The best cruises from Miami for every type of traveler
What are the best cruises from Miami? It’s a tough question to answer, in part because there are so many choices.
Miami has long been the cruise capital of the world, and even though it recently has been challenged by nearby Port Canaveral for the title of world’s busiest cruise port, it still offers one of the most diverse mixes of options when it comes to ships and itineraries.
Many of the world’s biggest cruise lines operate sailings from Miami, in some cases with multiple ships. On any given day, there can be as many as seven different cruise vessels sailing from the port.
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The large number of options means that there’s a little something for everyone when it comes to Miami cruises. That’s great because the best Miami cruise for you may not be the same as the best cruise out of Miami for someone else, depending on your travel style.
Here we list our top picks for the best cruises from Miami for five different types of travelers.
Best cruises for families: Icon of the Seas
Quite a few family-friendly ships call Miami home, including vessels operated by such family cruise leaders as Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line. However, when it comes to the best cruises from Miami for families, there’s never been anything quite like the voyages in the works for Royal Caribbean’s soon-to-arrive-in-Miami Icon of the Seas.
Scheduled to debut in Miami in January 2024 and already available to book, the 5,610-passenger Icon of the Seas will be the biggest cruise ship in the world — more than 6% bigger than the biggest cruise vessel currently at sea.
That means it has more space than any other ship at sea for children’s clubs, waterslides, watery play areas and other family fun zones.
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But it’s not just Icon of the Seas’ larger size that will make its sailings the best cruises out of Miami for families. The cruise line has designed the vessel — the first of a new class of ships — specifically to cater to families in a bigger way.
Icon of the Seas will offer more cabins with extra bunks to accommodate families with multiple children, including new room designs. Some family suites will even feature separate rooms for the little ones.
Related: The 5 best cruise lines for families
Many of these family-friendly accommodations will be near a new-for-the-line outdoor “neighborhood” called Surfside, which is dedicated to families with young children. As announced late last year, Surfside will feature splash areas for babies and kids, pools and lounge spaces for parents, family-friendly eateries and shops, and a bar with “mommy and me” matching mocktails for kids and cocktails for grownups.
The water park that Royal Caribbean plans for Icon of the Seas will be the largest ever built on a cruise ship. It will feature a record six top-deck waterslides and an unusual-for-Royal Caribbean ropes course. Teens and tweens have never had it so good.
Come January, Icon of the Seas will take the place of Royal Caribbean’s family-friendly Harmony of the Seas in Miami. If you’re looking for the best cruise out of Miami for families between now and January 2024, Harmony of the Seas is our pick. It’s almost as big as Icon of the Seas and similarly loaded with family-friendly attractions.
That said, if you’re a diehard Disney fan, be advised that the best family cruise from Miami for you is probably not a voyage on Icon of the Seas or Harmony of the Seas but one of the seasonal sailings that Disney Cruise Line offers out of Miami on the 1,754-passenger Disney Magic.
Unlike the Royal Caribbean ships, it’s not a new vessel with all the latest bells and whistles. In fact, it’s the oldest ship in the Disney fleet, dating to the 1990s. But it’s, well … a Disney ship. And if you’re a Disney lover, that’s probably all you need to know.
Best cruises for adults: Scarlet Lady
As of October 2021, the uncontested best cruises from Miami for adults are the four- and five-night sailings to the Bahamas and Caribbean offered on Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady. That’s the month the new cruise line launched, promising to shake things up in the cruise world with a lively, adult-focused onboard experience unlike anything else in cruising.
Specifically designed for adults only — no children under the age of 18 are allowed on board — the 2,770-passenger Scarlet Lady is all about grownup fun. We’re talking everything from rollicking dance parties to a drag show.
Related: I’ve been on more than 150 cruise ships; here’s why I loved Scarlet Lady
Notably, Scarlet Lady offers many stylish, adult-oriented nightspots and bars, creating a hopping scene late into the night. Passengers are able to shake their phones to have Champagne delivered to wherever they happen to be standing, get inked at an onboard tattoo parlor and belt out tunes in a colorful karaoke lounge.
