.

Courtesy of Bagsmart

A tech organizer like the BAGSMART electronics organizer case – available on Amazon for about $20 – can store all your cables, plugs, SD cards and earphones in one zippered, compact bag that will fit easily in your carry-on luggage. Despite its small size, it can also hold bulkier items like a small laptop charging cord.

First-aid kit

A first-aid kit is a good thing to have on hand no matter where you go. You can make your own using supplies you already have at home, or buy a premade first-aid kit on Amazon for about $20. While all cruise ships have medical facilities, it's useful to have these items with you on shore excursions, especially those involving active adventures.

Hand sanitizer

Regularly washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer is essential to staying healthy while traveling, especially on a cruise ship. Stock up on a few travel-size bottles of hand sanitizer (less than $2 each at Walmart) ahead of your trip. If you're looking for something with less alcohol that's also less drying, check out Babyganics Alcohol-Free Foaming Hand Sanitizer .

If you're a parent, you know that your infant or toddler needs a very specific size – and in some cases brand – of diapers, which may very well be unavailable to you on your cruise ship or in the ports of call. Bring more than enough diapers to play it safe at sea.

Most cruise lines also require that non-toilet-trained infants and toddlers wear swim diapers in the children's water play areas. For the sake of sanitation, kids must be toilet-trained to use the pools on cruise ships.

Many cruisers like to personalize their cabin with stateroom door decor. Not only is it a fun tradition, but decorating the door can make it easier to locate your room, too. You can find lots of fun decor ideas on Pinterest as well as Amazon.

" Duct tape is a life-saver in many situations," says Kosciolek. "I primarily use it to attach my printed luggage tags, but it's also great for mending clothing issues on the fly and fixing broken luggage until you can get it back home."

"As a parent, I like to bring lanyards with sleeves so my kids can wear their keycards and not lose them," says Erica Silverstein, senior cruise editor at The Points Guy. "We hang them on the magnetic hooks I put on the wall, so they don't get lost in the cabin either."

Sea-Bands pack and bands in case against white background.

Courtesy of Sea-Bands

If you're prone to (or think you may be prone to) motion sickness on cruise ships, put a pair of Sea-Bands on your cruise packing list. These soft wristbands use acupressure to prevent and minimize nausea and vomiting on board, and they are a reusable, drug-free alternative to traditional anti-nausea medications. You can purchase Sea-Bands on Amazon or at most drugstores.

If you need something a bit stronger than Sea-Bands (or to use in conjunction with them), Dramamine remains a tried-and-true solution for both preventing and treating sea sickness. Choose the Less Drowsy formula to avoid getting sleepy, and consider the chewable tablets (dye-free) if traveling with kids who are prone to queasiness. Many travelers like Bonine as a remedy for sea sickness as well.

Mix-and-match clothing

Pack a variety of mix-and-match items, also known as a capsule wardrobe, for your cruise. To do this, choose a base color – black or navy blue – for your wardrobe. Next, pack plain, neutral-colored items, then add a few patterned items to the mix. Remember to include a variety of styles (T-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, rompers and jumpsuits) and also consider reversible clothing and outfits that can easily transition from day to night.

Sports jacket or blazer

Adam Coulter, executive editor of Cruise Critic UK & Australia, recommends packing a sports jacket or blazer. "While cruise lines are getting more casual, what happens if you get that last-minute invite to meet the captain, or there's a meet and mingle where you want to look put together? A jacket will always elevate your elegance (even if you're wearing a T-shirt underneath)," he says. If you're in need of a travel blazer, Bluffworks has some well-rated options; the Gramercy , in particular, gets great reviews.

Themed party attire

Some cruise lines host themed voyages or parties on select nights where passengers can dress up to participate in the fun. You'll want to review your cruise itinerary before you go so you're prepared for the festivities. Bring your buccaneer gear if you're sailing aboard Disney Cruise Line; ships host fun events like Pirate Nights, pirate-themed dinners and a "Pirates in the Caribbean" show. On "The Love Boat"-themed cruises offered by Princess Cruises , pack your platform boots, glittery dresses, bell-bottom pants and halter tops for the line's 1970s-inspired disco party on the deck. No matter the theme, you can't go wrong with a couple of captain hats .

Travel wrap

A travel wrap is a versatile accessory that's useful for any trip – even more so on a cruise ship where it can get chilly when the sea breeze picks up. Available in nearly 10 different colors, J.Crew's Oversized Cashmere Wrap is a timeless staple, albeit a bit of an investment; for something less expensive but well rated, try this off-brand pashmina shawl on Amazon .

Packable jacket

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket in black against white background.

Courtesy of Patagonia

If you're cruising to a cold weather destination such as Alaska, you'll need something heavier than a travel wrap, but not so bulky that it requires additional luggage. Consider a packable jacket that folds easily and compactly; travel experts highly recommend the Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket .

Packable hat

If you're headed to the Caribbean or another warm weather destination, you'll want a beach hat to protect your scalp and face from the sun. This packable straw hat by FURTALK (available on Amazon for about $25) is a stylish women's option that features a broader brim and offers UPF 50 sun protection.

Comfortable walking shoes

Allbirds Wool Runners in pink against neutral background.

Courtesy of Allbirds

Even if you never step foot off the ship, there is still plenty of walking to do between bow and stern. Closed-toe shoes or sandals with straps are safer than flimsy flip-flops when boarding a slippery tender into port (if your ship can't dock directly). Check out our recommendations for the most comfortable walking shoes , which include the popular Allbirds Wool Runners and the ECCO Yucatan Sandals .

