Luxury cruise lines have been enticing travelers for a long time, promising them a superior experience they will never forget. Some offer tropical voyages to exotic destinations around the world, while others rely on stimulating enrichment programs and comfortable cabins. But with cruise lines continuously improving the industry standard, how is one supposed to pick the best experience?
How to Pick the Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Deciding to start looking for the right cruise for you can feel a lot like speed-dating. You don’t have all day to know someone, but you do have to figure out whether your personalities match. In the cruise business, that means that you have to choose from tons of lines – but who has the time to browse through all the mismatches?
Cruise lines – luxury or not – will try to persuade travelers they offer an all-things-to-all-people experience. However, it’s increasingly clear they carve out distinctive lifestyle niches, and that’s alright. Some aim at the gourmet and spa traveler, while others focus on mass-appeal entertainment and food. At the same time, you might one that targets active families.
Picking the perfect ship is, no doubt, tricky. Cruise lines may seem similar at first, but scrolling through our list below might help you figure out the general differences and the perks and quirks that make each one of them special.
Best Cruises for First Timers
Are you planning for your first cruise? You might be as overwhelmed as a child inside a toy store. Too many choices and too much temptation may frustrate you – as well as the prospect of a making a bad decision. You may want a “party boat” to the Caribbean, but also a luxury yacht crossing the Mediterranean, and also an expedition ship in Antarctica. What do you do when you want them all but you can have just one?
First off, you should figure out the type of traveler you are and the kind of vacation you want. Answer the following questions:
- Are you a solo traveler? Do you prefer lazing by the pool by day and enjoy a sound sleep through the night?
- Are you a member of a Type-A family that goes through a checklist of experiences during their vacations?
- Are you one half of a power couple which prefers gourmand meals and cultured-pearl art?
The answers to these questions can help you bring down the hundreds of options to just a few. You should also take into consideration whether your ideal cruise ship focuses on fine dining, adrenaline-creating activities, a party scene, hardcore socializing or just numerous opportunities to relax on your own. Practicalities like budget, the length of the trip, the departure port should also be decided beforehand.
Pick & Choose
So you have completed this task, and you are ready to match personalities with the right cruise line for you. Unfortunately, the hard part is just beginning. To a novice, all cruise ships look alike – huge, loud, and exploding with activities.
How can you figure out if a cruise line’s personality is compatible with your vacation dreams? You could ask a travel agent, but you can also catch up with the best luxury cruise lines by reading our summaries below. Dry your cruise planning tears, and get ready to find the best cruise line.
Best Time to Cruise
The timing of your cruise can make it or break it. So, when is the best time to cruise the Caribbean, Alaska, or Australia, Europe, Canada, Hawaii, or the South Pacific? The answer, you will find out, depends on many variables. Water sports-lovers, for example, prefer to sail in the summer when the warm water is perfect for swimming.
Are you a fall foliage enthusiast? September and October offer the best cruises for the Canada/New England route, for instance. For Alaska, on the other hand, the best time to cruise may vary. It all depends on what you intend to do and see – view wildlife, do some fishing, sunbathe, or catch the northern lights.
Firstly, consider the factors that could influence your timing. You might need to schedule the trip around school breaks – or avoid kids altogether. Are you trying to escape the cold temperatures at home? Consider your budget and your time flexibility. Some don’t mind making a few compromises in timing when it comes to getting a good deal on a cabin. When you decide these timing factors, you will be able to see which sailing season is your best bet.
Most cruise regions have periods of peak demand (during high season), moderate demand (during shoulder season), and low demand (during low season). High season tends to be in the summer – especially for family-friendly cruises. Slow and shoulder seasons, on the other hand, allow for the best bargain opportunities in year-round destinations.
In destinations like Bermuda and Alaska, the off-season is just a few weeks after the cruises end and before they begin again. For places like Northern Europe and the Panama Canal, almost all sailings come with “in season” prices.
