Cruising is typically associated with large family travel, especially families with kids, but cruising is also a great, budget-friendly option for couples wanting a getaway. Budgets can get tight at times, but that doesn't mean you have to ditch your vacation expectations all together. Cruise lines fall into different price categories, but hardly any qualify as truly budget.
For a budget-friendly cruise line, Norwegian has really tried to step it up and away from the other budget brands in the industry by redesigning dining experiences, refurbishing common areas and choosing a more modern, hotel-like design in their staterooms. Offering a diverse array of cruise ports to visit throughout your journey, cruisers enjoy a Mediterranean vacation that offers the perfect balance of leisure and adventure. Norwegian’s Mediterranean cruises transport you from the ruins of ancient empires in Rome to trendy shops and restaurants in Santorini. Meander through quaint villages while stopping in the Naples, Italy port, stroll the cobble stone streets while taking-in the breathtaking scenery of the Split harbor when you cruise to Croatia, or sip the renowned wine of Tuscany’s vineyards while in Venice.
Viking River Cruises has dominated the river scene for years. They’re a fan-favorite with retirees of course, but these days even younger adult couples are loving the brand for their strict no-kids-allowed policy. River cruising is a great change from ocean sailing as most ports along Europe’s Danube and Rhine Rivers are extremely accessible to tourist attractions and city centers so, as Viking loves to say, you’ll “spend less time getting there, and more time being there.” Prices vary during the year but there are some great deals to be had for budget conscious couples without compromising on quality
Ocean liners used to be the only way to get back and forth between America and Europe, and it’s still a popular option for people who hate flying. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth ship is like stepping back into the age of transatlantic travel with Art Deco elegance everywhere you look. If you have the time, consider sailing to Europe. Some of the rates available are cheaper than a plane ticket. Imagine that once in a lifetime Atlantic crossing with your partner at a price only the rich and famous could afford.
They are one of the top cruise line sailings to bucket list destinations. Princess is a sweet spot for not spending too much but having a more elevated experience than the budget brands. One of the best premiums with Princess is the attention to sleep quality. After all, relaxation is a top priority on vacation. You’re sure to catch uninterrupted rest time with staterooms aboard select Princess ships, such as the Island Princess, with beds designed by a sleep expert. You will be surprised to find rates less than $1,000 for 15 days at sea! If you want to experience other Princess sailings like stretching out on a Caribbean beach, admiring the pristine rainforests or strolling the cobbled streets of colonial towns, Princess has budget options for most travelers.
With a strict 18-years-or-older policy, all Viking Ocean Cruises have been adult-only cruises since the very beginning. Ever since they revolutionized the river cruise industry, with stylish ships appealing to an older demographic, they’ve been one of the leading cruise lines for grownups. With itineraries focused on immersion in local culture, cuisine and onshore activities, it’s a fantastic choice for a more sophisticated cruise.
Instead of offering all kinds of non-stop entertainment and 24-hour buffet restaurants, Viking Ocean Cruises gives its passengers the chance to relax in between ports. Every detail you see on board a Viking ship was thoughtfully designed to allow you to completely immerse yourself in the destinations you’re visiting, their cultures, art, history and cuisine. You’ll need to plan ahead for deals but definitely at the higher end for the budget friendly traveler.
Another major cruise line with its own exclusive on-board sanctuary is Celebrity Cruises. Known as The Retreat, this brand-new feature was introduced by Celebrity Edge in November 2018 and incorporation in the rest of Celebrity’s fleet started in February 2019, as part of the company’s multi-million-dollar modernization project. Having been a cruise industry leader for decades, they continue that tradition with their exclusive The Retreat. This is, however, not just an extra amenity or service. It’s not simply a place either. The Retreat is Celebrity’s entire suite experience made personal. Celebrity is one of very few major cruise lines in the world that offer every Retreat guest their own personal butler, private restaurant and exclusive lounge. It’s the ultimate adult-only experience on a massive cruise ship.
Well, not exactly “budget” but couples really need to investigate this cruise! Virgin Voyages promises a pared-down sailing experience; an “escape from the chaos” of casinos and kid-filled creches. Sailors will be encouraged to raid the chef’s fridge and create a midnight feast at the late-night lock-ins. Hitting the seas in 2020, Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages will be a complete adult-only cruise line. To sail on all its ships, passengers have to be 18 years or older. The brand-new company’s aim is to make cruising hip, cool and maybe even sexy. Branson himself said that the goal is to draw in people who would have never considered going on a cruise before. Cutting-edge amenities will range from a test kitchen to the world’s largest daybed at sea and a fancy nightclub.
The perfect example of what sparked this new type of cruising is the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat. While Carnival is definitely a family-friendly cruise line, it’s this kind of 21+ retreats that have proven immensely popular among grown-up passengers. You’ll still be at the same ship as the kids, but while they’re participating in a themed event or other kids’ activity, you’ll be swaying in a hammock, sitting at the bar or simply lazing in a sunbed.
Additionally, Carnival Cruises is a great choice for honeymoon cruises, just because of their various adult-only areas. The Alchemy Bar, Piano Bar and Tequila Bar, for example, are accessible only to people 21 years and older, great places to kick back with an adult beverage.
Despite its name, Royal Caribbean International offers voyages to more than 260 destinations across 68 countries on six continents. While you can certainly sail to the Caribbean and Mexico, you can also board a ship to Alaska, navigate the waterways of Europe or ride the waves down under to Australia and New Zealand. Depending on which itinerary you choose, you can taste local fare, tag along on a sightseeing tour or enjoy a nature hike – all of which are offered as shore excursions. Royal Caribbean ships depart from ports all over the United States, including Seattle, Boston and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as well as from numerous international ports. Itineraries range from two-night trips to 19-night journeys. The cruise line is budget friendly with many itineraries for couples.
Swiss-based MSC Cruises sets itself apart from other cruise lines with its refined onboard experiences and eclectic selection of facilities, including adults-only pools, Balinese spas and 4D cinemas. The line’s 15 ships cater to a variety of nationalities sailing from destinations like the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, South America and northern Europe, with voyages lasting between one and 42 nights. MSC’s ships carry anywhere from 1,984 to 5,179 passengers at full capacity, with approximately one crew member for every three passengers. The cruise fare covers ship activities, 24-hour room service and most meals. MSC entertainment includes evening concerts, live shows, parties and contests, while shore excursions cover everything from tours of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, to exploring Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.