Are you preparing to set sail on a luxury cruise? Deciding where to cruise and which cruise line is best for you can be overwhelming.
The bar has been raised. Luxury cruising has evolved to offer everything we have come to expect from travel at the top end of town. Refined accommodation, Michelin star dining, immersive on-shore excursions and indulgent spa experiences marry high-end service and 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.
Crystal Cruises offers small to mid-sized ships that are synonymous with luxury cruising. The cruise line has cultivated a loyal following of repeat customers – and with good reason.
Their fleet dominates the Condé Nast Traveler Gold List (1997-2014, 2016-2020) among other accolades.
Crystal Serenity is widely regarded as one of the best cruise ships in the world.
What to expect aboard Crystal Cruises
Despite operating a fleet of smaller ships, space is plentiful and cruises are well-staffed. Onboard you will find 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 more low-key entertainment, you can unwind at the Hollywood Theatre or visit the equally-impressive onboard library.
Our pick close to home:
South Pacific Kingdoms travelling from Papeete (Tahiti) to Brisbane (Aus) aboard the Crystal Serenity. Departing 11 Feb 2023, this journey is steeped in culture and cruises via some of the most breathtaking tropical landscape on earth. Explore traditional island villages, coral reefs, pristine beaches and tropical rainforest.
Seabourn operates a 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.”
What to expect aboard Seabourn
From the moment you step onboard, you will be greeted with champagne, formally dressed staff and first-class touches at every turn. Spacious, contemporary suites 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 can 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.
Their signature vessel, Seabourn Encore, is ultra-luxurious and a favourite with foodies who can dine at five excellent restaurants. Passengers are spoilt for choice with destinations including Arabia, India, Asia or The Mediterranean are also available.
Cruises to Alaska, Patagonia, Antarctica, Panama and beyond are available year-round aboard her sister vessels.
Our pick close to home:
26-day Australia and Orchid Isles cruise from Sydney to Singapore. Departing on 23 Feb 2022, this is your chance to explore city to surf in Australia along with The Great Barrier Reef. Stops in Bali, Indonesia and Malaysia too!
The epitome of old-world cruising, Cunard’s ships, complete with iconic red and black stacks, define sophisticated ocean travel and own their place among the most famous ocean liners in the world.
Cunard's small fleet comprises Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.
What to expect aboard Cunard
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, offering varying levels of access to amenities, restaurants and VIP levels/perks. Staterooms are linked to their own exclusive dining areas, including the Brittania Restaurant and Club, Princess Grill and Queens Grill.
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.
Onboard 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. A passenger highlight includes 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 highly regarded thanks to a program of lectures, tastings and wine dinners.
Queen Mary 2 is undisputedly the legendary jewel in the crown. The ship underwent a dry-dock refurbishment in 2020 that has reaffirmed her excellence. She now houses the largest library at sea, the only pet kennels at sea and a planetarium.
Our pick close to home:
13 night New Zealand cruise travelling from Melbourne aboard Queen Elizabeth. Departing on the 14th of February 2022, you will get the chance to uncover the best of New Zealand.
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.
What to expect aboard Azamara
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.
Azamara Pursuit joined fleet in 2018. She cruises Europe in the Northern Hemisphere Summer before making her way to Cape Town for the Southern Hemisphere Summer season.
Our pick close to home:
16-night New Zealand Intensive Voyage – Auckland return, including Norfolk Island. Departing Thursday the 20th of January 2022, you will explore New Zealand in all her glory and get to know Maori culture along the way. Stop also at Norfolk Island, a small island that is big on history and underrated for its beauty.
Regent offers luxury, small-ship voyages of exploration and discovery to more than 300 ports on all seven continents.
The ambience onboard is “upscale but not uptight,” with attentive, personalised service.
What to expect aboard Regent
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 are 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.
The newest Vessel, Seven Seas Splendor, offers sailings mostly across Europe and The Caribbean. It’s hard to choose just one!
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.
What to expect aboard Oceania
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 close to home:
10-night Legends to Lagoons Tahitian cruise from Papeete return. Departing on the 7th of March 2022, you will discover key Tahitian Islands and culture, breathtaking scenery and luxury at every turn.
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.
What to expect aboard Star Clippers
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.