What is Ultra-Luxury Cruising
Ultra-luxury cruises are one of the best ways to see more of the world and feel good while doing it if you want to travel the world in absolute comfort and style. Offering exceptional service and attention to detail, from fine dining to a high ratio of crew to guests, ultra-luxury cruise ships go all out to ensure that everything is taken care of from start to finish. Smaller in size than mainstream cruise liners, not only do ultra-luxury cruise holidays offer a superlative onboard experience, but they will also transport you to hidden gem destinations that large ships are unable to access. While an ultra-luxury cruise is certainly no small investment, the per-person cruise fare can represent very good value when you consider everything that comes included on your cruise.
Ultra-Luxury Cruises 2022, 2023, 2024
Best ultra-luxury cruise lines
Seabourn's history of operating the very best luxury ships stretches back 30 years. The Seabourn experience is unlike any other form of travel with a mixture of luxury, relaxation and elegance.
All five ships feature elegant, ocean-front suites, spacious public areas and highly personalised service, with close to one crew member per guest. Seabourn's trio of smaller sister ships, each carrying 450 guests, offer a stylish and relaxed experience with lots of alfresco options and plenty of deck space.
In 2009, Seabourn raised its bar and debuted Seabourn Odyssey, a ship that was deemed a “game-changer for the ultra-luxury segment.” Seabourn Odyssey carries 458 guests and has the highest ratio of space per guest within the cruise industry. The ship also includes the largest spa on any luxury ship and large verandas on 90 percent of her suites.
In 2010 and 2011 Seabourn Odyssey was joined by its two identical sisters, Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest, both carrying 600 passengers. Seabourn’s newest ship, Seabourn Ovation, was delivered in Spring 2018.
Two more ships are in construction, with Seabourn Venture departing on its maiden voyage from England on April 10, 2022. The second yet-to-be-named sister expedition ship is still being built.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
The most inclusive of all-inclusives, on Regent Seven Seas Cruises almost 100% of its suites on all its ships have its own private veranda, along with everything from excursions to flights included making the Regent offer extremely compelling. Add to that a wide choice of eight dining options and a relaxed, yet elegant style, you certainly have a winner.
The fleet ranges from the intimate and much-loved Seven Seas Navigator, carrying just 490 guests, to the spectacular 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, which launched in 2016. The newest member of the fleet, Seven Seas Splendor joined in 2020 with 750 guests and will be followed by Seven Seas Grandeur in Spring 2023.
Silversea offers a choice between the classic fleet of comfortable small ships, ranging in size from 51 to 304 suites, or the Silversea Expeditions fleet, taking you way beyond the ordinary on off-the-beaten-track adventures.
The cruise line’s all-inclusive pricing and high levels of hospitality ensure a special holiday, and service on board is one of the best.
Silversea is particularly noted for the sheer range of itineraries it offers, both in terms of classic cruising and their more unusual expedition destinations such as West Africa, Antarctica and the Russian Far East. It's the perfect cruise line for well-travelled guests and those looking to explore destinations in more detail.
Onboard you’ll soon get a taste for SALT – Silversea’s innovative 'Sea And Land Taste’ programme – with food and wine choices based on the exotic destinations you visit during your trip.
Crystal Cruises has been and continues to be an extraordinary luxury cruise line for over 30 years. Named the best in Condé Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards, its ships offer an amazing combination of space, options and outstanding service, with a comprehensive programme on board and carefully planned itineraries including lots of overnights in port and relaxing days at sea.
Onboard there is a 1:1.7 staff-to-guest ratio, only enhancing the Crystal experience. All meals and drinks are included onboard, including speciality dining, plus an extensive onboard programme of enrichment and entertainment, free unlimited wi-fi, gratuities and taxes, along with selected shore excursions on the yacht and river vessels.
Crystal Endeavour, the eagerly awaited first expedition ship which launched in summer 2022, comes equipped with two helicopters and a submarine. Onboard, the 200 lucky guests will be treated to five-star Japanese dishes by world-famous chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
Paul Gauguin Cruises, whose flagship of the same name was purpose-built for the French Polynesia. In a destination that truly is the draw, this luxury vessel provides a comfortable, all-inclusive cruise experience, where the ship serves as a luxurious background to the scenery.
The dining options are excellent, with fresh-caught seafood and superb French cuisine, as well as traditional Polynesian cuisine. Wines, cocktails, spirits, juices and soft drinks are included in the cruise fares and are on offer for passengers all day.
