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Cruise Guide: Cruise Reviews and Tips

Big ship? Small ship? Adventure expedition? Luxury yacht? River cruise?

Cruise writing is one of our specialties, and we’ve sailed on some 60+ voyages now. We’ve got you covered!

So hop aboard and embark on the following cruises. Pick up some great cruising tips and explore cool cruise ports along the way too.

Bon voyage!

Gratuities on a Cruise

Cruise travel guide

In this handy cruise guide, we include links to dozens of our cruise reviews and cruising articles – all neatly organized – to help you choose the right cruise for you.

Our latest cruise posts

Windstar Drink Package or All-In Package: Worth It?

Windstar Cruises has two drink packages. But the best package is their All-In Package (drinks, gratuities and WiFi). It’s worth it if you like a pool cocktail, pre-dinner drink and wine with dinner. But it’s not for you if you’ll only have one or two glasses of wine a day.

Gone are the days of one-size-cruising-fits-all

Now there are cruises to suit everyone’s style!

Types of cruises

Cruise Guide

Ultra-luxury cruises

What makes a cruise a “luxury cruise”?

Luxury cruises redefine opulence on the sea.

They offer personalized service, gourmet dining and spacious, elegant suites. Ship sizes are smaller (with fewer passengers), and they have intimate crew-to-passenger ratios, so can offer truly personalized service.

Rates include complimentary fine wines and premium spirits, reflecting their all-inclusive approach to luxury.

What sets luxury cruises apart is their attention to detail – from curated shore excursions to gourmet dining – ensuring a truly bespoke and exclusive voyage.

We’ve written about these ultra-luxury cruises

Let’s start with Seabourn Cruise Line. Unlimited French champagne and caviar? It’s all included!

Ships are typically small. The Seabourn Odyssey, for example, carries 462 passengers.

Or go French. Ponant is a lovely French line, where the French touch is uber-classy.

Crystal Cruises is another high-end cruise line, known for its great service and the only Nobu restaurant at sea.

We haven’t written about Silversea, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club yet, but they also fall in the ultra-luxury cruise category.

Affordable luxury cruises

Then there are what we call “affordable luxury” cruises.

What are affordable luxury cruises?

These cruise lines offer a more elevated dining experience, superior service, enhanced amenities and greater personal attention compared to mainstream cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Princess Cruises.

But their rates remain more affordable than those of the most luxurious cruise lines.

Affordable luxury cruises lines we’ve covered

  • Viking Ocean Cruises – Smallish all-suite ships (930 passengers), offering a free shore excursion in each port and complimentary house wines at lunch and dinner
  • Windstar Cruises – A leader in small-ship cruising, with ships carrying just 148 to 350 passengers each
  • Oceania Cruises – Known as one of the best cruise lines for great food

River cruises

What’s a river cruise about?

River cruises offer scenic travel along inland waterways, with smaller ships that dock directly in historical city centers.

They typically include guided tours, local cuisine and a relaxed pace. With fewer passengers, river cruises provide a more personalized and culturally immersive experience than larger ocean-going cruises.

River cruises we’ve covered

Scenic (an Australian-based company) offers some of the world’s best river cruises.

Want to discover the historic riches of Normandy on a Seine River cruise? The scenes are a kaleidoscope of castles, gardens, artist studios and museums – all explored from a Scenic “space ship” with cool sun-room balconies.

If you’re itching to go bicycling on a river cruise, check out these great cycling cruises.

For something totally exotic, an Irrawaddy River cruise in Myanmar (Burma) can’t be beat.

Sailing cruises

We love Star Clippers for their sailing cruises.

Cruise Guide

Feel the wind in your hair when you sail (yes, really sail!) the Caribbean with Star Clippers. The unspoiled islands are a treat too. (Hello Iles des Saintes!)

And have you considered a chartering a yacht? Private yacht charters aren’t just for the rich and famous anymore.

Popular mid-size to large ship cruises

We’ve now cruised several times with (and written about) Holland America Line.

Along with Celebrity Cruises, they rank at the top of the mainstream cruise line category, i.e., above Princess, NCL, Carnival, etc.

Their ships range from mid-size (1,400 passengers) to the smaller end of the large scale (2,668 passengers).

Adventure cruises

UnCruise Adventures is all about, you guessed it, adventure cruising!

