These Are the Best Luxury Cruise Lines in the World
Odysseus had to strap himself to the mast to resist the sirens’ call. The big news on cruise ships is that you no longer have to. Overindulged? No problem. There are now gyms at sea as well equipped and staffed as anything on land. There are spa menus of every persuasion. There are excursions, on water and on solid ground, guaranteed to not just burn calories but to get those endorphins going. We have sailed and inspected countless lines and ships, and the ones listed in the following pages will have you both seeing the world and getting well and fit. Consider it the T&C guarantee. (That mast? So pretty to look at during cocktail hour.)
Think great gyms, classes, menus, and all the wellness ooh-la-las.
COURTESY OCEANIA CRUISES
With Jacques Pepin directing its kitchens, this line has been the culinary star at sea for 15 years. Less known: its partnership with Canyon Ranch, which operates all the fleet’s spas and has brought the same level of excellence to its spa food menu, available for all meals and including vegan options. The Marina and Riviera ships also have a Food
SHIPS Oceania Marina, Riviera, Regatta, Insignia, Nautica, Sirena.
SEADREAM YACHT CLUB
Its two 112-passenger ships, which sail the Mediterranean and Caribbean, simulate the bespoke experience of a private yacht. And that applies equally to the food: Produce is locally purchased, and menus can be highly customized. Vegan,
SHIPS SeaDream I, SeaDream II.
VIKING OCEAN CRUISES
The spas on all four of its ships are the most beautiful at sea, but it’s the
SHIPS Viking Star, Sky, Sun, Sea. New in 2018: Orion.
On most expedition ships, you’re lucky to find a closet-size treatment room and one therapist. Ponant is different. Partnering with Paris-based Sothys, its five vessels offer massages, facials, aromatherapy baths, anti-aging treatments, even a hair salon (why not look great while breezing between glaciers in a Zodiac). Also hammams and, on Le Boreal and L’Austral, a balneotherapy room for seawater bathing. The fitness facilities are also above par, with a Kinesis Wall, Techno-gym equipment, outdoor pool, and a
SHIPS Le Ponant, Le Lyrial, Le Soleal, L’Austral, Le Boreal. New in 2018: Le Laperouse.
Riverboats plying Europe’s waterways don’t promote their voyages as spa cruises because most are too narrow to have anything more than a cabin converted into a massage room. The Crystal Mozart, however, a renovated older ship (pre–size restrictions), has a thermal suite, pool, and whirlpool—and many post-treatment relaxation loungers from which to take in the sights along the Danube. (Note: The newly built Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler, which are subject to contemporary size limits, do not have such expansive spas.)
A good night’s sleep is right up there with healthy eating and exercise. Celebrity partnered with Canyon Ranch to create Mindful Dreams—and optimize passengers’ oceanic zzz’s. Think spa treatments with soothing lavender and seaweed, advice on soporific culinary choices, and more.
SHIPS The entire fleet minus its trio of expedition vessels.
The line has teamed up with Dr. Andrew Weil, the mind-body-spirit guru. The result: meditation and yoga classes to boost creativity and mental focus; seminars on anti-inflammatory foods and, yes, “spontaneous happiness.”
SHIPS Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn, Quest, and Encore. New in 2018: Ovation.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS (EXPLORER)
The new Explorer is the only boat currently operating with a private spa facility in a stateroom. Not only does the 4,443-square-foot Regent Suite have a Savoir bed and a balcony that wraps around the front of the vessel, it also has tiled, heated loungers, an outdoor hot tub, and unlimited free treatments.
SHIP Regent Seven Seas Explorer.
Because even if you love the ship, it's fun to shake it up onshore.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS (VOYAGER)
In addition to such onboard treatments as sea salt body buffs, the line’s new Seven Seas Wellness, developed with Canyon Ranch, will have you doing: tai chi in a 19th-century palace in Marseille; vinyasa yoga on the beach in Monte Carlo; soaking in Rome’s Thermal Baths of the Popes; aromatherapy in a perfume lab on Capri.