Offering luxury yacht and expedition cruises in all seven continents, Ponant Cruises is a great choice for couples, solo travellers and those who love small-ship cruising. Founded in 1988 by former French Merchant Navy officers, Ponant sailings combine an ultra-luxurious onboard experience with authentic adventures in many of the world’s most exciting destinations.
The ‘French Touch’ is evident in each ship’s design and decor, and as such, the atmosphere is similar to that of a boutique hotel in Paris. The lounges and bars are ideal for meeting up with friends, while the sun deck offers panoramic views, ample seating and is perfect for a lazy day at sea. For those seeking further relaxation, head to the onboard spa where you can enjoy a range of treatments and massages.
Ponant's latest ship is Le Commandant Charcot which carries 270 passengers. The new polar exploration ship combines luxury with green energy, using a hybrid propulsion system to sail emission-free and almost silently in environmentally sensitive areas. There are 123 staterooms and suites, a spa and two restaurants.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
Designed to combine the luxury lifestyle of The Ritz-Carlton hotels and a yachting vacation, The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection will offer bespoke voyages on the first of three custom-built yachts in 2021. Most of its voyages range from seven to 10 nights, offering many overnight calls and specifically curated experiences ashore.
Each yacht will feature 149 suites, each with its own private terrace, and accommodate up to 298 guests in what it calls a relaxed, casually elegant atmosphere. As with The Ritz-Carlton on land, each yacht will feature personalised service, elevated dining and luxury amenities perfect for luxury-seekers.
Evrima is the first of a three-yacht fleet planned by the famous luxury hotel group. She will accommodate just 298 guests and offer six-star service with Michelin-starred cuisine by German celebrity chef Sven Elverfeld.
Scenic Ocean Cruises
Scenic Ocean Cruises are designed to deliver the ultimate experience of a lifetime for only 228 guests (and only 200 in the Arctic and Antarctica).
With a 1:1 staff-to-guest ration, Scenic’s first ocean ship, Scenic Eclipse, takes ocean cruising to a whole new level – marrying luxury and discovery - and giving guests the opportunity to explore above and beyond what was previously imaginable. Complete with two onboard helicopters and a submarine, Scenic Eclipse gives new meaning to the word exploration.
Let the world come to you with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and embark on one of the line's individual ships to experience the 'small and exclusive' atmosphere the line has crafted.
Everything is about quality with Hapag-Lloyd, from the 1:1 service to the culinary offerings onboard.
Hapag-Lloyd ensures you experience something new, with themed evenings, panel discussions, exciting shows and impressive concerts - but ultimately the choice is yours, as you have the freedom to create your own custom cruise through an expansive range of onboard and offboard activities.
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Best ultra-luxury cruise ships
Seabourn Ovation, Seabourn
Seabourn is another ultra-luxury cruise liner with a dedication to the world of art. Seabourn Ovation features more than 1,600 works of art, exhibiting pieces by more than 100 artists.
Art aside, this 300-suite ship has suites designed in a way that either entirely encases the bedroom in a separate space, or at the very least uses partition cabinetry so that what is in effect an open-plan room, feels divided. It’s a technique that makes the suites feel larger still. Seabourn Ovation has also fast become known for offering luxury levels of dining and entertainment with five restaurants, a salon and even a casino.
Seven Seas Explorer, Regent Seven Seas
As the flagship for the line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' palatial Seven Seas Explorer exemplifies ultra-luxury cruising and the super all-inclusivity for which Regent is known. All of its cabins are suites, and if you love balconies, Seven Seas Explorer features some of the largest in the industry, ranging from 55 to 995 square feet.
The ship features an enormous amount of granite and marble (half of it is Carrara), plus almost 500 chandeliers made of Czech crystal and glass. Art-lovers will enjoy the 2,500 works of art displayed throughout the vessel, including some specially commissioned paintings by Spanish artist Eduardo Arranz-Bravo and works by 20th century masters such as Picasso.
Crystal Serenity, Crystal Cruises
Built in 2003, this ultra-luxury cruise ship describes itself as being able to ‘enchant with an unrivalled chic elegance’ and boasts six-star service levels and Michelin-level cuisine. Instead of offering rooms, it has a selection of ‘retreats’, ranging from suites to penthouses, some with private verandahs and butlers.
