Cruising is a great vacation option for young adults in their 20s and 30s. Modern cruise ships are active and fun, where nightlife and adventure readily converge -- and at palatable pricing, to boot. Younger travelers just need to know which cruise lines and itineraries will draw like-minded (and -aged) passengers
There are a few key search parameters young adults should consider. Shorter cruises of seven nights or less typically attract young couples and singles short on vacation time and budget. Look, too, for itineraries that are heavy on lively ports of call or incorporate overnight stays so that you can hit up the local nightlife. New kid on the block, Virgin Voayges, even have their own private beach club -- complete with DJs, pool parties and dancing all night.
Expedition cruises, though pricy, can also be appealing for travelers looking for nonstop action -- hiking, snorkeling, kayaking and more -- in off-the-beaten-path wilderness regions like the Amazon, the Arctic or Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands.
Look, too, for theme sailings, where a one-off niche itinerary might considerably skew the onboard demographic toward a younger cruiser. River cruise line AmaWaterways' wine-themed itineraries draw a good number of under-40s. Concert cruises and dance festivals like Sixth Man feature dozens of musicians on multiple stages and beach and pool parties to ensure young adult cruisers a pumping dance party all-sailing long.
Here are our top six picks for the all-around best cruises for 20- and 30-something young adults, listed by special interest:
Forget structured and formal holidays that only appeal to your parents and grandparents. Today's cruise lines have thoroughly shaken off their older, more conservative images to offer modern ships resembling resorts and theme parks.
Along the way they've ditched black-tie dinners, traditional cabaret shows and midnight buffets in favour of DJ-helmed nightclubs and pool parties, fine dining venues and never-seen-before-at-sea activities from dodgem cars to sky diving.
These enhancements are aimed at a broader range of cruisers, which has seen a rise in passengers with young families, youthful singles and childless couples alike. According to the latest figures from CLIA Australasia, one-third of Australians taking to the high seas in 2018 were aged 40 or younger.
If you're in your 20s or 30s and toying with the idea of a cruise, there are several things to consider before choosing the best ship and destination for you. This choice will vary depending if you're travelling as a couple or with friends, and if you've got kids or teens in tow.
In Australia, an increasing number of cruise ships are more family-friendly than ever before, offering larger cabins and connecting rooms as well as free childcare, evening babysitting and plenty of facilities to keep junior cruisers happy.
When it comes to itineraries, however, specific cruises appeal to different age groups -- and with good reason. Shorter cruises (a week or less) and "cruises to nowhere" are more likely to attract younger working people who are short of both time and money.
The longer the cruise (such as repositioning voyages to and from Australia, and circumnavigation cruises of our own backyard), the higher the likelihood your fellow passengers will be older. The same goes for river cruising, which isn't especially family-friendly unless your kids are older teenagers who thrive in a grown-up environment.
Theme cruises attract different age groups, depending on the theme. While a 1960s rock 'n' roll cruise will naturally appeal to baby boomers seeking to relive their youth, a comedy cruise with a headline act from mainstream television is likely to draw a younger audience.
Expedition cruises are often pricey, but they tend to draw younger, more adventurous travellers who are drawn by the combination of nonstop action (from hiking to scuba diving) and explorations of far-flung regions such as Antarctica and Borneo.
Here are our our top seven picks for the all-round best cruise lines for under-40s, listed by special interest.
Best for Active Types
The Ships: Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships -- Symphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas -- are particularly well suited to younger adults who demand a little more out of their vacation time than a simple poolside beach read. Test out your surfing skills on the FlowRider surf simulator, scale the 43-foot-high rock climbing wall, have a whirl skating on the indoor ice rink, sign up to get PADI certified for scuba diving, or zip along the zipline -- all onboard the ship. Plus, once you've burned off some steam, there's ample opportunity come nighttime for bar-hopping, catching Broadway shows (like "Grease," "Mamma Mia!" or "Cats") and busting out your dance moves in the late-night clubs.
Other options include Anthem of the Seas, which touts exciting features like the Ripcord by iFly skydiving simulator and the robot bartender-helmed Bionic Bar.
The Itineraries: Symphony of the Seas sails seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Miami, while Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas sail Caribbean itineraries from Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Port Canaveral. Oasis of the Seas also sails the Caribbean from Port Canaveral, before it repositions to Europe for a season of Western Mediterranean cruises, after which it returns to Florida for Caribbean voyages out of Miami. The third ship in the new Quantum class, Ovation of the Seas, sails in Alaska from May through September, before repositioning to Australia for the summer season. Voyager of the Seas is returning to Australian waters for the 2019/2020 summer season and offers ice-skating, FlowRider surfing, rock-climbing along with an energetic onboard vibe.
Best for Party Animals
P&O's cruising style has undergone a major transformation in the past couple of years, from enhanced staterooms and more flexibility and choice with dining options to the addition of new activities through the P&OEdge program, including funnel climbs and zip-lining. Almost half of the cruise line's passengers are couples; over 20 percent are friends travelling together, and 31 percent of passengers are aged 29 and under.
