Themed Cruises are all the special-theme voyages designed for special people on chartered cruise ships. Theme cruising vacations are your best ever chance to enjoy affordable cruise travel together with passengers with the same interests as yours.
For your convenience, the following links jump down directly to CruiseMapper's theme cruise schedule (listing lines, ships, departure dates and homeports), as well as the reviews and tips on cruises specifically designed for FAMILIES, ADULTS (Kids-Free), SENIORS.
Read below about the cruise ship onboard programming, lines, vessels, and many FAQs (Oh yes, I know, it sounds somehow confusing when spelled out.
What is "Theme Cruise"?
Theme cruises take lots of forms, but they primarily are regular voyages with additional onboard programming. This special type of programming can range from seminars to learning and classroom-style sessions, from concerts to dance themes. Countless possibilities are waiting for you to explore- food and wine, religious, music and dancing, cruises for singles, an alternative lifestyle themed, etc. Usually, the programming occurs onboard the cruise ship, but sometimes theme events take place in the port as well. You can search the huge content of Wikipedia's THEME directory (wikipedia.org/wiki/Theme) for arts, music, narrative, etc).
A few words about our "Theme Cruises" photo of choice here. It's a colorful lady - all the way. Colorful just like the selection of unique choices you have from our long list of most special voyages. And what is a specially themed vacation without women, anyway? The God's most charmingly beautiful creatures make the money-world go round! And they drive the cruise travel industry as well. So what a better theme in life - and on your special cruise vacation, than the woman by your side?
Theme Cruise Lines
The purest form of a theme cruise is what the company/brand creates onboard one of its vessels - all the passengers are entitled to be participants then. This was fairly common when shipboard transportation involved long sea stretches for ocean crossings.
Nowadays, with 2000+ passengers onboard most liners, it is not practical for the entire vessel to be turned into a "themed voyage". Still, most large companies schedule annual festivities themed on sports (including car racing, golfing tournaments), music styles, lifestyles, hobbies, etc.
Most affordable and the least crowded are theme voyages on riverboats. Among the best brands in the USA (with large fleets and bigger boats) are ACL-American Cruise Lines and AQV-American Queen Voyages. In Europe, you can search the schedules of brands like Viking, Uniworld, AmaWaterways, Avalon, Scenic, Emerald.
Types of Themed Cruises
The theme cruise vacation travel today is a very popular way to connect people with common hobbies and interests to share the experiences of theme-related onboard activities that are impossible to live through onshore. Theme specials can range from political- to poker- or music-themed. The popularity of these vacations nowadays has spread across the entire demographic spectrum and everyone is able to find out his own line or itinerary.
Special Interests / Private Themed Voyages
These trips are the most common of all themed specials. In these, a special group of interest arranges and purchases a number of staterooms that are in different categories. This special group also sets up the itinerary and makes arrangements for special guests; markets the voyage to travelers who would be interested in the activity. These groups have little impact on other passengers on board, though some public spaces might be taken over by them.
Private theme cruise specials are developed usually by an organization. They are administered by a travel agency - if you want to participate in the events, you should book through this agency. General passengers on board will be prohibited from participating in the events. Some private theme voyages might comprise as many as twenty guests, while others- as many as one thousand. Keep in mind that a great number of private sailings include additional fees, such as fuel surcharges, gratuities, port fees, government taxes, as part of the overall fares. This is important to note while comparing theme sailings prices to the retail prices out in the marketplace.
Theme Charter Voyages
This signifies full ship charter deals: This type of cruise includes the entire ship's organization around interest-du-jour. Every one of the passengers is a participant to some extent. You can enjoy onboard events and additional activities on selected classic cruises that are going to be shaped around particular themes. If you want to learn about local history; or you are a music fan; or just want to improve your photography skills, themes add different dimensions to general offers. The best part is that they all are completely free of charge!
Actually, these are also a kind of "private cruises", but the difference is that everyone on the ship is in the action. Chartered cruises are usually implemented for religious themes, music, gaming tournaments (often poker-themed), alternative lifestyles. Keep in mind that passenger ships are of a wide range of sizes, and it is possible for a chartered ship to only accommodate two hundred guests, while another accommodates as many as 3,000.