SHIP The package is limited to 20 passengers and available only on some of Regent Seven Seas Voyager’s Mediterranean sailings.
This pioneering river cruise company (it was first to stock bicycles onboard, which is now standard practice) has partnered with Backroads, the global hiking, walking, and cycling tour operator. Forget casual spins along waterfront towpaths; now there are professional guides, sag wagons (the aptly named vehicular supports for those who need a break), titanium electric bikes, and adventurous itineraries along the Douro, Rhine, Danube, and Seine. Some cruises feature cycling trips for families with teenagers.
SHIPS In 2018 there will be 60 cycling- intensive departures on eight ships: AmaLyra, AmaVida, AmaSerena, AmaViola, Ama- Lea, AmaKristina, AmaStella, AmaPrima.
These ships have devised entire trips to make you move.
ABERCROMBIE & KENT
A&K’s intimate, 48-passenger, family-dedicated voyages among the islands of the Galapagos are the most active out there, a unique combination of physical pursuits—hiking (over lava flows), kayaking (among orca whales and stingrays), and snorkeling (in search of sea lions, moonfish, sea turtles, reef sharks, and more)—and thrilling lessons in science and history. One nice touch: Families can explore together part of the time and then split up for age-appropriate adventures (such as the company’s scavenger hunts).
SHIP Abercrombie & Kent’s La Pinta, which also has a good range of connecting cabins.
The line renowned for its guides and ice masters (and which pioneered such off-ship explorations as kayaking among glaciers and Zodiac rides up close to them) is finding new and exciting ways to keep you challenged. On its 2018 sailings to Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands you can snowshoe and cross-country- ski on sea ice.
SHIPS National Geographic Explorer, National Geographic Orion.
Its weeklong trips to Panama and Costa Rica include the Panama Canal and Panama City’s old quarter, but
SHIPS Windstar’s Star Breeze, a yacht, and Wind Star, a sailing vessel.
Think of them as cruise ships’ playrooms—these have the best toys and the most ways to get you in the water.
The luxe line renowned for butlers, unlimited room service caviar, and Thomas Keller cuisine has gone rugged on its Alaska itineraries, with Ventures by Seabourn kayak excursions to some seriously offbeat corners: Cross Sound in the
SHIP Seabourn Sojourn.
VIKING OCEAN CRUISES
The terrain of Arctic Norway features Europe’s best range of coastal peaks, valleys, and fjords, and Viking Ocean takes superb advantage of all the t- ness potential: You can kayak in the fjords, cycle up a 1,500- foot mountain in Geiranger, and hike, either gently (to the Mardalsfossen Waterfall) or strenuously (to the 1,100- foot summit of Vendalsjord).
SHIPS Viking Star, Sea, and Sky.
It is not the usual water toys (kayaks,
SHIP There’s only the one.
For a ship that sleeps just 62 passengers, the Esprit hits the water sports ball out of the park. In addition to kayaks, wakeboards, and paddleboards, there are jet skis (most other ships with sports
SHIP Crystal Esprit.
For a cruise line with a largely adult clientele (children under eight are not allowed), Windstar places a big emphasis on fun: The water sports equipment is diverse and of high quality (including a combination water trampoline/ diving platform), and, most important, the sports marinas can be used more often than on other lines’ cruises: While port rules often prohibit the deployment of these platforms, Windstar creates itineraries where such restrictions come into play less often.
SHIPS Windstar’s Wind Star, Wind Spirit, Wind Surf, Star Pride, Star Breeze, Star Legend.
Because it launched the luxury adventure craze.
Ten years ago, with its Explorer, Silversea set a new standard for cruising to remote locales. Out went compact cabins, bunk beds, and group dining on a fixed schedule; in came suites with
This story appears in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Town & Country.