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15 Best Cruise Lines in the US

This article looks at the 15 best cruise lines in the US. If you wish to skip our detailed analysis of the cruise lines industry, you may skip ahead to 5 Best Cruise Lines in the US.

Prior to the pandemic, cruise ships were one of the most desirable avenues for entertainment, leisure, and luxury. Each year, cruise lines would dispatch hundreds of ships, each packed with hundreds or thousands of travelers, sailing into the seven seas for weeks at a time. However, come 2020, the allure of clinking glasses and poolside sunbathing dissipated into thin air as these luxury watercrafts became hotspots for COVID-19 infestation.

Cruise lines were some of the first companies to experience a financial fallout in the wake of the pandemic. During the first quarter of 2020, Carnival Corporation & PLC’s (NYSE: CCL) stock dropped by a staggering 75%. Furthermore, in addition to Carnival Corporation, major cruise companies such as the Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE: RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE: NCLH) were left high and dry when the US Government’s $2 trillion package failed to provide relief to companies “organized outside the US”. Consequently, during the first 9 months of the pandemic, Carnival Corporation & PLC (NYSE: CCL), Royal Caribbean Cruises (NYSE: RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE: NCLH) suffered losses of 65-75%.

Post Pandemic Triumph

However, the cruise industry displayed tremendous perseverance, enduring the financial challenges of 2020 and 2021, before gradually setting on the path to recovery. In 2023, Carnival Corporation (NYSE: CCL) posted a revenue of $21.6 Billion and is expected to enhance these numbers in 2024 with encouraging booking volumes.

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Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation revealed that,

"[The company] ended the year in the best-booked position we have ever seen, both on price and occupancy, setting 2024 off to an amazing start."

Similarly encouraging outlook has been shared by executives of both Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NYSE: NCLH) and the Royal Caribbean Group (NYSE: RCL) for 2024. The latter launched its latest cruise, Icon of The Seas, this January. The cruise has a capacity of over 7000 passengers, making it the largest cruise ship in existence, and exemplifies how optimistic major cruise liners are regarding the industry’s outlook going forward. It is expected that the industry will surpass pre-pandemic occupancy and revenue in 2024.

Cruise Line Industry in the US

According to Reuters, over 35 million tourists around the world are looking to cruise in 2024. The US contributes more tourists to the cruise industry than any other country in the world. Understandably, US-based ports are a key feature in all cruise itineraries. Florida, California, and New York are home to some of the busiest cruise ports in the world.

Although the most popular cruise destinations for American tourists are in the Caribbean, River and Expedition cruises are also becoming increasingly popular. Expedition cruises provide tourists a chance to sail to remote destinations alongside a team of seasoned guides (and in some cases intellectuals) and take part in adventure activities. Alaska has become a very popular destination for expedition cruises, with companies such as Silversea Cruises and Holland America Cruise Line offering regular trips to America's final frontier.

It certainly begs the question “What is the number 1 cruise line in America?”. Well, as always, we are here to partake in this debate with our list of best cruise lines in the US.

15 Best Cruise Lines in the US
15 Best Cruise Lines in the US

15 Best Cruise Lines in the US

Methodology

To develop our list of best cruise lines in the US, we began by combing the internet for research in this area. While most of the material online pertained to reviews on specific ships, our interest was intended towards comparing Cruise Lines rather than individual voyagers. Thus, we accumulated more than 10 different sources, including credible new outlets such as The Times, CN Traveller, and CNBC, along with popular websites like Cruise Fever and Reader’s Digest to come up with a preliminary list of the best cruise lines. Using a consensus approach, we shortlisted the cruise lines which had been recommended most frequently. Further research was narrowed to these cruise lines only.

Once this list was obtained, we used several different metrics to score each cruise line against. The first was the number of times each cruise had been recommended in our previous search. Ratings on platforms such as Cruise Critics and Cruiseline became 2 other metrics for our research. Finally, we incorporated passenger feedback using online forums and user reviews (excluding influencer generated feedback for bias) into our metrics and developed a scorecard, rating each cruise line out of 20 to come up with a list of best cruise lines in the US.