What will especially appeal to party animals is plenty of live music, nine different bars in which to wet your whistle, and a range of four new themed parties set to roll out across the fleet. These include Bianco, the P&O White Party, complete with white cocktails, a live DJ and special effects such as a smoke cannon and a snow finale; a Gatsby-themed party; and a Back to School party.
P&O has expanded its itineraries to include more short cruises as well as themed cruises focusing on comedy, sport and music, with choices ranging from the 80s and Elvis to the Australian Open.
The Itineraries: P&O Cruises offers short cruises to nowhere and longer cruises to Queensland, the South Pacific, Melanesia and Papua New Guinea. Pacific Explorer and Pacific Aria sail out of Sydney, with Pacific Aria also offering sailings out of Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. Pacific Dawn sails out of Brisbane year round. A new ship, Pacific Adventure, will join the fleet in October 2020. P&O Cruises sails in Australia throughout the year
Best for Adventure-Seekers
If you want to throw off your formal wear, get your feet wet and get up-close-and-personal with wildlife as well as explore the far corners of our own backyard and beyond, the rebranded Coral Expeditions is a small, local adventure cruise line with plenty to offer. The four purpose-built adventure ships carry from 44 to 120 passengers in comfort, and come equipped with all manner of adventure toys including zodiacs, glass-bottom boats, and diving and snorkelling gear, allowing you to see the marine worlds of many destinations from both above and below the waterline.
On a given day on a Coral Expeditions cruise, you might meet the locals in a rarely visited community of the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea, spot Gwion rock paintings in or take a helicopter flight over the Kimberley, climb White Island volcano, swim with Hector's dolphins in New Zealand or hike in Lifou Island in New Caledonia.
The Itineraries: Close to home, you can take three-, four- or seven-night combined cruises year-round from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef, with stops including Pelorus and Lizard Islands. During the winter months, you can head west to the Australian Outback of the Kimberley, with 10-night itineraries from Darwin to Broome (and the reverse); highlights include the King George River and Falls, King Cascades, Montgomery Reef, the Horizontal Falls and Buccaneer Archipelago. Cape York and Arnhem Land cruises across the "Top End" include 11- or 12-night cruises from Cairns to Darwin (and the reverse), while the New Zealand cruises are eight-night itineraries from Wellington to Milford Sound, or 12-night itineraries from Auckland to Milford Sound. Cruises in New Guinea range from 10- to 24-night schedules departing from Cairns, Rabaul, Alotau, Wewak, Darwin and Biak. South Pacific cruises are 13-night itineraries from Alotau to Noumea, or the reverse. Venturing into wilderness areas and national parks and exploring the many walking tracks are a highlight on Tasmania itineraries.
Best for Solo Travellers
The Ships: For young solo travellers cruising alone, or with friends with whom they'd rather not share sleeping quarters, forking over the dreaded "single supplement" fee (often applied to a single cruiser taking up a double-occupancy cabin) can put a damper on a vacation before it even begins. Happily, that's not the case with Norwegian, which pretty much pioneered solo-friendly cabins back with the launch of its supplement-free "studio" cabins aboard Norwegian Epic. The hip single rooms have since been introduced on Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway.
The sleek, 100-square-foot, designed-for-one cabins come with flat-screen TVs and modern mood lighting, along with access to a lounge that's exclusively reserved for studio-level passengers. All Norwegian's ships are additionally decked out with dozens of dining, drinking, activity and entertainment venues that are made for mingling.
The Itineraries: Norwegian's Eastern and Western Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas voyages from Miami, Port Canaveral, New York and New Orleans are particularly well-suited to young solo travelers, thanks to snappy weeklong itineraries and embarkation/disembarkation ports in happening cities. Plus, passengers can sign up for memorable excursions, primed for meeting like-minded (and similarly aged) travelers, like riding an underwater scooter, cruising along on a beachfront Jeep safari, swimming with sea lions and more. There are also weeklong Alaska and Mexico sailings on Norwegian Bliss. Pride of America has four single staterooms so get in early if you're after one of these for your next Hawaiian cruise.
Best for Honeymooners
With its fragrant breezes and dazzling sunsets, it's hard to beat Tahiti if you're seeking a little romance on the high seas. Captains Bligh and Cook (and their crews) fell in love with the Tahitian archipelago, and young lovers will too when their ship drops anchor in the azure lagoon off Bora Bora, or in the shadow of Moorea's dramatic peaks. Idyllic islands, warm ambience and plenty of laid-back French charm are a few of the elements which make Tahiti a dream cruise destination, coupled with colourful coral reefs, sacred Polynesian sites, wildlife including spinner dolphins, and an endless supply of pristine, white-sand beaches. For many, there's no better way to explore French Polynesia than on a cruise.
The petite 148-passenger Wind Spirit cruises year-round in exotic Tahiti, the ultimate islands of romance. The four-masted ship includes open teak decks, all oceanview staterooms, dining under the stars, a hot tub, and a watersports platform that puts you into the thick of the aquatic action.