Unlike some other cruise lines, Virgin Voyages also eschews buffets, dress codes and big Broadway-style theater shows. In place of the latter, the line offers such entertainment as dance parties, DJ sets and unconventional performances in a multi-purpose room.
While initially dubbed the “cruise line for millennials” in media coverage, Virgin Voyages was designed to appeal to not just young adults but older adults who are “young at heart,” executives have said. In its first two year of operations, it’s been drawing passengers in a wide range of ages.
Best cruises for budget travelers: MSC Seascape
For years, the low-cost ships of Carnival Cruise Line were the go-to vessels for the best cruises out of Miami for budget travelers. But Carnival’s Miami-based ships have had new competition for the title in recent years from the even-lower-cost vessels of MSC Cruises — a fast-growing line that has been taking the Miami market by storm.
Our take is that the MSC Cruises ships sailing from Miami — particularly the just-out-of-the-shipyard-new MSC Seascape — are now the vessels to book if you’re looking for the best value in cruises from Miami.
Based in Miami year-round, the 4,550-passenger MSC Seascape operates alternating seven-night voyages to the Eastern Caribbean and Western Caribbean that sometimes sell for as little as $399 per person — or just $57 per day.
That’s a pretty amazing fare when you consider that it covers not just your room but meals on the ship, too.
Related: TPG’s guide to cruising from Miami
The ship’s Eastern Caribbean sailings typically are priced a tad lower than its Western Caribbean sailings (when we were pricing them for this guide, they started about $30 per person lower). The Eastern Caribbean trips call at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Nassau, Bahamas; and Ocean Cay, MSC Cruises’ private island in the Bahamas. The Western Caribbean voyages stop at Ocho Rios, Jamaica; George Town, Cayman Islands; Cozumel, Mexico; and Ocean Cay.
What’s striking about these low-priced sailings on MSC Seascape is that the ship is one of the newest and snazziest operating out of the Port of Miami, having just been unveiled in November 2022. Often, the lowest-cost cruises in any cruise port are on the oldest ships sailing from the port — vessels that don’t have the latest and greatest when it comes to onboard attractions and amenities.
Eighteen decks high and more than 1,100 feet long, MSC Seascape is loaded with family-friendly attractions, including multiple waterslides, a giant kiddie splash zone with a pirate ship theme and a robotic thrill ride. The latter, called Robotron, will flip you upside down and around as you dangle over the side of the ship.
Related: Our first impressions of MSC Seascape
MSC Seascape also offers 11 dining venues, 20 bars and lounges, a bustling casino, a sprawling spa and a showroom for big production shows.
Plus, there’s a giant “ship-within-a-ship” luxury zone loaded with suites and a private lounge and restaurant — one only accessible to well-heeled passengers who pay up for access. With fares for its rooms nearly 10 times higher than the starting rates for the ship’s basic cabins, The Yacht Club, as it’s called, is not a budget option. However, if you’ve got money to burn, you can check in here and feel like you’re living the high life.
In short, MSC Seascape is a big, bustling megaresort at sea of the sort operated by Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival. If it’s big ships with lots of activities you love, it’s a good choice if your budget is tight.
MSC Cruises has two other vessels based seasonally in Miami: MSC Magnifica and MSC Divina. MSC Magnifica mostly operates short three- and four-night sailings to the Bahamas. MSC Divina operates a wide mix of three- to 18-night sailings to the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Best cruises for solo travelers: Norwegian Encore
The best cruises from Miami for solo travelers are those offered on Norwegian Cruise Line‘s 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore, as well as its sister vessels, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Escape.
This is largely because Norwegian Encore and its sister ships boast unusually large private zones for solo travelers — something you won’t find on the Miami-based vessels operated by Norwegian’s main competitors.
