A girls trip is always a good idea, but organizing one can be stressful — especially when you take into account everyone’s varied interests, preferences, and budgets. To alleviate the stress of planning an epic girls getaway, consider embarking on a cruise, where everything you could ever want or need (think: ample drinking and dining options, amenities, and activities) can be found right on board. Plus, there are dozens of different destinations and lines to choose from, which means options truly abound. Abbie Clinton, CEO of Got Your Bash recommends having your next girls trip at sea for the “all-inclusive aspect.” What’s more, she explains, “The nice thing about cruises is that you can know exactly what you’re spending before you even board the ship. Obviously, this doesn’t include what you’re spending in the port, but when on board, you know your food and drinks (always weigh the options of the packages) are going to be included.” She also notes that cruises are especially great since “everyone is together in one spot, [yet they] can also do their own thing” and are not tied to a tight schedule.
With all this in mind, we’ve rounded up the top cruise lines that are perfect for a girls trip — including expert-approved and award-winning picks.
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For a luxurious cruising experience, Clinton recommends setting sail with Celebrity, whose fleet of swanky ships will impress everyone in the group. Sea days are well spent at the spa or lounging by the pools; alternatively, those who prefer to stay active can do yoga, hit the gym, play pickleball, or hit the shops. When hunger calls, gather everyone together before heading to one of the stylish onboard eateries, many of which are complimentary, such as the haute French restaurant, Normandie. However, for a worth-it splurge — perhaps for your last night on board — check out one of the specialty dining venues, including Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud or Le Petit Chef; options vary depending on the ship. Pre- or post-dinner, grab a drink at one of the sleek bars or sign up for a wine or mixology class before moving on to the casino. “Also,” says Clinton, “the entertainment on these cruise ships is unbelievable,” with options running the gamut from silent discos to Quasar, the onboard nightclub (on select ships). Book one of the five-night Bahamas and Mexico sailings for an easy — and fun-filled — warm-weather escape.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line is among Clinton’s top picks for a wallet-friendly girls trip at sea. Plus, with over two dozen ships sailing from major U.S. cities like New York, Charleston, Los Angeles, Tampa, Miami, and more, it’s easy to find an itinerary that works for everyone in the group. Each Carnival vessel offers dozens of splashy activities and entertainment options — from roller coasters to water slides to mini golf — meaning it’s pretty much impossible to be bored on board. While adventure and adrenaline enthusiasts are at play, the serenity seekers of the groups can head to the aptly named Cloud 9 spa or adults-only Serenity space. Girls groups that are tight on time may consider booking one of the short-but-sweet two-day Bahamas sailings from Miami or the three-day Baja Mexico itineraries from Los Angeles, which start at $189 and $224 per person, respectively — talk about a steal.
Clinton describes Virgin Voyages as “fun, funky, and out there.” This (very accurate) description — combined with the line’s top-notch drinking and dining options (read: no buffets!), adults-only ambiance, and over-the-the-top entertainment offerings and amenities (including onboard tattoo parlors and risque cabaret shows) — makes it ideal for high-energy, party-centric groups. Just take it from T+L’s special projects editor, Elizabeth Rodes, who writes, “My sister and I went on a Virgin Voyages Irresistible Med sailing last summer, and it was the ultimate girls trip. The adults-only cruise line is known for its over-the-top parties, delicious a la carte restaurants (hello, Korean BBQ!), and super-Instagrammable spaces. Add partying in Ibiza, shopping in St. Tropez, and visiting picture-perfect Portofino, and it was the perfect sister vacation.” Pro tip: Suite guests also gain access to Richard’s Rooftop, a members-only lounge area offering pre-dinner cocktail hours, stargazing parties, and more. Finally, for itineraries a bit closer to home, check out one of the line’s Caribbean sailings ranging from four to eight nights in length.
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Holland America Line
Those craving a more refined onboard experience should book a Holland America Line sailing. In August 2022, my younger sister and I cruised to Alaska with the line and loved every moment of our onboard experience. We spent our days out gawking at the glacial views out by the pool, sipping coffee and spotting whales from the Explorer’s Lounge, and relaxing in the spa’s thermal suite — with breaks for coffee, lunch, and cocktails, albeit not exactly in that order. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, though the night didn’t end immediately afterward. We kept the fun going with trips to the casino plus a round (or two) of drinks at the bar. Holland America Line is famous for its live music offerings. My sister and I loved watching — and singing along to — the dueling piano performances at Billboard Onboard before retreating to our contemporary stateroom for some z’s. I may be biased, but I especially recommend booking the seven-day Alaskan Explorer itinerary, which cruises round trip from Seattle and calls on postcard-worthy ports like Juneau, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria (British Columbia).
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its fun and fuss-free approach to cruising (read: no set reservation times or dress codes). With that in mind, groups are not tied to set schedules, allowing travelers to explore — or relax — at their own pace. Prefer to spend the day snoozing by the pool while your friends opt to zip down water slides together? Go for it. Alternatively, check out The Waterfront, a quarter-mile-long oceanfront promenade, retreat to the adults-only Vibe Beach Club, or race your friends while go-karting (options vary depending on the ship). Picky eaters, rejoice: NCL offers a slew of bars and restaurants to choose from featuring cuisine from all across the globe. Come nighttime, groups can take their pick of seemingly endless entertainment options, including Broadway-caliber productions, deck parties, stand-up comedy, and (so much) more. For a worth-it splurge, split a stateroom in The Haven by Norwegian, a ship-within-a-ship concept offering luxury accommodations and 24-hour butler service. NCL offers sailings from major U.S. cities like New Orleans, Galveston, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.
Related: 21 Cruise Tips That Will Help Make Your Trip Even Better, According to Experts
Know for its massive mega-ships and flashy onboard activities and entertainment (think: escape rooms, ten-story slides, zip lines, bumper cars, ice skating, and surfing and skydiving simulators, though exact options vary depending on the ship), Royal Caribbean cruises truly offer something fun for everyone — especially kids-at-heart. However, that’s not to say the line doesn’t have adult-centric offerings, either. Soak up the sun from the secluded Solarium, an indoor-outdoor space exclusively reserved for grown-ups. The spa is also an excellent spot for those seeking a calming reprieve from the bustling common areas. My friend and I embarked on a Royal Caribbean sailing a few years back and were blown away by the onboard neighborhood offerings (which vary depending on the ship), from the carousel and candy shop at the Boardwalk to the swanky shops and lush flora of Central Park and beyond. While specialty dining options vary based on the ship, I recommend sitting down for a group dinner at Izumi Hibachi & Sushi; meanwhile, The Chef’s Table offers a more elevated and intimate experience — complete with a mouthwatering multi-course food and wine pairing menu — that will entice the gourmand in every girl group. You can’t go wrong with one of the line’s weekend cruises, which sail from Port Canaveral, Miami, Galveston, or Los Angeles.
Margaritaville at Sea
It’s always 5 o’clock aboard a Margaritaville at Sea cruise. This relatively new cruise line currently has one vessel, Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, sailing from Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island; however, its new ship, Margaritaville at Sea Islander, will debut in June 2024 and cruise from Tampa to Key West and Mexico. The line’s laid-back vibe and casual approach to cruising make it a favorite for a short but sweet girls trip at sea. Margaritaville at Sea also offers special bachelorette party and girls getaway packages, which ensure access to exclusive discounts and best available fares. Onboard highlights include margaritas at the aptly named 5’O Clock Somewhere Bar, cheeseburgers in paradise at LandShark Bar & Grill, and, of course, plenty of live musical performances featuring Jimmy Buffett’s best tunes to get you and the rest of the group in tropical vacation mode.