Luxury cruise ships have long attracted travelers looking for a superior experience. Some offer exotic tours to distant destinations, while others attract travelers with comfortable cabins and stimulating enrichment programs. But with cruise ships continually raising the industry standard, how do you know which one will provide the best experience? Based on a method that takes into the account price range, health assessments, and approval among experts and travelers, U.S.News has discovered cruise lines that consistently land at the top.
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Cruises have had an interesting development in the last century, from luxurious expeditions to Antarctica to the proliferation of the megaship with monstrous amenities such as roller coasters and robot bartenders on the high seas. Today, there are a wide variety of trips that fall into these two categories – and more, from intimate riverboats exploring historic Europe, to adventure expeditions to the Galapagos to intimate yachting experiences that are the ultimate in luxury. And while 2020 was a strange year for cruises, we were always curious to know where you went, what you loved, and who you were with while sailing last year. Here are the cruise ships you loved the most, showing our theory that there is a cruise for everyone.
Viking Ocean Cruises
#1 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Smaller ships (with balconies in all cabins) and destination-focused travel plans are some of the things that set Viking Ocean Cruises apart from other lines. Viking’s emphasis on cultural enrichment means you can expect activities such as TED Talk exhibitions, cooking classes and spectacular stage performances on board, as well as excursions on the coast such as exclusive museum visits after opening hours or gastronomic tours.
Seabourn Cruise Line
#2 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Seabourn offers travelers a luxury cruise experience with only suite accommodation, personalized service and excellent luxury dining options. Cruises sailing on Seabourn can relax by knowing that everything is covered by their cruise price, including meals, exercise classes, enriching activities, and non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.
#3 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
With its Michelin-inspired kitchen, rooftop suites and engaging enrichment programs, Crystal VIPs are waving. Sailing with Crystal you can expect first-class customer service (the line maintains a ratio of almost 1 to 1 crew per guest) and versatile coastal excursions ranging from a Van Gogh painting workshop in Amsterdam to hiking in Hong Kong.
Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
#4 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
About the ship: When the luxury cruise ship Regent Seven Seas Cruises launched the Palestinian Seven Seas Explorer in July 2016, he told the world that it was “the most luxurious ship ever built”. As the line’s flagship, Explorer exemplifies the hallmarks of fine cuisine and the super-inclusion that Regent is known for. If you are looking for exceptional accommodation at sea, look no further than this ship. All cabins are suites, and if you love balconies, Seven Seas Explorer offers some of the largest in the industry, ranging from 55 to 995 square feet. (Some Manhattan apartment residents do not have that kind of space!) Likewise, public spaces are impressive. The ship has a huge amount of granite and marble (half is Carrara) in addition to almost 500 crystal chandeliers and Czech glass. Art lovers will appreciate the 2,500 pieces displayed on the entire ship, including some paintings specially commissioned by Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo and works by masters such as Picasso.
Travelers can enjoy excellent food and drink in the Regent’s sophisticated restaurants and enjoy various spa treatments at the decadent Serene Spa & Wellness Center. On-board enrichment programs offer cooking and cultural history classes, and travelers have access to free excursions from the coast, such as glass-blowing demonstrations in Antibes, France.
For the sweet tooth, all you need to know is that every restaurant is excellent. The two main restaurants are Compass Rose and La Veranda / Sette Mari. La Veranda is the buffet setting for breakfast and lunch, and then the place becomes Sette Mari in the evening and offers a hybrid experience that includes both buffet and à la carte menu. There are also three free specialty restaurants: the Asian-style Pacific; Chartreuse, which has a French touch; and the line’s exclusive steakhouse, Prime 7.
About cruise ships: When it comes to pampering, you can do no better than a completely complete nature on a cruise aboard the Regent Seven Seas. The price includes intercontinental business class flights for all American passengers as well as premium alcohol, wine, spirits, beer, soft drinks, water and sports drinks in addition to all dinners (with at least one meal at each specialty restaurant on board)), Unlimited Wi-Fi, unlimited excursions (although there is also a list of upgraded tours with à la carte prices) and gratuity. Use the ship’s thermal suite – even if you have not booked a spa treatment – and the list of inclusions is impressive and provides a stress-free and peaceful holiday.
Who gets on this ship: The mix of passengers leans towards English speakers: mostly Americans and Canadians with some travelers from Australia and the UK. Almost everyone is 60 years or older and is incredibly well traveled – especially when it comes to cruising. Many are Regent repeaters. You will not see many children or families except summer trips and holidays when the little ones travel with their parents and / or grandparents.
Other ships in the fleet: Regent has three more ships in his fleet. Two of them – Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager – host 700 travelers per night. Cruise, while the Seven Seas Navigator is the smallest ship in the fleet with a capacity of 490. The luxury cruise ship likes to say that it offers “6-star service” on all their ships.
