The best luxury cruises in the world
Luxury cruise ships are the ultimate holiday experience. They offer the very best in service, food and entertainment and do it in consummate style. From all-inclusive cruise fares and butler service to adventurous itineraries and onboard marina facilities, each line is different - but all of them are absolutely fabulous!
As the cruise industry in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere continues to grow, so the number of luxury cruises available in the region. Of course they come with a price tag befitting a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so is it worth it? Well, you can be sure that a luxury ship will take your love of cruising to the next level. Start saving and make your dream a reality. Here are our top five luxury cruises.
Crystal Cruises: Pacific Isles Cruise, 22 Nights
Crystal Cruises are entry-level luxury cruising, which is a great place to start! They have larger-sized ships, but still manage to transfer the intimate feel of boutique ships to a larger scale with one of the industry's highest staff-to-passenger ratios and spacious accommodation. Although some prefer smaller vessels, Crystal can offer a wider range of entertainment and facilities than its counterparts - and also slightly lower prices.
This luxury cruise itinerary is convenient, requiring only one long-haul flight as it disembarks in Sydney. One-way cruises often get a bad rep, but crossing an ocean adds a little excitement and glamour to any holiday. From San Francisco, the Crystal Serenity travels across the Pacific with stops at Hawaii, Fanning Island, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. Guests will experience the best of the tropics and have endless opportunities for snorkelling, swimming, cultural performances and just lying on palm-fringed beaches. Honolulu, Apia and Noumea offer a little tropical urbanity and the chance for some retail therapy.
Crystal Serenity's larger size is a blessing for this trans-Pacific journey, as the ship offers plenty of onboard activities. The Creative Learning Institute has a wide array of classes, there is a theatre, a putting green, paddle tennis, a casino, a disco, pools and a gym. A simple but tried and true favourite is the wraparound Promenade Deck where guests can stroll and take in some breathtaking views of the horizon. There are also several options for dining which are all included in the fare, along with alcohol and 24-hour room service.
Paul Gauguin Cruises: Tahiti and Society Islands, 10 Nights
Tahiti and the islands of French Polynesia are regarded as some of the most beautiful tropical destinations on earth, and it's not just honeymooners who flock there. What better way to explore the islands than with the experts? Paul Gauguin Cruises have been operating luxury cruises in Tahiti for more than 15 years, and their vessel the MS Paul Gauguin is specially designed for the shallow waters of French Polynesia.
Packages are all-inclusive, which means you never get out your wallet or cruise card to pay for drinks, onboard activities, room service, mini-bar refills, food or spa treatments. The 332 guests enjoy ocean-view staterooms and suites, personalised service, a lounge and show venue, a casino and retractable watersports marina for jetskiing, diving, kayaking and plenty more.
The Tahiti and Society Islands itinerary on the ms Paul Gauguin is their classic cruise, with frequent departures throughout the year. At one week long, it is perfect for a short getaway and it departs from Papeete, which is an eight-hour flight from Sydney or a six-hour flight from Auckland. Every day is spent in port, with two days each in Bora Bora and Moorea so guests can take in as much of this tropical paradise as possible.
There is plenty to be said for simply lying on the closest beach, but the islands have a lot to offer beyond white sand. Beautiful Hauhine is known as the "Garden Island" for its lush rainforests. Bora Bora can be explored by four-wheel drive, jitney or glass-bottomed boat, and Moorea has a wonderful local craft market. Scuba diving and snorkelling are available anywhere and the ship has its own troupe of native entertainers called the Gauguines.
Azamara Club Cruises: Monaco, Italy and Adriatic, 10 Nights
This one is a little less convenient for us down in the South Pacific, but no list of elite luxury cruises would be complete without a glamorous jaunt around the Mediterranean. Azamara Club Cruises is a luxury line with a fleet of two mid-sized ships offering the atmosphere of boutique hotels - and their 10-night itinerary visits some of the most fabulous ports in Europe. A winning combination!
