Luxury cruising has evolved to offer everything from refined accommodation to fine dining with Michelin-starred chefs, indulgent spa experiences, immersive on-shore excursions and high-end, personalised inclusions.
The range of destinations on offer is as vast as the ocean itself. Cruise by medieval villages in Europe, sail the Panama Canal, explore the Great Barrier Reef or discover the untamed Arctic.
We’ve curated a list (in no particular order) of the Top 7 Luxury Cruise Lines to help you select a voyage that will take you to somewhere new and indulge each of your senses along the way.
Many of the featured cruise lines offer all-inclusive sailing packages alongside contemporary cabins with ultra-luxury bathrooms and balconies, fine dining, concierge services, premium entertainment and spa & fitness facilities, to name a few.
Crystal Cruises offers small to mid-sized ships that are synonymous with luxury cruising. Known as the very best cruise ship in the world, Crystal Serenity is consistently awarded the highest accolades by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler, among others. The company has cultivated a loyal following of repeat customers – and with good reason.
Despite ship size, space is plentiful and well-staffed. Expect stylish décor, fine dining, extensive facilities, and a touch of luxury everywhere. Cabins are plush and range from more affordable window-only cabins to lavish Penthouse suites.
The PURE® staterooms are ideal for allergy-prone passengers and are the first ever ultra-luxe hypoallergenic staterooms. Rooms undergo a 7-step process to eliminate 99.9% of impurities, including dust and other airborne irritants.
Unlike many other luxury cruise lines, Crystal welcomes families. A playroom and babysitting service is available on all cruises, along with a variety of fun activities for older kids. Arts, crafts, PlayStation, dance classes, board games and more await eager children of all ages.
For adults, onboard enrichment courses are offered, including language classes, film making and dance classes. Take a golf lesson with a PGA pro, enjoy a Broadway-style show or play a game of tennis on a full outdoor court. If you’re in the mood for a bit more low-key entertainment, you can access the Hollywood theatre through a lobby of Hollywood movie posters or visit the equally-impressive onboard library.
Our pick: The 32-day Northwest Passage cruise. Travelling from Anchorage to New York aboard the Crystal Serenity, this exciting inaugural journey transits the fabled Northwest Passage, visiting a series of US, Canadian and Greenland destinations not often visited by other luxury cruise lines. The cruise is ideal for travellers with a passion for adventure, luxury and a little bit of magic.
Seabourn operates a small fleet of award-winning, ultra-luxury small ships made up of 300 suite-only accommodations. Exotic destinations, innovative cuisine and exemplary service are all hallmarks of the Seabourn experience. Avidcruiser.com defines Seabourn as “one of the world’s finest.” From the moment you step on board, you’re greeted with champagne, formally dressed staff and first-class accommodations at every turn.
Spacious, contemporary suites are fitted with high-end European amenities, fresh fruit replenished daily, a desk with personalised stationery and so much more.
Because Seaborn has recently partnered with the UNESCO World Heritage program, the company is able to offer a range of destinations and experiences that support sustainable tourism – some of which are unavailable through any other cruise line. A portion of the cost of shore excursions to World Heritage sites is donated back to UNESCO, helping protect and preserve these unique travel destinations.
The newest vessel, Seabourn Encore, is set to crown the fleet with her maiden season with reservations now open. Passengers will be spoilt for choice with Encore cruising to Australia in January 2017 alternatively destinations like Arabia, India, Asia or The Mediterranean are also available. For trips to Alaska, Patagonia, Antarctica, Panama and beyond, her sister vessels are available year-round.
Our pick: The Route of the Vikings. This unique 21-night odyssey aboard Seabourn Quest sails from Dover (London) to Quebec via Scotland, Iceland, Greenland & Newfoundland.
The epitome of old-world cruising, Cunard’s ships, complete with iconic red and black stacks, define sophisticated ocean travel and are among the most famous ocean liners in the world. The fleet is small and comprises the Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.
Old meets new on a Cunard cruise where “White Star Service” (the cruise line’s premium brand of unparalleled customer service), decadence and time-honoured traditions are complemented by contemporary facilities and activities. Cunard cruises are ideal for the discerning, tradition-seeking traveller and aim to make an indelible mark on even the most experienced travel-goers.
Suites boast a regal charm you won’t find on any other cruise line and offer 20th Century-style service and amenities. Three different classes of accommodation are available, from baseline packages with basic amenities and restaurant access to VIP levels with extravagant perks and access to exclusive dining areas, such as the Princess Grill and Queens Grill restaurants.
During the day, classical music plays softly throughout common areas and traditional afternoon tea is served daily. Once evening falls, guests don their finest ball gowns for dinner service and enjoy fine dining with entrees like pan-seared cod, grilled pork chop, wild mushroom ragout and Thai marinated prawns.
Activities and facilities vary between ships but are abundant and varied nonetheless. Children are welcomed in various “play zones” and a night nursery babysitting service is available on select cruises.
Enjoy high-end shopping from brands including Harrods and H.Stern, entertainment the likes of Shakespeare classics and musical productions, and an extensive library that’s home to over 6,000 books.
