Best Cruises for Young Adults and College Students

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Considering taking a cruise on your next spring break getaway?

If you’ve never been on a cruise before, you might be picturing the older demographic playing shuffleboard, eating dinner at 4:00, and talking about their investments. But you’d be wrong to think that.

Belly Flop Competition on Royal Caribbeans Majesty of the Seas

Cruising is an excellent vacation destination for college students. Its affordable, low-hassle provides plenty of entertainment, thrills, and partying.

Additionally, cruise holidays provide the opportunity to visit several destinations while only unpacking once! 

So, what are the best cruises for young adults and college students?

If there is one cruise line purpose-built for partying young adults, it’s Virgin Voyages. But if you are cruising on a budget, Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line are great choices.

With that in mind, there is a lot to consider when planning your cruise vacation. The time of year, length of cruise, and destination can make drastic changes in the ship’s party atmosphere.

To make sure you get the most out of your vacation, we’ve put together a list of tips and selected the best cruise lines for young adults.

The Best Cruises for Young Adults and College Students

Young Passengers aboard royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas

Now that you know when and where to sail, which cruise line should you choose?

If you are looking for younger crowds and a party at sea, you will find that Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line are your best bet. These cruise lines tend to draw in younger crowds and have some of the world’s largest and most thrill-packed ships.

But if there is one cruise line purpose-built for partying young adults, it’s Virgin Voyages. The cruise line is adult-only, focusing on the under-30 party crowd. While the price is higher than other cruise lines, Virgin Voyage’s ships have a party atmosphere tailored toward college students and young adults. 

Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Holland America are popular but cater to an older demographic. And as you might expect, Disney Cruise Line is purpose-built for young families.

1. Virgin Voyages

Valiant Lady Rear View Rendering
(Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages)

Virgin Voyages is a unique adult-only cruise line purpose-built for young adults with a particular focus on vibrant nightlife, incredible dining, and a laid-back atmosphere.

When you sail with Virgin Voyages, you can forget the formal nights and set dining times in favor of a laid-back vacation with a vibrant nightlife.

The cruise line has gone above to make food a number one priority. There are no buffets or main dining rooms onboard any of their ships. Instead, passengers can choose from over 20 onboard restaurants. Each restaurant presents a unique dining experience, with menus created by Michelin-starred chefs.

The entertainment is another highlight on the ships, with shows ranging from comedy to Cirque du Soleil and everything in between. The shows typically run less than an hour, so you can get back to partying without missing a beat.

The nightlife aboard a Virgin Voyages cruise ship is the best in the industry. Young adults can party to their heart’s content with late-night dance parties, rooftop pajama parties, a tattoo and piercing parlor, live DJs, and overnight stops in the Caribbean.

2. Royal Caribbean International

Quantum of the Seas FlowRider
Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean International

A Royal Caribbean cruise is the best choice for active young adults. Their ships are full of activities and amenities that cater to a younger crowd.

Royal Caribbean’s larger ships boast rock climbing walls, surfing simulators, zip lines, comedy shows, and much much more.

Young people looking for the party scene will loveRoyal Caribbean’s bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues. Royal’s Quantum-class ships even have a bar with bionic bartenders!

3. Carnival Cruise Line

Waterslides on a Carnival cruise ship with the whale tail funnel in the background
(Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line is one of the most popular cruise ships among younger travelers. Their popularity stems from their focus on the “fun factor.”

As the name suggests, Carnival’s cruises truly feel like a festival at sea with pool parties, dance classes, international DJs, fitness classes, and more.

One of Carnival’s most unique features is the craft brewery featured on some of their ships, complete with their very own craft beers.

One standout reason why Carnival is among the best cruise lines for young adults is their incredibly low fees. They have some of the cheapest cruise fares in the industry. Best of all, they don’t nickel and dime passengers like other cruise lines.

