10 best cruises for young adults

18- to 30-somethings, rejoice! These voyages are for you.

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friends jumping in the ocean

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Cruising has come a long way since only empty-nesters and retirees filled the decks on long journeys across the ocean. These days, you can find everything from themed cruises to off-the-beaten-path expeditions.

Remember: Consult a friend before getting a tattoo at the parlor above the waves. Or not. After all, these trips are once-in-a-lifetime, right?

Best cruise lines for young adults

Best for a party atmosphere: Virgin

A Miami mood meets modern tech and a sleek aesthetic with unlimited free Wi-Fi, a tattoo parlor and themed parties for late-night joie de vivre.
  • Solo cabins available? Yes.
  • Gratuities included in fare? Yes.
  • Max ship capacity: 2,700 passengers.
  • Minimum passenger age: 21 — but 18 if you're married or in the military.
Yup, it's true — famous billionaire and philanthropist Richard Branson launched a cruise line. And it's epic. You'll find Korean BBQ, steak and seafood, elevated Mexican, an ice cream shop and much more to eat on board. We're only worried that you may never want to leave. Bonus? Book a Virgin Voyages cruise in 2020 and you'll get a free bottle of champagne.

Best for active travelers: Royal Caribbean

Famed for owning the world's largest cruise ships, it's got robot bartenders, climbing walls and surf simulators to keep you entertained.
  • Solo cabins available? Yes — its Quantum class ships each feature 28 studio cabins.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship — its fleet ranges from total capacities of 2,270 to 6,780.
  • Minimum passenger age: Six months. But it has plenty of adults-only areas — though we recommend choosing a different cruise line if you're hoping to avoid kids altogether.
Price ($-$$$):
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Day or night, you'll feel the buzz of excitement on your Royal Caribbean ship. The fleet features some of the most innovative activities on the ocean, including an escape room, zip line, the tallest water slide at sea, bumper cars and laser tag. Dance the night away at a club or bar. Or if you're feeling lucky, hit up the casino.

Best for budget fun: Carnival

A lively atmosphere with lots of games, bars and high-energy entertainment at a good price. Also, mixologist competitions.
  • Solo cabins available? No. If you want to stay alone, you'll have to pay a single supplement.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship — its fleet ranges from total capacities of 2,054 to 3,690.
  • Minimum passenger age: 21 — but 18 if you're married or in the military. Six months. We recommend another cruise line if you prefer no kids on deck.
Price ($-$$$):
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If you're looking to get from point A — your everyday life — to point B — um, the beach — as cheaply as possible and with plenty of time to sunbathe and sip piña coladas, choose Carnival. Sure, there will be kids on board, but if you don't want to join them on the rope walks and water slides, there are plenty of adults-only oases.

Best for a classic cruise experience: Norwegian

Its Bliss cruise ship has a Sugarcane Mojito Bar and a District Brew House. Sip while watching breathtaking landscapes unfold in the Observation Lounge.
  • Solo cabins available? Yes. In fact, NCL was one of the first major cruise lines to offer studios for independent cruisers.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship — its fleet ranges from total capacities of about 2,000 to 4,200.
  • Minimum passenger age: Six months — but there are adults-only areas on every ship.
Price ($-$$$):
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NCL strikes the perfect balance between rest, relaxation and happenin' deck parties. Choose a beach cruise or a more adventurous route up through Alaska.

There are live productions every night, a luxury spa and plenty of bars and lounges. Plus, NCL often runs deals for free Wi-Fi and free booze when you book a cruise.

Best for peace and quiet: Celebrity

If your idea of the perfect vacation is kicking back, reading, playing games and maybe even hitting the hay a little early, you'll like Celebrity.
  • Solo cabins available? No
  • Gratuities included in fare? No.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship — its fleet ranges from total capacities of about 2,000 to 4,200.Its Xpedition ships carry between 16 to 100 guests, but its larger cruise ships have nearly 3,000.
  • Minimum passenger age: Six months — though adults-only areas abound.
Price ($-$$$):
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While there aren't tattoo parlors or rock climbing walls aboard, you will find peace, quiet and plenty of craft beer sampling and wine tasting. Look for itineraries on the Solstice ship, which draws a decent 20- to 30-something crowd. Enjoy live theater and music at night, and top-notch customer service from dock to dock.

Best for peace and quiet: Uniworld

Sail between European cities on a ship that's part boutique hotel, part private yacht and part trendy hot spot.
  • Solo cabins available? You bet.
  • Gratuities included in fare? Yes.
  • Max ship capacity: 120 passengers.
  • Minimum passenger age: 18 — but you've got to be at least 21 to drink on board.
Price ($-$$$):
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From international DJs to silent discos, mixology classes, rooftop yoga on the sundeck and bluetooth speakers installed in each room — plus farm-to-table cuisine — each detail is tailored for millennial cruisers. And did we mention each cabin has a fabulous view?
People jumping out of a ship

Best for your Instagram feed: Contiki

Technically, it’s not a cruise line. But its small-group sails provide intensive, action-packed tours in bucket-list countries like Thailand, Croatia and Turkey.

Ever wanted to sail between Greek Islands or snorkel through the Great Barrier Reef? See it all, with home-cooked meals and an expert guide showing you the way. Contiki’s tours are exclusive to 18- to 30-somethings, so you’ll be in good company.

