Once there were clear differences between luxury and mainstream cruises. Passengers knew what to expect from a specific line, and upscale ocean travel was confined to a handful of premier liners.
Now, things have changed. Recognising there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises have introduced elements of luxury to their ships, providing an affordable entry point for those looking to dip their toes in the world of luxury ocean travel.
But while some operators have succeeded in bridging the gap between luxury and mainstream, they don’t come close to the pomp and excess of the world’s foremost luxury lines.
Whether you’ve your sights set on a lavish honeymoon at sea or simply have money to spare; here we discover what’s so special about the world’s most opulent cruise lines.
Azamara Club Cruises
A popular line in the “luxury lite” band of cruising, is renowned for its intimate ships and exceptional service, not to mention its prowess in destination-immersion. Think boutique hotels at sea, exuding luxury and comfort without losing sight of cruising’s greatest attribute — adventure.
Azamara operates two mid-sized ships, Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest. Their intimate proportions not only lend a sense of exclusivity, but let them slip into tiny harbours far from the expected tourist traps, giving voyagers (the line’s preferred term for guests) the chance to experience all things far-flung.
Regent Seven Seas
Vast suites, gourmet cuisine, 450+ exotic destinations and an onus on inclusivity; ticks the luxury cruise box, and then some. With a fleet of four mid-sized ships, this Miami-based line sets the precedent in opulent sea travel, taking care of its guests’ every whim as its beautifully-appointed ships grace the world’s oceans from India to Panama.
Book with Regent, and you can leave the wallet at home. The line’s all-inclusive offering is as generous as its cabins, with everything from business class transfers to unlimited drinks included in the total fare. Add to that a handful of pioneering features, including a show kitchen where guests can cook up regional delicacies, and you’re guaranteed an immersive escape.
Six mid-size ships make up elegant fleet, including Marina, Riviera, Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena. Like Azamara, Oceania excels in destinations and cultural immersion, dropping anchor in the world’s most desirable ports — from Zanzibar and Madagascar, to Halong Bay, Dunedin and the charming Flemish city of Bruges.
With its country-casual dress code and contemporary elegance, Oceania may appear similar to other club-style cruise lines. But if there’s one thing that sets it apart, it’s the cuisine. With master chef Jacques Pépin at the culinary helm, guests can expect unrivalled gourmet across the fleet. The line’s menu is near-Michelin in its quality and originality, making Oceania the dream choice for the discerning foodie looking for the best of both luxury travel and top-notch fare.
With its all-frills fleet and horizon-pushing itineraries, is fast becoming the world’s foremost ultra-luxury cruise line. Everything about this Monaco-based line is pioneering and expeditionary, from the elegant, handcrafted hulls of its signature fleet, to its vast roster of destinations. Then there’s the all-inclusive offering, which encompasses everything from food to drink to excursions and gratuities. Even your taxi fares into town are included in your final fee, such is the generosity of the line’s service.
Silversea has taken luxury ocean travel to obsessive new levels, considering their specialist features and amenities down to the smallest detail. All suites get their very own private butler, and the crew to guest ratio is one of the best in expedition cruising — for unrivalled service and intimacy.
Seabourn Cruise Line
While mainstream cruise lines were focusing on making their ships bigger, was redefining the luxury cruise experience, taking it beyond what was thought possible. The cruise line has five elegant liners, including Ovation, Encore, Quest, Sojourn and Odyssey, with each housing no more than 300 spacious and perfectly-appointed suites — for the finest in at-sea comfort, style and intimacy.
Launched between 2009 and 2011, Seabourn’s Odyssey-class ships are highly acclaimed for their space, service and crew-to-guest ratio. The line cruises to a diverse array of exotic locations, including , Patagonia, India and the Americas, and benefits from creative, culture-laden itineraries which take full advantage of the smaller proportions of the fleet.
Image sourced from Seabourn Image Library