First-class service, fine wines and gourmet cuisine, picture-perfect itineraries, and high crew-to-passenger ratios are just some of the hallmarks of the best luxury cruise ships. But cruise ships -- even the world's most luxurious -- have their own unique personalities and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others.
For instance, SeaDream's intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas packs all-inclusive gourmet dining and suites into their luxury offerings. While Scenic Eclipse makes adventurous expedition sailing a posh white-gloved affair. To help you navigate the waters of luxury cruises (and to help you find the best pampering cruise ship), check out the seven best luxury cruises sailing right now.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 750 passengers to 542 crew (1.38:1)
What Makes Regent Splendor One of the Best Cruises? Regent Seven Seas Cruises once again aimed for “Luxury Perfected” with the 2020 launch of Seven Seas Splendor. Splendor features the exquisite cuisine and generous all-inclusive rates for which Regent is known, with some of the most luxe rooms at sea.
All 366 cabins are suites aboard this small luxury ship. And if you love balconies, the suites on Regent Seven Seas Splendor are some of the largest afloat, ranging from 83 to 1,292 square feet. (Some apartment-dwellers in Manhattan don't have that kind of space). Likewise, public spaces aboard Splendor are stunning. Granite and Italian marble are found all over, and there are almost 500 chandeliers made of Czech crystal and glass throughout the ship. There are also 2,500 pieces of art on display, including works by masters such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro.
For foodies, all you need to know is that each restaurant on Seven Seas Splendor excels. The two main restaurants are Compass Rose and La Veranda/Sette Mari. La Veranda is the buffet option for breakfast and lunch, and the space transforms to Sette Mari in the evening, offering a hybrid experience that includes a buffet as well as an a la carte menu. There are also three complimentary specialty restaurants: the pan-Asian Pacific Rim; Chartreuse, which has a French flair; and the line's signature steakhouse, Prime 7.
About Regent Seven Seas Cruise Line's Luxury Offerings: When it comes to pampering, you can't do better than the completely all-inclusive nature of a cruise aboard Regent Seven Seas. The fare includes business-class intercontinental flights for all U.S. passengers, as well as premium alcohol, wine, spirits, beer, soda, water and sports drinks plus all dining (with at least one meal at every specialty restaurant on board), unlimited Wi-Fi, unlimited shore excursions (though there is also a list of upgraded tours with a la carte pricing) and gratuities. Throw in free use of the ship's thermal suite -- even if you don't have a spa treatment booked -- and the list of inclusions is one of the longest at sea.
Who Sails Regent Splendor: The passenger mix skews to English speakers: mainly Americans, Canadians and Australians, with some travelers from the U.K., as well. Nearly all are 60 or older and are seasoned cruisers or repeat Regent guests. You won't see many children or families, with the exception of summer and holiday sailings when the little ones are traveling with their parents and/or grandparents.
Other Ships in the Regent Seven Seas Fleet: Regent has four additional ships in its fleet. Seven Seas Explorer is nearly identical to Splendor. Two of them -- Seven Seas Mariner and Seven Seas Voyager -- host 700 travelers per cruise, while Seven Seas Navigator is the smallest ship in the fleet, with a capacity of 490.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 1,238 passengers to 776 crew (1.6:1)
What Makes Oceania Riviera One of the Best Luxury Cruises? Oceania Riviera dining is legendary across all of the cruise ship's dining venues, including complimentary specialty restaurants. Dining venues include the Grand Dining Room and Jacques, a French bistro with menus created by famed chef Jacques Pepin; Polo Grill, a refined steakhouse serving USDA prime and dry-aged beef; the Italian restaurant Toscana, where tables are set with custom-designed Versace china; and Red Ginger, which serves Asian classics.
If you're willing to pay, up to 24 passengers a night can enjoy a seven-course meal at La Reserve by Wine Spectator. As you can imagine, the wine pairings are of special note there and three menus are available.
Foodies might also wish to pay a visit to the well-equipped Culinary Center onboard Oceania Riviera (as well as on twin sister ship Oceania Marina). It's a self-contained cooking school at sea that offers hands-on experience at 12 individual cooking stations (two people per station). Classes focusing on a variety of topics do incur an extra fee, but get rave reviews from past participants.
When it comes to Oceania Riviera cabins, this is the ship for anyone wishing to book a suite: There are 147 of them in various configurations, in addition to 478 non-suite staterooms. If you do want a suite, book as soon as you can because they sell out fast. Oceania sweetens the deal with priority check-in for suite guests, priority luggage delivery, 24-hour butler service, priority online specialty restaurant reservations, unlimited access to the Canyon Ranch SpaClub's private Spa Terrace and much more. The perks make a suite worth considering. And if you're really looking to splash out, the 2,000-square-foot Owner's Suite is a knockout, featuring Ralph Lauren furnishings throughout.