The Itineraries: Windstar's Dreams of Tahiti is a seven-day roundtrip cruise from Papeete, calling at Moorea, Taha'a, Raiatea, Bora Bora and Huahine, with overnight stays in most ports. There's also the opportunity to attend a complimentary special event, the Bora Bora Celebration Festival, where you'll spend the evening on a tiny secluded motu with only Windstar passengers, enjoying dinner, fire dancing and more. Meanwhile, the Tahiti and Tuamotu Islands itinerary is a 10-day roundtrip from Papeete, with additional ports including Takapoto and Tiputa, in Rangiroa; this itinerary also features the same Bora Bora special excursion.
Windstar has expanded shore excursion offerings to include bespoke adventures, where you can snorkel and harvest your own pearl at a Tahitian black pearl farm in Raiatea or slip off overnight to your own private overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, part of a special romance package.
Best for Families
If you're travelling with a young family, Carnival is a cruise line to consider for a variety of reasons. For one, its fleet of "Fun Ships" has plenty of facilities for kids of all ages; specific clubs offer special activities for junior cruises age two to 11, and for teens from age 12 to 17. There's also tailored entertainment, from the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with Dr. Seuss and the enthralling Green Thunder waterslide, and more family-friendly accommodation including larger and interconnecting staterooms. Adults aren't left out of the fun, however; while their little ones are busy enjoying themselves, they can while away their time in the adults-only space, Serenity, then join the family for the interactive Hasbro, The Game Show. There's also the option to cruise with your family almost anywhere across the globe, from the dramatic, icy landscapes of Alaska to exotic Mexico and the Mediterranean.
If you don't fancy travelling far, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor cruise our backyard year-round, with sailings departing from Sydney. Both ships have been tailored to the local market on everything from food to beer selections to quality coffee, and the Aussie dollar is the onboard currency.
The Itineraries: In Australia, there are cruises around Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific with a wide variety of itineraries from two-day cruises to nowhere to voyages of 10 days and longer. The long list of ports of call include Hobart, Mooloolaba, Moreton Island, Noumea, Isle of Pines and Vila, while longer cruises can include Singapore, Darwin and Bali. Excursions for all ages can include a boating adventure in the Isle of Pines, a Balinese family experience in Bali, and a behind the scenes tour at Port Arthur. If you are venturing further afield, Carnival also offers sailings in the Caribbean and Europe, with ports of call including Naples, Marseille, Civitavecchia (Rome), Valetta in Malta and Rhodes in Greece.
Best for Couples With No Kids
As a growing number of mainstream cruise lines have gone family friendly -- undoubtedly been a boon for parents and grandparents who wish to cruise with kids -- some argue this has been to the disadvantage of child-free couples, or anyone wishing to take time out from their families. Although there are some adults-only ships, most are at the luxury end of the scale (which can be hard on the wallet) or attract an age group that is often 60-plus.
A great option for younger couples with no kids is Celebrity Cruises -- in particular, its Solstice class ships including Sydney's Celebrity Solstice. These newer Celebrity ships are hip and sophisticated, appealing to adults looking for a getaway rather than a family holiday. Although there will be kids on board at particular times of year and on certain itineraries, these spacious ships have ideal facilities for couples to escape from it all, from the over-16s Solarium pool to romantic fine-dining options such as Murano.
Accommodations are also a drawcard. Around 85 percent of staterooms feature private balconies, and splurge-worthy options include spacious, dedicated spa staterooms and lavish suites, some featuring whirlpool tubs. Other alluring attractions for child-free couples include a lineup of elegant watering holes, a health-food dining venue called Blu, and a new relationship with the Canyon Ranch SpaClub brand, which has enhanced the spa facilities.
If you would prefer to cruise with a line that doesn't allow guests aged under 18 and don't mind paying a little more, Viking could be a better option. With just 930 guests on ocean going ships and 190 on river cruises, this intimate cruise experience for growns-ups only is ideal for those who enjoy smaller ships. Itineraries are port-intensive with tours included at every port, and frequent overnight stays. Other inclusions range from complimentary wine and beer at lunch and dinner, to transfers to and from the ship and onboard wi-fi.
The Itineraries: For couples who don't wish to travel far, or who are short on time, Celebrity Solstice operates a long summer season from Sydney, after spending the northern hemisphere summer cruising Alaska. Alaska cruises range from seven to 14 nights departing from Seattle; ports of call include Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and activities span dog sledding, glacier hiking and scenic flightseeing. There are repositioning cruises on offer between the two seasons, featuring Hawaii and the South Pacific. In summer cruising from Sydney, Celebrity Solstice sails Australia, the South Pacific and New Zealand, with ports of call including Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington, the South Island "Sounds," Lifou Island and Noumea. Options for touring include riding the TranzAlpine Express from Akaroa in New Zealand to wine tasting at wineries near Hobart and kicking back on the beach at Amedee Island in Noumea. Viking Orion offers sailings departing from Sydney, with a focus on longer itineraries to destinations such as London and Vancouver, plus a number of shorter sailings to New Zealand and Bali.