Ready to experience the ultimate vacation of a lifetime? Imagine indulging in delicious gourmet cuisine, taking part in your favorite activities both on and off the ship, and exploring exotic destinations on one of the best cruises of the year. But with so many options available, how can you be sure to choose the perfect cruise for you?
Fear not! Our expert tips and insider information will guide you toward finding the cruise of your dreams. Get ready to set sail and create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.
Types of Cruises To Consider
Many different types of cruises vary in cost, from river cruises to mega-ship cruising to yacht cruising and beyond. Ocean and river cruises, for example, have some similarities yet lots of differences and target different ages and types of travelers.
For this post’s purposes, we will focus on the best cruises for 2022 on larger ships, which are the most readily available and approachable for families and couples overall. These ships have thousands of passengers (upwards of 1,000 to 4,000 guests, depending on the cruise line and ship).
Cruise Capacity: Health and Safety
If you are concerned about the number of people on a cruise ship in pandemic times, we would argue that cruising is one of the safest ways to travel during a pandemic and beyond. That was true pre-pandemic and will remain true afterward.
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) issued a statement supporting this in December 2021. We have always appreciated the measures cruise lines take to ensure it is the safest way to travel. That includes sanitization of the ship, cleaning all areas of the vessel, and the lengths they go to report these methods to the public. No other travel industry sector does so much, so publicly, for its guests.
Ports To Consider for the Best Cruises
The United States Embarkation Ports
One of the benefits of going on a cruise from the United States is that you can potentially drive to the port or quickly fly there from within the country. (Don’t forget to check if you need a passport if your cruise heads to other ports outside the USA.)
US cruise ports are plentiful! There are dozens of ports over the coastal United States, from California and Florida to Maryland, New York, and South Carolina.
Five of the most popular ones that are all near major airports and highways are the cruise ports of:
- Seattle, Washington
- San Diego, California
- Los Angeles, California
- Miami, Florida
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
All major cruise lines have a cruise leaving from one of the ports above.
Destination Ports of Call
Suppose you are interested in a cruise that goes to a particular region of the United States, North America, or the world. In that case, you will want to search by destination or embarkation port.
- For a cruise to Baja California (which sails into Mexico), leave Los Angeles.
- Do you want to cruise to Alaska? Search for cruises that leave from Seattle, Washington.
- If you want to sail to the Caribbean, you’ll likely depart from the Port of Miami, Tampa, or Fort Lauderdale. These are all Florida ports.
- Are you cruising to the Great Lakes? You’ll want to leave from the Midwest or Northeast, including Chicago and Boston.
- If you want to sail to the Mediterranean, in Europe, search for a cruise that leaves from Barcelona, Spain.
Best Cruise Lines To Consider
The best cruise lines are all names you’ve likely heard, even if you’ve never been on a cruise. However, if you’re starting to look into the world of cruising, some may be new to you!
Here are some of the best cruise lines to look into for your next cruise vacation:
- Celebrity Cruises
- Royal Caribbean
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Princess Cruises
- Disney Cruise Line
- Viking Ocean Cruises (they have a popular river cruise line too)
- Scenic River Cruises
- Holland America Line
- Virgin Voyages
- Emerald Cruises
Cruise prices will vary based on the following factors:
- Length of the cruise.
- Cruise destinations (or ports the cruise visits).
- The season you’re sailing.
- The number of guests in your cabin or stateroom (Most cruise lines allow two adults and two children, maximum.)
- Category of stateroom you book: inside, outside view, balcony or suite, for instance.
Additional Factors To Consider When Deciding What Cruise Is for You
Some other factors may influence your decision of what cruise you book, which you may not have previously considered.
It’s important to decide what amenities or bonuses you desire before booking your cruise. The following few sections will provide helpful tips when considering a cruise vacation.
Travel Agent Kickbacks and Perks
If you book a cruise with a travel agent, there is the potential to get an onboard stateroom credit to use on the ship. Many people use the credit for cocktails, dining reservations, or spa treatments.
If you like loyalty rewards, consider cruise lines that reward repeat cruisers.
For example, Disney Cruise Line has its “Castaway Club,” and Princess has its Captain’s Circle. Some enrollment is automatic after your first cruise, and others are not.