The one downside of cruising with Carnival is their popularity with young families. If you choose to spend your summer break on a Carnival cruise, it’s important to know that you will be sharing the ship with lots of kids.

But if that doesn’t bother you, Carnival is one of the best cruise lines for your spring break vacation.

4. Norwegian Cruise Line

View from the pool deck of the Norwegian Cruise ship Pearl with live dj in the background
Mardi Gras WaterWorks (Photo Credit: Carnival Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line is another great option for young adults who like to party and gamble. This cruise line has a laid-back atmosphere in the day and a party at night.

In addition to their top-tier casinos, young travelers will love the White Hot Party, ice bar, and vibrant nightlife.

When is the Best Time for College Students to go on a Cruise?

The most critical factor determining the ship demographic is when you will set sail. As a rule of thumb, you will find younger crowds when school is out. 

If you are looking to cruise with a younger crowd, it is best to book a cruise during Spring Break or early summer. You will also find younger groups if you sail during late summer or Christmas break; however, you will be sharing the ship with families and young children.

If you want to sail with younger crowds but not too young, stick with spring break or early summer sailings. Cruises that sail during these times are full of young adults and have vibrant nightlife.

Shorter Cruises = Younger Crowds

Night Club aboard a cruise ship

Another critical factor is the length of your trip. The longer the cruise, the older the crowd.

Younger cruisers tend to take shorter cruise trips of 3-5 days to save money. In addition to being cheaper, booking a shorter cruise has the added benefit of greater flexibility in departure times. 

Short cruises are great for college students looking to party and let loose with younger crowds. In recent years, cruise lines have made a big push into shorter cruises, and you can even find some of the new ships sailing with short itineraries. You can find plenty of quick sailing options that visit Mexico and the Bahamas.

Your Destination Matters

Two young women on a cruise ship

Don’t sail to Alaska or Antarctica if you want to party with a younger crowd. Alaskan, New England, and scenic river cruises appeal to older passengers who prefer a quiet and relaxing vacation. 

In general, warm climates are where you will find the most vibrant nightlife and party atmosphere. Younger passengers gravitate towards the tropical climate, which offers drinks by the pool and beautiful beaches. 

Bottom line: if you want to party with a younger crowd, book a sailing in a warm climate. Caribbean, Bahamas, and Mexican cruises tend to have the youngest passengers.

How can I Stay Safe While Cruising?

Regardless of where your cruise takes you, it is always important to keep safe while traveling. These simple tips can help you avoid trouble and stay safe:

Use your safe – Cabins come with a safe. Use it. Keeping electronic devices, jewelry, money, documents, and passports in the safe is always a good idea to protect yourself from theft.

Don’t drink excessively – Alcohol is a major contributing factor in safety incidents aboard cruise ships. Be mindful of your limits, and pace yourself. There is plenty of alcohol on board, and it can be easy to get carried away. And never accept any drinks from a stranger.

Keep on top of handwashing – Make sure you use the hand sanitizer provided in the ship’s dining areas. Norovirus is a common issue on cruise ships, and with thousands of passengers sharing a confined space, it is easy for germs to spread. 

Book the sponsored excursions – You might be able to save some money by booking shore excursions independently, but it is always safer to book through your cruise line. The sponsored excursions cruise lines offer are vetted and insured to ensure the safety of you and your fellow passengers. Your safety is worth the price even if it costs a few extra bucks.

Keep track of time – Pay close attention to the arrival and departure times when you are in port. They are not suggestions, and your ship will leave without you. We recommend arriving at your ship 30 minutes before the last call to avoid missing the boat.


Are Cruise Fares All-Inclusive?

Most cruise lines will include many amenities in their base fare, but they are usually not all-inclusive. Your cruise fare typically includes meals in the main dining room and buffet, onboard entertainment, and your cabin.

It generally won’t include specialty restaurants, alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, spa treatments, and shore excursions. Before booking, it is good to see what’s included with your base fare and make sure you budget for the extra costs. Internet and drink packages typically cost extra and are a good idea to add to your budget if you plan to drink and post pics to social media.

