It’s a great, big, beautiful world out there, and what better way to see it than by embarking on a show-stopping luxury cruise ship? These vessels are crafted to create the most exclusive experiences at sea, from lavish designer suites and dining rooms affiliated with Michelin-starred chefs to sparkling cocktail lounges and exquisite spas — all within a cocoon of luxury that can take you to almost every corner of the planet.
Over the past decade, new ship introductions and bow-to-stern renovations of older vessels have continued to up the ante. But, there are certain ships that shine above the rest. Here are 10 of our favorite luxury cruise ships around the world.
1. Regent Seven Seas Splendor
The 750-passenger Regent Seven Seas Splendor will debut in February 2020 and features modern, elegant décor along with a $5 million contemporary art collection, which is comprised of 300 20th- and 21st- century works. (It took two years to curate.) The ship is also home to the most extravagant accommodation at sea: the 4,443-square-foot Regent Suite, which is complete with a $200,000 Hästens Vividus custom handmade bed; an in-suite spa with a sauna, steam room and treatment area; and a 1,300-square-foot balcony. Like its sister ship, Seven Seas Explorer, the rest of Splendor is pretty amazing, too. One of many onboard highlights is the dazzling Lasvit Glass chandelier in the Grand Atrium. This magnificent chandelier is comprised of 358 clear hand-blown Bohemian crystal rods, and it's just one of over 550 crystal chandeliers on board. Passengers will also enjoy enhanced restaurant design in seven dining venues, such as an immense installation of a mythical dragon in Pacific Rim.
2. Scenic Eclipse
Described as the most luxurious expedition ship at sea, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse — the cruise line's first ocean vessel — first set sail in mid-2019, ushering in a new level of expedition cruising. Its sleek exterior is reminiscent of billionaire-owned mega-yachts, and is complete with a helipad and helicopter (there’s even a submarine, too). Passengers can cruise to the ends of the earth (Antarctica, the Arctic, Iceland, and Greenland, for instance) as they take in the sleek and stylish décor. Suites are spacious, light-filled, and equipped with balconies and spa-inspired bathrooms. The Panorama and Grand Panorama Suites are located at the front of the ship and are outfitted with their own private outdoor Jacuzzi. Other onboard amenities include 10 globally inspired restaurants as well as the pristine, 5,920-square-foot Spa Sanctuary.
3. Seabourn Ovation
Seabourn Ovation, which debuted in May 2018, is the creative vision of renowned hospitality designer Adam D. Tihany, whose modern yet elegant décor surrounds passengers with understated glamour. Om board, there are private, luxury yacht-inspired dark woods as well as lofty lightness in The Restaurant, which features a two story atrium with a branch-like ceiling structure and brightly hued glass chandeliers. The Observation Bar features floor-to-ceiling windows and a semi-circle skylight. Accommodations are all-suite — from balcony suites with butter-yellow leather headboards and jewel-tone sitting areas to the Grand Wintergarden Suite, complete with its own glass-enclosed solarium. Combine that with culinary excellence in seven restaurants and the grandeur of the ship’s stunning atrium with its elliptical double-helix staircase and this small ship shines with 21st-century style.
4. Silver Muse
Launched in Spring 2017, Silversea’s 596-passenger Silver Muse (its sister ship, Silver Moon, will set sail August 2020) features a sophisticated color palette of soft neutrals done in plush fabrics and leathers, punctuated by pops of contemporary art. Accommodations aboard this all-suite ship are spacious and feature polished marble bathrooms and walk-in closets. The pinnacle of indulgence are the Grand Suites (there are four, located forward on Decks 8 and 9), which offer anywhere from 1,572 to 1,970 square feet of space — they range from one- to two-bedrooms — plus expansive balconies. The public spaces, such as the Panorama Lounge, have an airy elegance. Its eight dining venues take on the ambience of the cuisine served, from the shimmering texture of Pan-Asian eatery Indochine to the crisp, contemporary polish of La Dame, where passengers can enjoy haute French cuisine.
