Small Ship Line #1: Star Clippers
Star Clippers has a fleet of three ships, with its flagship Royal Clipper holding the record as the worlds largest full-rigged sailing ship. All three are sailing yachts, unfurling their sails for itineraries across the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Southeast Asia, with classic exteriors and interiors featuring several bars, a swimming pool, library, and formal dining room.
Small Ship Line #1: American Cruise Lines
American Cruise Lines has the unique distinction of operating not only old-school paddlewheelers in the United States, but also contemporary river ships. And they dont just sail on the Mississippiyou can also explore the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the Pacific Northwest, too. Beyond that, the 13-strong fleet also has oceangoing vessels that explore the coasts surrounding the entire country, from New England to Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico.
Most Luxurious According To The Critics: Europa 2
The launch of the 500-guest Europa 2 in 2013 was eagerly anticipated bythose in the know, as it marked German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd’sentry into the international market. At the time of launch theoriginal 400-guest Europa had the highest rating of any ship in thenoted Berlitz Guide, so the bar was high, but for once the sequelwas even better than the original.
Europa 2 brings a fresh and contemporary look to cruising, withlight-filled public spaces, elegant suites , andan inviting combination of blonde woods and muted earthy tones, thedefinition of ‘Scandi chic’. It’s no surprise that Europa 2 has nowusurped her predecessor, acclaimed by the Berlitz Guide as the bestcruise ship in the world.
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Silver Muse Silversea Cruises
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 596 to 411
Food is one area where this cruise ship excels. Its approach to dining is unique to Silver Muse, which lacks a traditional main dining room and instead has eight smaller restaurants at which passengers can dine any night. Two of them — Kaiseki and La Dame by Relais & Chateaux — require a $60 per person per meal surcharge, but the other six are complimentary . Japanese-themed Kaiseki serves complimentary sushi at lunch, and becomes a swanky teppanyaki joint by night. Serving traditional French dishes with ingredients sourced from France, La Dame is an exclusive venue thanks to Silversea’s partnership with Relais & Chateaux. Kaiseki and La Dame are the smallest restaurants onboard.
Complimentary choices on Silver Muse include Asian-fusion Indochine, Italian La Terrazza, seafood grill Atlantide, tapas restaurant and bar Silver Note, pizza place Spaccanapoli, and Hot Rocks, a grill-your-own meat venue. During the day, La Terrazza is the ship’s buffet, offering breakfast and lunch. Likewise, Atlantide is the closest to a main dining room you’ll find, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for those who prefer a sit-down option.
Medium Ship Line #: Seabourn Cruise Lines
Dont think of Seabourn as a typical cruiseit ships are much more akin to mega-yachts, with ultra-luxurious decor, service, and dining. The fleet currently has five vessels, the largest of which carry 600 passengers. Their small size allows the vessels to dock in small ports all around the world . Many of the cruise lines guests are lifelong learners, and they flock to the nightly Seabourn Conversation program, which brings all sorts of intriguing figures, from Steve Wozniak to Elaine Paige, on board for lectures and casual chats. In 2015, Seabourn announced a partnership with celebrity chef Thomas Keller, who crafted new menus for the three existing ships and spearheaded new restaurants on the two newest ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.
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Picks From Kristin Carlson Tahiti Tourisme’s North American Managing Director
Certainly one of the best ways to experience The Islands of Tahiti is by cruise ship, where during 7 to 14-day itineraries you can visit several of the most beautiful islands anywhere in the world,” says Carlson. “The newly refurbished Paul Gauguin and Windstars all-suite Star Breeze are among a handful of cruise ships which make their home port in The Islands of Tahiti. The benefit of traveling by one of the local cruise lines, in addition to their knowledge and respect of the local culture, is that these intimate ships carry less than 350 passengers and can enter destinations such as Bora Bora, which are not accessible to larger vessels.
