Our “best cruise line companies” list also includes renown but smaller passenger ship companies and operators with well-established market positions and high indices for passenger loyalty. Read here information on the world’s best passenger shipping and cruise travel lines, including river ship cruise companies and new cruise lines (at page bottom). All links redirect to the companies’ official websites. Our survey is integrated with largest cruise companies (corporate ownership) and UK cruise companies.
For detailed info about the corporate ownership of some brands, click on the last link below. We are currently reorganizing our site, and here we’ll update our tables some time soon by adding more lines/companies and more columns with their ships and sail destinations info. So you, guys, don’t feel like strangers and come visit us again soon!
As to the fares, the cheapest (and the MOST FUN) lines are listed as “Best” (including luxury brands with affordable packages). The cheapest prices of the best lines are generally attainable with early booking, low-season travel, ship relocation and late deals, booking lowest cabin category. For line reviews, click on the last links in the paragraphs (initial links redirect to the companies’ official websites).
River cruise companies list
If you’re looking for river cruise companies, you’re looking for a very “specially modern” style of cruising. It’s the perfect combination of the world’s top river cruise itineraries (Europe, USA, Asia, Africa), tranquility and style, vessels with innovative design and top technology, highest standards of service, all-inclusive cruise deals prices – and much more.
|A-ROSA Cruises – 3 ships for Rhine, Danube & Rhone cruises.|
|AMAWaterways (2002 as Amadeus Watterways, 12 newly built river ships) – a top luxury river ship cruise company, operates Western Europe, Russia, and Asia (Mekong River), innovative river vessel designs and construction (balcony cruise accommodations, on-board pools and Jacuzzis).|
|American Cruise Lines (1991, Guilford CT) – 6 small ships (capacity 50-120 guests), including a renovated authentic paddle-wheeler. Operates the USA East and West coasts, and rivers.|
|American Queen Steamboat Company – Mississippi River cruises by the American Queen paddle ship.|
|APT River Cruises /APT Touring (1970, a division of APT Group – an initialism for “Australian Pacific Touring”) – Europe and Russia, Egypt, South America, North America (Canada Alaska), South Pacific (Australia New Zealand), and Asia, also operates chartered ships.|
|Avalon Waterways (2004, Lugano, Switzerland, 18 vessels, the majority of which are newly built, and after 2006 (including the industry’s first “suite boat”), with average capacity of 170 guests) – small ship and river cruise company, a brand of the Globus corporation, operating Europe (11 ships), Egypt (3), China (3), and the Galapagos islands (1 ship).|
|CroisiEurope (1965 as Alsace-Croisieres, 4-star brand name, newly built vessels) – 26 top luxury river passenger ships in Europe exclusively, with capacity 100-180 guests.|
|Emerald Waterways website (2014) – a Scenic Tours subsidiary for the European market. This new river cruise line starts with two river boats (each with 182-passenger capacity) – “Emerald Star” and “Emerald Sky”, on 7- and 14-night itineraries. As price niche, this line will compete on the less expensive “most popular rivers in Europe” cruising market with Viking and Avalon.|
|European Waterways (1977, Datchet, Berkshire UK) – operates in 9 European countries (including Ireland and Scotland), with 3 small river boats and 18 luxury boutique-hotel barges (4-15 passengers).|
|Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection (1976, Los Angeles CA) – 21 luxury river ships (average capacity 130 passengers, shore tours and excursions are included), with over 500 itineraries annually in more than 20 countries (Europe, China, Russia, Egypt).|
|Viking River Cruises (1997, headquartered in Woodland Hills CA, and Basel, Switzerland) – the world’s largest river ship cruise company, with 19 luxury river ships all-inclusive (capacity from 100 to 250 guests, Asia and Europe), with cheap fly-cruises from UK, fully guided tours in China and Russia.|
World’s top cruise companies
The world’s best cruise companies operate the largest passenger ships in the world. The “Big Players” in the industry of sea voyages, with the world’s biggest passenger ships, the world’s largest fleets and cheapest cruise rates. For more money information see biggest cruise companies (corporate ownership of the major brands).