1. Crystal Cruises
Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony––the two luxury ships of Crystal Cruises––are commended by reviewers and critics alike for their sparse crowds and elegant design. Crystal separates itself from other luxury cruise lines due to its low passenger-to-crew ratio, which enables tourists to bring more personalized service.
Crystal’s cruise ships sail everywhere across the globe. In 2017, some of the most popular itineraries cover Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, the Panama Canal, and the Caribbean. Most of them are lengthy voyages; some last up to 99 days.
Each itinerary organizes its own shore excursions and they cover everything from a triathlon in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to adventurous rainforest rafting in Cairns, Australia. Both ships have a fitness center, a casino, a spa, and a salon on board. They also offer plenty of engaging activities, including art classes, wine tastings, and musical performances.
2. Ponant Cruises
Ponant operates three ships for all-season yacht cruising. The premium yet unpretentious ships sail to places inaccessible to larger cruisers. Their distinctively French flair strikes an elegant balance between price point on luxurious sailing vessels and destination choice. All of their offers feature elegant styling, French gastronomy, and mesmerizing voyages with all-inclusive packages.
For newcomers or experienced cruisers, the dream of sailing the seven seas becomes a reality. The cruise line offers exotic itineraries on upscale ships operated by Ponant. Founded in 1988 by CMA CGM – the world’s third-largest container shipping firm – Ponant worked hard to become a company of worldwide renown. The company enjoyw good reviews from discerning passengers, most of whom are globetrotters from Europe, America, and Australia.
Ponant’s ambitious goal is to provide unique, five-star cruising to its increasingly affluent clientele. All of the ships offer outstanding interior design, fine dining, and expedition-style cruising. Anyone who’s ever sailed with Ponant remembers the sophisticated feel reminiscent of a chic boutique hotel.
3. Oceania Cruises
Nautica, Marina, Insignia, Regatta, Riviera, and Sirena are Oceania’s six luxurious ships. They have become a popular choice among tourists because of their gourmet cuisine, low 1-to-2 crew-to-passenger ratios, and across-the-globe itineraries. Oceania’s 2017 trips will be spanning from Europe, to Alaska, from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, and from South America to the South Pacific.
The shore experiences offered by Oceania are just as varied as its sailing options: cruisers can sign up for activities such as tapas tastings in Barcelona, Spain, or glacier sea kayaking in Alaska. If you want to extend your time on shore, Oceania also provides pre- or post-cruise land tours (complete with dining, lodging, and transportation). During your time on board, you can enjoy wine and martini tastings, educational presentations, cooking demonstrations and art classes.
4. Silversea Cruises
Due to their exemplary service and spacious suites, Silversea Cruises has built a reputation among luxury cruise lines. Not to mention the gourmet cuisine and diverse onboard activities available to passengers. The line owns a small fleet of nine small luxury ships; each of them fosters a unique experience, with a ration of nearly one crew member for every passenger. You can choose from more than 800 destinations across the globe, with extra excursions like wildlife-watching in the Galápagos or soaking in hot springs in the Arctic.
Silversea cruises can last up to 116 days; the planned 2017 itineraries cover South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. During the voyage, passengers can enjoy the scenery from the spacious suites – all Silversea accommodations come with ocean views. You can also spend your time at the theaters, fitness centers, spas, pools and casinos.
5. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Experts and travelers alike praise the Regent Seven Seas Cruises for its commitment to quality service and all-inclusive approach. Each of the Regent’s ships – Seven Seas Explorer, Seven Seas Navigator, Seven Seas Voyager, and Seven Seas Mariner – offers all-suite accommodations, and friendly, attentive staff – the pride of the line.
The 2017 itineraries of any Regent ship vary greatly, ranging from seven to 128 nights. Some of the most popular cruises include stops in over 375 ports around Africa, Alaska, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and more. Passengers are welcome to explore the land with complimentary shore excursions. If you do not want to leave the ship, you can enjoy the nightly onboard entertainment, or a putting green near the pool deck.