Paul Gaugin Cruises deserves a spot on your luxury travel radar if you’re dreaming of a South Pacific getaway. This highly lauded cruise line accommodates 330 guests on its eponymous ship where guests can experience this breath-taking region of the world with the help of local Tahitians who serve as the ship’s hosts and hostesses, storytellers, and entertainers that provide an authentic look at Polynesian life alongside a vast array of spectacular amenities.
Small Ship Line #: Crystal Yacht Cruises
A two-ship line no longer, Crystal introduced a yacht to its fleet in early 2015. Crystal Esprit, equipped with its own two-person submersible, as well as butler service for every suite . The ship has space for just 62 passengers to enjoy cruises within its focus regions of the Seychelles, Adriatic, and West Indies. The line will also introduce a luxurious 200-passenger expedition ship in 2021, Crystal Endeavor, which sails to remote locations like the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as urban ports around the world.
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Medium Ship Line #1: Bahama Paradise Cruise Line
You mightve already guessed from its name, but the Bahama Paradise Cruise Line operates cruises to the Bahamas, sailing two-day itineraries from West Palm Beach, Florida. It has just two ships in its fleet, neither of which is necessarily a showstopper, but thats not what the crowd is here forthis is a relatively no-frills cruise line for those interested in quick, affordable getaways. Many passengers opt to extend their experience with a multi-night stay in the Bahamas, which the cruise line organizes for its guests.
Medium Ship Line #: Celebrity Cruises
Celebritys Millennium-class shipsCelebrity Millennium, Infinity, Summit, and Constellationare the smallest in the fleet, each with a capacity between 2,100 and 2,200 passengers. The ships just got a bevy of both new and upgraded staterooms as part of Celebrity’s fleet-wide modernization, and when they launched in the early aughts were some of the first ships to use more eco-friendly engines that combined gas and steam power. The four ships sail from home ports around the world, from Europe to North America to Asia.
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Best Small Ships: Silversea
If youre ready to be completely pampered, Silverseas five-star service, smaller ships, and all-inclusive pricing is difficult to beat. Onboard, passengers enjoy free-flowing wines, in-suite dining, gourmet cuisine, enrichment lectures, 24-hour butler service, and included gratuities. Since most Silversea ships carry less than 300 guests, the company is a hybrid between yachting and cruising. Silverseas entertainment is very relaxed, so expect to unwind in luxurious lounges or in the onboard spa. There is no shortage of dining choices on Silversea vessels, ranging from intimate venues serving Asian fusion to open-air patios highlighting regional specialties.
Fine Dining And Premium Beverages
Extra special attention is placed on the culinary experience onboard luxury ships, where meals are cooked to order. A number of specialty restaurants offer international cuisine, with menus curated by Michelin-starred chefs and paired with the finest vintages. Even the fussiest palate will be satisfied onboard a luxury cruise, as the culinary team has the flexibility to take special orders and create dishes based on the guests personal preference.
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Mega Ship Line #: Msc Cruises
Though MSC is headquartered in landlocked Switzerland, this cruise line has mastered the art of mega-ships, building five of the 25 largest in the world: MSC Grandiosa, MSC Bellissima, MSC Meraviglia,MSC Seaview, and MSC Seaside. Each can hold between 5,300 and 6,300 passengers at maximum capacity. MSC Grandiosa is the newest of the five, offering innovative features like Zoe, an artificial intelligencepowered virtual assistant that can help you with any questions or requests on board, as well as impressive entertainment like the third set of Cirque du Soleil shows at sea . But on all five ships, youll find everything from top-notch dining options to bowling alleys to copious outdoor space for sunbathing. MSC has some plans for mega-growth, too: it has another Meraviglia-Plus class ship and four World-class mega-ships in the pipeline, each with a capacity between 5,800 and 6,850 passengers.
What You Won’t Find
While the characteristics of what you do find sets luxury lines apart from more mainstream vacations, what you won’t find is just as telling about the quality of the vacation and the type of people who choose these distinguished voyages. For example, you usually won’t find:
- Flashy entertainment options such as casino tournaments or raunchy comedy routines.