About Oceania Cruises' Luxury Offerings: Oceania Cruises' pricing structure is more a la carte than all-inclusive, but its offerings in terms of accommodations, itineraries and dining venues means easily put the line in league with others on this list. Oceania's OLife promotions on select itineraries level the cruise-fare field with offerings such as free airfare from certain gateways and a choice of perks such as free shore excursions, a house beverage package and/or shipboard credit. Wi-Fi is also free for all passengers.
Who Sails on Oceania Riviera: Expect to see a 65+ crowd on Riviera with the exception of its shorter voyages, which draw younger vacationing professionals. Most cruisers are American or Canadian but you will encounter some Australians, Brits and travelers from other European countries. You won't find many families sailing except on holiday or summertime itineraries, or in Alaska where the line offers the Alaska Explorer Youth Program.
Other Ships in Oceania's Fleet: Oceania Marina is nearly identical to Riviera, so check it out if the Riviera is fully booked. The line also sails four 684-passenger ships: Nautica, Insignia and Regatta, which were part of Oceania's original ship lineup, and Sirena that was added to the fleet in April 2016 after an extensive refurbishing. All four smaller vessels are R-class ships that formerly sailed for Renaissance Cruises. These well-designed ships are favorites among cruisers, who find it easy to get around onboard and love the layout of the cabins.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 930 passengers to 550 crew (1.7:1)
What Makes Viking Venus One of the Best Luxury Cruises? The first thing you notice about Viking Venus is its open, airy feel and the care put into the design of every space onboard. All accommodations include a veranda, and even the tightest quarters -- the Deluxe Veranda and the Veranda categories -- are comfortably sized at 270 square feet. Larger accommodations include the Penthouse Veranda at 338 square feet, the 405-square-foot Penthouse Junior Suite and the Explorer Suite, which spans 757 to 1,163 square feet, including balcony. Thoughtful touches in all cabins include bedside USB ports, quiet-closing drawers, heated bathroom floors and anti-fog mirrors.
All restaurants are included in the cruise fare on Viking Venus, except The Kitchen Table. The Restaurant (the main dining room) and The World Cafe (buffet) serve international menus in light-filled venues, with options to open floor-to-ceiling windows on balmy days. Manfredi's is arguably the best restaurant onboard andoffers Italian fare, while you can sample Norwegian dishes inspired by the mother of Viking chairman Torstein Hagen at Mamsen's. But it's the Kitchen Table -- which books up early -- that wins raves.
According to Cruise Critic Editor-in-Chief, "The Kitchen Table is a must for foodies who love visiting vast local markets, seeing ingredients up close, then watching them transform into a gourmet meal. You can enjoy the meal prep as a voyeur, sipping wine as Viking's chefs whip up creative courses while explaining why the ingredients and dishes are significant to the culture of the region you've visited."
About Viking Ocean's Luxury Offerings: Adults-only Viking Ocean Cruises is more of an upper-premium line, but it rivals luxury lines when it comes to the inclusiveness of its fares, spa options and style. Scandinavian design sensibility and emphasis on destination immersion have made Viking Ocean as popular as the line's riverboats.
The line's ships are sleek and modern, and sail to some of the world's most interesting ports of call. A focus on the destination at hand means that Viking Ocean Cruises stay longer in port -- often overnight -- so passengers can get a true taste of the destination. As a tip of the hat to its river cruise roots, the line offers a choice of included tours in every port (though there are for-fee options available as well). Itineraries range from eight-night voyages to cruises of more than a month. On the flip side, onboard daytime and evening entertainment options are limited.
Fares include transfers, complimentary wine and beer at lunch and dinner, no-fee specialty restaurants and free unlimited internet.
Who Sails the Ship: Viking originally targeted well-traveled passengers ages 50 and older who were value-oriented. While you'll still find plenty of older but adventurous travelers on Viking Star, it also draws a younger crowd that appreciates itineraries that emphasize the destination over sea days, and the amazing Nordic-style spa that's complete with a refreshing snow grotto. The line does not cater to families, and does not welcome children younger than 18.
