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- #1Viking Ocean Cruises#1 in Best Affordable Cruises
Launched in April 2016, Viking Sea is the second vessel in Viking's Ocean Cruises fleet. Carrying just 930 passengers, the ship's small size is designed to allow direct access to smaller ports such as Bergen, Norway, and Montreal.
Viking Sea's staterooms range from 270-square-foot Veranda Staterooms to the 1,448-square-foot Owner's Suite. All accommodations include balconies, flat-screen TVs, king-sized beds, complimentary Wi-Fi access and bathrooms with heated floors. Those who splurge on upgraded staterooms receive extra perks like priority reservations for excursions, spa treatments and specialty restaurants.
The ship's facilities include a fitness center, a Nordic spa (complete with a snow grotto), an outdoor gym and yoga area, a theater and a one-of-a-kind infinity pool on the stern of the ship that gives the illusion of swimming in the ocean.
When you work up an appetite, the Viking Sea offers a variety of dining options to quell your hunger. They range from casual Norwegian cuisine at Mamsen's to alfresco dining on the Aquavit Terrace. Recent passengers report a stellar onboard experience, describing the food as delicious, the ship as comfortable and the service as top-notch.
- #2Celebrity Cruises#2 in Best Affordable Cruises
Launched in 2012 and updated in January 2018, the 3,046-passenger Reflection sets itself apart with features like a top-deck Lawn Club and the Game On interactive activity center with flat-screen table games. Another highlight is the Alcoves, where guests can enjoy crowd-free cabana lounging (for an extra fee).
And with 12 restaurants, including seven specialty dining venues, passengers have plenty of choices when it comes to cuisine. As far as cabins go, 85 percent of Reflection's staterooms offer verandas, and the ship offers a wider variety of suite cabins than other Celebrity ships. All cabins come appointed with minibars and flat-screen TVs. Passengers who choose AquaClass suites receive extra perks, such as direct access to the spa and 24-hour butler service.
Recent passengers compliment the ship's layout, citing the pool areas are particularly comfortable and never overly crowded. Thanks to a 2-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio, cruisers can also expect personalized service.
- #3Disney Cruise Line#3 in Best Affordable Cruises
Disney’s newest ship, Disney Fantasy, launched in 2012 and underwent a dry dock in 2017 to introduce new features like the Marvel Super Heroes Academy, a "Star Wars"-themed command post and a Tiffany & Co. retail store.
Staterooms are designed with families in mind. Inside staterooms can accommodate up to four guests, and over 85 percent of the ship's cabins have an ocean view or a veranda. All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, minifridges and iPod docking stations.
Onboard entertainment is just as family-oriented, with Goofy’s Sports Deck activity center, a virtual sports simulator (for an extra fee), nightly live performances and 3-D movies. While younger guests play in age-appropriate youth clubs, adults can relax at the Quiet Cove Pool or enjoy an evening at one of the six adults-only bars and lounges.
When it comes to dining, the ship offers 10 themed dining venues, including two adults-only specialty venues, three main dining rooms and a new ice cream shop, Sweet on You.
- #4Disney Cruise Line#4 in Best Affordable Cruises
The 2,713-passenger Disney Magic is the oldest ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet (it first launched in 1998) but it received some updates in 2018, including "Rapunzel's Royal Dining Experience." The ship features family favorites such as the AquaDuck waterslide, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique dress-up shop and Edge, an interactive game center for tweens.
Disney Magic features diverse entertainment, including live shows, an open-air Wide World of Sports deck, three pools and a splash area for children younger than 3. Unique to the Magic is the teens-only Chill Spa. When it comes to dining, the ship offers eight eateries, including an adults-only specialty restaurant and buffet options. Recent cruisers gave the food quality mixed reviews.
In terms of lodging, 70 percent of cabins offer ocean views or verandas. All cabins are outfitted with flat-screen TVs, sitting areas and bathrooms with separate showers and tubs. Suites include extra perks such as concierge service and media libraries. Past cruisers noted that the service on this ship is up to Disney's standards, but so is the price tag.
In 2018-19, Disney Magic sails from Miami, New York City, San Juan, Puerto Rico and a variety of spots across Europe. It completes a number of transatlantic cruises, as well as sailings to the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe.
- #5Disney Cruise Line#5 in Best Affordable Cruises (tie)
The 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder first debuted in 1999 and was updated in fall 2016, rolling out new family-oriented amenities and entertainment offerings like meet and greets with Disney characters and Frozen, A Musical Spectacular.
The ship offers plenty of onboard activities, with 10 designated family areas, six youth clubs and seven adults-only spaces. While younger passengers play at age-appropriate clubs, grown-ups can relax at the adults-only Quiet Cove Pool. Infants and toddlers in swim diapers are limited to specified kids' wet play and splash areas (this is a requirement by the United States Public Health Service, not a Disney-specific rule).
In terms of dining, Disney Wonder offers six options, including one adults-only specialty restaurant. At night, adults can unwind and enjoy After Hours, a section of the ship that features three nightclubs and lounges.
Like the majority of the ship, staterooms are designed with families in mind. Interior staterooms can accommodate up to four passengers, while larger Suites can sleep up to seven. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs, seating areas and classic Disney designs. Recent cruisers noted the expensive cost of a trip on the Disney Wonder, but most felt the quality of service was top-notch.
In 2018-19, Disney Wonder departs from a range of ports, including Galveston, Texas, Port Canaveral (Orlando), Florida, Canada and California. It sails to destinations in Alaska, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and more.
