CruiseMapper's cruise line companies list includes all major cruise line brands, as well as renown smaller-fleet passenger shipping companies and operators with well-established market positions and high indices for passenger loyalty.
Here you will find information on all the world's best cruise passenger travel companies, including river shipping companies and new cruise lines. This survey is integrated with largest cruise companies (corporate ownership) and UK cruise companies.
Cruise Line Companies
A cruise line company operates passenger ships sailing to popular travel destinations. Such line brands differ from other passenger shipping lines. General passenger shipping lines (including ferry lines) are concerned primarily with passenger (and cargo) transportation.
Cruise companies' business is the leisure travel and entertainment. Most of the line's feature activities and signature amenities are onboard its vessels. Still, many activities and a selection of land tours are additionally offered in ports of call (which form the cruise itinerary route).
Cruise ship companies typically hire two separate types of staff: crew (commanded by the Captain) and service staff (hotel and dining operations) supervised by the Hotel Manager.
What is a cruise line?
A ship cruise line is a company that owns and utilizes travel passenger ships. Many lines are well-established traditional passenger shipping lines. Some have been founded in the second half of the 20th century, specifically for cruising. A wave of failures and consolidations in the 1990s resulted in many lines existing only as "brands" within larger corporations. Brands exist partly because of the repeat customer loyalty, and also to offer different levels of quality and service. The "BEST FUN" shipowner frequently sell, renovate or simply rename their ships just to keep up with the river or sea travel trends.
Cruise lines classification
According to the quality and price of their product, cruise lines are classified in 4 distinct types.
CHEAPEST (aka "massmarket" and "mainstream") are the "kids cruise lines" (excluding Disney, of course). They have the best fares for a travel vacation with included entertainment, complimentary-use onboard facilities and scheduled activities, complimentary enrichment and kids programs.
- good product at affordable prices
- fares from $50 to $300 per day/person (Inside - Suite)
- itineraries from 3 to 10 days
- typical passengers: mix of "veterans" and "first-timers", from truly young to singles/couples in their 50s
- large ships; great variety of activities; average food/service quality; "large resort like" experience rather than a traditional cruise; up to 3000 passengers.
- Exemplary lines are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC.
BUDGET lines deliver a basic product at a basic price.
- fares from $200 to $500 per day/person
- itineraries from 3 to 17 days
- typical passengers: predominantly "first-timers", kids and families
- smaller and older ships; good food/service quality; such cruise lines are usually regional, with numerous passengers from the local territories
- Exemplary lines are Celebration Line, Disney, Celebrity.
LUXURY lines are classified in 2 main categories by the type of the itineraries:
Luxury RIVER lines operate river travel voyages with some of the best small ships on inland waterways (rivers and canals) mainly in Europe and North America, as well as in Russia, China, Egypt, the Peruvian Amazon.
- good product at a more affordable price
- fares from $250 to $450 per day/person
- itineraries from 7 to 15 days (some can last for more than 3 weeks)
- typical passengers: regular and loyal customers- miscellaneous: the vessels are usually smaller, and accommodate an average of 90-240 passengers (up to 1000 on some ships); very good food/service quality.
- exemplary lines: Viking, and Uniworld.
SPECIALTY & EXPEDITION lines operate "different cruises". They sail to unusual destinations (such as the Europe's Arctic, the South America's Antarctica and Galapagos Islands, The Asia's Indian Ocean exotic islands (featuring Seychelles, Maldives, Mauritius). In this category fall also the small ship cruise lines operating in Alaska.
- prices depend on the length/itinerary
- fares from $150 to over $500 per day/person
- itineraries from 7 to 14 days
- passengers: vary by itinerary - from fairly young and lively (on sailing trips) to older and more experienced (on expedition trips)
- miscellaneous: a real bouquet of itineraries (culinary, cultural, health and well-being, romance, expedition, etc.); vessel types vary from restored ocean liners to coastal steamers and ice breakers.
- exemplary lines: Windstar, Star Clippers, Metropolitan Touring.
MAJOR (world's LARGEST) Cruise Lines List
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).
