Many cruise lines market themselves as luxury, but which luxury cruise ships truly deserve the moniker? For most luxury travelers, it’s not just about the suite or stateroom, but also the level of service, food, and overall attention to detail. Here are the luxury cruise ships I’d most recommend:
1. Crystal Esprit
The 62 passenger Crystal Esprit launched in 2015, after renovations to the original ship which was built in 1991. The yacht’s itineraries include the Seychelles and Mediterranean, with a focus on activities in each stop, from hiking and cycling to snorkeling and kayaking. So far guests have raved about the Crystal Esprit’s service, Michelin-level dining, stateroom quality and activities, and it’s clear that the smaller number of guests has enabled a far more enriching experience than most larger ships can offer.
Yacht Suites in the S1, S2 and S3 categories are all 280 square feet, with either a King bed or 2 Twin beds. S4 category Yacht Suites are 223 square feet, with a Queen bed or 2 Twin beds. Each suite also includes a seating area with sofa, adjustable-height table, and Nespresso machine. Bathrooms offer double vanities, a glass enclosed shower, and Etro bath products and bathrobes. Butler service is provided for each suite. For the most spacious suite, reserve the 515 square feet Owner’s Suite, which also has a pull-out sofa bed for third guest.
2. Silversea Silver Muse
The brand new Silver Muse carries up to 596 passengers, the largest in the Silversea line, but a fraction of larger mass market cruise ships. Itineraries span Asia, the Mediterranean, Caribbean, North America and South America, making this an ideal ship for veteran cruisers looking for a modern ship for new exploration.
Entry level Classic Veranda Suites are a spacious 387 square feet, including a 64 square feet teak veranda, Queen bed or 2 Twin beds swathed in Pratesi linens, two flat screen HDTVs, and marble bath with separate shower and bathtub and Bulgari bath products. My recommendation, however, is to book a Silver Suite, which is 786 square feet including veranda as a 1 Bedroom Suite, or 1119 square feet including veranda as a 2 Bedroom Suite. This provides a King size bed, which is more comfortable for most couples than a Queen, and adds dedicated Butler service, pillow menu, and Illy Espresso Machine.
Impressively, the Silver Muse offers 8 restaurants, and 6 of them are included in the cruise fare; only French restaurant La Dame and Japanese restaurant Kaiseki require an additional cost, currently $60 per person at time of writing. Since Silversea is Italian-owned, it’s no surprise that Italian cuisine at La Terraza and even pizzas and gelato at the casual Spaccanopoli are terrific. Other pluses include the beautiful pool deck, the new Arts Cafe which turns into a cocktail lounge in the evening, and included WiFi.
3. Crystal Serenity
For luxury cruisers who want the amenities of a larger ship, such as a variety of entertainment and enrichment classes, from digital filmmaking to magic classes to ballroom dancing to tai chi, the Crystal Serenity is an excellent choice. It accommodates up to 1080 passengers in its 535 staterooms. I’d recommend reserving a Penthouse with Veranda (367 square feet) or Penthouse Suite with Veranda (491 square feet), as these come with separate shower and jacuzzi bathtub as well as Butler service, including in-suite afternoon tea service, pre-dinner cocktails and canapes, assistance with dining and shore excursion reservations, and garment pressing and shoe shining. Voyages run the gamut from 7 day Alaska cruises to 112 day World Cruises, so there’s something for nearly everyone.
4. Oceania Marina
Oceania is beloved by savvy foodies, as a cruise line that spends on more on food per passenger than even most other luxury cruise lines. There’s also the Culinary Center, with hands-on cooking classes and culinary discovery tours offered at some of the ports of call
Oceania service is also usually very good, with an average of 1.6 guests to each crew member. The Oceania Marina carries up to 1250 passengers, and most staterooms are comfortable, although avoid the small and windowless 174 square feet Inside Staterooms. Instead, splurge on an Oceania Suite, 1000 square feet, each with a King bed and master bathroom, walk-in closet, living room, indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas, and a second guest bathroom. Suite privileges include butler service, free unlimited Internet and complimentary iPad use, priority specialty restaurant reservations, priority embarkation, priority reservations for shore excursions, and room service from any of the specialty restaurants, among other perks.
5. SeaDream II
SeaDream II, along with its sister ship SeaDream I, are more accurately described as mega yachts, with a maximum of just 112 passengers, but as luxury becomes more personal and the trend is towards smaller ships, it appeals to many who want a more intimate experience than a 600 or so passenger ship can provide. There are 95 crew members, so close to a 1:1 crew to passenger ratio, and you truly get to know the staff and fellow passengers, who tend to skew younger and more active than those of most main cruise lines.
All staterooms and suites are ocean view, although staterooms are on the small side at 195 square feet, with a queen bed or two twin beds. If that’s too small, 16 of the staterooms can be converted into 8 Commodore Suites, giving you nearly 400 square feet. Or book the 447 square feet Owner’s Suite, with a private Master bedroom and bath, with living and dining area and guest bath. All staterooms and suites include Belgian linens, down or hyperallergenic duvets, Bulgari bath amenities, and even monogrammed pajamas.
Most things are included in Sea Dream sailings: water sports, beach bbqs, room service, caviar and champagne, mountain bike rentals and crew-led shore activities such as hiking and biking, gratuities. Only shore excursions, premium wines, and spa treatments are extra.