- #5Disney Cruise Line#5 in Best Affordable Cruises (tie)
Last renovated in 2015 (after being introduced in 2011), the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream is one of Disney's largest, newest ships. Highlights include the 765-foot AquaDuck water coaster, a virtual sports simulator (for an extra fee) and theatrical performances that bring Disney animated favorites – like "Beauty and the Beast" – to life.
While the ship emphasizes family-focused entertainment with five specialized kids clubs, parents can enjoy the adults-only Quiet Cove pool and the Senses Spa & Salon. At night, a section of the ship called The District transforms into an adult oasis with host of bars and lounges. In terms of dining, the ship offers nine themed venues including two specialty adults-only restaurants.
Staterooms also cater to cruising clans, offering perks like sofa beds. Over 85 percent of cabins have ocean views or verandas. Those looking for extra space can opt for Concierge Suites, which range from 622 to 1,781 square feet.
While some recent cruisers commented that the ship is more expensive than other mainstream competitors, most said it was well worth the price due to the personalized attention they received from the staff.
- #5Royal Caribbean International#5 in Best Affordable Cruises (tie)
The 6,680-passenger Symphony of the Seas is the newest ship in Royal Caribbean's Oasis fleet. This massive ship – which set sail in 2018 and is the largest cruise ship in the world – has 2,200 crew members and features 18 decks packed with activities.
For heart-pounding fun, travelers will find a surf simulator, an indoor ice skating rink, two 40-foot rock walls, a zip line and a 10-story slide. Meanwhile, relaxation seekers can unwind in the spa, sip cocktails made by robotic bartenders or stroll through the Central Park-inspired neighborhood.
Onboard snacks and meals are served at more than 15 quick-service and sit-down eateries. The Main Dining Room is where the ship's traditional, complimentary dinners are provided nightly, but specialty options like a steakhouse, a bistro and a Johnny Rockets outpost are also available. What's more, cruisers can dine at Jamie's Italian, a restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
After filling up on gourmet fare, passengers can retreat to their cabins, all of which include work desks, flat-screen TVs and minibars. Guests can choose from 258-square-foot Interior Staterooms, some of which have virtual balconies with real-time views of the ocean, or opt for upgraded cabins with furnished balconies and up to 2,367 square feet of space. Select suites also feature two bedrooms, whirlpool tubs and dining rooms.
- #1Celebrity Cruises#1 in Best Affordable Cruises
The 2,852-passenger Equinox was introduced in 2009 and last updated in 2014. It offers a mix of classic Celebrity amenities and unique activities. The ship features 18 premium retail shops, a half-acre Lawn Club and the Hot Glass Show, where professional artists demonstrate glassblowing techniques.
Recent cruisers appreciated the variety of dining options on the ship, which include nine eateries ranging from light fare at AquaSpa Café to five specialty restaurants (extra fees apply) and the formal Silhouette Main Dining Room. Other highlights include the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and enrichment programs like cooking demos and dance lessons.
In terms of accommodations, 85 percent of the ship's staterooms offer verandas. Cabin categories include Inside, Ocean View, Veranda and Suite rooms, and all are appointed with flat-screen TVs, 24-hour room service and sitting areas. Suites offer extra perks like afternoon appetizers and butler service. Past cruisers assured that even if you don't splurge on a butler-serviced room, you'll still receive individualized attention, as everyone from the room stewards to the restaurant servers were friendly and helpful.
In 2018-19, the Celebrity Equinox offers a variety of itineraries in the Caribbean.
- #9Celebrity Cruises#9 in Best Affordable Cruises
Recently refurbished in 2016 (and first launched in 2008), the 2,852-passenger Celebrity Solstice offers a sushi restaurant and the Alcoves retreat (a private cabana area with dedicated attendants) in the Lawn Club. Other daytime activities range from spa treatments to cooking lessons to art classes. Young passengers ages 3 to 17 can also participate in age-appropriate youth clubs.
As far as dining goes, Celebrity Solstice boasts 10 restaurants, half of which are specialty spots that require an extra fee. Guests were pleased with the cuisine variety, and with a nearly 1-to-2 crew-to-passenger ration, the ship makes service a priority.
When it comes to lodging, 85 percent of Solstice's cabins feature verandas. Guests can choose from Inside, Ocean View, Veranda and Suite category cabins, all with amenities like flat-screen TVs, minibars and 24-hour room service. Those who spring for an AquaClass cabin receive additional amenities, like an upgraded room service menu.
- #2Celebrity Cruises#2 in Best Affordable Cruises
Launched in 2010 and most recently updated in 2015, the 2,852-passenger Eclipse is one of Celebrity's largest vessels. About 85 percent of Eclipse's accommodations include verandas, and those who splurge on suites and Aqua Class staterooms receive butler service and access to exclusive specialty dining. All cabins offer interactive flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
As far as activities go, travelers can stay active at the Lawn Club, lounge by three pools, participate in cooking classes and shop at a variety of upscale boutiques. In the evenings, cruisers can enjoy theme parties, comedy acts and Broadway-style shows. Meanwhile, kids programming (geared toward guests ages 3 to 17) includes karaoke, Xbox consoles and organized games.
When it comes to dining, past cruisers praised the variety of casual and formal choices. The ship offers 11 eateries, including five specialty venues where reservations are required and additional charges apply. From the room stewards to the restaurant servers, Celebrity Eclipse's staff was also a point of praise among recent guests.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.