By the way, Insider Monkey is an investing website that tracks the movements of corporate insiders and hedge funds. By using a similar consensus approach, we identify the best stock picks of more than 900 hedge funds investing in US stocks. The top 10 consensus stock picks of hedge funds outperformed the S&P 500 Index by more than 140 percentage points over the last 10 years (see the details here). Whether you are a beginner investor or a professional one looking for the best stocks to buy, you can benefit from the wisdom of hedge funds and corporate insiders.

Here are 15 Best Cruise Lines in the US:

15. Silversea Cruises

IM Score: 9

Cruise Critic Rating (1,600 reviews): 3.8

Cruise line Rating: 3.8

Silversea Cruises is renowned for its luxury cruise experiences with all-inclusive packages. It prides on providing an individualistic yet immersive experience to cruisers, which is why its fleet comprises of smaller sized cruises in comparison to others. Its pristine dining facilities allow passengers to feast on delicious cuisines, complementary caviar, and the finest alcoholic beverages. On its most elegant cruises, Silversea offers its S.A.L.T. (Sea and Land Taste) program, which allows cruisers to dive deep into the flavors of the regions they voyage to. Outside of dining, Silversea offers the chance to journey around the seven seas. It is especially lauded for its land expeditions, including some which explore the farthest regions of Alaska. Passengers are allowed to venture ashore the ice cloaked terrain with trained teams of guides and geologists, interact with the area’s wildlife, and drink in the sight of colossal glaciers, icy waterfalls, and radiating hot springs. Silversea has a long list of accolades from various outlets including being the “Ultra-luxury Cruise Line of The Year” and the “Expedition/Adventure Cruise Line of the Year” in 2024.

14. Oceania Cruises

IM Score: 9

Cruise Critic Rating (3033 reviews): 3.8

Cruise line Rating: 4

Oceania cruises offer luxury experience at a better value for money than other cruise liners. Its ships conform to the medium size category and travel to destinations all around the world. It is extremely popular among seniors and retirees, partly because it offers extended travel duration which can last up to 195 days! Another standout feature is its culinary excellence. It offers one of the most diverse culinary experiences in the industry, with options ranging from southern Porterhouses, to steamy Callaloo, to delicious Bouillabaisse. Travelers can engage in amenities such as culinary classes, luxury spas, and destination focused cultural activities. It is among the best cruise lines in the US.

13. Seabourn Cruise Line

IM Score: 10

Cruise Critic Rating (774 reviews): 4.1

Cruise line Rating: 4.2

Another cruise line prominent for its luxurious experiences, Seabourn Cruise Line offers a self-proclaimed “crème de la crème” cruise experience. It has one of the best passenger-to-space ratios in the industry and offers an all-suite accommodation with each room complemented with magnificent ocean views. Seabourn Venture, one of the line’s small sized expedition ships, is equipped with 2 submarines that allow passengers to dive into deep sea waters for an unparalleled viewing adventure. In addition, the cruise line is the official cruise partner of UNESCO, which allows it access to 170 different UNESCO sites. Seabourn recently unveiled its itinerary for 2024-25 expeditions, including its maiden expedition to the southern pacific shores of Kimberly, Australia.

12. Azamara

IM Score: 10

Cruise Critic Rating (1792 reviews): 4.2

Cruise line Rating: 4.1

Azamara’s cruises are highly cherished by couples, courtesy of its small sized ships that allow for a more intimate and personalized experience. The cruises are known to have a diverse combination of on-ship and off-ship excursions, thus appealing to those who want a well-rounded vacation experience. Wine tasting, dance classes, and musical performances are some of the many activities that help on boarders entertain and unwind. Moreover, it offers unique excursions on the shore, as its smaller ships are able to dock into ports around the world that aren’t equipped to handle large or medium-sized liners. Each cruise also hosts a signature White Nights party, a memorable gathering atop the pool deck where attendees get to revel under the stars.

11. Cunard

IM Score: 11

Cruise Critic Rating (2563 reviews): 3.8

Cruise line Rating: 4.2

Cunard is one of the oldest and most iconic names in the cruise industry, with a storied past that stretches back to 1839. Its roots are seeped in tradition, heritage, and timeless elegance, all of which come forth during its cruises. From being one of the first shipping lines to make a transatlantic voyage, to rescuing survivors from the Titanic, and then going on to help transport allied troops during the second world war, Cunard has held firm against the test of time and maintained its status as one of the best cruise lines in the US. Travelers on Cunard’s cruises get to immerse themselves in a traditional mise en scene, with activities such as ballroom dancing, symphonies, and attending lectures with veterans from WWII. Although Cunard is a British cruise line, like most other foreign cruise lines it offers several different tours to accommodate American passengers. Cunard is set to launch its new ship, Queen Anne, this May which will be the first time this century that the company will operate with a fleet of 4 ships.