|Carnival Line website (1972, British-American, Doral-Miami FL, “The FUN Ships” fleet of 24 large FUN ships) – the world’s largest and cheapest cruise line, with the unique concept of cheap short cruises deals, with the first super large passenger ship in the world (the Destiny ship, in 1996 exceeding for the first time the 100,000 gross tonnage barrier). The Carnival line is the major subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc. Carnival Cruise Company.|
|Celebrity Line website (1988 as “Chandris Fantasy Cruises”, Miami FL) – 11 luxury passenger ships, since 1988 – a major brand of the RCCL. CELEBRITY Cruise Company.|
|Costa Line website /Costa Crociere SpA (1924 as cargo carrier, Genoa, Italy) – a passenger ship company since 1947. A major brand of Carnival Corporation & plc since 2000, and the Europe’s largest line, with 16 flagged Italy cruise ships (average tonnage 80,000 GT). COSTA Cruise Company.|
|Cunard Line website (since 1840 as “British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company”, British-American, headquarters in Southampton UK, and Santa Clarita CA) – 3 large luxury oceanic cruise ships from UK, including the only one contemporary regular Transatlantic passenger liner RMS Queen Mary 2. Owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. Cunard lines.|
|Disney Line website (1998, Celebration FL) – the world’s BEST KIDS cruise line, with 4 ocean going vessels (average tonnage 100,000, average capacity 3,200 passengers). The Disney line belongs to The Walt Disney Company – with the world’s most famous fantasy characters and themed entertainment. Disney Ship Cruise Line.|
|Holland America Line website (since 1873 as “Netherlands-America Steamship Company”, Seattle WA) – 15 medium sized ships, serving more than 700,000 passengers a year, owned by Carnival since 1989. HAL started operation in 1872 as a Transatlantic cargo-passenger ship line, mainly between Rotterdam and New York (also to S. America), offering its first sea vacation voyage in 1895. HAL also owns “Westmark” hotels (Alaska-Yukon), “Worldwide Shore Services” (warehouse-logistics), and a private island in the Bahamas – Little San Salvador, best known as Half Moon Cay. HAL HOLLAND AMERICA Company.|
|MSC Line website /MSC Crociere SA (since 1987 as “Lauro Lines”, headquarters Geneva, Switzerland) – 12 big cheap ships, the 5th largest in the world, a sub-division of Mediterranean Shipping Company SA since 1989.|
|NCL Line website (1966, Miami-Dade County, FL) – 13 large vessels, the world’s 4th largest (8% of the market), and the inventor of the “Freestyle Cruising” idea (open seating informal dining), and the owner of the first cruise line private island (1977, Great Stirrup Cay). Equally owned by Apollo Management and Star Cruises. NCL owns the American cruise ship Pride of America. NCL Norwegian cruise line.|
|Princess Cruises website (1965, British-American, Santa Clarita CA) – 18 large ships, including 2 very large under construction. The Princess line is an ex subsidiary of “P&O Princess Cruises PLC”, now fully owned by Carnival. Princess cruise lines.|
|Royal Caribbean International website /RCI (1968, Norwegian-American, Miami FL, 24 of the world’s largest passenger ships, and the 2nd largest in the world) – innovated the coastal property leasing with the Labadee exclusive resort (northern Haiti), “the Alaskan land and sea tours” (the glass-domed train cars), feature on-board facilities (rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, the “Viking Crown” top-of-the-ship lounge). The owner of the “Largest cruise ship in the world” (1988, 1999, 2006, 2009, 2010). Owns the Bahamian island CocoCay (Little Stirrup Cay). The company’s previous name after the merge with Celebrity was “Royal Caribbean Cruise Line”, and is the feature brand in the RCCL’s family. Royal Caribbean company.|
|Star Cruises website (1993, Hong Kong, a total of 23 ships, over 35,000 berths, operates 4 bigger cruise ships) – the world’s 3rd-largest line, the leader in Asia-Pacific region, fully owns “Cruise Feries” (Wasa Queen ship, 1-night gambling cruises from Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur), and the half of NCL, a subsidiary of Genting Group, Malaysia.|
Major cruise line companies
These cruise line companies are big, but not the biggest. They are some of the best, but offer something that’s top best. They are from the list of the world’s best renown big ship luxury cruise lines, and some more affordable cruise shipping lines with bigger to biggest vessels dominating their local markets.
