The Best Cruises for 18-Year-Olds

The Best Cruises for 18-Year-Olds

Many people may still think that cruises are not ideal for young adults. The reason is that young adults are too old to participate in the youth entertainment organized on cruise lines, yet too young to visit the bars and casinos on some cruises.

These perceptions have changed, and a growing market of young adults want to sail on a cruise. Cruise line companies vie with each other to find ways to accommodate 18-year-olds, whether they’re cruising alone or with their parents. They do this by offering exciting activities and entertainment opportunities.

Even though it’s difficult to book a cruise alone at 18 on most cruise lines in the US, they have a limit of 21 plus; there are some exceptions. Guests under 21 wanting to drink on board can join these cruises at other destinations or avoid some American-based cruise lines. On some cruises starting in the US, you can drink alcohol once the liner reaches international waters.

Let’s take a closer look at the best cruises for 18-year-olds.

Cruise ship

Thrilling Adventures at Sea

Younger crowds do lend to exhilarating adventures at sea. Therefore, you need to look for cruises with a younger demographic. These include Virgin Voyages, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Norwegian Cruise Line. These cruise lines provide all the thrilling adventures loved by young adults on their sea voyages.

1.     Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages is an adult-only cruise line with the right energetic atmosphere that caters to younger adults, including 18-year-olds. Cruisers can relax while enjoying fabulous dining experiences and thrilling entertainment opportunities, with partying continuing until the early morning hours.

Virgin’s cruise liners don’t have buffets or main dining areas. Passengers can choose to eat at several restaurants to enjoy delicious food and unique dining experiences from their menus created by chefs with Michelin Stars. The cruise fare includes meals at all the restaurants on board, meaning passengers have no hidden charges or fees.

Several forms of entertainment are available on Virgin cruise liners, but the emphasis is more on partying, so the shows are about an hour long. People flock to the nightclubs on board as soon as these are over.

Some activities passengers can enjoy on the award-winning Virgin Voyages cruise ships include:

Virgin Voyages cruises are expensive, but their price includes food from any of the restaurants on board, all activities, and entertainment. It also includes complimentary onboard Wi-Fi, fitness classes, all non-alcoholic beverages, and gratuities.

2.     Carnival Cruise Line

Another popular cruising company for young travelers is Carnival Cruise Line and its festive cruises with lively atmospheres. Passengers can expect pool and all-night parties with international DJs, dance and fitness classes, and plenty of outdoor activities like waterslides.

The restaurant food is excellent, thanks to the cruise line’s partnership with celebrity chefs, and some liners even make craft beers in their onboard breweries.

Carnival Cruise Liners is popular among younger families, so those joining the cruise for their summer break can expect many kids around. If you prefer a quieter cruise, opt for one of the cruises later or earlier in the season.

Carnival has low cruise fares, meaning it’s ideal for younger people on a budget who want to enjoy the cruise experience.

3.     Royal Caribbean International

With some of the largest cruise ships in the world on its fleet, Royal Caribbean cruises are another excellent choice for young adults looking for thrilling adventures at sea.

Some of the high-thrill activities available on the Royal Caribbean liners that attract 18-year-olds include:

  • all-night entertainment
  • karaoke venues
  • escape rooms
  • nightclubs
  • rock climbing
  • zip lines
  • surfing or sky diving simulators
  • comedy shows
  • bionic bartenders in their larger ships

Students and young people looking for low-cost vacations or shorter vacations have plenty of options with Royal Caribbean.

Young travelers also enjoy Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay private island cruise with pristine beaches with white sand, zip lines, a water park with the tallest water slide in North America, and a vast pool. The private island cruise includes a complimentary lunch.

4.     Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is another cruise line that caters to young people because of its late-night parties and relaxed atmosphere. It even offers solo cabins on some of its ships, making the trip more affordable for those wanting to travel alone since you don’t pay the single supplement fee. The solo staterooms are 100 square feet each. Still, passengers staying in them have unlimited access to the Studio Lounge, the communal gathering space where they can eat, drink, and watch TV with their fellow solo travelers.

Thanks to all the activities aboard the liners, most people hardly spend time in their solo cabins during the cruise. These include a vibrant nightlife with parties like the Glow Party that started as the White-Hot Party and the ever-popular 80s party. Also, expect to find some of the following activities on NCL cruise ships:

  • go-karts
  • virtual reality game rooms
  • rock climbing
  • mini golf
  • waterslides
  • bowling
  • basketball
  • dance clubs
  • casino

Disney Cruise line also allows young adults aged 18 and over to travel alone on European cruises, but no one under 21 can drink on board. Celebrity Cruises and P&O Cruises are the other two cruising companies that offer relaxation with loads of entertainment for young adults. P&O has two ships geared to the adults-only market for those who don’t want to join a boat with families.

Unforgettable Destinations for Young Travelers

Besides selecting onboard activities, the destination is another critical aspect of taking a cruise. Destinations based on culture, food & wine, and history are top-rated among older travelers, but for most 18-year-olds, these are less attractive.

Most cruise lines have cruises to destinations in the Caribbean or Mexico, known for their sunny conditions, turquoise-blue waters, and action-packed activities. These are ideal for most young adults.

Popular destinations for partying and romantic evenings include Ibiza and cruises to the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini.

Exciting Onboard Entertainment Options

Besides their exciting daytime activities, onboard entertainment options are important for 18-year-olds, whether traveling alone or with family.

