Your next cruise may cost less money than you think.
Since a cruise is basically a package deal, with lodging, food and entertainment all included in one price, a vacation at sea is often a better value than a land-based getaway – if you choose wisely. To help you make the most of your travel budget, U.S. News ranked the following cruise lines based on a methodology that factors in itinerary affordability, health ratings and reputation among experts and travelers.
8. Costa Cruises
A member of the Carnival family, Costa Cruises is primarily based in Europe. The fleet offers lower rates than its competitors, particularly for its Mediterranean itineraries. Although it offers family-friendly amenities, Costa's ships are also well-suited to adults, with activities like dance classes and theater productions. Cruise rates cover meals served in the main dining room and at the buffet, but note that you’ll have to purchase a drink package to pay for alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages throughout the ship.
7. MSC Cruises
With a limited selection of North American departure ports, Swiss-based MSC Cruises caters primarily to European cruisers. But even if you have to fly to a foreign port, you'll find the cost of an MSC voyage to be much less than a typical European land vacation. The line allows you to sail to destinations around the world at extremely reasonable rates, with some Caribbean itineraries costing less than $100 per night. On top of that, children ages 11 and younger can sail for free throughout the year (subject to availability), while kids 12 to 17 can sail for free on select low- and midseason voyages.
6. Holland America Line
Whether you opt for one of Holland America Line's kid-friendly ships or sail on an adult-oriented itinerary, you'll find the cruise line to be a pretty good bargain, especially when compared to similar lines like Cunard or Silversea. But cutting costs doesn't mean skimping on service. Each ship offers one staff member per every two or three guests, meaning more personalized service than on more crowded vessels. Additionally, cruise fares include room service, afternoon tea and meals in the main dining room, the Lido Market, the poolside pizzeria and the Dive-In burger joint.
(Courtesy of Holland America Line)
5. Princess Cruises
While Princess Cruises' claim to fame may be its starring role in the 1977 TV series "The Love Boat," it has continued making waves with its versatile itineraries and reasonable prices. You can expect to pay a similar price for a Princess Cruise as you would for a voyage on Carnival (the line's parent company) – or, in some cases, even less. While Carnival caters more to families, Princess' 17 ships target more adult travelers, especially on longer voyages. Along with lodging and dining, fares cover activities like cooking lessons and history lectures.
(Puxan BC Photo/Courtesy of Princess Cruises)
4. Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line specializes in budget-friendly fun, offering frequent sales and early booking deals on already low prices. In fact, finding itineraries for less than $200 per person, per night is the norm on the line's 25 ships. Access to the ships' activities (think: waterslides, sports courts, casinos, piano bars, comedy acts, nightclubs and more) won't cost a penny. Just note that cruise fares don't cover some extras, such as sodas and alcoholic beverages.
3. Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the cruise world, upgrading its fleet and offering affordable itineraries. Norwegian ditches steadfast cruise rules like dress codes and assigned dining times, following the lead of many luxury cruise lines, meaning you'll get to enjoy a relaxed yet refined experience at a fraction of the price. What’s more, Norwegian's 17-ship fleet sails all over the world, with 2019 destinations including Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, South America and more
(Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
2. Royal Caribbean International
With more than 20 cruise ships, Royal Caribbean International is one of the largest lines sailing the ocean today. And despite its name, it offers voyages to more than 260 destinations across 68 countries. Having the ability to accommodate thousands of guests per ship allows the company to keep rates low. In fact, travelers may find itineraries in popular Caribbean, European and Alaskan destinations for less than $200 per night.
1. Celebrity Cruises
With only 10 ships in the fleet, Celebrity Cruises offers the floating-city experience of larger ships (think: kids clubs and endless buffets) while maintaining the service standard and intimacy of smaller lines. Cruise fares include meals at the Main Restaurant, which flaunts a globally inspired menu with a variety of dishes that change nightly. And you can't beat the affordable rates that can be as little as $199 per person, per night for the line's Caribbean voyages. To explore more rankings and find the right cruise for you, see the 2019 Best Cruise Lines »
(Michel Verdure/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)