Whether you have kids or grandkids or not, whether you love kids or don’t, sometimes there is just something extremely appealing about the idea of a relaxing cruise vacation minus the youngsters. That’s where adults-only cruises come in.
Back in the late 1990s when Torstein Hagen created Viking River Cruises, now by far Europe’s largest river cruise operator, it was purposely designed for adults with no kids allowed onboard. That philosophy stands as the company has moved into ocean cruises and expedition ships.
Likewise, when British billionaire Richard Branson launched the first ship of his Virgin Voyages cruise brand two years ago, it was with no one under age 18 allowed onboard. The cruise line later riffed on the subject with ads showing kids very displeased that they couldn’t get in on the fun with grownups.
While there are no other major cruise lines that outright ban the under-18 set, there are ways travelers can lessen the chances there will be many or any children on their cruise.
If you really want to avoid kids, don’t cruise during a school break period (such as spring break, summer, or winter holidays), pick an itinerary for more than two weeks (length being a deterrent to the family crowd—world cruise, anyone?), or look toward an ultra-luxurious cruise or one that involves an expensive airfare—not everyone wants to splurge on an upscale experience for their progeny.
Also keep in mind the smaller the ship—and fewer onboard experiences for kids (such as kids clubs and big water slides)—the greater the chance youngsters won’t be onboard. Here are our picks for the best adults-only cruises.
Whether you cruise with Viking on one of the company’s many 190-passenger river cruise vessels in Europe, on the line’s 930-passenger ocean cruise ships that sail around the world, or on one of its two 378-passenger expedition ships, you’ll be treated to a fine-tuned cruising experience that is geared strictly to adults. You need to be age 18 and up to get onboard to enjoy the many perks covered in the all-inclusive fares. Those perks consist of shore excursions in every port, free wine and beer, all meals (including numerous restaurant experiences and nightly seafood buffets), engaging lectures hosted by historians and other experts, and Nordic spas complete with hot sauna, steam room, and a chilly snow grotto.
15-day Grand European Tour, Amsterdam to Budapest on the Rhine, Main, and Danube rivers, from $3,999 per person.
Adult-only cruises offered by Virgin Voyages take place on three 2,770-passenger ships (a fourth is set to debut in December 2023) that sail the Caribbean, Europe, and the South Pacific. The onboard atmosphere is edgy, cheeky, full of subtle—and not so subtle—sexual innuendo, and fun done in an inclusive, adult way unlike anything the cruise industry has ever seen before. Expect lots of day drinking, lively nighttime parties and entertainment, an onboard tattoo parlor, and indulgent food, including an over-the-top molecular dining experience and the “Lick Me Till . . . Ice Cream” shop (for no extra charge)—in between trips to the wellness retreat with a mud room and ’80s-style aerobics classes for the full detox and retox Virgin experience.
4-night Fire & Sunset Soirée sailing, embarks Miami for Key West and then Virgin’s private Beach Club at Bimini in the Bahamas, from $1,606 for two.
This upscale line with four small ships does not restrict kids but tends to attract well-traveled couples age 50 and up who like the idea of seeing the world from the vantage point of a floating boutique hotel. The onboard atmosphere on Azamara sailings is both convivial and sophisticated, on ships that carry a maximum of 704 guests. The vessels feature a library with faux fireplace, an upscale steakhouse for an elevated dining experience, and a “living room” for drinking and socializing.
Itineraries are focused on maximizing time in port, with cultural immersion including small group shore excursions and “AzAmazing” experiences where, for instance, you and other guests might be treated to complimentary private acrobatics show in Monaco. Special golf cruises with PerryGolf include play at such prestigious courses as Ireland’s Royal Portrush.
9-night Croatia Intensive Voyage on the 690-passenger Azamara Quest, from $3,516 per person.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
With a fleet of 490- to 750-passenger ships, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is one of the most expensive cruise lines out there and touts that it is “the world’s most luxurious cruise line”—a status it gets by, for instance, outfitting its latest ships with Carrara marble details, crystal chandeliers, over-the-top suites, and multi-million-dollar art collections. Fares include a broad choice of shore excursions such as a mud bath experience in Cartagena, Spain, premium wine and spirits, and business-class international airfare. While the line does not ban kids—and in fact, encourages families at holidays and on summer cruises in Alaska—not everyone wants to pay top dollar for experiences that may go over kids’ heads.
10-night from Miami to the Caribbean on the new 750-passenger Seven Seas Grandeur, from $7,199 per person.
With its sleek ships, a focus on cuisine and drink as a cultural experience, butlers that pamper all guests, and an overall ultra-luxury ambience, Silversea is a favorite of well-heeled adult travelers. Grandparents may bring a multigenerational group onboard for a holiday or summertime sailing (the 596-passenger Silver Muse is the only Silversea ship with a children’s playroom), but with air-inclusive fares that start at around $800 a day, and no discounts for kids, you’re unlikely to have your pool time interrupted by shouts of “Marco Polo.” Rather, you’re more likely to hear someone call an attendant over for more champagne and a side of caviar, both complimentary and available 24/7.
10-night sailing from Monte Carlo to Barcelona on the new 728-passenger Silver Nova, from $11,400 per person.
Windstar guarantees there won’t be young kids onboard—you must be age eight or up to sail. That said, it’s rare to see any kids at all. The upscale line’s 148- to 342-passenger ships deliver an intimate, adult atmosphere whether you are on a four- or five-masted ship with billowing sails or an all-suite motorized yacht. Cabins and suites are mostly designed for two and attract couples looking for romance at sea, in addition to excellent dining, enhanced by the line’s status as the official cruise line of the James Beard Foundation. Borrow a kayak from your ship’s own marina by day and cap an evening of food and drink with quiet time out on deck, watching the moon reflect on the sea.
7-day Dreams of Tahiti on the 148-passenger sailing ship Wind Spirit, all-inclusive from $3,122.