The ship-within-a-ship cruise category is for cruisers who want a large ship’s amenities, activities, and entertainment but the exclusive treatment of smaller cruises.
These are clubs, of sorts, within a cruise that you book before you reserve a suite, for instance, with access to a concierge level. In addition, you’ll gain privileged access to private pools, restaurants, and services like a butler 24/7.
Ship-within-a-ship cruises will cost you a little more than another category room, of course. But that’s because of the added services you’re receiving with it.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line has The Haven, and Princess has its MedallionClass.
Some cruise lines have private islands that are cool to visit.
Only that cruise line’s ships will visit them. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Caribbean itineraries go to their island, CocoCay. Disney Cruise Line’s Caribbean sailings go to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.
These islands are ideal for cruiser vacationers. They are complete with memorable excursion adventures, waterslides, rides (like zip-lines), bars, restaurants, and more.
Some cruise lines are more friendly towards multi-generational groups.
Disney Cruise Line has repeatedly gets voted the best cruise line for families, which is not a surprise to anyone! Other cruise lines aren’t necessarily known for their “youthful” activities. Rather than wave pools and rock-climbing, they focus on fine dining and casinos.
More children and families will be on cruises when kids’ school breaks occur, regardless of the cruise line. You can expect that during spring break, summer break, and winter break.
There are things to keep in mind to determine if a cruise is a right fit for your family, especially if you have young kids:
- Activities onboard, like laser tag, go-karts, ice-skating, and more.
- If there is childcare onboard, including what ages it covers. Onboard childcare means that you can check your kids into a “babysitter” service. They can be supervised and play with other children their age while you enjoy the cruise as adults-only for a few hours. Some cruise lines require additional payment for this service.
- Bathtubs: It may seem like a silly thing to consider, but if you have a young toddler who doesn’t bathe in a shower and you need a tub for bath time at night, you will want to check to see what the bathroom situation is in the cabins before you book. Some cruises have cabins with standing showers only, and others have tubs.
- Kids sail free: Sometimes, to entice you to book a particular cruise, a company will have promotions for “kids sail free,” as long as two paying adults are in the cabin.
The Best Cruises in 2023
There are so many different itinerary options, cruise lines, ports of call, and destinations to consider, so how do you decide on the best cruises this year? Check out this list of the top ten best cruises to take in 2023:
9-Night The Middle East on Windstar – Star Legend
Cruises to the Middle East will be a first for Windstar, beginning November 2023, on the all-suite, 312-guest Star Legend, which is already a top option for guests based on early bookings. With impressive UNESCO sights, beautiful beaches and wildlife, top-rated golf courses, amazing snorkeling, and diving, and of course, great shopping, there’s so much to explore in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar.
13-Day Antarctica Exploration – Seabourn Venture
Become a true explorer on Seabourn Cruises’ new ultra-luxury ‘ice-rated’ exploration ship. Touted as the world’s finest luxury expedition ship, Seabourn Venture carries two submarines which give travelers a unique opportunity to explore Antarctica’s stunning underwater ice cliffs plus a wealth of marine wildlife in their natural habitat.
The ship also carries a fleet of Zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) and two-person sea kayaks so that you can explore hard-to-reach regions up close. After a day of exploring the world’s most remote region, led by the ship’s 26-person team of scientists and naturalists, relax in sumptuous surroundings in preparation for your next day of exploration.
Including airfares to Buenos Aires and onward travel to Ushuaia (Argentina), this incredible cruise will take you across the Drake Passage to Antarctic Sound.
From here, you will explore some of Antarctica’s most spectacular locations, including the Aitcho Islands, King George Island, Deception Island, Elephant Island, and Brown Bluff. Follow in the footsteps of great explorers like Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton and retreat to a place that is still largely untouched by humanity. Antarctica is the wildest place on Planet Earth, and the majesty of its pristine natural landscapes have no peer.
On this incredible Seabourn cruise, everything is included in the fare. This compromises all food and drink (including fine dining), all shore excursions, lectures and presentations, exploration clothing, transfers, and flights from the UK to join the ship in Ushuaia. There are extensive facilities on board the ship, including fine dining restaurants, a lecture theatre, a fantastic spa, and an expansive fitness room overlooking the stern (rear) of the ship.