- Corny planned activities such as belly flop contests or scavenger hunts.
- Late night entertainment in booming night clubs or discos.
- Extensive year-round children’s programs or multiple family options.
- Visits to well-known, frequented ports of call with dozens of cruise ships docked simultaneously.
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Seven Seas Explorer Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 750 to 542
About the Ship: When luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises launched the palatial Seven Seas Explorer in July 2016, it told the world that she was the “most luxurious ship ever built.” As the flagship for the line, Explorer exemplifies the hallmarks of exquisite cuisine and the super all-inclusivity that Regent is known for. If you’re looking for extraordinary accommodations at sea, look no further than this ship. All cabins are suites, and if you love balconies, Seven Seas Explorer features some of the largest in the industry, ranging from 55 to 995 square feet. Likewise, the public spaces are stunning. The ship features an enormous amount of granite and marble plus almost 500 chandeliers made of Czech crystal and glass. Art lovers will enjoy the 2,500 pieces of art displayed throughout the vessel, including some specially commissioned paintings by Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo and works by masters such as Picasso.
For foodies, all you need to know is that each restaurant excels. The two main restaurants are Compass Rose and La Veranda/Sette Mari. La Veranda is the buffet option for breakfast and lunch, and then the space transforms to Sette Mari in the evening, offering a hybrid experience that includes a buffet as well as an a la carte menu. There are also three complimentary specialty restaurants: the Pan-Asian-style Pacific Rim Chartreuse, which has a French flair and the line’s signature steakhouse, Prime 7.
The 8 Best Luxury Cruise Lines Of 2021
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Best Overall: Regent Seven Seas“For an ultra-luxurious yacht voyage, Regent Seven Seas features all-inclusive pricing and premium service.”
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Seabourn“From Alaska to the Amazon and the Mediterranean to Arabia, Seabourn sails exotic itineraries with experts onboard.”
Best Luxury Expedition:Ponant“The French-influenced cruise line blends modern technology with traditional French luxury.”
Best Excursions: Crystal Cruises “The company offers an impressive 2,000 excursions to choose from in ports all over the world.”
Best Small Ships: Silversea“If youre ready to be completely pampered, Silverseas five-star service, smaller ships, and all-inclusive pricing is difficult to beat.”
Best Yacht Cruise: SeaDream Yacht Club“For active adults, theres a golf simulator, mountain bikes , water skiing, and snorkel gear.”
Best Tall Sailing Ships: Windstar Cruises “For a combination of traditional sailing and five-star service, consider Windstar Cruises, a luxury tall-sailing ship cruise line.”
Best for First-Time Cruisers: Oceania Cruises “For guests who enjoy deluxe cruise lines like Celebrity or Holland America, Oceania is a perfect stepping stone into luxury cruising.”
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Crystal Esprit Crystal Cruises
About the Ship:Esprit is Crystal‘s first yacht, and while it’s not new, the line did an amazing job refurbishing the ship before launching it in 2015. It’s now one of the most contemporary and comfy ships at sea, feeling much more like a boutique hotel than a yacht. Even the smallest suites — which range from 223 to 280 square feet — feel spacious, and all accommodations feature an interactive bedside iPad that lets you set an alarm, order room service, learn about the ship and more. Even though the ship only caters to 62 passengers, there are several dining venues, including The Yacht Club, Patio Cafe and Terrace for alfresco breakfasts. Each restaurant offers dine anytime open seating.
For sun worshippers, Esprit offers a beautiful sun deck as well as a retractable marina that’s stocked with water skis, wakeboards, paddleboards, ocean kayaks , Skidoo Jet Skis and snorkel gear.