Can I Drink Onboard the Cruise?

Most cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, and Princess, require passengers to be 21 to consume alcohol while onboard the ship. Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, allow passengers between the ages of 18 to 20 to consume alcohol while in international waters, provided they are traveling with a parent or guardian who signs a consent form at the front desk. Don’t think you can fool the onboard bartenders.

You will make all purchases through your cruise card when you are onboard the ship. If you attempt to sneak past the bartenders, it will be flagged if you are underage, and cruise lines reserve the right to disembark passengers who get caught purchasing drinks for underage guests.

And if you want to save some money on drinks, most cruise lines allow passengers over the age of 21 to carry a bottle or two of wine or champagne onto the ship. You can even take the bottle to the restaurant, but you might have to pay a corkage fee. Check with your cruise line before sailing to see what drinks you can bring on board.

What are the Bars and Nightclubs Like on a Cruise Ship?

You will be happy to know that cruise ships have active nightlife onboard. Whether you prefer a sports bar, dancing by the pool, or a karaoke bar, you will likely find it aboard your ship.

In addition to bars and lounges, most cruise ships have nightclubs full of partygoers dancing and singing well into the night. These elaborate clubs have insane light and sound systems and incredible dance parties hosted by scratch DJs.

Can I Gamble at the Cruise Casino?

Most cruise lines allow passengers over the age of 18 to gamble at their onboard casinos. Remember that some older ships, and all Disney ships, won’t have a casino. But if you are sailing on a new ship, you won’t you won’t need to worry, as most cruise ships have casinos full of slot machines, table games, and scheduled poker tournaments.

Tip: Cruise ship casinos have lower odds than your standard Vegas casino. For example, blackjack on a ship pays 6 to 5 compared to the standard 3 to 2 payout.

Can I Smoke Onboard the Ship?

Rules regarding smoking have become increasingly restrictive. All cruise lines prohibit smoking in cabins, and most don’t allow it on balconies. That said, you can smoke on a cruise ship in smoking areas on the outdoor decks, and many permit smoking in the casino.

Is there Internet on the Ship?

While at sea, the only internet connection is by satellite. If you want to avoid incurring roaming charges, you may want to look into your cruise ship’s wi-fi package.

In the past, cruise ships were notorious for having slow, expensive, and unreliable internet connections. Today, Passengers can find fast internet connections on modern cruise ships. Royal Caribbean, Princess, and Carnival have all made great efforts to speed up their internet connections, but it still won’t be as fast as you are used to, but it will get the job done.

Most cruise lines won’t include wi-fi in their base fare. Fortunately, the internet packages provided by cruise lines are pretty reasonable. Many cruise lines, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, have begun experimenting with different packages that guests can purchase for a full day or an entire cruise.

What is the Best Way to Book a Cruise?

There are many ways to book a cruise, including directly through the cruise line’s website, online, or through a travel agent. Although it may be cheaper to book online, you might want to consider using a travel agent, especially if this is your first cruise.

Booking a cruise is not as straightforward as booking a resort. A travel agent can help you find a cruise that fits your budget, not to mention they can get access to deals and group rates that you might not otherwise find online. Many travel agents get paid a commission through the cruise line and might not even charge you to book using their service.

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Marcello De Lio

I’ve been cruising since I was 11 years old. I love the freedom that cruising provides, meeting new people, and exploring amazing new ships. I love to share my passion for cruising and travel with readers.

2 thoughts on “Best Cruises for Young Adults and College Students”

  1. Great article. Appreciate the info. As a grandmother reading ideas about cruises for my 2 graduating granddaughters, I am concerned with details about safety, etc. Thanks for recommendations!

    • I’m glad you found the article helpful! Although it’s impossible to be 100% safe, cruise ships are generally safe places for travel. And cruise ship security is always available if you have any concerns.


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