|Company (year established, headquarters, concise information)||Review link / Fleet|
Carnival Cruise Line (1972, British-American, Doral-Miami FL, trademarked "The FUN Ships")
Celebrity Cruises (1988 as "Chandris Fantasy Cruises", Miami FL)
P&O Cruises (since 1837, British-American line, Southampton, UK)
P&O Cruises Australia (headquarters North Sydney, New South Wales, AU, division of "P&O Princess Cruises" plc)
Costa Cruises /Costa Crociere SpA (1924 as cargo carrier, Genoa, Italy)
Cunard Line (since 1840 as "British and North American Royal Mail Steam-Packet Company", British-American, headquarters in Southampton UK, and Santa Clarita CA)
Disney Cruise Line (1998, Celebration FL)
Holland America Line (since 1873 as "Netherlands-America Steamship Company", Seattle WA)
MSC Cruises / MSC Crociere SA (since 1987 as "Lauro Lines", headquarters Geneva, Switzerland)
NCL Norwegian Cruise Line (1966, Miami-Dade County, FL)
Princess Cruises (1965, British-American, Santa Clarita CA)
RCI Royal Caribbean International (1968, Norwegian-American, Miami FL)
AIDA Cruises / AIDA Kreuzfahrten (1960 as Deutsche Seereederei)
Pullmantur Cruises (2007, Norwegian-American)
Thomson (estd 1995, renamed to Marella Cruises in 2017)
TUI Cruises (2007, Hamburg Germany)
Star Cruises (established 1993)
CMV Cruise and Maritime Voyages (2009, Dartford UK)
LUXURY Cruise Companies List
As a rule, almost all luxury passenger shipping companies operate either small or mid-sized vessels / mega-yachts. The around the world itineraries visit some of the world's best ranked premier travel destinations, largest cities and all-inclusive resorts as optional (or included as packages) land tour deals. Their ships' "specially affluent" customers enjoy a 24/7 impeccably superior service and the best cuisine at sea.
Their clientele is sophisticated, social, wealthy. Such travelers are also adventurous, tending to stick to 5-star experiences, and don't blink at paying top dollars to be properly pampered. They are attracted also by the diverse itinerary programs, and by the very personal service - the hotel and bar staff gets to know guests' likes and dislikes from the very beginning of the voyage.
The luxury ship travel experience
If a brand line is categorized as "luxury", this already reveals a lot about the vacation travel experience that its deals provide. Owning and operating generally smaller ships, these companies are specialized in providing the industry's best in everything. The list of "best of the best" includes large cabins (with lots of suite accommodations to choose from), 5-star hotel amenities, brass-teak-mahogany furnishing, gourmet dining, tranquility, style, perfection in every detail, highly personalized concierge service by devoted staff, sophisticated enrichment programs, art auctions, decadent venues.
- The onboard atmosphere is much like in a private club.
- Course-by-course full dinner is served by gracious waiters who know their jobs, and also can be served in cabin, if you like.
- Onboard social life and entertainment features specialty cocktails in the piano bar, listening to world-class musicians and singers, attending professional lectures and classes. As itineraries, such lines try to avoid the megaship ports of call and often choose sailing/yachting destinations.
- Many luxury ships carry up to 200 passengers, while the largest among them are barely midsize by the mainstream industry's standards, carrying up to 1000 passengers. Several of the newest luxury cruise ship lines spiced up the market by adding new expedition vessels. All of these companies have spent millions on regular refurbishments and adding new amenities and services.
- However, luxury cruises cost a lot more than the typical mainstream deals. Expect to pay about (often at least!) US$2,000 PP for just a week in the Caribbean Sea. A spacious suite or booking during the year's busiest times costs twice that - or more.
- In order to balance these super expensive rates, all luxury lines include many extras in their fares. Most of them are inclusive of unlimited alcohol (liquors and wines, soft beverages, bottled water, well-stocked minibars, gratuities, luxury brand bath products. The new trend is to include shore excursions and the Wi-Fi Internet too.
- Luxury cruise ships are usually not well equipped for kids. Still, private babysitting can be arranged with some of the off-duty staff.
- Dress code is "elegant casual", with formal nights on longer itineraries only.
Best luxury cruise companies
Luxury cruise ship companies offer "small cruise" experiences marked by superiority and amazing destinations with even your-choice itineraries. They own some of world's the most elegant cruise vessels with beautiful designs and all the newest technologies and materials incorporated to guarantee the utmost safety during your royalty-style vacation.
The smallest ships are often charter yachts with capacity from 50 up to 300 passengers. Some ships accommodate up to 700-800 guests. As regions / destinations, most luxury ships operate in Europe (Mediterranean), some in Alaska (with included land and sea packages, unlimited excursions), some in Galapagos Islands, Asia (including Halong Bay Vietnam), Brazil Amazon (combined with Atlantic Ocean cruisings), and on Around the World voyages (all-inclusive deals). Now see who owns what on the luxury cruising market:
- Azamara (subsidiary of RCCL / Royal Caribbean)
- Crystal (subsidiary of Genting Group)
- Dream Cruises (subsidiary of Genting Group)
- Windstar (owned by "Xanterra Parks & Resorts")
- Cunard and Seabourn (fully-owned by Carnival Corp)
- Ponant Cruises (Groupe Artemis / Financiere Pinault)
- Privately owned are SeaDream, Silversea, Norwegian Yacht Voyages, Ritz-Carlton, Virgin Voyages.
