5 cruise lines to try if you just can’t stand being around kids on vacation

Feb 27, 2022

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.


Are you one of those travelers who wants to blow a gasket every time you see a crying kid on an airplane? It’s OK, we get it. But we do have some advice to offer should you be thinking of booking a cruise: Tread carefully.

Some of the biggest, best-known cruise brands in recent years have gone full-bore after the family market, to the extent that the sun-soaked top decks of their ships sometimes can feel more like a scene out of “Daddy Day Care” than a blissful vacation retreat.

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If your idea of getting away from it all includes getting away from the kids — not just yours but everybody else’s — you’ll probably want to steer clear of such family-magnet ships as Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, which has enough pull-out sofas and pull-down bunks in cabins to accommodate more than 1,000 children (not to mention the Ultimate Family Suite).

Ditto for the new floating resorts from the likes of MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, which are luring in families by the busload with giant waterslides, deck-top go-kart tracks, virtual reality game zones and other kid-friendly features.

And do we even need to mention family-focused Disney Cruise Line?

Don’t despair. Even as many lines double down on the family market, there’s a counter-trend taking place in the cruise industry. A growing number of lines are going all-in on the idea of adult-only cruises. Check out these five brands that are catering specifically to a grown-up crowd.

Related: A beginners guide to picking a cruise line

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Voyages)

The much-ballyhooed new line from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has banned children under the age of 18 from its ships — part of an effort to create a hipper, more-sophisticated, adult-focused vibe that company leaders think is sorely lacking in the cruise world.

“We have done a ton of research really trying to create a sophisticated experience,” Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin said at a press event moderated by The Points Guy himself, Brian Kelly. “I’ve done some personal research. We found that when you put kids in the pool, they scream, and we don’t want that.”

Related: I’ve been on more than 150 cruise ships. Here’s what I thought of Scarlet Lady

Sailing out of Miami since September, Virgin Voyages’ first ship, the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady, caters to grown-ups looking for a decidedly adult sort of fun with such offerings as interactive dance parties and a sex-themed cabaret show. It also offers a karaoke lounge with pink-and-purple karaoke rooms, a tattoo parlor (read about how one of our staffers was among the first to get inked on board) and drag queen brunches.

What you won’t find on Scarlet Lady are waterslides, watery splash zones, teen lounges and all the other family-friendly features that are becoming so common on bigger ships.

Two more ships, the Valiant Lady and the Resilient Lady, are expected to launch in March 2022 and August 2022, respectively.

Fares start at $540 per person for a three-night Europe cruise on the Valiant Lady.

Viking Cruises

Children are not allowed on any of Viking’s ships. (Photo by Marjie Lambert/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images)

In banning children under the age of 18 from its ships, Virgin Voyages took a page from fast-growing Viking’s playbook. Viking’s seven-ship ocean cruise division has banned children under the age of 18 since it debuted in 2015, and its 72-ship river cruise division has had some sort of minimum age limit for more than two decades (initially it had a cut-off of 12; as of 2019, that jumped to 18, too).

Not that Virgin and Viking are anything alike. While Virgin is designed as a line that will appeal to millennials and older travelers who want to party like they are millennials, Viking is the anti-millennial line. Its target market is squarely in the 55-plus bracket, and it zeroes in on that demographic with an upscale, destination-focused experience that is heavy on what the industry likes to call “enrichment” — onboard lectures and other learning opportunities, along with included tours focused on history and culture and entertainment offerings that veer more toward string quartets than dancers in string bikinis.

“What we’re looking to do is try not to be everything for everyone,” Viking’s executive vice president of marketing, Richard Marnell, told TPG. “We do not have a kids program. What we have is . . . [an] immersive experience that is best suited for people that are intellectually curious.”

Fares start at $1,999 for a seven-night Europe cruise.

U River Cruises

U River Cruise. (Photo courtesy of U by Uniworld)
U River Cruises riverboat. (Photo courtesy of U by Uniworld)

Like Virgin Voyages, start-up river line U River Cruises (originally called U by Uniworld) is going after a younger and young-at-heart adult crowd with what it’s billing as a hipper kind of cruising that isn’t for the kids.