The decor is plush without appearing ostentatious, using high-end materials throughout such as marble, supple leathers and deep-pile velvets. One of the penthouse rooms even has Georgian-style wall panelling, a Swarovski chandelier, walk-in wardrobes and fully-lined curtains for its sizeable windows.
Silver Muse, Silversea
Often reported as being one of the most expensive cruise ships in the world, Silversea’s Silver Muse is its newest flagship. Accommodating shy of 600 guests, Silversea’s fleet all promise to provide small-ship intimacy within a luxuriously spacious environment.
Its interiors are traditional with classic sofa shapes and window treatments, muted colour schemes and elegant furnishings. This is juxtaposed with the vibrancy of contemporary design seen in parts of the ship such as the Arts Café.
Scenic Eclipse, Scenic
Launched in January 2018, the sleek exterior design of Scenic Eclipse is a firm clue as to what to expect from this elegant vessel — swooping and graceful lines and generous proportions.
At the most luxurious end of the spectrum is its two-bedroom penthouse suite, which has the best views onboard, but even its Verandah suites feature the same attention to detail. Scenic Eclipse is a ship that maximises the beauty of natural light with sheet upon sheet of curved glass to allow guests to absorb every inch of the outside vistas.
MS Europa 2, Hapag-Lloyd
Are you on a yacht or even a private resort? No, you're on the stunning MS Europa 2. With a maximum of only 500 guests you can enjoy a spacious and luxurious base and feel as if you have entered a world of opulence.
With seven gourmet restaurants, you can truly diversify your palette whilst onboard. Health and wellness offerings include an expansive gym and a serene spa. The six bars onboard are the perfect space to enjoy a glass of fizz and chat with newfound friends. There are even amenities to keep children entertained onboard, so you can make it your best family holiday yet onboard MS Europa 2.
Seabourn Ovation, The Retreat exclusive sun deck
Seabourn Ovation. Signature Suite Veranda
A delicious Mediterranean Sea Bass on a bed of beetroot and a risotto poached king crab
New Scenic Eclipse takes superyacht luxury to extremes
Helicopter, Scenic Eclipse
Enjoy the best Ultra-Luxury Cruising experiences
Sleep in style
Most luxury ships offer all-suite accommodations with ocean views and a majority of staterooms have a balcony. Easy access to the outdoors is especially important when you're sailing to places famed for their magnificent scenery, such as Alaska, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Chile, Norway and French Polynesia.
They all also tend to be quite spacious and feature added luxuries such as a dressing table with magnifying mirror; a full tub and shower in a bathroom that's generally decked out in granite or marble; black-out curtains; and high-end toiletries from ultra-luxury brands such as Bulgari, L'Occitane, Ferragamo and Molton Brown.
Into the unknown
Smaller ships, including those in the ultra-luxury category, are able to visit places their bigger counterparts are simply unable to reach. In Alaska, that means remote spots such as Petersburg, Haines and Misty Fjords.
In the Western Mediterranean, expect more exclusive ports such as Portofino and Capri. In Southeast Asia, look for exotic stops such as Indonesia's Komodo Island. Another good thing is that when luxury ships visit very popular ports, such as Greece's glamorous island Santorini, they usually plan it for a day and time when the village isn't overrun with tourists from the mega-ships.
In a growing trend, ultra-luxury and luxury cruise lines also tend to overnight in popular ports so travellers can get a real sense of the place and enjoy both daytime and nighttime shore excursions.
Many renowned chefs have teamed up with ultra-luxury cruise lines to develop memorable dining experiences. For example, chef Thomas Keller – who boasts multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in the US – partnered with Seabourn to offer The Grill by Thomas Keller on all of the cruise line’s ships.
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa has a longstanding relationship with Crystal Cruises and created the Japanese-centric Silk Road, which is a popular favourite aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony.
Silversea's Le Champagne is a member of the luxury hotel and restaurant global fellowship Relais & Châteaux, while Parisian chef Jean-Pierre Vigato developed signature cuisine for Paul Gauguin Cruises.
Service with a smile
Ultra-luxury cruise lines go above and beyond to deliver the most personalised and attentive service, which is why they take great pride in their team of staff.
In fact, such lines have rigorous training programmes for their crew, with each member being trained in the fine art of intuition, so that he or she can discern a passenger's desire before even being asked.
Whether it be drawing you a bath prior to your return from a busy port day to cleaning your dress shoes on the morning of formal night, these little extras will be attended to without any need to ask. In addition, you can bet that luxury cruise staff members will do whatever they can to make your voyage special and personal.