10. Virgin Voyages

IM Score: 11

Cruise Critic Rating (1754 reviews): 4.1

Cruise line Rating: 4.1

Virgin Voyages is an adult only cruise line, with a minimum traveler age of 18. It offers all-inclusive trips at a price point more economical than most of its competitors. If you’re a solo traveler or a libidinous couple interested in a salacious holiday, you might wonder which is the best cruise line to travel with in such circumstances. Being an adult only cruise, it offers a very party-centric experience in the form of raves, musicals, nightclubs, and casinos. Moreover, Virgin cruises has its very own private beach club in the Bahamas where its cruises make port, allowing travelers to spend an entire day at the resort. Other amenities include complementary spas, saunas, gyms, and yoga classes.

9. Holland America Line

IM Score: 12

Cruise Critic Rating (8728 reviews): 3.9

Cruise line Rating: 4.1

Holland America Cruise Line is another historic cruise company that began its operations back in 1873. It makes great efforts to acquaint its passengers with its achievements in shaping the cruise industry over the last 150 years. However, in the modern era, it has gained a lot of praise for its voyages into the waters of Alaska for which it has been honored with several accolades over the years. The cruise line also has a partnership with BBC Earth, under which it hosts seminars and musical performances themed towards exploring nature and wildlife. Moreover, it also hosts other intellectual seminars to familiarize travelers with the culture and festivities of the region it visits.

8. MSC Cruises

IM Score: 12

Cruise Critic Rating (10064 reviews): 3.3

Cruise line Rating: 3.9

MSC Cruises is perhaps the most affordable and family-friendly cruise on our list. It would be ranked even higher, if not for the fact that it is an Italian cruise company which has only a select few voyages from US ports. Despite this, it has amassed a massive customer base in the US, some of whom even travel across the Atlantic to sail aboard its ships. The foremost reason behind such a devoted clientele is that MSC allows children to sail free of cost on most of its voyages, making it very affordable for a family vacation. Further, the cruises aren’t just designed to welcome children, but also go a long way in ensuring they have the most amazing and memorable vacation of their lives. Several of the cruises have in-built LEGO play areas, small water parks, and virtual reality movie theaters.

7. Disney Cruise Line

IM Score: 13

Cruise Critic Rating (2407 reviews): 4.2

Cruise line Rating: 4.6

If you’re looking for a family vacation and willing to spend generously, there is perhaps no better way to entertain your children than aboard one of the Disney cruise ships. These tours are essentially Disney’s way of transforming a day in one of their theme parks into a week-long voyage aboard a luxury sea vessel. If your idea of a vacation is one in which you can immerse yourself in a mythical universe, Disney is perhaps the best cruise line in the US. Live productions of Aladdin, Marvel themed dining centers, and Star Wars themed recreations allow your children to be immersed in some of their favorite pop culture fandoms. Most of the cruise’s interior is themed to Disney movies while mascots in costumes of your children’s favorite characters roam around the decks. However, the cruises also have adult-oriented activities to ensure caretakers can unwind in their exclusive poolside bars and adult only dining facilities.

6. Princess Cruises

IM Score: 14

Cruise Critic Rating (19542 reviews): 3.8

Cruise line Rating: 4.2

Princess Cruises offers voyages to over 330 destinations over the world, more than almost any other cruise line. Its vast fleet of cruise ships is tailored to have destination specific itineraries, enabling cruisers to fully explore some of the most breathtaking sights nature has to offer. While most onboard activities are included in the ticket, offshore excursions often come at a premium. The Discovery Princess, one of its most appealing tours, is relished amongst wildlife enthusiasts. It offers the chance to sail up into the most spectacular sights in Alaska and interact with native huskies, goats, and even bears. The Discovery Princess has advantage over other cruise ships as the vessel is designed to sail deeper into the crevices surrounding Alaska than normal cruise ships.

Click to continue reading and see the 5 Best Cruise Lines in the US.

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Disclosure: none. 15 Best Cruise Lines in the US is originally published on Insider Monkey.