The Azamara Journey takes you to places the larger mega-vessels cannot go, and it does so in amazing comfort. The all-inclusive price covers alcohol, gratuities, dining, self-service laundry, shuttle services and concierge. Top-notch service, food and decor make this ship a fantastic way to holiday and sets the scene for discovering cosmopolitan port cities in Croatia, Italy and France. Highlights of an Azamara Journey cruise include afternoon teas in the Looking Glass Lounge, the huge range of wines available from the ship's Wine Cellar and the knowledgeable guest lecturers.
The Monaco, Italy and Adriatic voyage is ideal for those who love history and culture. After departing Nice, the first port of call is Monte Carlo in the uber-glamorous Monaco. From there, Italy beckons. Florence, Rome and Sorrento offer history, art and culture in abundance, and Taormina on the island of Sicily is a stunning resort town which you won't find on the standard cruise itinerary. Across the Adriatic, the cruise calls in to the old and picturesque cities of Kotor in Montenegro and Dubrovnik in Croatia before finishing up in Venice - a city which needs no introduction.
Silversea: Auckland to Dunedin, 14 nights
This is a Kiwi cruise with a difference, several differences, in fact. Both the elegant ship and the extraordinary itinerary set it apart from the typical itineraries around the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The Silver Discoverer is a specially designed expedition ship with shallow draft, all ocean-view suites and a fleet of zodiacs (rigid hull inflatables) to get everyone that little bit closer to nature. In contrast to the hardy exterior, the interior is every bit the luxury vessel - well-appointed and spacious with stellar service and exquisite fine dining. Silversea is known for excellent food, and the Restaurant, the Discoverer Lounge and poolside Grill have menus inspired by Relais & Chateaux gourmet restaurants, the line's culinary partner. Of course it's all-inclusive and every stateroom has butler service. Silversea is certainly at the top of the luxury cruise game!
The Auckland to Dunedin itinerary ventures past the usual cruise ports to visit some of New Zealand's outlying Sub-Antarctic territories, making it a truly unique holiday choice. The islands which lie to the south-east of the country are remote, but the intrepid 120-guest Silver Discoverer is well up to the task.
From Auckland, the ship arrives at the active volcano of White Island and art-deco styled city of Napier, then heads out into the open ocean towards the two largest islands of the Chatham Islands archipelago. Next are Bounty Island, Antipodes Island, Campbell Island, the Auckland Islands and the Snares. All of these are desolate, beautiful and home to amazing wildlife including elephant seals, gannet colonies and albatross. Collectively, New Zealand's sub-antarctic islands are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Back at the mainland are the majestic sounds of Fiordland, which guests can explore in zodiacs, and a stop at Stewart Island before disembarkation in Dunedin.
Seabourn: Ultimate Antarctica and Patagonia Cruise, 21 Nights
A major attraction to luxury cruises is that they tend towards the adventurous, going places you can't visit on a mainstream cruise. Antarctica is the ultimate in cruise destinations - remote and inhospitable, yet spectacularly scenic, untouched and witnessed by only a small number of people. The Seabourn Quest can take you there with this amazing itinerary departing and returning to South America.
Seabourn is another all-inclusive luxury line with open bars, personal service, spectacular dining venues, spacious accommodation and in-suite bars which are magically restocked every day. The Seabourn Quest is the final ship in the Odyssey class, refined and perfected to deliver the best experience to its 450 guests. From the lovely wooden-decked pool and casino to the relaxing "Seabourn Square" public area, it is a wonderful place to spend sea days. There are numerous places to eat as well as bars, a club and the Grand Salon which is the primary show venue.
The cruise departs Buenos Aires and calls in to Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, before heading to the Falkland Islands which are known for their unusual wildlife. After that, the Antarctic experience begins. The exact route and landing places are determined by weather and wildlife and decided upon by an expert expedition team. Zodiac boats take people close to the action for amazing adventures on and around the shore, and each guest is outfitted with the necessary equipment and clothing. Return to the warmth and comfort of the ship and prepare to do it again the next day!
The cruise calls in to several vibrant South American cities including Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt on its way to disembarkation in Valparaiso, Chile.
Have you been on a luxury cruise? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.