Updated September 21, 2017
Whether you're still in college, advancing in your career or starting a family, 20- and 30-somethings are movers and shakers. But adulting can be exhausting. Whether you need a break from school stress, time off from climbing the corporate ladder or just a vacation 'away from it all' with friends and family, cruising is a perfect option.
If you've never cruised before, it's nothing like you're expecting. And if you have cruised before, we're guessing it was on a family cruise or possibly during your college spring break, which shares little in common with cruising as an adult.
Here are 14 reasons why a cruise vacation might be just the great escape you're looking for.
1. It's inclusive.
While some things -- think cocktails, massages and shore excursions -- will cost you extra on the big cruise ships like Carnival, Princess, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, there are plenty of things included in your cruise fare. This means Broadway-caliber shows, multicourse meals, multiple pools and hot tubs, live music, a gym, your room, and yes, even soft-serve machines are among the many features included with your cruise rate.
2. It's exclusive.
Want a private spa day or an adults-only retreat? How about a quiet table for two at a bistro? Even on a crowded ship there are many ways to unwind in near-seclusion. Rent a cabana for some intimate lounging, book a corner table at the French restaurant and then retreat back to your elite, keycard-access-only enclave (typically reserved for suite cabins, and including a private pool and sun deck, concierge, restaurant, etc.). Most ships have areas like this: On Norwegian, this area is The Haven; on MSC, it's the Yacht Club; and Celebrity refers to it as its Suite Class.
3. You'll see more places.
Why go one place when you can sail to many? Booking a land tour that covers multiple destinations can be a hassle. Even if you're not arranging all of the flights or transfers yourself, there may be hotel and city tax, car rentals and constant transit to consider. On a cruise, the actual travel is part of the vacation -- enjoy all the ship has to offer while you sail (or just sit back and relax), and explore multiple ports (in multiple countries, if you choose) along the way. Cruising takes the exhaustion and meticulous planning out of world travel.
4. You can drink without driving.
Whether you're partying with friends, watching the game or simply having one too many glasses of wine at dinner (it's vacation, after all), everyone wants to be responsible; on land that may involve a DD or a pricey Uber ride. No such problem on a cruise! With craft breweries onboard, flaming cocktails at specialty bars and robot bartenders, feel free to indulge night or day (we don't judge) without keeping track and without dialing for a taxi. Your home is just decks away.
5. Adrenaline rushes are on the house.
If you're a thrill-seeker, you're in luck. Many modern cruise ships are more akin to amusement parks than just floating hotels these days. Climb the rock wall, complete the ropes course, break out your best surfing moves on the FlowRider, dominate the bumper cars, try skydiving, perform karaoke -- whatever does the trick. And if a game of trivia or an enrichment course is what gets your blood pumping, there's that too.
6. Connect (only if you want to).
The concept of being disconnected at sea is outdated. Some cruisers enjoy the escape from the plugged-in world, but today, turning off is an option and not a requirement. If you want to shoot out an email, Skype with family back home, post your latest photos to Instagram or check in on Facebook, you have the ability. Wi-Fi is ubiquitous on cruise ships, though high-speed Internet and large bandwidth are only available on some ships. But all cruise lines have made improving their Internet connectivity a priority. Carnival even offers a social media package for about $5 per day on select ships.
7. It's shopping heaven.
The words "designer" and "duty-free" live in harmony onboard a cruise ship. If shiny, new knick-knacks are an important part of returning from a vacation, you won't suffer from lack of temptation. Almost all cruise ships have a few onboard shops, selling everything from necessities you may have forgotten to logowear and souvenirs. But on some, the shops are more like a department store, offering your pick of designer perfumes, watches, jewelry, electronics, apparel and liquor. And that's not all: On Celebrity, you can shop for Apple products, and on Royal Caribbean you can buy art from Romero Britto.
