Like fine European hotels or the fanciest boutique properties, the ships of the best luxury cruise lines are designed to appeal to people who seek — and can afford — an elegant style of travel.
Champagne flows. You can snack on caviar. Exquisite cuisine is prepared a la minute and accompanied by pours of fine wines. Onboard lounges are wonderfully intimate, with no mass-market anything. When you rest your head, it’s on a luxury mattress topped with the finest linens.
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The byword is exclusivity. Perks included in the cruise fare may include beverages, Wi-Fi, fresh flowers, extraordinary pampering and, in some cases, butler service.
The price to get on board could be in the area of $1,000 per person, per day.
Here are our picks for the top four luxury cruise lines that are operating now. One other iconic luxury line from years past, Crystal Cruises, may rise again in the coming year after shutting down in early 2022. For now, we’re leaving it off the list, but historically it has been another wonderful luxury line to consider.
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Atlas Ocean Voyages
The World Navigator is one of the five planned vessels in the fleet. ATLAS OCEAN VOYAGES/FACEBOOK
Catering to adventurous luxury cruise travelers with money to spend, the new cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages, which debuted in the summer of 2021, offers upscale experiences on small ships that carry just 196 passengers.
World Navigator and the soon-to-debut World Traveller, the first two of five planned vessels in the fleet, carry their own landing craft, Jet Skis, kayaks and paddleboards, all of which can be used by passengers wishing to explore the world on itineraries that include the Mediterranean, Portugal and Egypt, as well as more remote locales like the Arctic and Antarctica.
Although the onboard dress code is casual, the ships themselves are anything but, featuring elegant, retro-chic decor and marble floors.
In addition to including Wi-Fi, crew gratuities, alcohol and some shore excursions in its fares, Atlas provides all passengers with its Atlas Assurance protection. Not only does the program cover medical expenses, including evacuation for ill passengers and their entire travel party if needed, but it also ensures that travelers can get emergency eyeglasses, replacement prescription medications and physician referrals in a pinch.
Overall, Atlas has found a way to seamlessly meld swank and leisure, making it one of our favorite luxury cruise lines.
Silversea has some of the most diverse geographic itineraries, like the Galapagos. LUCIA GRIGGI/SILVERSEA CRUISES
Silversea, with its 10 100- to 608-passenger ships, has some of the most diverse geographic itineraries of any line, bringing guests to destinations around the world, including such remote places as the Arctic’s Northwest Passage.
Now owned by Royal Caribbean Group (the same company that owns Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises), the luxury cruise line delivers stylish, contemporary luxury — more streamlined than opulent — complemented by pleasantly extreme pampering.
Everybody on board a Silversea ship stays in a suite with a butler delivering superb service — even on the 100-passenger Silver Origin in the remote Galapagos, where your butler might take extraordinary care to get a spot off your hiking boots. Suite niceties include Bulgari bath products and marble bathrooms with both tubs and showers.
There’s a wide choice of dining venues on Silversea ships (some with a fee), designed to satisfy many tastes, whether you prefer sushi, foie gras or a great, thin-crust pizza. Drinks are on the house, including a long list of fine wine pours. A new dining and culinary education concept, S.A.L.T., brings local tastes on board together with experts talking about what you’re eating and drinking. The program also features culinary-focused excursions ashore.
Silversea’s expedition ships are equipped for polar locales. On sailings in those regions, the line gives a free jacket to each passenger to keep them warm and cozy.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
Another of our top luxury cruise lines, Regent is proudly opulent. Floating palaces are its calling card, along with the most inclusive fares of all the luxury lines. Business-class airfare, pre-cruise luxury hotel stays and shore excursions in every port are on the long list of perks.
The goal is knock-you-off-your-feet luxury. If at first you don’t get that point, look down at the many yards of Carrara marble under your feet, then look up at the Czech crystal chandeliers. Or spot the Picassos and Chagalls among your ship’s stunning, mostly Latin-focused art collections.
The five 490- to 750-passenger ships in the Regent fleet get fancier as they get larger. On the two newest, Seven Seas Explorer and Seven Seas Splendor, everyone stays in a roomy suite with an oversized balcony and marble bathroom. The top Regent Suites are mansions at sea and come with solariums, private spas with saunas and steam rooms, and Steinway pianos in their living rooms. The fanciest accommodations at sea, the Regent Suite on Explorer, has a $90,000 bed, topped only by the $200,000 bed on Splendor.
Lavishly decked-out restaurants, with cushy bars nearby, include Prime 7, a fan favorite for its classic steakhouse menu including jumbo lump crab cakes, U.S.D.A. prime-aged beef and Alaskan king crab legs.
Seabourn Sojourn. MICHEL VERDURE/SEABOURN
Owned by Carnival Corporation, Seabourn’s top-of-the-line, 450- to 600-passenger ships deliver comfortable, modern luxury that can be as fancy or as casual as you like. If you want to show off your heirloom jewels, go ahead, but on most nights, a jacket is optional in the restaurants. If you prefer not to dress up for formal night, there are casual alternatives where you can still eat well.
High service is a trademark at this luxury cruise line. Your suite steward will draw you a bath scented with your choice of bath oil. For a snack, order up complimentary caviar.
Dining is over the top at the restaurants, such as the retro-chic steakhouses with menus created by Chef Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame). When you tire of prime beef, order lobster thermidor or sink into the delicious comfort of Keller’s roast chicken. Throughout the ship, complimentary spirits, fine wines and house Champagne flow freely. All dining is included in your fare.
One of the line’s newest ships, Seabourn Venture, is built with a tough “polar class” design to operate in the ice-filled waters of the Arctic and Antarctica, and it’s equipped with a state-of-the-art submarine for undersea views. A 26-person expedition team runs the two-dozen Zodiacs that get you up close to glaciers and icebergs.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
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A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
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