Cruise Line Themed Voyages
Major cruise lines offer their own kind of theme voyages to attract passengers. One of the main advantages of these themed voyages is that there is no additional cost for participating. Book through any travel agency or through the line's website - it doesn't really matter (except for the rates, of course). A negative side is that everyone on the ship is welcome to participate which makes the voyage less intimate. Such themed voyages are more speaker-, seminar- or musically oriented.
Companies get more and more innovative - even a tattoo-themed "Ink or Swim" was on offer in April 2015 (roundtrip Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel, Mexico) on Liberty of the Seas. Passengers had the opportunity to get tattoos from renown artists, to attend tattoo contests and join a private beach party in Cozumel. Rates started at $970 pp, including all activities and events, with added $100 pp onboard credit towards tattoos for first and second passengers in each cabin.
Theme Cruises for Adults, Families with Kids, Seniors (FAQs, tips)
Each theme voyage has different dynamics. Groups vary between 10 and 2-3 thousand (on voyage charters). Partial charters book a substantial number of staterooms, full charters book the entire vessel. Nearly everything on board goes around the voyage's theme, and the experience is about connecting these like-minded passengers socially in big-group activities.
Family cruises are actually "kids-themed" voyages on ships with plenty of modern and "cool" kids-friendly facilities, dedicated (professionally trained) staff for supervising children's activities, onboard nursery (for toddlers up to 3 yo), kids- and teen-only club lounges, sundecks (with pool or whirlpool), teens-only programs and excursions, teen spa treatments. family-type cabins, family pool deck, kids menus in dining rooms, etc.
Family cruises are the industry's fastest-growing branch of specially themed ship travel vacations. Annually, over 2 million children cruise worldwide. More and more families book shipping vacations due to their most affordable prices and excellent value as a vacation experience.
- Ticket price includes accommodations, transportation, dining, entertainment, most activities (including kids clubs and programming), water parks with slides, sports facilities, cinemas.
- Often, major companies offer "kids sail free" deals or give discount rates for a third/fourth passenger in the cabin.
- Specifically for families with children are available connecting cabins, bigger than average family-category staterooms (oceanview, balcony) and larger "family suites".
- Ships provide a safe and controlled kids-friendly environment. Some provide 2-way beepers or walkie-talkies. Families eat together in the main dining rooms. Alternatively, kids can eat at their lounges. Food is complimentary and all you can eat.
- Themed onboard activities are organized n adult-free facilities for Toddlers (ages 2-4), Juniors (ages 5-7), Intermediate (ages 8-10), Tweens (ages 10-12) and Teens (ages 13-17). Kids in different groups eat at different times and order from special menus.
- Few ships have trained staff and nursery to look after toddlers or to provide babysitting for families.
- Caribbean and Mediterranean itineraries are best for family-themed voyages. Mediterranean roundtrips from UK (Southampton) are among the most popular and generally offered by P&O UK.
- Best brands for family ship travel are Royal Caribbean (largest liners, innovative facilities), Carnival ("Fun Ship" activities, great food, cheapest fares), MSC ("kids sail for free" deals year-round) and Disney (themed entertainment, great facilities, most expensive). Aggressively competing on the family cruising market, some companies establish exclusive partnerships with brands like LEGO (MSC), Dr Seuss (Carnival), DreamWorks (Royal Caribbean), Marvel's superheroes (Disney), Nickelodeon (NCL).
- The answer to "what are the best ships for families" depends on the vacation budget. It's one of those money questions for choosing between all-inclusive luxury on exotic destinations and affordable packages on shorter itineraries.
- Bigger and new ships provide more space and activities in comparison even to land-based resorts. Among the most unique facilities are outdoor theaters, zip-lines, multi-deck waterslides, surf simulators, fly simulators, rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, trampolines, circus schools, bumping cars, racing tracks, bowling alleys, mini-golf, arcades.
- What are the benefits of family cruising? Family ship vacations are convenient (no cooking, cleaning, rentals, changing hotels-restaurants, 24-hour room service, casino gaming and duty-free shopping, numerous close to home departures / saving airfare), all-inclusive (accommodation, meals, alternative menus, entertainment, activities, pools-Jacuzzis, theaters, libraries), care-free (supervised programs, age-based activities shipboard and ashore), adventurous and cheaper than most beach resorts.
Although most vessels have dedicated to children onboard facilities (clubs, playrooms, pools, supervised activities) kids usually run free, hang out in stairwells, ride the elevators and generally annoy elder passengers. Many companies offer entirely "kids-free" cruises or voyages with a smaller number of children - mainly by picking itineraries and ships less attractive for families.