18-Night Hawaii to Vancouver – Koningsdam
Koningsdam stands as the crowning jewel in Holland America Line’s maritime fleet. Aptly named – with “Koning” translating to “king” in Dutch – it promises passengers a regal experience, boasting of its status as their most advanced and luxurious ship ever built, arriving after an eight-year wait.
On the brand-new Koningsdam, travelers will find an array of groundbreaking features. These include a classic French brasserie experience, two decks of stunning glass-roofed Lido Deck where films are shown under the stars, and an impressive theater complete with vibrant surround screens. The line has also forged a unique partnership with Washington State‘s oldest wineries. Families and solo cruisers alike can enjoy specially designed cabins tailored to their individual needs – still embodying all that is HAL.
Embark on a voyage that will take you to Hawaii’s most captivating isles. On Oahu, unwind at Waikiki Beach or go back in time and explore the somber historical site of Pearl Harbor. Marvel the active volcanos found only on Big Island before gliding through Maui’s waters via surf, ski, and sailboard adventures. Finally, get lost amidst Kauai‘s lush jungle-clad peaks for an unforgettable escape from everyday life.
7-Day Galapagos Explorer – Silver Origin
A UNESCO-protected archipelago of 19 islands, the Galapagos is a ‘bucket list’ destination for wildlife enthusiasts all over the world. From land iguanas to giant tortoises, the Galapagos is a ‘melting pot’ of species that has inspired writers such as Charles Darwin and Lord Byron. You can now follow in their wake on the first ultra-luxury expedition ship that was built specifically for exploring the Galapagos. Silver Origin is operated by the leading ultra-luxury cruise line Silversea Cruises.
Accommodating just 122 passengers at full capacity, Silver Origin is the newest ship to serve the Galapagos region. Immerse yourself in one of the world’s most fascinating natural landscapes alongside a team of Ecuadorian national expert guides. Unlike mass market cruise excursions, your days will be spent exploring the most spectacular coastlines in small Zodiac inflatable boats. Married to a fascinating evening lecture program, superb cuisine, and class-leading service, this is tipped to be the best seven night Galapagos adventure in 2023.
With everything included (flights, transfers, fine dining, drinks, lectures, expedition clothing, excursions, gratuities, and taxes), you can swiftly relax knowing everything is taken care of. During your action-packed week, you will stop at 16 different locations. You will get to meet marine iguanas and sea lions, hike up volcanos, explore lava tunnels, snorkel in crystalline waters, and trek across lava fields.
7-Night Panama Canal and More on Windstar – Star Legend
A top sailing is the Panama Canal, Cartagena, San Blas Islands & More itinerary, which goes from Aruba to Panama City (and the reverse). It includes a canal transit (a totally classic cruise option) but also goes to more unexpected places like Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands, plus Colombia. The perfect small ship cruise/warm weather escape.
Get ready for a special treat when we’re in the San Blas Islands. Windstar opens the Watersports Platform at the stern of the ship so you can enjoy all its complimentary water toys. And you’ll be treated to all the delights of their Signature Beach Party while you are here.
The coffee and chocolate (cacao) grown in this region are delicious. Be sure to try some, and if you have a chance, visit a farm where the crops are grown to learn how they’re produced.
7-Night Tropical Retreats – Oceania Vista
Entering service in May 2023, Oceania Vista is the newest ship in the Oceania Cruises fleet. Offering the ‘finest cuisine at sea,’ Vista brings several new cuisine concepts to the world of luxury cruising. Foodies with a keen interest in healthy cuisine will be impressed with Oceania’s new Aquamar Kitchen concept, which presents a fresh perspective on dining when on board a cruise ship.
With a focus on wellness and healthy eating, Aquamar Kitchen offers an “abundance of indulgence with none of the guilt.” All ingredients have health-boosting properties and are locally sourced to minimize the environmental impact. Unlimited alcoholic drinks, a traditional offering within the cruise sector, have been replaced with cold-pressed raw juices and super-food smoothies. The ship also carries an impressive menu of non-alcoholic wine, mocktails, and specialist health drinks from all over the world.