Azamara Club Cruises
#5 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Azamara’s small ships can reach unusual destinations, allowing the cruise ship to offer unique excursions. Thanks to the AzAmazing Evenings program, guests can immerse themselves in a free evening of local culture, such as a concert by Skt. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. Azamara also offers excellent service, an intimate atmosphere and elegant suites.
#6 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Gourmet dinners from Oceania, cooking classes and culinary excursions cater for gourmets. In addition, Oceania’s medium-sized ships offer a high level of personal service with four of its six ships, only 684 passengers each. Passengers also praise the ships’ elegant décor.
#7 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Silversea Cruises specializes in exclusivity and personalization with accommodation only in suites, exotic itineraries and gourmet restaurants. Although its ships are smaller, Silversea still raises the bar for luxury cruises. On board you can attend stimulating lectures or enjoy butler service while in your suite.
Crystal Serenity, Crystal Cruises
#8 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Crystal Serenity offers a solid enrichment program that regularly hosts well-known authors, politicians and other experts and fixtures (think NASA astronaut Captain Scott Kelly and US Marine Corps General (retired) Anthony Zinni) as guest speakers. American Contract Bridge League instruction is available on all cruises, and many tournaments take place throughout the year. PGA golf professionals are also on board many trips to share their knowledge. Travelers have a sense that Crystal Cruises will do anything to provide access to the most interesting and knowledgeable people in the world.
The ship also excels in entertainment options. If you love listening to music in the lounge or enjoying a show, Crystal Serenity will excite you. You’ll find artists all over the ship – from a classic quartet playing during the afternoon tea service to a jazz or Broadway singer in the lounge while sipping a cocktail before or after dinner. After dinner there is karaoke and dancing at Pulse Nightclub. And if you love ballroom dancing, you can do so at Palm Court and even find a gentleman who is a dance host if you are traveling alone or with a companion who has two left feet. Broadway-style productions are staged in the Galaxy Lounge, and the casino – conveniently located on the way to the theater – has a respectable number of gaming tables and slots.
Dining is also an area that stands out about Crystal Serenity. The main restaurant, Crystal Dining Room, is elegant and comfortable and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are two specialty restaurants: Silk Road (with Sushi Bar inside) and Prego. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is the culinary mind behind Silk Road, and his Asian fusion menu and sushi make passengers return for more. (Passengers receive a free meal at each specialty restaurant, and additional reservations may be available for $ 30 per person.) Even the ship’s bistro bar and Lido Cafe buffet exceed expectations.
SeaDream II, SeaDream Yacht Club
#9 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
SeaDream II from SeaDream Yacht Club offers an intimate and luxurious sailing experience. With only 56 cabins, travelers and crew learn each other quickly, and it really feels like traveling on a friend’s yacht instead of a cruise ship.
Two things make this ship extraordinary: the teak deck with many Balinese sun loungers and the retractable marina aft. The marina offers glass-bottomed kayaks, paddleboards, banana boats, snorkeling equipment and laser sailboats. You can even practice water skiing or jet skiing.
Because it is a cozy yacht, you will not find large suites. The cabins are spacious, but none have a balcony. Instead, in-room amenities – think Belgian sheets, duvets, wool blankets and Bvlgari toiletries – are in focus. Passengers always have fun with the monogrammed pajamas placed in their cabins upon arrival.
About Cruise Line: SeaDream offers a range of unique experiences on its two-ship fleet. One is to spend a night “sleeping under the stars” in the Balinese beds on deck 6. This pastime is reserved for the first-come, first-served principle and is very popular. Kl. 22 the crew isolates the area and gathers the beds with sheets, duvets and pillows. Sleeping on the deck of a yacht is an experience that is not easy to reproduce – unless you have a yacht!
If you like to spend the night outdoors, but prefer to sleep indoors, check out the “Starlit Movies” series. On mild evenings, the team popped large amounts of popcorn to cruisers who appeared on the pool deck to watch a movie as part of this program.
And we must not forget that the cruise ship offers its signature “Champagne and Caviar Splash” when traveling through the Caribbean. This decadent spread includes a champagne bowl and a buffet filled with caviar and other snacks, all to enjoy under a barbecue on the beach by the sea.
Royal Caribbean International
#10 in Best Luxury Cruise Lines
If you really want to feel like you live in a floating city, Royal Caribbean is the right cruise line for you as it has the four largest cruise ships in the world. Seasymphony of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas top the lists in terms of number of passengers (approximately 6,700 in full capacity), length (almost 1,200 feet in length) and gross tonnage (more 225,000 tons) . Given their size, these ships offer all the amenities you can imagine – and many you may not even imagine – from water parks to world-class music productions to free-standing bars with team robots and two-story suites with slides for children. You will find these giants sailing in the Caribbean and Mediterranean all year round, but with so many activities on board, you may not even want to leave the ship.