Their small ship cruises focus on taking you off-the-beaten-path and out into the wilderness. Expect lots of hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and Zodiac excursions!

Maybe you’d like to explore hidden Hawaii on this UnCruise Hawaii adventure?

Family cruises

Hawaii is very kid-friendly. So family cruises in Hawaii are ideal for a family cruising vacation.

One-of-a-kind cruises

If you’re looking to explore the remote corners of the world on a unique cruise, you’ll love the following!

Indonesian sailing cruise

Alila Purnama

Beaches, scuba diving and, oh my, Komodo dragons!

You’re sailing Indonesia on a luxurious 10-guest phinisi.

Fiji yacht cruise

Or you could cruise Fiji on a small barefoot-and-bikini yacht. Maybe try kava, Fiji’s potent traditional beverage?

The Yasawa Islands are totally idyllic.

African river boat

Zambezi Queen river safari

And there’s nothing like an African river safari on the Zambezi Queen. This boutique houseboat gets you up-close-and-personal with elephants galore.

Where do you want to go on your cruise?

French Polynesia

Cruising French Polynesia is a delightful way to explore the 118-island South Pacific nation. Ships are small and usually couples-oriented.

The best Tahiti cruises are offered by Windstar Cruises and on the Paul Gauguin ship.

With its gorgeous turquoise lagoon and necklace of idyllic motus, Bora Bora, in particular, oozes romance.

And there are tons of fun things to do in Bora Bora – from shopping for pearls to snorkeling with sharks.

Maybe combine a cruise with a stay in a dreamy overwater bungalow in Bora Bora? Perfect for a honeymoon or other special occasion…

Northern Europe

Cruise from Stockholm to Bergen on an epic Viking Homelands cruise in the Baltic. (Fabulous fjords, anyone?)

Morocco

Snake charmers? Harems? Discover what it’s like to visit Morocco on a cruise.

Alaska

Go wild on an Alaska UnCruise adventure cruise! (Think kayaking, hiking and SUP boarding.)

Egypt

A leisurely Nile River cruise is the ultimate way to explore Egypt’s amazing temples and tombs.

Costa Rica and Panama

This Costa Rica cruise immerses you in all of nature’s awe! Bonus: Squeezing through the Panama Canal.

Canary Islands

See the secret side of the Canaries on this Canary Island cruise.

Hike UNESCO-listed parks, explore one of the most beautiful villages in Spain and taste sweet Malmsey wine.

Practical cruise tips

Cruise Guide

Check out these nifty tips to spice up your cruise. Like… Take your folding bicycle!

You want the deluxe perks associated with small ship cruising (a suite, fine dining, lovely wines). But also big ship amenities (a range of specialty restaurants, great musical theater shows).

Say hello to the ship-within-a-ship concept – or VIP cruising on a big ship.

Cruise gratuities

How much should you tip on a cruise? Here’s the scoop on cruise gratuities for 20 popular cruise lines.

Cruise drinks packages

Are any of the Holland America drinks packages (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) worth getting?

Here’s everything you want to know about the bar menu on Viking Cruises.

What’s the cost of drinks on Star Clippers? And what’s on the bar menu?

Cool ports-of-call

Antarctica

Antarctica is one of the coolest cruise ports!

It doesn’t get any cooler than cruising to Antarctica! The icebergs in Antarctica are bigger than buses (some are even bigger than fallen skyscrapers).

And there are many cute and playful types of Antarctic penguins. (We particularly loved taking photos of the adorable Adelies.)

Berlin

Is it crazy to spend one day in Berlin? Or not…

Old San Juan

Colorful Old San Juan is one of the best cruise ports.

Check out the top things to do in colorful Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Vancouver

Rent a bike and go bicycling around Stanley Park.

Philipsburg

Dock in Philipsburg, and you can spend the day airplane spotting at Maho Beach, racing an America’s Cup sailboat or hanging out at Orient Beach.

Come to think of it, there are oodles of fun things to do in St. Maarten and St. Martin!

More information

Check out the best new cruise ships.

Also see all our cruise posts.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more. We also have and recommend Medjet for global air medical transportation and travel security.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

Pssst! If you make a booking or purchase through our site, we may earn a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks!


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Cruise Guide

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!