With its minimalist décor and uber-chic interior, Vista is expected to attract many first-time cruisers. Targeting a younger demographic, this incredible itinerary includes stops in destinations like Roatán Island, Cozumel, Harvest Caye, and Costa Maya. While all food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the ticket price, including access to the ship’s fine dining restaurants, some people will opt for the OLife Package, which includes a set number of shore excursions. This is the perfect taster cruise for people who want to try luxury cruising for the first time.
7-Night Alaska – Norweigan Bliss
Norwegian Bliss is a remarkable experience, combining the grandeur of its size with sophisticated amenities that invite guests to explore. From the immense 20,000-square-foot Observation Lounge on Deck 15 to various dining venues and top-deck entertainment options, this mega ship offers endless possibilities for an unforgettable cruise vacation.
With 4,004 passengers at double occupancy, it’s apparent why Norwegian Bliss has become so popular -guests are able to enjoy their choice of luxurious experiences without having to sacrifice any excitement or fun!
Experience the spectacular sights and sounds of Alaska without taking a long sabbatical. Cruise along its breathtaking coastline, with stops at iconic ports like Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau – America’s only state capital that can’t be reached by car! Venture further out to Glacier Bay or Icy Strait for their majestic ice formations before heading up north towards Anchorage – one of North American travelers’ favorite cruise destinations – where you just might catch sight of wild bears roaming in Denali National Park, Fairbanks, and Canada’s Yukon Territory.
7-Night Vibrant Greece & Turkey – Emerald Azzurra
Immerse yourself in the Billionaire lifestyle for a week and experience the ultimate in mega-yacht-style cruising with Emerald Cruises. Mirroring the dimensions of the world’s leading superyachts, the Emerald Azzurra accommodates just 100 passengers at full capacity.
With 72 crew members to look after your every need, the service levels on board this incredible yacht are some of the highest in the ultra-luxury cruise sector.
Due to her diminutive size, Azzurra can reach marinas that even smaller cruise ships cannot reach. Moor alongside superyachts of the rich and famous in some of the glitziest marinas in the Mediterranean, often right in the center of each destination. If you are looking for a truly unique experience to mark a special occasion such as a honeymoon or a milestone birthday, this could be the cruise itinerary for you.
Your yacht will stop at some of the Mediterranean’s leading tourist destinations, including Rhodes and Patmos in Greece and Istanbul, Bodrum, and Kusadasi in Turkey. Enjoy time spent at anchor in azure blue seas while enjoying the many watersport ‘toys’ available from Azzurra’s own boat deck. If you have ever wanted to experience the lifestyle of the super-rich, now is your chance!
10-Night Gems Of The Danube With Prague – Scenic Amber
Luxury river cruising is becoming extremely popular, and it’s easy to see why. Couples can visit some of the world’s most romantic cities in one holiday, waking up in a stunning new destination every morning. This incredible itinerary from world-famous river cruise brand Scenic Cruises includes stops in some of Central Europe’s most historic locations, including Vienna, Budapest, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, and Melk.
While most cruises on the River Danube include stops in Vienna and Budapest, very few include time in Prague as it is not located on the same river. This is what makes this itinerary so special because it includes two full days in Prague at the start of your holiday. Scenic provides overland transport to meet your river cruise vessel in Nuremberg (just three hours away from Prague by private coach).
For many first-time cruisers, river cruising is an excellent first step into the wider world of cruising thanks to incredible on-board cuisine, excellent accommodation, and the fact that river cruise terminals are always right in the center of their host cities. Some first-time cruisers are also reassured that rivers are flat and guarantee a smooth passage. River cruises are an excellent way to visit several inland destinations without the need for internal flights or the need for car hire, or use of public transport.
The Future of Cruising Is Bright
No matter the year, cruising is on a constant upward trend, with more people wanting to go on cruises each year. That is why the future of cruising is bright, with new ships sailing every year.
Going on one of the best cruises will only feed your desire to keep on cruising!
Mikkel Woodruff co-owns and operates Sometimes Home (https://sometimeshome.com/) and Sometimes Sailing (https://sometimessailing.com/) travel websites with her husband, Dan. They call the east coast of the United States home and travel domestically and internationally, motivating people to seek new experiences and explore new places through inspirational content.