About the Cruise Line: This foray into ultra-small ship cruising allows Crystal to focus on some of its strengths: customized but unobtrusive service, and incredible cuisine paired with the world’s finest wine. They’ve translated the traditional Crystal experience and improved upon it for individuals that love attentive service on a very small ship. Esprit is getting rave reviews and it paves the way for Crystal’s first new-build yacht, Endeavour, which will start sailing in 2020.
What Does Luxury Mean
Different travelers define luxury in different ways. It may mean the highest caliber of gourmet food, the finest wines and spirits, sophisticated entertainment, and superb yet unobtrusive service. Luxury is the ultimate opportunity to do whatever your heart desires, without the limitations of scheduled activities, assigned dining seating, or standardized menus. In the cruise travel industry, luxury is synonymous with sophistication and dignity, and luxury cruises operate with a more formal atmosphere than other cruise ships.
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Medium Ship Line #1: Marella Cruises
U.K.based cruise line Marella, which is operated by TUI UK, has a fleet of six ships that hold between 1,100 and 2,000 passengers, sailing itineraries around Europe, the Middle East, North America, and the Caribbean, with some special journeys to Asia. The sailings are billed as all-inclusive, and they do include alcoholic beverages and tips, but some of the specialty restaurants cost an extra fee.
River Ship Line #: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection
Uniworld’s 17 ships cruise around the globe in Europe, Egypt, Russia, China, India, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Their excursions offer passengers the opportunity to get a little closer to their destinations of choice, with visits to local homes, farms, and artisans, and every excursion is rated by ability level. In 2018, two of its ships were overhauled for a new venture, U River Cruises, with itineraries, dining, and activities that appeal to younger prospective passengersthink silent disco, mixology classes, and rooftop camping.
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Extravagant Sailaway Parties On Royal Clipper
The details: Carrying just 227 adventurous sailors on swashbuckling Caribbean adventures, Royal Clipper is the worlds biggest, and we say, most beautiful square-rigged ship. With three pools, plenty of sunbathing space on her sun-warmed teak decks, a smart restaurant and an al fresco bar, Royal Clipper offers all the romance of travel under sail without sacrificing creature comforts. Complete with Edwardian touches, faux fireplaces and plenty of polished brass, Royal Clipper has plenty of character. Its propelled along by 56,000 feet of billowing sails and has a loyal following of keen sailors and boat owners. Indulge in one of 14 deluxe suites on the Main Deck and lie in the big nets either side of the bowsprit its one of the best places to spot dolphins racing the ship.
Best for: People who arent big fans of cruising but love sailing this is the worlds largest full-rigged sailing ship. Avoid if: Youve got any mobility issues. There are four decks and no elevators so getting around could prove tricky.
The Sunday Times cruise editor says: Dont miss Sailaway, all the more exciting in the sultry Caribbean. Passengers gather on the foredeck to watch the crew raising the sails, the ships sailing anthem, Vangelis Conquest of Paradise, blasting across the open decks as the wind picks up and land fades into the distance.
Small Ship Line #1: Quark Expeditions
If youre after white sand and turquoise waters, Quark Expeditions isnt for you. This line specializes in polar expeditions: each of its six ships is an icebreaker or an ice-strengthened vessel capable of bringing guests to the farthest reaches of the northern and southern seas. While youre guaranteed to explore some incredible rugged terrain, you might also sail in a pretty rugged shipthe two icebreakers, in particular, are nothing to write home about in terms of luxurious decor. But the access they provide to the polar regions is unparalleled and well worth the authentic expedition experience. The swanky new Ultramarine, however, is another story entirely.
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Medium Ship Line #1: P& o Cruises
The British line P& O Cruises is the oldest in the world, established in 1837 to ferry mail and passengers between the United Kingdom and the Iberian Peninsula, but it began to offer leisure operationsthe very first cruises as we know themas early as 1844. The ships cater to a primarily British audience, and they provide good value for a classic cruising experience. Guests enjoy traditional activities like shuffleboard, dance classes, and pub quizzes. The ships typically sail in Europe, though they do have ports of call in Asia and the Middle East.