For travellers who want a hassle-free holiday, an adults-only all-inclusive cruise is the holy grail. However, you might be disappointed to know that options are limited for ocean cruise lines with no children taking over the hot tub and no extra costs onboard (although this describes most river cruises and small ship cruises).
Here are the best all-inclusive cruises for adults -- plus, some additional options for lines and itineraries to consider.
Best Adults-Only All-Inclusive Cruises
Four cruise lines stand out as having company policies that exclude children and very inclusive pricing policies -- but two are British and one is American with no itineraries in Australia, New Zealand or the South Pacific, which leaves Viking as the most convenient and global.
The minimum age to sail on Viking Ocean Cruises' worldwide sailings is 18. Fares include a shore excursion in every port, Wi-Fi, meals in its multiple onboard restaurant (except The Kitchen Table, which is part shore excursion), self-service laundry and wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. (Gratuities and drinks outside of meals cost extra.)
Viking's identical ships carry 930 passengers, and all cabins have private balconies. Viking Orion offers cruises in our local region, with the rest of the fleet positioned around the globe.
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When Virgin Voyages' first ship sets sail in April 2020, it will offer an adults-only and more (but not all) inclusive big-ship experience. The 2,750-passenger Scarlet Lady and subsequent vessels will be 18+ and include basic nonalcoholic drinks, Wi-Fi, gratuities, fitness classes and meals in its fares.
British line Saga Cruises offers small-ship sailings exclusively to passengers over 50 years of age. Fares include all meals (no surcharges for any restaurant), gratuities, Wi-Fi, most drinks (wine with lunch and dinner, soft drinks, house spirits, draft beer and mocktails), fitness classes, transfers to/from the ship and shuttles into town from port. The line has two ships, the 999-passenger Spirit of Discovery and the 720-passenger Saga Sapphire (to be replaced in 2020 with the 999-passenger Spirit of Adventure).
The popular British line launched its first adults-only ship, Marella Explorer 2, in April 2019. When Marella took over of the ship, they stripped out all trace of kids and family spaces, allowing the line to add more adult-friendly venues -- including the most drinking and dining venues of any ship in the line's fleet. Passengers, all of whom must be aged 18 plus to sail, can take advantage of the luxury Champneys Spa with its gorgeous infinity pool, 11 excellent productions -- two of which are exclusive to the ship -- and a gorgeous 'press-for-Champagne' bar called Flutes.
Bonus: Marella is all inclusive, with the 1,814-passenger ship including both tips and a selection of drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic) in its fares.
Other Cruise Options
Other cruise lines are adults-only but have more a la carte charges, or are very inclusive but don't ban kids (even if you don't often find them onboard). Some of these lines might still be right for you, so don't rule out the following options.
All-Inclusive Cruise Line
Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers the most inclusions in its base fares: all tips, all drinks (including mini-bar setups), several shore excursions in every port and shuttles into town, all main and specialty dining, one account of unlimited Wi-Fi per suite, airfare and airport transfers. Its four ships range in size from 490 to 750 passengers.
Alaska and Europe cruises in summer do have a reasonable number of children, so opt for longer and more exotic cruises if you want to minimise kids onboard. For more options, check out our story on the top five luxury all-inclusive cruises.
True Adults-Only Ships
While not all-inclusive, UK-based P&O Cruises offers two adults-only (18+) cruise ships: the 1,874-passenger Aurora and 2,094-passenger Arcadia. This British line is a good option if you want a kid-free experience on a larger ship; it's nothing like P&O Cruises in Australia.
The minimum age to sail on several river cruise lines is 12 to 13 (such as Australian-owned Evergreen Cruises and Scenic, as well as Grand Circle Cruise Line, and it's 18 on Viking. Most lines discourage kids younger than eight, and the vast majority of river cruises have no children onboard. River cruises tend to have more inclusive fares, with beer, wine and soft drinks at dinner, plus shore excursions, Wi-Fi and bicycle hire generally included.
River cruise lines with all-inclusive fares are APT, Scenic, Uniworld, Tauck and Crystal River Cruises, which additionally offer complimentary airport transfers, all alcoholic drinks (not just at dinner), gratuities, special events (think dinner in a castle) and in-room mini-bars.
Adult-Focused, Small-Ship Cruises
Premium lines Oceania and Azamara might have fewer fare inclusions than their luxury counterparts, but their small ships are generally less kid-friendly than lines like Regent, Crystal and Seabourn, with no programming at all for junior cruisers.
Azamara, with its three nearly identical vessels carrying roughly 700 passengers, is the more inclusive of the two, covering tips, nonalcoholic drinks, a limited menu of alcoholic beverages (select standard liquors and beers, plus house wines), self-service laundry and a special shoreside event, called an AzAmazing Evening, on every cruise.
Six-ship cruise line Oceania includes only Wi-Fi, nonalcoholic drinks and meals in main and specialty restaurants. However, it often runs a booking promotion that gives cruisers complimentary airfare and a choice of free shore excursions, beverage package or onboard credit.
Other cruise lines are adults-only but have more a la carte charges, or are very inclusive but don't ban kids (even if you don't often find them). Some of these lines might still be right for you, so don't rule out the following options.