|AIDA Kreuzfahrten/AIDA Cruises (1960 as Deutsche Seereederei, 12 ships, including 3 future) – oriented towards the German-speaking market, with mostly younger clientele. AIDA was a subsidiary first of P&O Princess Cruises plc (2000), and since 2003 is a brand name in the Carnival Group.|
|Azamara Club (since 2007, 2 premium ships) – cheap affordable all-inclusive, with over-night port stays, owned by RCCL.|
|CDF Croisières de France (2007, Norwegian-American, subsidiary of Pullmantur Cruises, 2 medium size chartered passenger ships) – operates the French-speaking market exclusively, with Med voyages (from Marseille, during summer/late Fall), founded and owned by RCCL. Fleet – mv Horizon and mv Zenith (for CDF in 2014).|
|Compagnie du Ponant (1988, Marseille, France), owned by Bridgepoint Capital – an European private equity fund). Owns 5 ships.|
|Crystal Cruises (1988, Century City LA) – most expensive cruise line, with 2 top-luxury ships all-inclusive (capacity about 1,000 passengers), a subsidiary of the NYK Line (Japanese shipping company, one of the largest in the world). The Crystal line is awarded “Best” for almost 2 decades now.|
|Oceania Cruises (2002, Miami FL, 5 top luxury passenger ships (3 medium, and 2 large) – the largest luxury cruise line in the world (with some of the cheapest cruise rates). Fully owned by Apollo Management (“Premier Cruises”), sold to NCL in 2014.|
|P&O Cruises (since 1837, British-American line, Southampton, UK, 8 large cruise ships, including the largest built for the UK market) – Owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. P and O cruise lines.|
|P&O Cruises Australia (4 big passenger ships in Australia New Zealand, including 2 of the ex Ocean Village line) – a division of “P&O Princess Cruises plc” (Carnival plc), headquarters North Sydney, New South Wales, AU, owned by Carnival Corporation & plc.|
|Regent Seven Seas Cruises (1990, the ex “Radisson Seven Seas Cruises”, Fort Lauderdale FL) – owned by “Premier Cruises” / Appolo Menagement since 2008, sold to NCL in 2014, top luxury cruise line all inclusive (“the most all-inclusive” – alcohol, shore excursions, tips) , 3 fully refurbished smaller cruise ships “all-suite, all-balcony”, with the first Canyon Ranch Spa at sea.|
|Seabourn Line (1986, Miami FL) – luxury world ship cruise line, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation & plc, with 6 smaller all-suite cruise ships all-inclusive – 3 second hand, and 3 newly built, with some of the largest Spa at sea, and up to 4 alternative dining venues.|
|Silversea Cruises (1994, Ft Lauderdale FL) – 6 top luxury all-inclusive ships (including 1 small expedition ship), providing the “Personalized Voyages” concept (guests choose their own embarkation /disembarkation ports, with a min of 5 nights, daily rates, all-suite accommodations).|
|Star Clippers (luxury tall sailing ships) for Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe and Panama Canal/Transatlantic.|
|Voyages Of Antiquity – 1 ship (MV Aegean Odyssey) for Mediterranean boutique-style cultural travel.|
|Windstar (1984, top luxury Tall-Sailing ship cruise company) – tall ship Mediterranean vacations (summer) and Caribbean and Pacific (winter), owned by Xanterra Parks and Resorts” (since May, 2011).|
List of best cruise companies
All these ship cruise travel companies (and “ferry-cruise” lines) are well known brand names. Some of them operate locally, other operate adventure/expedition ships. Most of the companies have their business name attached to the label “small ship luxury cruises” – expensive, specially designed vessels for sailing to some of the most unique destinations of the world.