- Luxury ships are smaller and geared to adults, but also expensive. Some premium brands provide kids programs and babysitting.
- Avoid peak-season travel.
- Book balcony suite to reduce time in public spaces.
- Brands like NCL Norwegian, Cunard and MSC have top-deck located luxury cabin complexes to maximize privacy. This "ship-within-ship" concept features suite and villa residents with exclusive access to a private sundeck with swimming pool, restaurant, nightclub, fitness and lounge facilities, butler service.
- Spa suites are another "fewer kids" option also offering as perks premium brand spa products, unlimited access to VIP spa facilities, healthy-food restaurants, even cabins and suites with whirlpool baths, complimentary treatments, fitness classes, thalassotherapy pool.
- Small-ship cruises fit into smaller, less-known ports and deliver crowd-free days ashore. Hurtigruten ships are shore-hugging and visit 34 ports on coastal routes over six or seven days. They give an opportunity to start exploring non-touristy call ports.
- Small-ship cruises on smaller boats, as well as river cruises, are also not so kids-friendly due to lack of "modern fun" facilities, less traditional and longer itineraries, smaller cabins, not cheap fares.
- World Cruises and Grand Voyages (longer than 2-weeks itineraries) attract repeat (older) travelers and fewer families. Repositioning voyages (RepositionCruises.com) are seasonal, always one-way and often change regions, which results in the cheapest fares and kids-free experience. Less traveled routes and exotic destinations (Indian Ocean, Africa, Far East, Arctic and Antarctica, South America) attract fewer families.
Adults-only cruise ships
There are passenger ships advertised in the companies' brochures as "adults-only" and not allowing any kids at all.
- Most river travel brands have minimum age requirement 12-13 yo and discourage 8- yo kids. Deals are inclusive of drinks (beer-wine-soda at dinners); tours, Wi-Fi, bicycles (ashore), some include also airport transfers, alcoholic beverages, gratuities, in-cabin minibar.
- Saga targets exclusively passengers over 50 yo, with deals inclusive of all meals (any restaurant dining), gratuities, Wi-Fi, drinks (wine with lunches and dinners), bus transfers.
- Viking Ocean has a minimum age requirement 18 yo. Deals are inclusive of 1 excursion in each call port, shipwide dining, Wi-Fi, self-serve laundry; drinks (wine-beers-soda during lunches and dinners, all-balcony cabins.
It's not too late for a first cruise after 55. Reaching a certain age doesn't mean you won't be able to enjoy a cruise vacation. More and more ships cater to senior travelers. The children-free peaceful atmosphere and calm travelers of similar interests and ages might be the right choice for you. There are few senior cruises each year. Many lines advertise these types of voyages but don't specialize in providing an all-senior model, and generally, seniors find themselves onboard among a younger crowd. Most senior passengers prefer senior river- and smal-ship cruises as compared to huge 2000+ passenger liners. The reason is that these offer a more intimate and quieter atmosphere.
Most senior cruises feature onboard lecturers to peak the interest. A loud party atmosphere is not common. Seniors prefer to relax and learn while traveling. Many lines advertise senior cruises on older ships which means fewer passengers and environment free of partying all night. Voyages for seniors are cost-effective because lines charge less. A growing trend with these types of cruises is senior adults taking along adult children - family reunion style for senior cruises. Children who are middle-aged are less likely to act like kids and prefer relaxing while they travel with senior adult parents.
In the following table are listed all themed voyages (full-vessel charter) scheduled by major cruise line companies. Ship links redirect to CruiseMapper's ship wiki page.
Note: As full-boat (voyage) charters, these are charter party deals - between the shipowner and the charterer (tour company). This means you can't book independently, but only through the ship-chartering company.
|Companies / Ships||Themed Voyages||Regions||Departure Ports and Dates|
Carnival Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line
Holland America Line
NCL Norwegian Cruise Line
various departures from homeports
Over the last years, the interest in theme cruises has grown considerably. And this is an area within the cruise industry that is going to develop more and more in the future. Be up-to-date with your theme cruise deals search and let the public know about your trip. Themed cruises offer enjoyable activities- they offer everything the shipping line brings to the table, but with added value- their programming. And don't forget to check out our top-page links for more themed cruise specials.