Other Ships in Viking Ocean's Fleet: All of Viking's ships are nearly identical, including Viking Mars, Viking Star and more. A fleet of new ships will also arrive soon: Viking Neptune and Viking Saturn.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 600 passengers to 450 crew (1.3:1)
What Makes Seabourn Ovation one of the Best Luxury Cruises? Seabourn's newest ship, Seabourn Ovation, is the second in the line's Encore Class, the next generation of Seabourn's popular Odyssey-class ships. Ovation is practically identical to Seabourn Encore.
Beautiful interiors and intuitive spaces that are designed for the way people want to gather and relax are hallmarks of Seabourn Ovation's indoor and outdoor public areas, which were created by renowned designer Adam D. Tihany. All 300 suites have balconies that are perfect for enjoying breakfast, drinks or dinner alfresco.
The ship is notable for its many dining venues, including a restaurant by Thomas Keller(the famed chef known for his restaurants Per Se in New York and The French Laundry in Napa Valley). You'll also find a sushi venue, new and upscale alfresco dinner option on the pool deck, plus the main restaurant and buffet/casual dining venue. As with all Seabourn ships, Champagne and caviar are available, gratis, at all times and in any spot onboard.
Seabourn Ovation also features The Retreat, a private, VIP-access-only outdoor lounge area on Deck 12 that's unique to the Encore Class. A daisy-shaped canopy stretches over The Retreat so you'll find both sun and shade. Fifteen cabanas are available, and come outfitted with flat-screen TVs, Evian misters, a beverage-filled mini-fridge and fresh fruit. The cabanas are conveniently arranged around the hot tub, which is a focal point of The Retreat, but expect a hefty daily fee to use them.
About Seabourn's Luxury Offerings: Travelers looking for top-notch but friendly service are partial to Seabourn and consider it one of the best luxury cruise lines out there. The line's all-inclusive fares include interesting itineraries as well as entertainment and all meals. There isn't even a surcharge for the line's Thomas Keller restaurant (available fleetwide). The fare also includes open bars offering fine wines, beer and spirits throughout the ship (although there is an additional list of select vintage and spirits that do cost extra). Tipping is neither required nor expected onboard, making the experience stress-free.
Who Sails on Seabourn Ovation: Seabourn cruisers know a good thing when they see it, and many remain loyal to the line. Ovation's high-end passengers are generally well traveled, social and between the ages of 40 and 70.
Other Ships in the Seabourn Fleet: Seabourn Encore is Ovation's nearly identical twin. The line also sails a trio of 450-passenger Odyssey-class ships: Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest. They offer the same intuitive service and most of the same onboard experiences, minus The Retreat and sushi.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 596 passengers to 411 crew (1.5:1)
What Makes Silver Moon One of the Best Luxury Cruises? One word: Food. Underlining this idea is the SALT program aboard Silver Moon, an immersive cultural and dining experience that endeavors to broaden guests’ understanding of the food they are eating and its relation to the destinations throughout each voyage. Additionally, Silver Moon forgoes a traditional main dining room and instead has eight smaller restaurants at which passengers can dine any night. Six are free, but require reservations, while Kaiseki and La Dame cost extra.
Complimentary choices on Silver Moon include Asian-fusion Indochine, Italian La Terrazza, seafood grill Atlantide, tapas restaurant and bar Silver Note, pizza place Spaccanapoli, and The Grill, a grill-your-own meat venue. During the day, La Terrazza is the ship's buffet, offering breakfast and lunch. Likewise, Atlantide is the closest to a main dining room you'll find, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for those who prefer a sit-down option.
Keeping in line with the line's luxurious reputation, Silver Moon has lovely, understated public spaces, including an expansive pool deck featuring comfortable lounge chairs, a large pool and dedicated pool stewards ready to cater to any needs that arise. There's also a cool Arts Cafe, where coffee- and tea-drinkers can feed their habit while noshing healthy bites amid funky art.
Suites are also a highlight, with more than enough space plus personal butlers and large bathrooms complete with bathtubs and separate showers. All cabins also have a neat hidden TV feature -- flat-screen televisions are embedded into huge mirrors, and when they're turned off, you can't even see them.
About Silversea's Luxury Offerings: Silversea shines across its fleet when it comes to personalized service. Staff is trained by The Leading Hotels of the World, a well-regarded hospitality consortium. The crew is friendly and intuitive; they seemingly know what you want when the very thought has just crossed your mind. This is especially evident in the lounges, where the bartenders quickly memorize your drink preferences and always have your favorites (along with a few savory treats) waiting for you.
Butler service for every cabin is Silversea's claim to fame. Butlers are educated by the Guild of Professional English Butlers and will assist you when it comes to unpacking and packing your luggage, serving breakfast on your balcony, making arrangements for shore tours and dining times, and even serving dinner -- course by course -- in your suite.