All-Inclusive Cruise Lines
All-inclusive cruise travel companies offer expensive packages on most exotic itineraries, perfectly flavored with an impeccable, high-end "white glove" butler service, best quality of products and services, stylish onboard experiences featuring grandeur, elegance, sophistication, comfort, fad and savoir-faire. Booking luxury cruise ship vacations depends wholly on the degree of your self-esteem, and generally correlates to the size of your wallet.
All luxury voyages are operated on vessels with high passenger-to-space ratios (even on the smallest vessels), with all-inclusive packages (often with air included), complimentary specialty restaurants (premium cuisine), huge choices as destinations / itineraries, excellent service. All big-sized luxury liners are famous with their elegant public spaces, classy observation lounges, most spacious balcony staterooms, largest suites at sea, premium brand spas, multimillion-dollar fine art galleries.
These ships also offer plenty of comfortable and quiet onboard areas, personable hosts, deck parties, unique shore excursions / land tours (guided safaris, car tours, luxury lodge stays, even private jet travel and custom-made expeditions) - basically, whatever you want, as long as you can afford it.
Smaller and more intimate shipboard dining areas substitute the specialty restaurants on the mega-liners. These venues (some with alfresco dining alternatives) feature soothing decors and an outstanding variety of gourmet, beautifully presented food. Show lounges host world-class live performances by classical orchestras, and shows performed by guests celebrities, as well as expansive daily enrichment programs with complimentary workshops and classes.
By the most authoritative online sources, the top 5 positions for best luxury cruise lines are occupied by RSSC Regent, Seabourn, Silversea, Crystal and Azamara Club. Most small-fleet companies operating mega-yacjts usually provide alternative private ship-charter deals to large corporations and the world's richest families.
|Company (year established, headquarters, concise information)||Review link / Fleet|
Azamara Club (since 2007)
CDP Compagnie du Ponant (1988, Marseille, France)
Oceania Cruises (2002, Miami FL)
Crystal Cruises (1988, Century City LA)
Dream Cruises (established 2016)
RSSC Regent Seven Seas Cruises (1990, the ex "Radisson Seven Seas Cruises", Fort Lauderdale FL)
Seabourn (1986, Miami FL)
Silversea (1994, Ft Lauderdale FL)
Virgin Voyages (established 2017, headquartered in Crawley /Sussex, England)
Windstar (1984, Tall-Sailing ship cruise company)
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (founded 2017, based in Miami FL)
Norwegian Yacht Voyages (founded 2017, rebranded from "Nordic Cruise Company")
SMALL Cruise Lines List
All these small ship cruise travel companies (and cruiseferry 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.
|Company (year established, headquarters. concise info)||Fleet|
|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).||Birka Stockholm|
|Blue Lagoon Cruises (Australia) - 2 ships for Fiji Cruises roundtrip from Denarau.||Fiji Princess|
Captain Cook Cruises (Western Australia) - 1 cruise ship (Murray Princess) for Murray River, Great Barrier Reef, Fiji, Swan River (Perth), land tours, ferry services. The company was acquired in 2016 by SeaLink Travel Group.
Operates private charters and Sydney Harbour cruises on smaller ships.
|Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line (2008, Riviera Beach FL) - 2-day Bahamas from Florida (Port Palm Beach). The company is the successor of the "Imperial Majesty Cruise Line", currently operates 2 ships||fleet|
|Coral Expeditions (until 2015 known as "Coral Princess Cruises" /estd 1984 by Capt Tony Briggs) is a small ship line operating large catamarans. The ships (capacity 44-72 pax) operate on itineraries to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Ocean islands. The list of destinations includes Tasmania, New Guinea, Kimberley, Arnhem Land, Great Barrier Reef, Cape York.|
|Star Clippers (luxury tall sailing ships) for Mediterranean, Caribbean, Northern Europe and Panama Canal/Transatlantic.|
|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 Fred Olsen Group (luxury hotels, real estates, property development, aviation, crewing and building ships).||fleet|
|GAP Adventures (1990, Toronto, Canada) - the largest cruise company in Canada, with over 1,000 sea travel tours per year, to over 100 countries.|
Hapag-Lloyd Kreuzfahrten (since 1970, Hamburg, Germany, 5 smaller best luxury ships, including 2 newbuilds)
Hurtigruten / Norwegian Coastal Express (since 1893, ferry and cruise vessels)
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) - operates in the Adriatic Sea, 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")
Louis Cruises (since 1986 as "Louis Cruise Lines" - ferries charters for short sea vacation voyages to Greek Islands and Holy Land leaving from Cyprus).