  • Solo cabins available? No — all cabins are designed to be shared, so you’ll be paired with same-sex passengers.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No — but tipping isn’t compulsory, either.
  • Max ship capacity: Tour groups range from 13 to 50 people.
  • Minimum passenger age: 18.
Europe

Best for social travel: Topdeck

Designed for independent minds to get together and explore exotic destinations. Over 50% of its travelers start out solo.

Eat local, home-cooked food and soak up the sun on sailing tours to islands in Turkey and Croatia. You’ll wake up, swim, sun, explore and repeat. On land, discover hidden gems in quiet towns — or go all-out with a Game of Thrones walking tour in Croatia.

  • Solo cabins available? No, you’ll be paired with a same-sex roommate. But you can pay a single supplement if you’d rather sleep alone.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No — but tipping isn’t compulsory, either.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship, but most hold a maximum of 16 people.
  • Minimum passenger age: 18.
People laughing on a ship

Best for sustainable tourism: Intrepid

From the Galapagos to Sardinia and the Amalfi Coast and beyond, Intrepid focuses on responsible travel and giving back to the environment.

Its super-small-group boat tours aren’t technically cruises — the skipper will even teach you how to sail, if you please. You’ll get up-close and personal with seaside villages and towns, with active excursions like trekking and biking once you’ve set foot on land. Authenticity is the name of the game.

  • Solo cabins available? No, the ships are designed to sleep multiple people in each cabin — though you can pay a single supplement if you’d like.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No — but it’s not compulsory, either.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the region in which you’re sailing. Here’s the breakdown:
    • Burma: Eight.
    • Phuket: 14.
    • Caribbean: Eight.
    • Europe: Eight to 11.
  • Minimum passenger age: 18 for most trips.
People jumping out of a ship

Best for music festivals: Sixthman

Woodstock on the water? Don’t mind if we do. The best part is that at the end of the day, your bed is only a short walk away.

If you’re a concert junkie, you’ll fall in love with grooving above the waves aboard a Sixthman cruise. See your favorite band, meet and mingle with other fans and take beach breaks in between.

Artists like Aaron Lewis, 3OH!3, Austin Mahone and the Barenaked Ladies have performed in the past. It partners with Norwegian Cruise Line to use its ships.

  • Solo cabins available? It depends on the ship — but most NCL ships do have a limited amount of studio cabins available.
  • Gratuities included in fare? No.
  • Max ship capacity: It depends on the ship — but it’ll likely be larger than 1,000 passengers.
  • Minimum passenger age: 21.

What to look for in a cruise for young adults

When you’re looking for young adult cruises, these factors will help narrow down the best choice:

  • Nightlife and entertainment. Are you more into dive bars or trendy clubs? Live music or over-the-top Broadway shows — or both?
  • Daytime activities. Are water slides a must-have, or would you be happier on a quiet pool deck?
  • Adults-only spaces. Do you want a cruise ship that’s completely free of kids, or would you be content hanging around the adults-only areas on a family-friendly ship?
  • Shore excursions. Are you looking for outdoorsy adventures or would you be happiest lying on the beach at each destination?
  • Price point. Remember that if gratuity isn’t included in the fare upfront, most cruise lines will charge you for it after the trip ends — except for smaller companies like Topdeck or Contiki, where tipping the sailing staff is completely up to you.

How we chose these cruises

When choosing cruises for this list, we looked at the range and quality of activities and entertainment available onboard and off, prioritizing cruise lines that cater specifically to millennials and Gen Z-ers. We parsed through the dining options, looking for companies that are known for embracing fresh food and trendy concepts. While we favored cruise lines with a majority of young adult passengers, we also included a couple of options for those who might like mingling with older and younger folks.

Additionally, we weighed stateroom amenities and dining options against the price, favoring companies known for delivering the best value. Finally, we sought out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.

Top cruise deals from these lines

Uniworld Uniworld

30% on select departures with Uniworld US when booked by 31 March 2020!

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U by Uniworld U by Uniworld

Looking to go on a solo vacation this summer?

Join our solo-traveler experts for a week of discovering new places. T&Cs apply

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U by Uniworld U by Uniworld

Join foodie influencer, The Grub Father, this summer on an 8-day voyage with U River Cruises

T&Cs apply

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CruiseDirect CruiseDirect

6-night Caribbean cruises from $321 on Carnival!

Exclusive – up to $500 to spend on board, plus 10% off shore excursions!

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Uniworld Uniworld

Save 30% on select 2020 voyages with Uniworld US!

Uniworld's 100th Anniversary Celebration Event! Book your next adventure now!

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Expedia.com Expedia.com

Save up to 72% off Royal Caribbean cruises

Cruises to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mediterranean, Asia and South Pacific all on sale from just $156. T&Cs apply.

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Travelocity Travelocity

Up to 64% off Royal Caribbean Cruises: 2,000+ sailings discounted

Book cheap Royal Caribbean cruises from just $156 to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, South Pacific and more. T&Cs apply.

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U by Uniworld U by Uniworld

30% savings on select 2020 river cruises in Central Europe

T&Cs apply.

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CruiseDirect CruiseDirect

4 night Cuba cruises from $429 on Norwegian Cruise Line!

Free open bar, exclusive - up to $500 to spend onboard!

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U by Uniworld U by Uniworld

Check out our new 2020-themed cruise: Rolling on the Rhine

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Bottom line

Cruises are the perfect place to see the world without getting bogged down with housekeeping details. Leave transportation and accommodation to the pros and focus on making lifelong memories aboard these cruises for young adults — and remember to check for discounts that might apply to your fare before booking your ticket.

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