Visit bucket list cities in relative comfort — with mostly seniors on board.
Grand Circle’s cruises are sort of like bus tours — on water. Of course, you’ll relax at night in modest accommodations. But the focus here is on the destination rather than high-energy entertainment or lavish perks in between ports.
Amy Stoltenberg is a staff writer covering all things travel, shopping and lifestyle. After earning a BA at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked as technical designer in corporate fashion before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop's closed, you can find her wandering around Los Angeles looking for hole-in-the-wall eateries and plotting her way to all 50 states (she's currently at 28).
Grand Circle cruises are best for folks who want to visit major port cities and world-famous landmarks without paying extra for bells and whistles. If you’re keen on glitzy entertainment, endless buffets or 5-star amenities, look elsewhere.
But if you’re dreaming of strolling the streets of Paris, sightseeing in Shanghai or smelling spring tulips in Belgium — in the company of a friendly guide, without paying a premium — these could suit you just fine.
On board, you’ll mostly be in the company of seniors and retired folks — nearly all Americans. The tours and presentations are in English, and Grand Circle’s website states that trips are “tailored to an American perspective.” So meals will include typical US dishes in additional to regional specialties.
If you’re looking for a raw, authentic cultural experience, this isn’t it. But if you’re hoping for a safe and familiar way to taste the delights of global travel, you’ll feel at home with Grand Circle.
Fans of resort-style cruising a la Royal Caribbean or Carnival will be disappointed, as the point here isn’t fun and games. Instead, the emphasis is on moving from place to place, with walking tours, museum visits and educational excursions along the way.
Where do Grand Circle cruises depart from?
Set sail from river and seaside ports around the world, including:
Auckland, Buenos Aires, Cairns, Dubrovnik, Montevideo, Sydney
Unfortunately, the company doesn’t depart from any US cities. So if you want to stay stateside, you could opt for a Grand Circle land tour instead — or check out American Cruise Line.
Grand Circle cruise destinations
Grand Circle cruises to regal villages tucked into Norwegian fjords, gleaming Greek islands in the Mediterranean, bucket list cities on the banks of the Seine and more. Here’s where you can go:
Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, Middle East, North America, South America, South Pacific
What’s included on a Grand Circle river cruise?
Here’s what your Grand Circle Cruise Line fare covers:
All meals during days at sea — and some meals during specific shore excursions
Exact amount of included meals is listed in each itinerary.
Beer and wine are often included with lunch and dinner.
Guided tours and excursions
Gratuities for local guides and drivers at each port
Internet is not included, and Grand Circle’s ships don’t always have access to Wi-Fi. You should also budget about $10 to $12 per passenger/per day to cover gratuities for the crew, which aren’t included in the fare. You’ll leave the tips in an envelope at the front desk before disembarkation.
Why you should (or shouldn’t) cruise with Grand Circle Cruise Line
Still trying to decide if Grand Circle will float your boat? Weigh the benefits against the drawbacks.
Shore excursions and guided tours are included.
Small groups (42 people max) with dedicated program directors
Small ships foster an intimate atmosphere.
Decent value for the price
Open seating during meals
Its food is usually reviewed as average at best
Ships can feel old and outdated.
Previous passengers complain that customer service can be difficult to work with.
Fewer entertainment options than larger ships
No US departure ports for cruises
Frequently asked questions
Yes — when it comes to the camaraderie on board. Grand Circle Cruises foster a sense of community among passengers, and solo travelers report feeling welcome and included. And Grand Circle does offer per- and post-trip extensions and select cruise itineraries without single supplements.
Exact requirements can vary by itinerary. But for most Grand Circle cruises, you need to be able to walk three to four miles unassisted and participate in two to four hours of physical activity every day. Grand Circle cruises aren’t typically accessible to individuals who get around using wheelchairs or scooters.
To understand what kind of physical activities will be involved, select a cruise, click Itinerary then choose Physical Requirements from the drop-down menu.
No. Base cruise fare doesn’t include your flights to and from the port — though you do have the option to book airfare with your cruise. Just select the box next to including international airfare and it’ll automatically add the estimated price of international flights to your purchase.
Traveling during COVID-19
The CDC continues to advise caution when traveling within or outside the US, though it no longer requires self-quarantine or a COVID-19 test for fully vaccinated travelers as of April 2021. It recommends that you delay travel if you are not fully vaccinated to protect yourself and your family from getting or spreading the virus.
When traveling, follow safety measures that include wearing a mask in public, social distancing and washing your hands. If you are diagnosed with, have symptoms of or are waiting for COVID-19 test results — or are otherwise at risk of illness — do not attend gatherings or travel for 14 days.
Latest river cruise deals
Mississippi River cruises starting from $1,562 per person
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