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Just wanna have fun

Best cruises for fun and sun

Best cruises for fun range from Greek island hopping and Caribbean beach clubs to adults-only pool parties. Here are the best ways to get your fun in the sun fix at sea.

Words by Nick Dalton

Pass on the palaces and give the galleries a miss. Cruises can just be about kicking back and having a good time, whatever your age. Here are a few tips for the best cruises for fun.


Cool CaribbeanBest cruises for fun: Caribbean

Everyone’s idea of a perfect cruise and many ships in the Caribbean operate three- and four-night itineraries that are as much about life onboard and getting off simply to go to the beach as they are about exploring.

Companies such as Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) run them from Miami and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and it’s easy to take two back-to-back if you’re coming from the UK.

The weather, of course, is almost always good so the deck bars are party central, there are sailaway parties as the sun sets with live music and even indoor bars often have outdoor areas.

Should you get off the ship, you’re almost always within walking distance of a beach – often a beach club excursion – where there’s a sun lounger and a beer waiting.

Island hoppingBest cruises for fun: Greece & Adriatic

Look for cruises that take in sunny islands. The Greek Islands can be fun; Mykonos is a place of hip bars, brightly colored cocktails and clubbing music, and Santorini is another hotspot, the narrow clifftop streets alive with bars and restaurants. Hvar, a tiny isle off Croatia, is also a happening spot, boasting quayside bars with sofas outside.

In places like these there’s now often an overnight stay, letting you enjoy the nightlife. Daytime, though, is sometimes even better – soak up the feel of the millionaire lifestyle sipping Champagne in the sun.

P&O Cruises’ 14-night Mediterranean round trip from Malta on Azura (May 9, 2024) takes in all three for daytime stops as well as Dubrovnik, where the seafront bars on the city’s ancient walls add another touch of the good life.

Spain Ibiza coast

Join the clubBest cruises for fun: Parties & nightclubs

The Spanish isle of Ibiza offers plenty of partying – a dead cert for cruises for fun – with more and more cruise lines (Cunard, Royal Caribbean) calling there, often with late departures.

Virgin’s Valiant Lady even spends two days there (seven-night Irresistible Med, from Barcelona, October 22, 2023). While this visit is after the island’s famed dance venues have closed for the season, other dates give you the time to visit spots such as Ushuaïa (open-air partying until late) and Pacha, turning 50 in 2023 (all-night partying).

Virgin Voyages’ excursions include daytime beach club experiences while Ibiza Town’s waterfront is a mass of open-air bars packed late into the evening.

Beach lifeBest cruises for fun: Beaches

For all the castles, museums and glitzy shops, there are countless beaches (well, you are arriving by sea), across the Med. Places to savor that you’d never even think of are often within walking distance of your ship (although perhaps not in flip-flops).

Cagliari, Sardinia’s entrancing capital, has five-mile Poetto beach lined with restaurants and bars. Ajaccio, Corsica’s capital (often visited on the same cruise) has the curve of Plage Saint-Francois in one direction plus a little sandy spot near the yacht marina.
Others? Should the mighty Greek ruins of Ephesus near Kusadasi in Turkey not appeal, Sahil beach awaits.

For beautiful beach life, Barcelona is tops. Barceloneta Beach is a massive sweep with hip bars and clubbing music long after the sun slips away. Another Spanish city, Cadiz, has La Caleta beach, reached through narrow streets lined with bars and cafes and with views of San Sebastián and Santa Catalina castles.

Even a Baltic cruise has beaches. Klaipėda in Lithuania is protected by the Curonian Spit, a 60-mile stretch of dunes that, halfway, becomes part of Russia’s standalone Kaliningrad Oblast territory. Just outside town, several minutes by foot ferry, is a wild coast that looks like California – often visited on e-bike excursions.

Helsinki, Finland’s capital, is a summer hotspot – Eiran Ranta is a neat beach a seafront walk from the ships and gives way to parkland and marinas.

Perhaps the most striking beach is Grenen, a sandy spit at Skagen (pronounced skeyne), Denmark’s northernmost point [pictured]. As the sand tapers away, the Baltic meets the North Sea…

Skagen Denmark lighthouse and beach

Ship shapeBest cruises for fun: Cruise entertainment

Some cruise companies are built for fun. Virgin Voyages is adults-only and Scarlet Night is a ship-wide party with frenetic singing and dancing by the pool leading on to music and clubbing until late, all dressed in red.

Azamara is subtler but with plenty of events serving up cruises for fun. The AzAmazing Days all-but take over a destination – in pretty Porto Venere, part of Italy’s Cinque Terra there’s Champagne on the waterfront, opera outside the church and a curious jazz combo in the backstreets.

Azamara’s White Night deck party is fabulous too (particularly when docked in Monte Carlo!): real barbecue, plentiful drink and lots of music. Just be careful with the red wine…

Seabourn’s Caviar In The Surf party is wild in a posh way, with drinks served from a floating surfboard. Windstar Cruises has watersports platforms on its superyachts – and beach parties too. And there are plenty more to discover…

Published 09.08.23