Created as an offshoot of longtime river cruise company Uniworld, the line operates two adults-only ships that boast sleek, matte black exteriors, mixologists and DJs on board, deck-top yoga and communal tables for dining. Accommodations include studio bedrooms, some of which hold up to three people.

A key concept of the line is to stay in destinations longer and later into the night, allowing passengers to enjoy the local nightlife.

Launched in 2018, U River Cruises initially had a ban on travelers both young and old. The brand only took bookings from passengers in the age range of 21-45, but it has loosened the age restriction and now is open to anyone who is at least 18.

Sound appealing? You have to wait a bit longer: U River Cruises has been on hiatus due to COVID-19 and is not scheduled to return to operations in 2022.

Fares start at $1,539 for a seven-night Danube cruise.

P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises’ Pacific Jewel. (Photo by amophoto_au/Shutterstock)

This storied British line clearly sees the demand for adults-only cruise ships, but it isn’t giving up on the family market, either. The line splits the difference between the two segments: Five of its seven vessels are marketed as “family friendly” and open to passengers of all ages, while the other two (Arcadia and Aurora) are reserved exclusively for adults.

Given that more than 95% of the Southampton, England-based cruise line’s passengers are British, you’ll probably want to be either British yourself or a major Anglophile to consider booking. Sailing with P&O Cruises is a very British experience, something that becomes clear the moment you see its vessels (they feature hulls painted with massive Union Jacks). You’ll find quintessentially British offerings on board such as elaborate afternoon teas, quoits on the top deck and restaurant menus designed by chefs that are big in the UK, such as Marco Pierre White.

That said, if you’re a Princess Cruises fan, you might feel right at home on a P&O Cruises ship. Nestled under the same corporate umbrella, the two brands are longtime sisters that have swapped ships back and forth (though Holland America fans might be interested to know that Arcadia actually shares a ship design with that line’s Vista class).

For booking purposes, P&O Cruises considers anyone who will be 18 or older at the time of sailing an adult.

Fares start at 249 British pounds (about $338) for a three-night Europe cruise.

Saga Cruises

Saga Cruise' Saga Pearl II. (Photo by David Bukochava / Shutterstock)
Saga Cruises’ Saga Pearl II. (Photo by David Bukochava/Shutterstock)

Like P&O Cruises, Saga Cruises is a British line that has honed in on the business of offering voyages just for adults. In shunning younger travelers, it goes way beyond what P&O Cruises or any other line is doing. The minimum age at Saga Cruises isn’t 18 or even 21. It’s 50.

That’s right — you won’t find a single millennial or even that many Generation Xers on board a Saga Cruises ship (at 57, even the oldest members of Generation X only make the cut-off by a few years). What you will find is a heck of a lot of Baby Boomers, many of them retired.

Saga Cruises operates just two ocean vessels, both of which sail exclusively out of the UK, plus several river ships. Like P&O Cruises, it’s a product that is probably best for British travelers or big-time Anglophiles.

Fares start at 1,206 British pounds (about $1,638) per person for a five-night ocean cruise. 

Other adult-focused lines

In addition to lines that ban passengers under the age of 18 outright, a number of cruise operators allow young children but get relatively few of them.

Examples include such upscale lines as Silversea Cruises and Seabourn. Small-ship specialist Windstar Cruises allows tweens and teenagers on its six ships, but it doesn’t allow any children under the age of 8. Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours, which sells both ocean and river cruises, traditionally discourages customers from bringing passengers under the age of 12 on vessels except during Christmas holiday sailings.

In addition, the longer the cruise, the fewer children you will find. Book a two-plus-week sailing to a more exotic location, like Asia or South America, during the school year on a line like Holland America or Princess Cruises, and you’ll share the ship predominantly with adults.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured photo by Chris Gorman/Getty Images.

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