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The 8 Major Types of Cruise

Do you want to know more about the different types of cruise? Then you have come to the right place! Not all cruises are the same and some cruises will suit some types of tourists better than others…. so in this article I will explain what the different types of cruise are and what to expect from them. Ready to learn more? Read on….

What is a cruise?

A cruise is a holiday where you travel by, and stay on, a ship or boat – usually a ship. There are many different types of cruise, which you can read into below. Or if you want an in depth explanation on cruise take a look at my article about cruise tourism, covering the benefits and limitations of cruise and the top places for cruise tourism around the world.

Cruises have a reputation for being more suited to older travellers but this isn’t necessarily the case; they can be fun for tourists of all ages, and are a great way to explore multiple destinations on one vacation (known as a multi-centre tip).

What are the different types of cruise?

The different types of cruise are as follows:

  • River cruise
  • Expedition cruise
  • Mega cruise
  • Yacht
  • Luxury cruise
  • Themed cruise
  • Adventure cruise
  • Single cruise
Types of cruise
This infographic was created by one of my travel and tourism work experience students.

Now lets take a deeper look at what each of these types of cruise are like-

River cruises

Types of Cruise

A river cruise is, as the name suggests, a cruise taken down a particular river. Due to the fact that rivers are much smaller than seas and oceans, so too are river cruise ships. You travel along inland waterways, and there will be the chance to stop off at various city ports – you are also able to see a lot of scenery on river cruises as you will generally always have land directly to each side of you. This is very different to ocean cruises, where all you can see on ‘days at sea’ is an expanse of sparkling blue water.

Douglas Ward, the world’s leading expert on cruising, says this of river cruises: A river cruise represents life in the slow lane, sailing along at a gentle pace, soaking up the scenery, with plentiful opportunities to explore riverside towns and cities en route. It is a supremely calming experience, an antidote to the pressures of life in a fast-paced world, in surroundings that are comfortable without being fussy or pretentious, with good food and enjoyable company.

A river cruise is favoured by those looking for a relaxing and slower-paced trip. These types of cruise are a huge part of the travel and tourism industry, with trips on the following rivers being particularly common:

  • Nile
  • Danube
  • Ganga
  • Mississippi
  • Yangtze
  • Rhine 
  • Douro

You might also see river day cruises – these take place on small sections of river which typically flow through a city centre such as Chester, Amsterdam, Paris or Cairo!

Expedition cruise

Types of Cruise

An expedition cruise is one of the types of cruise aimed at adventurous travellers who want to do a lot more than simply relaxing while on a cruise. They again tend to be smaller ships than ocean liners, as they travel to more far-flung places. Should Be Cruising says that these ships also have shallower drafts than regular cruise ships, so they can access smaller inlets and shallow harbors.

There are so many activities available on expedition cruises. If you’re cruising in warmer waters you might go scuba diving, and if cruising in colder waters such as the Arctic, you might go trekking across the top of a glacier. Expedition cruises are all completely different – you might go on a historic expedition cruise where the focus is on history, or a nature cruise to look at plants or animals in different locations. Going to see the Northern Lights is another popular example!

Expedition cruise groups are smaller and more intimate. You’ll be with an expert guide, and you’ll come back having had some incredible experiences making memories that last a lifetime!

Mega cruise

white cruise ship. Types of Cruise

A mega cruise ship is one of the most popular types of cruise. These ships can typically accommodate 5000+ guests. These are the types of ships – and vacations – which will generally spring to mind when you hear the word ‘cruise’ – except they are the biggest of these typical cruise ships. They are ocean liners, usually 300+ metres long, weighing hundreds of thousands of tonnes! Currently, Icon of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship in the world, and some of the other biggest mega cruise ships are:

  • Symphony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
  • Harmony of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
  • Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
  • Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
  • Mardi Gras (Carnival)
  • Iona (P&O Cruises)
  • AIDAnova (AIDA Cruises)
  • Costa Smeralda (Costa Cruises)
  • MSC Grandiosa (MSC Cruises)
  • Spectrum of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

These ships have an incredible amount of amenities on board. From cinemas to water slides to their very own Starbucks franchises, themed restaurants, libraries, go-karting tracks, theatres and so much more. Cruises on these ships tend to be 7-14 days although can be much longer. They visit typical holiday or tourist destinations with interesting things to see. You will be able to book excursions through the cruise line or take off on your own to explore the ports!