|Birka Cruises (1971, Mariehamn, Aland/Finland) operates one ship (MS Birka Stockholm) for Baltic Sea departing from Stockholm. This line has a cargo-shipping subsidiary, and today Birka Line is part of the Rederiaktiebolaget Eckero’ “Eckero Line” (Finnish shipping company, ferries to Sweden from Aland Islands).|
|Blue Lagoon Cruises (Australia) – 2 ships for Fiji Cruises roundtrip from Denarau.|
|Captain Cook Cruises (Australia) – 1 ship (ms Murray Princess) for Murray River, Great Barrier Reef, Fiji.|
|Celebration Line (2008, 1 ship, Riviera Beach FL) – 2-day Bahamas from Florida, Palm Beach. The line is the successor of the “Imperial Majesty Cruise Line”, the MS Bahamas Celebration ship has capacity for 890 guests and 600 cars.|
|Classic International (classicintcruises.com, founded 1985, British-Australian, Neutral Bay, Australia). Have 5 top luxury passenger ships, including the MS Athena ship – a fully rebuilt ocean liner from 1948.|
|Coral Princess Cruises (Australia) – 3 ships (Oceanic Discoverer, and 2 big catamarans – Coral Princess & Coral Princess II) – for Australia and South Pacific cruises.|
|Cruise & Maritime Voyages (2009, Dartford UK, serves the British market exclusively) – 2 smaller adults-only cruise ships, including the chartered MS Marco Polo ship of Global Maritime. CMV cruises.|
|Fred Olsen (since 1848, Ipswich, Suffolk UK) – a Norwegian company with 4 smaller ships from England (Caribbean Fly-cruises from Barbados during winter), around South America, and Around the World sea voyages. The line is a feature brand of the Fred Olsen Group (luxury hotels, real estates, property development, aviation, crewing and building ships). Fred Olsen cruise lines.|
|GAP Adventures (1990, Toronto, Canada, the MS Expedition ship) – the largest cruise ship company in Canada, with more than 1,000 adventure sea ship travel tours per year, to over 100 countries.|
|Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten (since 1970, Hamburg, Germany, 5 smaller best luxury ships, including 2 future vessels) – the owner of the worlds most expensive cruise ship MS Europa, and also the new MS Europa 2; a brand of Hapag-Lloyd company (Hapag-Lloyd AG). Since 1998, the line is partialy owned by TUI AG (50%). The HAPAG line (“Hamburg American Line”) was founded in 1912 as Transatlantic cargo passenger ship line, and the Lloyd company (“North German Lloyd”, or NGL) was formed in 1856 as Bremen-New York cargo and passenger carrier. Nowadays, Hapag-Lloyd is again a major shipping company – the world’s 5th largest by fleet capacity.|
|Hellenic Seaways (Piraeus, Greec) Aegean and Adriatic cruise passenger and ferry services.|
|Hurtigruten /Norwegian Coastal Express (since 1893, 13 vessels) – passenger cruise and freight line, operates 10-night round-trips of Norway (referred to as “World’s Most Beautiful Sea Voyage”), also to Antarctica, Greenland, and around South America. The Hurtigruten ships sails from 38 ports in Norway alone.|
|IberoCruceros /Ibero Cruises (2007, British-American-Spanish, Madrid, Spain) – 4 big vessels for the Spanish and Portuguese market (operates Europe and South America). Owned by Carnival and Orizonia Corporacion (the 3rd largest tour operator in Spain).|
|InnerSea Discoveries (founded 2011, renamed in 2013 to UN-Cruise Adventures) – Seattle expedition line, sister brand of ASC/American Safari Cruises (founded 1996). Destinations & ships:
|Kristina Cruises (1985, family-owned, Kotka, Finland) – one ship (MS Kristina Katarina) for Mediterranean and Black Sea.|
|Lindblad Expeditions (founded 1979 by Sven-Olof Lindblad, since 2004 the line has a joint fund and alliance with the National Geographic Society, and since 2007 all vessels are renamed with the prefix “National Geographic”) – leader in adventure sea voyages, 5 private and 6 chartered small ships, including river boats (28-148 passengers). The founders of eco-tourism, the best academic and enrichment programs at sea by numerous and superb naturalists. Also sails Galapagos, Arctic, Antarctica, Baja California, Central America, Peruvian Amazon, Mediterranean and Northern Europe, Egypt, West Africa, and New Zealand.|
|Louis Cruises (since 1986 as “Louis Cruise Lines” – ferries charters for short sea vacation voyages to Greek Islands and Holy Land leaving from Cyprus). The line has headquarters in Limassol, Cyprus), and is a subsidiary of Louis plc (the leader of the East Mediterranean tourism industry).In 2014, the line was re-branded as Celestyal Cruises. The Louis / Celestyal cruise company operates mainly 2nd and 3rd hand charter vessels, often sub-chartered to other companies. The new cruise line’s fleet consists of the ships Celestyal Crystal (Louis Cristal), Celestyal Olympia (Louis Olympia) and Louis Aura.|
