There are two types of travelers: those who like cruises, and those who hate them. Those who appreciate the all-inclusive floating buffet of convenience, and those who loathe long lines, formal schedules, stale food and pre-canned excursions.
Regardless where you fall on the spectrum, cruises are here to stay. Since 1970, total passengers have grown each year from just 500,000 then to well over 20 million last year, according to industry trade groups. That’s a lot of fans.
For those still on the fence—myself very much included after a so-so experience aboard Norwegian—here are five cruises that just might change your mind.
For people who can’t sit still
You know that friend in school everyone liked that was fun to be around, low-maintenance and willing to party without involving debauchery? Royal Caribbean is a lot like that, according to word-of-mouth reviews from my cruise-loving friends. Of its fleet, Oasis of the Seas comes highly recommended for its adventurous onboard entertainment and “most for your money” reputation. Rock climbing, putt-putt, surfing, zip line, carousel, beach pool, ice skating, scuba diving and more live shows than most come standard.
For those wanting to see the last place on earth
Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic Cruises
Yes, National Geographic has a cruise line. Yes, it lives up to its name, according to reputable reviews. And yes, they travel to Antarctica. Whether aboard Explorer or Orion, the newest of its fleet christened last year, National Geographic takes you well beyond the Caribbean. Best of all, it offers 10-25 day excursions to the coolest place on the planet, Antarctica. Best time to visit: November to March.
For the young at heart who spare no expense
The happiest place at sea? Most cruisers, critics and awards say “yes” when it comes to Disney Cruise Lines, especially aboard their state-of-the art Fantasy ship. But unlike a lot of “family friendly” attractions, Disney Cruise Lines spares no expense to impress their guests, which is a lot like the company’s iconic theme parks. Despite its lofty ticket prices, most agree that Fantasy is worth it, especially due to its better amenities and free babysitting. “They sure know how to throw a party,” remarked a buddy that just returned from one of their cruises.
For those with deep pockets seeking intimate company
Headquartered in Monaco, Silversea Cruises operates a fleet of “ultra luxury” ships, carrying anywhere from 100 to 500 passengers to the most exotic and breathtaking destinations on all seven continents. Standouts include Alaska, Galapagos, Europe and Antarctica tours. Although all of Silversea cruises are well reviewed, Silver Whisper, Silver Spirit and Silver Shadow are the crème de la crème.
My grandmother-in-law was an avid cruiser, booking passage on more than 50 luxurious liners to mostly sunny destinations; the Caribbean, South Pacific, Mediterranean, and many European river cruises. Her favorite of them all? “Alaska by far!” she fondly told me in her twilight years. Many others have told me the same, regardless of the ship.
Photo at top: Keith Parker, CC-BY
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.