|Black Sea Cruise Line (since 2017) is owned by Rosmorport (Russian Federation). Operates Black Sea cruises exclusivelly.||Knyaz Vladimir|
|Metropolitan Touring - owns and operates all three Galapagos Islands luxury cruise yachts|
|Paul Gauguin Cruises (1998, Bellevue, WA, USA) - 1 small ship (ms Paul Gauguin) for Galapagos Islands, year-round.|
|Pearl Seas Cruises - operates in the regions of US Great Lakes, Canadian Maritimes, Caribbean Islands|
|Phoenix Reisen (1988, Germany) - operates chartered ships of smaller sizes, serves the German-speaking market exclusively||fleet|
|Polar Star Expeditions - 1 ship (converted icebreaker) in Artica and Antarctica.||Polar Star|
|Quark Expeditions (1991) - luxury polar cruises, among its chartered ships is 50 Years of Victory (nuclear-powered icebreaker cruise ship).||fleet|
|ResidenSea (top luxury ship operator of privetly-owned liners||ms The World|
|Saga Cruises /SAGA Holidays (estd 1996, Canterbury, England) - serves exclusively the UK market||fleet|
|Silja Line (estd 1957, Helsinki, Finland) - ferry-cruise company (car and passenger services between Sweden and Finland. Fleet capacity is over 3 mill passengers and 200,00 cars annually.||ferries|
|The Boat Company (founded 1979 non-profit line and educational organization by McIntosh Foundation, in "Alaska Small").|
And yes, just like on the yummy photo above, these business entities are all ice and cream. Yes, they are different flavors of cold but sweet money-making machines. But they are also making our lives so pleasantly "travel vacation" happy. So a huge thanx to all the cruise line companies and their devoted staff - for being here and now, for cruising us!
River cruise lines provide as product a very "specially modern" style of travel cruising. It's the perfect combination of the world's best river cruise itineraries (in 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.
|Company (year established, headquarters. concise info)||Review link / Fleet|
|A-ROSA - 3 ships for Rhine, Danube & Rhone cruises.||fleet|
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).
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.
|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.||fleet|
|American Queen Steamboat Company - Mississippi River cruises on paddle-wheel riverboats.||fleet|
|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).||fleet|
|Crystal River Cruises (since 2017) - division of Crystal Cruises, offers fully all-inclusive deals. Its product is marked by gourmet dining, expert enrichment, high-class entertainment, top-luxury amenities and impeccable service on newbuild European riverboats. In each port along the itinerary are offered culture-themed tours and excursions. In some of the ports, the new Crystal river ships offer overnight stays that allow passengers to enjoy high-class gourmet dining experiences at Michelin-starred restaurants ashore and also exclusive evening events and entertainment on the ship.||fleet|
|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.||fleet|
|Emerald Waterways (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.||fleet|
|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).||fleet|
|Scenic River Cruises (established in 1987 in Australia by Glen Moroney) - among the most inclusive riverboat cruise lines today. The all-inclusive fares cover meals, drinks, excursions, gratuities. The deals feature price-included unlimited drinks - from the beverages in cabin minibars to alcohol drinks at all onboard dining and lounge venues. Butler service on European voyages is also included.||fleet|
|Uniworld (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).||fleet|
|Viking River Cruises (1997, headquartered in Woodland Hills CA, and Basel, Switzerland) is the world's largest river ship cruise company. It owns and operates around 70 luxury river ships with all-inclusive deals. The riverboats' capacity ranges from 100 to 250 guests). Itineraries are offered on major rivers in Europe, Asia (China and Russia) and soon in the USA. The line also offers cheap fly-cruises from UK, with complimentary, fully guided tours and excursions ashore. Since 2015, this line has a sister-company - run by the same corporate owners and named Viking Ocean (see in the table below).||fleet|
|Company (review link / fleet) / year established, headquarters||Concise Information|
|Norwegian Yacht Voyages (established 2017, rebranded from "Nordic Cruise Company")|
|Virgin Voyages (established 2017, Crawley /Sussex, England)|
|Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection (founded 2017, based in Miami FL)|
|"French America Line" is a USA river cruise company launching service in August 2016.|
|"Diamond Cruise" is a start-up Chinese company operating with departures out of Shanghai China.|
|Anteros Cruises is a LGBT cruise line since 2017 with a 400-passenger ship.|
|Abou Merhi Cruises is a Lebanese private / family-owned company and shipowner (since 2012) of Orient Queen.|
|"Alteza Cruises" is a joint venture between the Argentina-based "Hotel Express Latam" and a Greek private investor. Started operations in November 2017.|
|Dream Cruises (operational since November 2016)|
"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.
|"Sterling Cruise Lines" (established 2015, headquarters in Miami)|
|Viking Ocean Cruises (estd 2015 April) is a sister-line to Viking River Cruises (see in the above table). Both brand companies are owned by Torstein Hagan.|
|Blue World Voyages (established 2017) is Miami-based wellness cruise line funded via Wefunder (crowdfunding platform). All investors become shareholders and members of Blue World Founders Club giving them perks, discounts and a voice in product developments. The new line is managed by chairman and founder Gene Meehan and CEO John B Richards (former Starbucks president).|