The Best Lines and Ships for Couples, Singles, & First Timers - 2020 Members' Choice Awards

best cruise lines ships singles couples first timers
Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival came out on top in these categories! - Photo by Celebrity Cruises

Whether you're looking for a solo adventure, a romatnic getaway getaway, or you're very first sailing, there’s a perfect cruise line for you. We analyzed the data from thousands of verified reviews from members who traveled alone, as a couple, or were taking their very first cruise to bring you the top lines and ships for 2020. 

Best Lines for Singles

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Photo by Celebrity Cruises

1. Celebrity Cruises - 4.52
2. Princess Cruises - 4.42
3. Royal Caribbean International - 4.37
4. Holland America Line - 4.29
5. Carnival Cruise Line - 4.26

When thinking about the best lines for solo travelers, the first thing that comes to mind is whether or not they have studio cabins. However, our top line for singles, Celebrity, just introduced solo cabins for the first time on the new Celebrity Edge, so that’s likely not the reason they scored so high among single cruisers. To be honest, we were surprised that Celebrity ranked so high for singles. While they deliver a high-quality experience, they nearly always have a single supplement fee, and onboard activities aren’t necessarily geared towards those traveling solo. It just goes to show that even though Celebrity doesn’t cater to singles to the same extent as their competitors, they deliver such a great experience that they really don’t need to.

Princess ranking second was also a surprise, and a likely factor in their high score is they sometimes waive or reduce the single supplement fee, meaning those cruising alone don’t have to pay double the per-person price. Similar to Celebrity, their onboard experience is top-notch. Several Royal Caribbean and Holland America ships offer solo cabins, and Holland America sometimes waives the single supplement fee, too. What sets these two lines apart is the activities that are suited for singles; Royal Caribbean has activities such as solo trivia and lunches or cocktail hours, and Holland America has a Single Partners Program, which affords singles the opportunity to participate in couples’ dancing. 


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Best Ships for Singles

royal caribbean symphony of the seas boardwalk awards 2020
Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Symphony of the Seas - 4.55
2. Norwegian Encore - 4.55
3. Allure of the Seas - 4.54
4. Carnival Pride - 4.53
5. Carnival Horizon - 4.52

While Celebrity was the overall best cruise line for singles, none of their ships made it into the top five. Royal Caribbean’s largest and newest vessel, along with one of her sisters in the same class made it into the top three. It’s easy to see why — Symphony and Allure have seemingly endless activities, bars and lounges, and places to lay back and relax, all allowing great opportunities to meet new friends or stay busy all on your own. Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ship, Norwegian Encore, comes in barely a sliver behind Symphony thanks to not only a number of Studio (solo) cabins, but also a Studio Lounge just for people staying in them. 

Ranked fourth is the older Carnival Pride and it should be noted that this ship scores highly in a number of areas. It ranked first out of the entire Carnival fleet for both dining and service, and came in fifth for ship quality. Carnival’s newest ship that we considered, Horizon, boasts a large number of bars and activities like the other top contenders, but also baffles us as Carnival doesn’t specifically cater to singles, and doesn’t have studio cabins. Clearly being a new ship is what brings Horizon into the top 5, and it will be interesting to see how the ships rank next year.


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Best Lines for Couples

celebrity flora glamping expedition ship awards 2020
Photo by Celebrity Cruises

1. Celebrity Cruises - 4.38
2. Royal Caribbean International - 4.31
3. Princess Cruises - 4.26
4. Carnival Cruise Line - 4.24
5. Holland America Line - 4.24

As with many other categories in our awards this year, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean are leading the pack when it comes to the quality of the cruising experience for couples. Celebrity’s slogan is “modern luxury,” which rings true throughout their cabins, restaurants, and other public spaces. Royal Caribbean is a great option for couples that love fun and activities as their ships are full of things to do, but also have relaxing adults-only spaces too. Princess is similar to Celebrity in their design and target audience, and Carnival is more of a casual atmosphere for couples that love a good party, while also boasting the popular adults-only sundeck Serenity Retreat. Holland America finishes the list at fifth, likely because they are not geared towards the younger crowd and are learning and destination-focused — perfect for mature couples who want to experience a new part of the world. 


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Best Ships for Couples

symphony of the seas boardwalk couples awards 2020
Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Symphony of the Seas - 4.55
2. Freedom of the Seas - 4.48
3. Harmony of the Seas - 4.48
4. Celebrity Summit - 4.47
5. Celebrity Equinox - 4.47

Not only is Symphony of the Seas a perfect option for singles, but it also ranked first for couples and for families with young kids. The proof is in the pudding: no matter what age you are or who you’re traveling with, there is truly something for everyone onboard Symphony of the Seas. Three Royal Caribbean ships took top honors in the couples’ category thanks to their vast array of intimate dining venues, adults-only Solariums, and a variety of bars and lounges. Their sister line Celebrity Cruises had two ships alongside them in the top five, both of which were likely boosted because of extensive dry dock renovations in 2019. On Celebrity Equinox, a new craft beer bar was added, as well as The Retreat sundeck for suite guests. Celebrity Summit also received The Retreat sundeck, as well as a complete redesign for cabins and the main dining room.


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Best Lines for First Timers

carnival cruise hot tub whirlpool awards 2020
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

1. Carnival Cruise Line - 4.36
2. Royal Caribbean International - 4.32
3. Norwegian Cruise Line - 4.03
4. Celebrity Cruises - 3.62
5. Holland America Line - 3.61

The industry’s “big three” made the top of the list, which is in line with what we would expect to see for this category. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian are casual, fun lines that are perfect for giving newbies a taste of modern cruising. They have a bit of everything: relaxing areas for adults, themed kids’ clubs and activities, cuisine to suit all taste buds, and entertainment and amenities that keep every member of the family occupied. Celebrity has a modern upscale feeling without being pretentious which helps to draw in newbies looking for a relaxing, comfortable way to sail to new places, and Holland America is very destination-focused which is perfect for new cruisers who are primarily sailing to experience multiple places during one vacation. 


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Best Ships for First Timers

carnival magic lido deck party awards 2020
Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

1. Carnival Valor - 4.47
2. Carnival Magic - 4.37
3. Carnival Liberty - 4.35
4. Liberty of the Seas - 4.35
5. Carnival Vista - 4.34

Carnival nearly swept the floor with this one, as all but one of the top five ships for first timers are Fun Ships. We happen to agree with our members  — Carnival is an excellent line to get a feel for all of what can be offered during a cruise, without being overwhelming or overly fancy. It has a great variety of included (and specialty!) dining options, fun themed bars, lots of organized activities, upper deck attractions including ropes courses and water slides, a relaxing adults-only sundeck, and an array of cabin categories to choose from.

We were happy to see Carnival Valor come in first, which doesn’t come as a complete surprise since the ship placed first for entertainment among the entire Carnival fleet this year, second for dining, third for service and activities, and fourth in a number of other categories. Clearly things are being done right on Valor, and it shows. Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas snuck into fourth place, likely due to unique features including an ice skating rink, English-style pub, Latin nightclub, and boomerang-style waterslide.


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Check out the other 2020 Members' Choice Awards results here:

The Best Cruise Lines & Ships For 2020

Best Cruise Lines for Cabins in 2020

The Best Cruise Lines and Ships for Entertainment and Activities for 2020

The Best Cruise Lines and Ships For Families for 2020

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