Water shoes

Depending on your scheduled shore excursions, you might also need a pair of water shoes. For something that's both functional and fashionable, Crocs' Classic Clogs are a good option. While not totally waterproof, the Native Jefferson is a water-friendly, versatile option.

Versatile heels

"Over the years, I've learned that the key to avoiding overpacking is to bring one neutral pair of low heels that match every single eveningwear outfit I've packed – from flowy pants to dresses," says Schildhouse, who loves her Rockport Tabitha 2-Strap Heeled Sandals . "They have a cushioned footbed and shock-absorbing heel so you can dance the night away in the club, and a 3-inch block heel with traction to keep you steady on your feet even if the ship's rocking a bit."

Reusable water bottle

A reusable water bottle is useful for filling up at water and beverage stations on your cruise ship; it's also a necessity for shore excursions.

Bathing suit

Pack a couple of swimsuits for the pools, hot tubs and any shore excursions.

Swim cover-up

Another must-have for your cruise packing list is a swimsuit cover-up or two. These are great for wearing over your bathing suit during days at sea, as well as on excursions – especially if you're going on a Caribbean cruise . Amazon sells a variety of stylish, affordable cover-ups, and you can never go wrong with a classic white button-down shirt .

Dry bags are useful for shore excursions where you're likely to get wet but don't want the same to be true for your phone, camera and other precious items. "I use the Outdoor Research Unisex Dry Isolation Pack   and have never had so much as a drop of moisture enter it, which is important for me – it keeps my cameras, documents and important items from getting wet," says Saunders, adding that it functions as a great everyday backpack when it's not raining.

If you need more than one dry bag, cruise expert Brittany Chrusciel recommends the Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bag Set . "Having these dry bags, in a variety of sizes, means I can bring all my gear along during a Zodiac cruise or snorkeling excursion without having to worry about it getting wet."

Waterproof phone case

A waterproof phone case is also essential, especially if you plan to take photos. The Hiearcool Waterproof Phone Pouches (available in a two-pack) come with a lanyard so you can both protect your phone and wear it around your neck. They are compatible with most smartphones.

"I like to bring collapsible pails, small shovels , inflatable beach toys, a floppy Frisbee or other things to entertain the kids on the beach if we're going to a private island or beach destination," says Silverstein. "If you can inflate your own inner tube, you don't need to rent a floating mat."

Beach towel

"Although cruise lines provide guests with towels to take off the ship on excursions, they are often bulky and sometimes small," explains Chrusciel. "The Surfer Towel folds up to nearly nothing, so it takes up almost no room in your suitcase and is super convenient to pack in a day bag. What's more, its quick-drying technology means that the lightweight fabric won't be soaking wet when you need to pack up for the day and head back to the ship."

Towel clips

"Even though giant plastic towel clips shaped like a flamingo are a bit cringey, they make it easy to find your spot in a sea of sun loungers," says Chrusciel. "They also solve a common cruise problem: keeping your towel securely fixed to your chair while reading or sunbathing."

Reef-safe sunscreen

Reef-safe sunscreen SPF 40 against white background.

Courtesy of Badger

When choosing a sunscreen, look for something that's reef-safe; not only are these sunscreens safer for the environment, but they're also better for you . The active ingredients in reef-safe sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or a combination of both. Top-rated mineral sunscreen brands include Think , Badger and Raw Elements , all of which also sell lip balm with sunscreen (another essential at sea).

After-sun lotion

You'll want an extra dose of moisturizer if you've been basking in the sun. COOLA makes an after-sun body lotion that cools and hydrates the skin with aloe vera, agave and lavender oil. Previous buyers rave about this lotion, noting they appreciate that the scent isn't overpowering.

A good book

Sea days are the perfect time to kick back and relax with a book you've been meaning to read. Find an oceanfront lounge chair in a shaded area on the pool deck, or grab a cup of tea and settle into a quiet nook indoors. There's no need to pack more than one book, however, as many cruise ships have libraries.

What not to pack for a cruise

Power strip.

Many cruise lines do not permit power strips as they present a fire hazard, while others allow them as long as they are non-surge-protected. Instead of a power strip, purchase a portable charger such as this highly rated one by Anker , which can power up multiple devices at once. This can be especially useful for shore excursions. When packing for your cruise, also think about your luggage: If it has an included charging port, you may not even need to purchase an additional charging block.

Weapons and restraints

Firearms, handcuffs and the like are not permitted on cruise ships. This rule also includes toy guns on most cruise lines.

While most major cruise lines allow guests to pack a limited amount of wine or Champagne per person, they do not permit hard liquor. Of course, those of age can purchase cocktails at any of the bars on board.

Household appliances

Irons and steamers are not permitted on cruise ships, which is why the aforementioned garment bags, wrinkle release spray and packing cubes are recommended for keeping clothing tidy and neat. Coffee makers and mug warmers are also prohibited.

While you can technically bring you own, it's not necessary as hairdryers are available in every bathroom on most ships.

CBD and marijuana

CBD that's derived from hemp and contains 0.3% THC or less is legal at a federal level. However, each state interprets and enforces this law differently; for example, many states require a prescription for it. Due to the ambiguity of the laws, most cruise lines continue to ban CBD in any form.

Marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law, which means you cannot bring it on a cruise ship – even if you're legally able to purchase it in your home state for recreational or medical use.

Why Trust U.S. News Travel

For the U.S. News Cruise Packing List, travel writers Gwen Pratesi and Amanda Norcross tapped leading industry experts for their cruise essentials. They regularly update this checklist with new and useful items to pack.

You might also be interested in:

  • The Best Cruise Lines
  • The Best Adults-Only Cruises
  • The Best All-Inclusive Cruises

Vacation Ideas for Every Traveler

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