Silversea also loves to throw a good soiree and does so on every warm-weather cruise in the form of its deck party. Chefs spend the day preparing for this pull-out-all-the-stops event at which they serve roast suckling pig, carved meats, pasta, salads and an array of mouth-watering desserts.
Who Sails on Silver Moon: Silver Moon has fans from many walks of life, but most passengers are older couples from North America, Great Britain and Europe. It's rare to see children onboard, though they're more likely to be seen during school breaks or summer vacations, when families (often with multiple generations) sail together.
Other Ships in the Silversea Fleet: Silversea offers a traditional luxury experience with its fleet of ships that includes Silver Muse, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Spirit and Silver Whisper. It also has an expedition fleet, which includes Silver Cloud Expedition, Silver Explorer, Silver Galapagos (which sails the Galapagos Islands year-round) and Silver Discoverer.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 112 to 95 (1.2:1)
What Makes Seadream II One of the Best Luxury Cruises? SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream II offers an intimate and luxurious yachting experience. With just 56 cabins, travelers and crew get to know each other quickly, and it really does feel like you're traveling on a friend's yacht instead of a cruise ship.
Two things make this ship exceptional: Balinese sun beds and the aft retractable marina. The marina offers glass-bottom kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, banana boats, snorkel equipment and Laser sailboats. You can even go water skiing or ride a Jet Ski.
Being that this is a cozy yacht, you won't find massive suites. The cabins are roomy, but none is fitted with a balcony. Instead, in-room amenities -- think Belgian linens, down duvets, wool blankets and Bvlgari bath products -- are the focus. Passengers always get a kick out of the monogrammed pajamas that are laid out in their stateroom upon arrival.
SeaDream Yacht Club's Luxury Offerings: SeaDream offers several signature experiences across its two-ship fleet. One is spending an evening sleeping under the stars on the Balinese beds on Deck 6. These are booked on a first-come, first-served basis and sell out quickly. On the evening of the sleepout, crewmembers rope off the area and set up the beds with linens, duvets and pillows. Sleeping on the deck of a yacht is an experience that isn't easily replicated -- unless you happen to own a yacht!
If you like spending the evening outdoors but prefer to sleep inside, check out the line's Starlit Movies series. On balmy evenings, the crew pops copious amounts of popcorn for cruisers who show up on the Pool Deck to enjoy a film as part of this program.
And let's not forget that the cruise line offers its signature Champagne and Caviar Splash on Caribbean voyages. This decadent spread includes a Champagne toast and buffet loaded with caviar and other snacks, all to be enjoyed during a shoreside beach barbecue.
Who Sails on SeaDream II: Those traveling with SeaDream tend to skew a bit younger than the average cruiser, but the demographic really includes anyone who enjoys the camaraderie of a small ship and is looking for some of the finest cuisine at sea. The relaxed dress code (resort casual is the norm every night) also draws a younger, hipper crowd.
Other Ships in the SeaDream Fleet: SeaDream I is identical to SeaDream II.
Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 228 to 176 (1.3:1)
What Makes Scenic Eclipse One of the Best Luxury Cruises? The first ocean cruising vessel for Australian company Scenic, Scenic Eclipse offers the experience of a luxury yacht as opposed to an oversized cruise ship. It’s a ship with super luxury features like two helicopters and a submarine on board, plus eight restaurants and modern suites.
Spaces inside are contemporary, and the ship is easily one of the best expedition options for adventurous luxury travelers. Why? Private butlers make this suite-only yacht feel like a luxury boutique hotel, single-malt scotches, dedicated specialists for shore excursions and wildlife expereinces, and all-inclusive dining and drinking all make Scenic Eclipse a great expedition ship with plenty of pampering details. Every suite has its own balcony and separate lounge area, and you can expect fine-dining quality meals at spots like the Chef's Table.
Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours Luxury Offerings: Australian travel company Scenic has a reputation for providing luxurious experiences to travelers on its land tours and river cruise itineraries, which span the globe from Russia, Central Europe, Portugal, and Southeast Asia.
Who Sails on Scenic Eclipse: Explorer-minded passengers enjoy sailing on Scenic, particularly retirees who appreciate luxury travel and food. A large percentage of passengers will be Australian, as well as North Americans and U.K. travelers. Not recommended for young families.
Other Ships in the Scenic Fleet: Scenic is the first ocean vessel in the line, soon to be joined by nearly identical Scenic Eclipse II. Scenic also has a fleet of river ships.
Updated October 10, 2019