The best senior cruises mix adult-focused onboard activities with fascinating destinations ashore. No two retirees want the same thing from their travels. However, generally, most seniors have time to dedicate to longer itineraries.
Some have saved their money to enjoy a more premium cruise ship experience, but all are happy to snap up a cruise deal or find a promotion offering increased value from their cruise booking.
How did we choose the top cruises for seniors? We prioritized cruise lines that target couples and adults, rather than families, as well as cruise ships with fine dining, grownup entertainment and plenty of opportunities to socialize. We looked for destination-intensive cruises offering immersive cultural opportunities, bucket-list itineraries and a range of sailing lengths.
We dismissed the huge ships with their whiz-bang top-deck attractions, although these are ideal for grandparents on a multigenerational holiday with family. We also skipped the small expedition ships that require a level of physical fitness not all seniors possess.
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Based on those criteria, here are the seven best cruise lines for seniors who love to travel and are looking to spend more time at sea.
Viking‘s 930-passenger ocean ships top our list of the best cruises for seniors because they are designed specifically for an adult crowd. No one younger than 18 is allowed on board, and all the programming is created with passengers aged 50-plus in mind.
These cruises are ideal for academic-minded seniors. Viking chairman Torstein Hagen says that he set out to create “the thinking person’s cruise,” and lectures and other destination-specific programming are the main form of entertainment on board. That doesn’t mean Viking cruises are boring, though. In fact, the crowd-pleasing ABBA tribute show in the theater is not to be missed.
Viking ships are comfortable, homey oases done up in sophisticated Scandinavian decor.
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Itineraries are focused on getting senior cruisers to key attractions around the world, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with a shore excursion each day included in the cruise fare. Thrifty retirees will appreciate the “no nickel and diming” philosophy and cruise fares that cover everything except cocktails and spa treatments.
Complimentary dining includes a specialty Italian restaurant and the Chef’s Table, with its rotating tasting menus themed around international cuisines.
Related: What’s included in your cruise fare?
Also recommended for the senior and baby boomer crowd are Viking’s river ships in Europe, Vietnam and Egypt (among other destinations) and the line’s expedition products in Antarctica and on the Great Lakes, which have similarities to the ocean ships, including the all-inclusive pricing.
Windstar‘s small sailing ships and motorized yachts range from 148 to 342 passengers. Although kids 8 and older are allowed on board, you are unlikely to see many on these upscale vessels. Most Windstar cruisers are active seniors who come as couples, pairs of friends or solo travelers, looking for a destination-rich experience on ships where they won’t feel lost in a crowd.
Windstar has two classes of ships. Older couples celebrating a milestone anniversary should choose a sailing ship, with its vast open deck space and picturesque sails that set the mood for romance. Seniors who prefer more personal space should seek out the 312-passenger motorized yachts with their all-suite accommodations.
Cruise highlights on all ships include an outdoor deck party with a lavish buffet and late-night conga line, as well as meals created by James Beard Foundation-affiliated chefs. (Windstar partners with the prestigious culinary organization.)
With four nearly identical ships holding fewer than 700 passengers each, Azamara has carved out a niche catering to well-traveled seniors looking to cruise in clubby surroundings.
The line’s cruises are best for seniors who don’t want to splurge on a fancier luxury product but still want an upscale level of ambiance, service and amenities. While kids aren’t banned, the line makes clear on its website that it “discourages” passengers younger than 18.
Azamara passengers appreciate the boutique hotel-like decor, which includes faux fireplaces in the impressive libraries, called The Drawing Room on each vessel.
The line’s destination-focused itineraries in Europe and elsewhere spend more time in ports than average ships, staying overnight in key destinations. This is ideal for passengers who want to explore on their own. The line also offers a complimentary “AzAmazing Evenings” program on every cruise. They feature cultural performances ashore in amazing destinations, such as Turkey’s ancient city of Ephesus.
Related: 5 best adults-only cruise lines
Holland America is one of the best cruise lines for seniors because it hits the sweet spot with its midsize ships. Carrying 2,668 passengers or fewer, these vessels offer big-ship amenities but lack the more over-the-top waterslides and thrill attractions found on megaships. The line is a great choice for baby boomers and older seniors who wish to enjoy the line’s alternative dining options, casinos and choice of entertainment.