5. Viking Jupiter
Scandinavian design is beautiful in its simplicity — natural materials, understated tones, elegant lines — and the décor of the recently launched, 930-passenger Viking Jupiter (the sixth of Viking Ocean Cruises' ships, all identical, with Viking Venus joining in 2021) is all that and more. Not only are Viking Jupiter’s public spaces visually elegant, done in a palette of soft blue, cream, and camel accented by soothing Nordic patterns, but they also feel warm and welcoming. Cozy Norwegian-made blankets lay carefully folded on every chaise lounge in the glass-enclosed Lanai area. The spa's thermal area features whirlpools, sauna, and snow grotto, and serves as a relaxing haven for guests to enjoy. While staterooms and suites aren’t as spacious as on some other luxury lines, they all feature balconies and large, glass-enclosed showers. However, the 1,448-square-foot Owner’s Suite feels like a chic world-traveler’s apartment. It's outfitted with a well-stocked library, wine bar, vapor-light fireplace, and private sauna.
6. Crystal Serenity
After a major refresh in 2018 that added two Seabreeze Penthouse Suites, 36 Seabreeze Penthouses, and updated most of the public spaces, Crystal Serenity is once again in top form. Launched in 2003 — and subsequently awarded many top luxury travel awards — the ship’s renewal gave it a more contemporary look to match its always-exemplary service and exceptional onboard dining (which includes Umi Uma & Sushi Bar, with a menu by Nobu Matsuhisa; Waterside for elegant contemporary cuisine; and Prego for elevated Italian specialties). Staterooms and suites have a plush, glamorous ambience with tufted leather headboards and patterned fabric upholstery and accents. Popular gathering spots include the panoramic Palm Court (great for afternoon tea and after-dinner dancing), along with the atmospheric Avenue Saloon (best known for its clubby vibe and excellent cocktail menu).
7. Azamara Pursuit
Azamara has always prided itself on doing things a bit differently, offering more late-night stays and overnights than any other cruise line. Additionally, the cruise line recently added a plethora of land programs to complement its worldwide itineraries. Now, with the re-imagining of its two initial ships (Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest) in 2016 along with the addition of 702-passenger Azamara Pursuit in 2018, this boutique division of behemoth Royal Caribbean definitely offers something other cruise lines don’t: more in-depth port and land options combined with a truly sophisticated onboard experience. Azamara Pursuit’s interiors feature transitional décor with modern textural and patterned neutrals in the staterooms and suites — the 836-square-foot Club World Owner’s Suite is the most luxe option.
8. Roald Amundsen
Hurtigruten, a Norway-based company that has operated far-from-luxurious ferries along the Norwegian coast and into the Arctic circle for decades, threw its hat into the luxury expedition cruise market in 2019 with the launch of the 530-passenger Roald Amundsen. The result? Serious expedition cruising (Antarctica, far North Alaska, the Northwest Passage) with a soft and refined modern Scandinavian landing back onboard. The incredible, modern décor features pale woods, light and dark neutrals, and relaxing greens and blues. It's accented by Nordic-inspired artwork (Norway’s Queen Sonja even painted a trio of pieces in Fredheim, the ship's fine-dining restaurant). The two 473-square-foot XL Suites feature a wall of windows (ideal for enjoying vistas amid cold conditions) and a vapor-light fireplace, while the six aft-facing Corner Suites are equipped with hot tubs on their balconies.
9. SeaDream I and SeaDream II
If a larger ship seems impersonal, SeaDream I and SeaDream II — a pair of romantic twin motor yachts sailing since 2001 for SeaDream Yacht Club — is all about personal service: There are 95 staff members to 112 passengers. The ambience is a classic yacht with teak decks and outdoor furniture and cozy, club-like lounges and restaurants, including a piano bar. The focus is on culinary excellence (there are several Wine Voyages annually) and relaxed exploration of sunny locales in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Décor in the staterooms and suites is European inspired. There are four suite categories (from 375 to 447 square feet) plus Yacht Club Staterooms (195 square feet).
10. Crystal Esprit
Yearning for an even more intimate luxury yacht experience? Then 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, which launched in 2015, is a carefree yet refined option. This ship sails the Greek Isles, Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, the Seychelles, and the Arabian Peninsula, among other destinations. Awash in an array of blues — from sapphire to turquoise — the vessel's public spaces feel at one with the sea. The butler-serviced suites are decorated in crisp white and plush gray with touches of blue, while the Owner’s Suite (515 square feet) is exceptionally elegant with the ambience of a chic Parisian boutique hotel. The four onboard restaurants are stylish and intimate, and serve haute fresh cuisine that blends classic fine dining with regional creativity.