8. Backpack in comfort.
The thirst for exploration and wanting to 'rough it' is understandable when you're young and able-bodied. Believe it or not, you can quench that thirst with a cruise. Explore the Galapagos from Zodiacs, ply the Arctic Circle, hike Patagonia and return to your expedition cruise ship for educational lectures, and wherever you go, enjoy the expertise of professional guides. Expedition cruising is more expensive than mainstream cruising; try a smaller, ferry-like line such as Celestyal Cruises in the Mediterranean for a more budget-minded option.
9. Catch a music festival.
What could be better than catching a Weezer show, KISS on tour, Styx in concert or an electronic music festival? Doing it in the middle of the ocean, possibly on your way to somewhere warm and tropical. Whether your interest is country, indie rock, heavy metal or futuristic, there's a music theme cruise for you. Outside of shipwide, music-themed cruises, Carnival also hosts a concert series called Carnival Live!, which features headlining artists in a small venue for an additional fee. Expect names like Journey and Rascal Flatts; tickets are less than you would expect to pay on land.
10. Get in shape (no, really).
From FlyWheel to Boot camp, try out the latest trends in fitness onboard your cruise ship. Some classes -- such as early-morning stretches and even Zumba on some lines -- are complimentary, but most carry a nominal fee. If you don't feel like paying extra to stay in shape, you can stay fit by swimming, walking the ship (most have a jogging track), and opting for healthy choices at meals. More and more cruise lines are catering to dietary concerns and healthy lifestyle choices. Royal Caribbean, for instance, offers low-cal eatery Devinly Decadence (by Biggest Loser chef Devin Alexander) onboard Quantum and Anthem of the Seas, and it's free of charge.
11. It's an alternative to the same, tired weekend trips.
Cruises make great girls' getaways, quick retreats for couples, affordable trips for young families (and not another theme park!), and the perfect choice for a multigenerational vacation. You don't need to take weeks or even days off from work to take a cruise; there are plenty of short, three-night sailings and even cruises to nowhere that are only at sea for a day or two. You can even find cheap, last-minute deals from less than $50 per person, per night (bonus savings if you are within driving distance of a port). Forget Vegas or Atlantic City -- activities, dining and nightlife is all there on a cruise ship, and it's reasonably priced.
12. Dine at celebrity restaurants for cheap.
Experience restaurants created by Food Network stars, Iron Chefs and culinary wizards at sea, for less than you'd pay on land. Consider yourself a foodie? Does your ideal weekend include tapas and tastings at the most discerning dining venues in town? High-end restaurants at sea typically don't bill you a la carte; instead, they incur a cover charge. Geoffrey Zakarian's Ocean Blue is $39 for three courses (his famed Dover sole, available onboard, goes for $68 in his NYC restaurant) and Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver (currently on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas; $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner) provides unique twists on Italian staples like crab and avocado bruschetta. It's like getting a prix-fixe menu during restaurant week in a big city -- every night. Guy Fieri's gut-busting burgers and seasoned fries are on Carnival -- and they're free! Don't blame your expanding waistband on us.
13. Enjoy Margaritaville, Discovery Channel & Dr. Seuss.
More and more cruise lines are embracing land-based brands. In addition to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville venues on Norwegian Escape, Princess Cruises' partnership with the Discovery Channel (which offers immersive excursions and onboard enrichment), and Carnival's family-centric Dr. Seuss reading room and themed activities for young and old alike, you can expect to see familiar touches creeping into all cruise lines. The newest partnership at sea -- Billboard live music and Lincoln Center classical performances -- are set to debut on Holland America's Koningsdam in 2016.
14. The ocean is beautiful.
There's something peaceful about being at sea that you can't quite gain from hanging at the beach all day. Even though cruise ships continue to get bigger and bigger, and the attractions grow to include things you never thought would be possible in the middle of nowhere, the sound of the ocean never changes. The sunsets are always striking, the fresh air tinged with salt, and the waves are always there to rock you to sleep.