An older crowd does not mean a sedate group. Holland America hosts live music in a big way. Passengers dance the night away at venues that include B.B. King’s Blues Club, featuring some of the best live bands at sea. Explorations Central (EXC) programming is designed to educate passengers about the destinations they visit, and a fun roster of other onboard pursuits includes a winemaking experience with Chateau Ste. Michelle.
The ships are also particularly accessible. Many staterooms offer roll-in showers and other assistive features. Vessels also are equipped with a lift system for pools and tenders.
In addition to one-week cruises in the Caribbean and Alaska (the line’s specialty), Holland America explores South America, the South Pacific and other destinations around the globe. The line also offers months-long world cruises.
Senior travelers with a penchant for traditional cruising will find Cunard‘s ocean liners to be a top cruise option. Founded in 1840, the cruise line has a long legacy and is proud of its less casual vibe, which includes nightly dress codes. Go old-school with dress-up galas held in real ballrooms with high ceilings and twinkling chandeliers. Gentlemen hosts are on hand if ladies need a dance partner.
Those same ballrooms host daily afternoon tea, complete with finger sandwiches and scones with cream, served on fine china by white-gloved waiters. Other refined onboard activities include watching shows in Queen Mary 2’s onboard planetarium, attending lectures by guest speakers, fencing, taking art classes and enjoying classical concerts.
Not everyone stays in a fancy suite, but seniors ready to splurge should book either Queens Grill or Princess Grill rooms for upscale accommodations and meals served in exclusive, intimate restaurants.
QM2 is the only ship that offers regular transatlantic service between Southampton, England, and New York. The 2,081-passenger Queen Elizabeth and 2,061-passenger Queen Victoria spend time in Europe and other destinations, and all three ships offer world cruises around the globe. When it debuts in 2024, the line’s 3,000-passenger Queen Anne will also sail in the Mediterranean.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Retirees who have worked hard and are ready to treat themselves right will find that Regent Seven Seas Cruises is one of the best cruises for seniors looking for luxury.
The cruise line brags of operating the most luxurious ships afloat. It’s hard to argue that point, especially on the line’s latest ship, $545 million, 746-passenger, all-suite Seven Seas Grandeur. The ship boasts a football field’s worth of marble, an impressive art collection and one of the most expensive suites at sea — a Regent Suite, which is priced at $11,000 per day, per couple.
Other high-end lines, such as Seabourn and Silversea, operate intimate ships with extraordinary service, accommodations and cuisine. However, Regent differs with its shore excursion-inclusive, one-stop-shopping fares and grand European hotel ambience — especially on the sister ships Seven Seas Splendor and Seven Seas Explorer.
Related: 12 best all-inclusive cruise lines
The other Regent ships are well-maintained 480- to 684-passenger older vessels. On all, if you don’t feel like going to one of the restaurants, you can stay in your bathrobe and order a meal served course by course in your suite.
Also, except for summer and holiday periods, you are unlikely to find kids on board.
Regent sails to some 450 ports of call around the world, including world cruise itineraries, so senior travelers can find sailings to all the destinations they’ve been waiting to explore.
Wellness-focused seniors love Oceania Cruises‘ 648- to 1,210-passenger ships for their spa and fitness center and healthy food options. Foodies are drawn by the inspired dining. PBS host and cookbook author Jacques Pepin has a French bistro on the line’s two largest ships, Marina and Riviera, and he’s one of the line’s culinary advisors. All the line’s ships include impressive steakhouses, and some feature Red Ginger, an extraordinary modern take on Asian cuisine, as well as other eateries.
The ships provide an appealing country club-like ambiance, which is upscale without being fancy. Older passengers tend to be the sort who like to entertain themselves, though they might be distracted by the standout attraction of a real cooking school where expert chefs give classes on Marina and Riviera.
As a nod to solo travelers, the line is in the process of adding solo cabins designed and priced for one.
Oceania is known for destination-focused itineraries in the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe, among other places. Most are 10 nights or longer; world cruises are up to 180 days.
You’ll find seniors on nearly every cruise line out there. Some older travelers are looking to explore the world, while others prefer cheap trips to beachy destinations.
Everyone’s top choice will be different, but we think these seven lines represent the best senior cruises. They prioritize an adult-focused onboard experience and destination-intensive itineraries more readily accessible to retirees.
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