According to, these are the best cruises for 18-year-olds that include exciting onboard entertainment opportunities:

Norwegian Cruises: There is no shortage of partying on all the Norwegian cruise liners. Young adults can also gamble and enjoy exciting entertainment programs onboard, including comedy clubs.

Carnival Cruise Lines: Late-night shows, casinos, parties, a comedy club, a “thrill theater” with special effects, and an IMAX theatre are some entertainment options for 18-year-olds on Carnival cruises. After all, Carnival is known for its “fun-filled” activities on its liners.

Royal Caribbean: For those looking for more than just daytime entertainment, Royal Caribbean has plenty of night-time entertainment. These include late-night clubs, bars (including the Bionic Bar on some ships), popular Broadway shows, and casinos.

Celebrity: Celebrity manages to combine relaxation and action. However, it does offer some exciting night-time entertainment, including its Sin City theater hosting nightly shows.

Virgin Voyages: Geared toward the adult cruising market, Virgin Voyages has enticing shows based on festival-like performances musical and comedy performances. These include unique theatrics and entertainment geared to encourage audience participation.

Other exciting options include the live theater on Princess Cruises. The TV-studio-styled venue presents entertainment more suitable to younger adults and hosts popular game shows, karaoke, and other entertainment.

Socializing and Making Friends Onboard

Young adults traveling solo will want to socialize and make friends onboard. All cruise lines have a range of activities geared to making friends and mixing onboard.

For young adults traveling on the Disney Cruise line, the 1820 Society provides planned activities for younger adults from 18 to 20 to meet at the beginning of the cruise.

Celebrity Cruises have their Gen NXT onboard event on the first night of the cruise, where young adults can mingle and break the ice. Passengers can also participate in water-based activities, sports tournaments, and trivia games.

Norwegian Cruise Lines caters to solo travelers with their solo cabins. However, they know that people traveling solo are still interested in meeting others. Besides mixing with others in the lively dance clubs, solo travelers on Norwegian also have a beautiful communal gathering space, the Studio Lounge, where they can watch TV and mingle with others.

Must-Try Activities for 18-Year-Olds

Cruise lines catering to young adults provide a range of must-try activities for 18-year-olds going on their first cruise.

Virgin Voyages has earned its reputation as a party cruise suited to young adults thanks to the energetic atmosphere throughout the day, including the onboard activities, entertainment, and dance parties.

Besides its late-night parties at sea, must-try activities on Royal Caribbean include zip lines, rock climbing walls, and simulators for surfing and sky-diving adventures. However, Royal Caribbean also has the Perfect Day at CocoCay, which adds a beach day into the destination mix, making it a must-try activity for someone wanting to spend a whole day on an island with beautiful waters, white sandy beaches, and other fun activities.

Carnival Cruise Line has many activities, making it a popular choice among young adults. Must-try activities on a Carnival Cruise include their live music events and fun-filled outdoor activities. For those also interested in food and drinks, Carnival’s exclusive dining spots that partner with celebrity chefs and craft breweries (available on some ships) should be on their to-do lists.

Norwegian Cruise Line has various activities, including sports, go-karts, and mini golf. Must-try activities on board include sipping cocktails in the ice bar.

Exploring the Nightlife on a Cruise

All the cruise liners mentioned above have a vibrant nightlife with all-night dance parties. However, the destination of the cruise also affects the party atmosphere.

Cruisers looking for all-night parties should consider booking a cruise to warmer destinations like the Caribbean islands, Mexico, and the Mediterranean during the summer.

Cruise liners like Virgin Voyages, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean are known for the exciting nightlife worth exploring.

Read more about the nightlife on some of the most popular cruises in this informative article from High Seas Cruising.

Cruise Tips for First-Time Young Travelers

Safety and budget are two concerns when traveling on a cruise as a young adult. Both are easy to control with these cruise tips:

  • Budget for extra costs – The cruise price will generally include most meals, cabin accommodations, onboard activities, and entertainment. However, it may not include Wi-Fi, spa treatments, excursions offshore, and alcoholic beverages. Budgeting for the extra costs before booking is essential.
  • Don’t leave valuables around – All cabins have a safe for valuables and passports where they should be locked to protect passengers from theft.
  • Safe drinking – Excessive alcohol consumption can cause onboard accidents. Therefore, passengers should drink responsibly and never accept drinks from strangers.
  • Sponsored excursions are safer: Excursions at various destinations booked independently are cheaper but less secure than those supported by the cruise liner.
  • Avoid germs from spreading – Living in a confined space on a cruise ship allows the easy spread of germs. To prevent this, passengers must wash their hands frequently and use the hand sanitizer provided onboard, especially in the dining areas.
  • Ships always leave on time: Passengers must note the departure time for leaving port and ensure they are there 30 minutes before to avoid the ship sailing without them.

Budget-Friendly Cruise Options for 18-Year-Olds

Most young adults prefer shorter cruises because they have cheaper prices and attract younger crowds. Carnival Cruises has attractively lower fares, making it one of the most budget-friendly cruise options for 18-year-olds. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Lines are the other two choices for you if you plan to cruise the seas on a budget.

Final Take

Since some cruise lines have age restrictions for some destinations, it’s best to check before booking a cruise if you are 18. Another restriction, especially for ships sailing from US ports or registered there, is the drinking age. It’s not too difficult to book a cruise online, but finding the best cruises for 18-year-olds may require a specialized travel agent. Don’t worry; it won’t add to the cost of a cruise because they get paid by the cruise liners.