On board the Queen Elizabeth, you’re invited to attend the Black and White Ball, Royal Ascot Ball or Buccaneer Ball – all set in the stunning Queens Ballroom. Another passenger favourite includes the regular garden parties – country club-style deck gatherings – that keep cruise-goers talking for years to come. Queen Victoria’s Wine Program is also a talking point and includes lectures, tastings and wine dinners.
However, the Queen Mary 2 is undisputedly the legendary jewel in the crown. The ship is set to undergo a 25-day dry dock period to carry out refurbishments and reaffirm Cunard as “the best of the best.” Once complete, she will house the largest library at sea, the only pet kennels at sea and a planetarium.
Our pick: The Queen Mary 2!
Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara boasts a range of mid-sized vessels that strike the perfect balance between being intimate but not too small, with a boutique hotel atmosphere. “Club cruises” is aptly named because Azamara ships are designed to create a sense of camaraderie alongside space to also relax in private.
The Azamara Quest and Azamara Journey are both impressive vessels. Featuring four different types of contemporary suites with all the creature comforts, passengers indulge in French bath products, fresh flowers, plush cotton robes and slippers, healthy snacks delivered daily and an afternoon tea service in their suites.
Onboard, you’ll find a selection of excellent restaurants, premium entertainment, a fine wine cellar, boutique retail stores and daily fitness classes. If you’re planning to celebrate a special occasion, then the Nights in Private Places package is a unique way to enjoy a break from your suite and indulge your senses.
Immerse yourself in local culture, cuisine and scenery, thanks to Azamara’s Destination Immersion program that includes overnight port stays longer than any other cruise line.
Azamara Quest often sets sail Australia and New Zealand before heading off to explore Asia and Europe, while Azamara Journey is slated to sail the US, Europe and Asia and will head down to Australia.
Our pick: The 12-night Mediterranean Jewels cruise. Onboard Azamara Journey, you’ll 30 exotic ports including Barcelona, Cannes, Florence, Venice, Amalfi, Corfu, Dubrovnik and more.
Regent Seven Seas
Regent offers luxury, small-ship voyages of exploration and discovery to more than 300 ports on all seven continents. The ambiance on board is “upscale but not uptight,” with attentive, personalised service.
The majority of the fleet includes suite-only accommodation with private balconies and caters up to 700 guests. Suites are spacious and offer King-sized beds, pressed linens, a minibar that’s replenished daily and bathrooms stocked with L’Occitane® products. Concierge and Penthouse suite guests enjoy a range of add-ons, including a personal butler, a free pre-cruise night in a luxury hotel and complimentary Hermès®products.
Regent knows that food and travel go hand-in-hand, so dining experiences are always top of the line. Among those is Prime7, the “steakhouse at sea,” and the caviar brunch available at two separate venues.
Regent is the only line to offer free, unlimited shore excursions in every port on offer, so be sure to take advantage of this incredible opportunity.
Our pick: The newly refurbished Seven Seas Explorer
As the world’s only upper-premium cruise line, Oceania has created a 5-star product with much to offer. Refined and elegant, yet casual and intimate best describe the fleet of small to mid-sized ships, catering to up to 1,250 guests.
As with many smaller fleets, Oceania’s ships can slip into boutique ports usually off-limits to larger vessels. With this convenient versatility, Oceania is able to offer cruises to over 300 destinations, worldwide.
Suites are spacious, welcoming and varied. Exclusive to Oceania, a Prestige Tranquility Bed awaits you in each suite and stateroom and features 1,000-thread-count linens. For an added touch of elegance, you’ll find plush towels and Bulgari amenities in each room.
Veranda Staterooms onboard Marina and Riviera are said to be the largest at sea, measuring 282 square feet. The high-end Penthouse-style suites also offer an extended butler service including garment pressing and in-suite dining.
Classes are available at the Culinary Center onboard Marina and Riviera, a cooking school at sea, where Master Chefs from around the world teach you how to prepare a variety of exquisite dishes in a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen. Likewise, the Artist Loft offers lessons from talented international artists.
Music abounds in the form of classical string quartets and headline acts around the ships and guest lectures are available by historians, naturalists and ambassadors eager to share insider knowledge.
Our pick: The 10-night Coastal Harbours cruise from New York. Keep your eyes open for bonus value offers through Oceania’s O’Life Advantage deals.
Star Clippers is an excellent choice for unique sailing adventures. While they don’t fulfil all the criteria of a luxury cruise, their fleet of tall ships is awe-inspiring and worth consideration. Think traditional, masted ships with a touch of old-world charm.
With sails reaching high into the sky, you can’t help but feel like you’re about to embark on a magical adventure to a faraway land.
Onboard, the experience is unpretentious. Unwind in a wide hammock, join the staff and learn to sail, participate in a variety of watersports, get lucky during a crab race or relax in your traditionally appointed cabin.
The cuisine is delicious and varied; from fine dining to beach barbeques and seafood buffets. Day trips include stops at private islands, hard-to-access towns and many points of interest. You can expect a daily briefing on the deck, that’s as informative as it is entertaining.
Star Clipper and Star Flyer are trumped by the Royal Clipper, as it is the largest fully rigged sailing ship in the world, today. Destinations include The Caribbean, Mediterranean, Europe, Cuba and Asia.
Our pick: Ask us about the special New Years Caribbean Crossing. Aboard the Star Flyer, you’ll visit the British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Montego Bay and more.