The Best Cruises for College Students and Young Adults

If you’ve never been on a cruise, you might picture a bunch of retirees playing shuffleboard, eating dinner at 4:30, and complaining about the heat.

These days, nothing could be further from the truth.

As cruising becomes more and more popular, the old impressions of cruises being for the “newlywed and the nearly dead” are long gone. Now people of all ages — including college students — enjoy cruises. And why not? They’re affordable, fun, and easy.

That said, there are some cruises that are definitely better for some crowds than others. While people of all ages cruise, different cruise lines, trip dates and other factors definitely have an impact on the type of crowd that you’ll sail with.

We know there is nothing worse than getting onto a cruise expecting a party and being the youngest person on the boat. On the flipside, if you’re older and want a relaxing trip, then you don’t want to be sailing with a young party crowd.

The good news is that there are different cruises that cater to different groups. To make sure you get booked on the sort of trip you want to go on, we’ve got some pointers on the best cruises for younger passengers. If you’re looking for the cruises with the youngest (under 30) crowd you can find, then be sure you take these items into account…

Cruise Dates (Spring Break = Younger)

By far the most important factor in who you will cruise with is when you are setting sail. The rule of thumb is that if you cruise when schools are out, your fellow passengers will be younger. If you’re looking for a young party crowd, it’s best to look at cruises in March (Spring Break) and early summer (summer break + graduation trips).

If you want to sail with younger passengers, avoid times when school is in session — especially right after school started and no one wants to take time off yet. So cruises during September or January will often have your oldest crowds.

Trip Length (Shorter = Younger)

The rule of thumb is the longer the trip, the older the crowd. Younger cruise passengers tend to take short cruises — 3-5 days. These cruises have more options for departure and are also cheaper, making them perfect for cash-strapped college students.

Older passenger with more time for sailing like the week-long cruises, which are also typically more expensive.

Spring break girl dancing
You won’t see this crowd on a Disney cruise.

Cruise Lines (Cheaper = Younger)

Want to cruise with college students? Stick to the cheaper cruise lines. Budgets are a big driver for many younger cruise passengers. That’s why the more affordable lines — namely, Carnival — are more likely to have younger crowds like students and young singles.

If you’re not sure if a cruise line is likely to have a younger crowd, simply go to their website. How do they market themselves? Do they show young people having fun, bright colors, and lots of beach shots? Then they are for younger crowds. The cruise lines catering to older crowds tend to have a more formal and luxurious feel to their marketing material, attracting more wealthy and older passengers.

Carnival is the best for younger crowds. Royal Caribbean is an “in-between” cruise line that draws some college students. Cruise lines like Cunard are for older cruisers. And of course, Disney cruises are for families.

Destinations (Warmer = Younger)

Don’t sail to Alaska or New England if you want to party with a younger crowd.

In general, the farther south a ship’s route takes you, the more of a party atmosphere it will have. Younger passengers don’t want to put on parkas and drink hot chocolate to go look at whales and mountains. They want to put on bikinis or swim trunks, drink rum runners and hit the beach.

Alaskan or New England cruises always have an older crowd. That doesn’t mean every Caribbean trip will have a ship full of college students, but your chances are much, much higher than if you were sailing north.

Special Events & Chartered Cruises

You may not realize it, but some companies make a business out of chartering an entire cruise ship, putting on a special event and then selling tickets to sail.

For example, there are poker cruises, clothing optional cruises, and even a New Kids on the Block cruise. Now, not every theme will resonate with everyone. However, if you find a special chartered cruise with a theme you like, then it’s likely you’re going to be sailing with like-minded cruisers.

In addition, many cruise lines offer sailings with special cruises for one specific trip. Carnival, for instance, has Carnival Live, which features sailings with people like Jim Gaffigan, Tim McGraw and others.

These trips are going to attract different crowds, depending on who the guest is. Look for sailings that have someone that is likely to attract a younger crowd, such as Sam Hunt.

All this said, the best way to ensure that you are on a cruise with a younger crowd? Bring your own. Try traveling with a larger group of 10-20 to make sure there are plenty of folks you know to party with.