You’ll find these cruise ships have a lot of restaurants (most cruises are all inclusive), multiple pools, and a lot of cabins as well as a LOT of crew members making sure everything runs smoothly. They have apps you can use to order food & drink, navigate the ship, book excursions, see what activities are taking place on board and more!


Types of Cruise

Yacht holidays ooze luxury – these types of cruise are associated with rich and elite people, such as celebrities and royalty, many of whom own or charter their own yacht and use it regularly. You might see yachts docked in places such as Puerto Banus in Marbella or St. Tropez in France – yachts are docked at marinas, which are small docks which have dedicated equipment specifically for smaller boats.

Yachts tend to carry around six passengers, with super yachts carrying up to 12. You don’t technically need a crew for a yacht either, although it is always helpful to have someone on board who knows what they’re doing to some extent!

Luxury cruise

Types of Cruise

This type of cruise is a subtype of other cruises – you can have luxury ocean cruises and luxury river cruises, as well as luxury yacht trips of course. But what makes a cruise luxury? They tend to offer a much higher quality of service: private dining rooms, butlers, gourmet restaurants with world-class chefs, opulent decor, strict dress codes and more. As you’d imagine, they are a lot more expensive than other cruises! Cunard is probably the most famous luxury cruise company, alongside Regent and Seabourn. They travel to breathtaking locations in true comfort and style!

Themed cruise

Types of Cruise

When it comes to fun, a themed cruise is the way to go. This type of cruise tends to occur mostly on ocean liners – for example, Disney even have their own cruise line offering ocean cruises entirely themed around Disney movies and characters. From singing the movie soundtracks at the incredible evening shows to relaxing on Disney’s private island to fireworks at sea, you get the whole magical experience on a cruise ship.

It isn’t only Disney who offer themed cruises, however. There is a type of cruise for absolutely every niche, hobby, interest and so on. It is also important to distinguish between full-ship theme cruises, where a particular group or brand will charter the whole ship, so everyone will be on-board for the theme cruise, and partial-ship theme cruises. This is where the group would book a number of cabins and take over certain areas, such as a particular bar, deck space or a conference room.

Some particular themed cruises coming in the next year or so include:

  • The Star Trek Cruise
  • The Kiss Kruise (the band will be on board!)
  • 70’s Rock and Romance Cruise
  • Bridge cruises
  • The Ultimate Disco Cruise
  • Knitting cruises
  • Cruises for cat-lovers
  • Azamara golf cruises

You can find more details about various themed cruises HERE.

Adventure cruise

Types of Cruise

An adventure cruise is very similar to an expedition cruise. One minor difference is that adventure cruises usually involve a level of physical activity – as opposed to just, perhaps, making observations as you might on an expedition cruise. With an adventure cruise, the main focus is on the off-vessel activities you take part in. This could be anything from kayaking to horse riding, snorkelling to even camping! 

Singles cruise

Types of Cruise

A singles cruise is another popular sub- type of cruise. While many cruises have designated meet-ups for solo cruisers, there are also dedicated cruises for single people. Often these are aimed at older travellers – usually 50 and over. With no single supplement, and of course *everyone else* being single, it is ideal if you’re looking to go on a cruise to make new friends, find a new partner or just enjoy some you-time.

One of the most popular cruise lines offering the typical single cruise is Saga. Passengers can benefit from ‘Singles Mingle’ drink parties, cabin stewards, 24-hour room service, a nightly turndown service, an open seating arrangement and much more. A solo cruise is the perfect way to travel alone but never feel bored or lonely, and also to ensure you’re always safe and taken care of while exploring new places! Fred Olsen and NCL also offer dedicated singles cruises too! This type of cruise is whatever you make it – with all types of cruises, there is something for everyone.

Types of cruise- further reading

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