The so-called “studio” zones on Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Escape — vessels that all are part of the line’s recently unveiled Breakaway-Plus class of ships — have 82 special solo cabins apiece and a private Studio Lounge where solos can gather for happy hours and other events.
One other Norwegian ship that sometimes sails out of Miami, Norwegian Breakaway, has a similar solo zone with 59 cabins.
Only the studio zone on Norwegian’s 2010-built Norwegian Epic is bigger, but that ship doesn’t sail out of Miami.
A special zone for solo travelers is a concept that is rare in the cruise world, where almost all rooms for vacationers are designed for two people and sold with per-person fares that are based on two people occupying the room.
Solos staying in the solo cabins on the above vessels get exclusive access to the Studio Lounge (using their keycards), meaning a maximum of 59 to 82 people will share the space.
Related: The best cruise lines for solo travelers
The solo cabins in the zones are small (measuring 100 square feet) but are superbly designed to maximize storage space (something I learned firsthand staying in one on Norwegian Epic).
Solos on Norwegian Encore and its sister ships also will find a bustling bar scene, with plenty of counter-style seating in bars that are a great place to meet other solo travelers and friendly guests.
All of the ships mentioned above are great for solos, but we put Norwegian Encore first among them because it’s the newest. Of all Norwegian’s ships, it has the widest array of onboard attractions including one of the longest go-kart tracks at sea, an epic, open-air laser tag course and a virtual reality play zone.
Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Breakaway are scheduled to rotate in and out of Miami for Bahamas and Caribbean sailings over the next two years. None of them operate out of Miami year-round, and typically they’re not in town at the same time. If you’re planning a solo cruise from Miami in the next couple years, you’ll want to search for which vessel is scheduled to sail from Miami when you want to travel.
Best cruises for unrivaled fun: Carnival Celebration
Looking for a cruise out of Miami that is all about fun? Look no further than the sailings on Carnival Cruise Line‘s new Carnival Celebration.
Carnival famously markets itself as the Fun Ship line, and this massive, 19-deck-high ship takes the tagline to heart with loads of fun-focused activities. It’s got everything from a water park and ropes course to one of the first roller coasters at sea.
In the ship’s interior areas, you’ll find many bars, eateries and showrooms where fun is the focus, including restaurants where the waiters dance for you in between courses (something of a Carnival signature). The always-busy casino can be a fun zone for some, depending on the vagaries of Lady Luck.
Carnival draws a lively, outgoing crowd looking to be part of the action, and that’s what you’ll find on Carnival Celebration. The typical Carnival customer shoots up a hand when an entertainer asks for a volunteer to come on stage or jumps up to dance with the waiters during the dinner show. If this sounds like you, you’ve found your ship for a cruise from Miami.
Related: The ultimate guide to Carnival ships and itineraries
Just don’t expect anything too highbrow. Carnival is about fun in a laid-back, unpretentious, nothing-too-fancy way.
At 183,521 gross tons, Carnival Celebration is one of the biggest ships sailing regularly from Miami. With room for up to 6,630 passengers, it’s one of the most packed, too. Expect fun in the form of a bustling party at sea.
As for that roller coaster, just be warned that it’s not the biggest you’ve ever seen. Dubbed Bolt: Ultimate Sea Coaster, it has an 800-foot-long track and vehicles that can hit speeds of 40 miles per hour. When it comes to top-deck cruise ship fun, it’s hard to think of anything that compares.
Few ports in the world are home to as many cruise ships as Miami, which means cruisers have plenty of choices when it comes to sailings from the port. Almost all of the world’s biggest cruise lines — including Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and MSC Cruises — operate departures regularly from the port, typically with multiple ships and on multiple itineraries.
What is the best cruise from Miami for you? That’ll depend on your personal interests and travel style. There are cruises from Miami that appeal to everyone, including family travelers, budget travelers and solo travelers.
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