|Mano Maritime (1966, Haifa, Israel) owned by Mano Holdings Ltd (cargo shipping), 2 ships for Israel.|
|Orion Expedition Cruises /OEC (2004, Australian luxury line, 1 small ship (mv Orion) – operates Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Far East of Russia, and Japan.|
|Paul Gauguin Cruises (1998, Bellevue, WA, USA) – 1 small ship (ms Paul Gauguin) for Galapagos Islands, year-round.|
|Pearl Seas Cruises (new line) – 2 ships (Pearl Mist/2014, and TBA/2016), regions US Great Lakes, the Canadian Maritimes, Caribbean Islands|
|Peter Deilmann Cruises (Neustadt, Germany) – 1 ocean ship (MS Deutschland) for South America with fly-cruise deals from Germany.|
|Phoenix Reisen (1988, Germany) – operates 4 chartered passenger ships of smaller sizes, plus 1 from P&O.|
|Polar Star Expeditions – 1 ship (mv Polar Star, a converted icebreaker) for Artica & Antarctica.|
|Portuscale Cruises (founded 2013, owner Rui Alegre) is a Portuguese maritime cruise company based in Lisbon. The list of the company’s 4 ships (all from the defunct Classic International Cruises fleet) includes: MV Azores (1948), MV Lisboa (1955), MV Funchal (1961), and MV Porto (1965).|
|Pullmantur (1993, luxury all-inclusive line, Madrid, Spain, 5 big ships) – the largest Spanish cruise line, a subsidiary of RCCL since 2006.|
|Quark Expeditions (1991) – for luxury Arctic & Antarctic cruises, ships – 50 Years of Victory (the 1st purpusfully build ice-class/nuclear-powered icebreaker cruise ship), Sea Spirit, Ocean Diamond.|
|ResidenSea (top luxury ship operator) – operating ms The World ship.|
|Saga Cruises/SAGA Holidays (1996, Canterbury, England) – 2 ships for the UK market (Saga Ruby, Saga Sapphire), also owns the 1-ship brand “Spirit of Adventure Cruises”. Saga Holidays Cruise line.|
|Silja Line (1957, Helsinki, Finland) – ferry-cruise company (car & passenger services between Sweden and Finland. Fleet of 4 ships (over 3 mill passengers & more than 200,00 cars annually.|
|Swan Hellenic (1955, Burgess Hill UK) – MV Minerva Antarctic expedition ship, historical and cultural themed Eastern Med sailings. Swan Hellenic line.|
|The Boat Company (founded 1979 non-profit line and educational organization by McIntosh Foundation, in “Alaska Small”).|
|Thomson Cruises (1995) by Thomson Holidays (1965, Luton UK) – cheap affordable deals from England by 5 passenger ships, a subsidiary of TUI Travel PLC. Thomson Holidays cruise line.|
|Transocean Tours (1954, chartered ships for the German market) – operates 6 smaller oceanic ships and 5 river boats.|
|TUI (2007, Hamburg Germany, operates 2 large passenger ships to Caribbean, Baltic, Med, and the Canaries) – premium cruising to the German-speaking market exclusively. Owned by RCCL and TUI AG.|
And yes, just like on the yummy photo above, these lines and companies are all ice and cream – different flavors of cold but sweet money-making machines, also making our lives so pleasantly “vacation” happy. So a huge thanx to all the world’s best lines – for being here and now, for cruising us!
NEW Cruise Lines
“Royal Asian Cruises” (RAC) is a luxury cruise line based in Sri Lanka, with offices in India and USA. The Thailand BOI company will invest in this venture around USD 200 mill. This includes the acquiring/operating of two ships in 2015 and 2016. Business focus is on the India/Sri Lanka and the Europe/Southeast Asia markets.
- The first vessel will be with capacity 800 passengers (scheduled for launch in late 2015, departure port Colombo (Sri Lanka).
- The second vessel will be with capacity 1500 to 2000 passengers (scheduled for launch in early 2016).
- Both ships will feature “Tillberg Design” interiors. The itineraries list will include 7-days Maldives and Cochin, India, 3-4-days mini cruises around Sri Lanka, and 10-11-days roundtrip voyages from Sri Lanka to Singapore.
- The RAC cruise company is planning to invest by the end of 2020 a total of USD 720 million.
Sterling Cruise Lines is a new brand name established in 2015 (headquarters in Miami). This new line targets the Latin American cruising markets, and has 1 ship in operation – named Sterling Gemini. The ship’s itinerary program has year-round Caribbean cruises leaving from Aruba.
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