About Luxury Cruises
First time cruising?
Dont worry the choice of cruises is now so vast we're sure you'll find the perfect cruise for you. Read over the cruising guide below to help you decide, still not sure call our consultants who will be able to provide expert cruise advice and answer any queries you might have.
The Ultimate experienceNewcomers to the concept of holidays at sea can be forgiven for imagining every cruise ship is a 'luxury' vessel, given that today's cruise ships are the descendants of the grand ocean liners. But the reality is that cruise ships, like hotels, come in all sizes and standards, and are designed to appeal to a wide range of budgets and tastes.
The right ship
Some ships are perfect for honeymoon couples and youngsters in search of a lively holiday; others are better suited to travellers with youngsters in tow or to older people seeing the world a deux.
With their fantastic range of "floating resort' facilities, the Caribbean's collection of 2,500-passenger-plus mega-ships provide the ultimate all-action arena for young (and the young-at-heart) party animals.
But those who like to take life a little more gently may find a Mediterranean cruise aboard an older, more traditional ship more to their taste. Prefer a taste of adventure? Try a sailing ship, or an ice-hardened adventure vessel. Or a cruise to the glaciers of Alaska, America's "last Wilderness".
Most of these ships will offer an element of luxury, in the shape of state-of-the-art facilities, nicely cooked meals, attentive waiter service, cosy bars and well stocked libraries.
But - and it's a big but - there's a world of difference between the little luxuries of ordinary cruising and true luxury cruising. If it's the real McCoy millionaire-on-sea treatment you're after, there are only a handful of cruise lines which really come up with the goods. For the essence of real luxury cruising is that it provides four essential things; space, exclusivity, top quality service, and lack of hassle.
What you get
Passengers booking a luxury cruise can expect to be greeted on arrival with a complimentary bottle of champagne; to have a spacious cabin with a walk-in wardrobe, an elegant bathroom, a well stocked mini-bar and 24 hour room service - with full in-suite dining available during restaurant hours.
They never have to queue to get food and drink, and never have to wait to use equipment in the gym or be seated in the dining room because such ships have more than enough space to accommodate everybody onboard in comfort. They may be able to dine when and with whom they please, and they can look forward to travelling in small groups on shore excursions - which should feature the most exclusive and up-market hotels.
Above all, passengers paying luxury ship prices can expect excellent, unobtrusive service and a truly cash-free environment, with some top luxury ships offering complimentary drinks and wine at dinner.
The small luxury ships owned by Seabourn Cruise Line and Radisson Seven Seas Cruises are the most exclusive in the world purely in terms of their size. 'Radisson Seven Seas Cruises' exquisite 180-passenger vessel Song of Flower and Seabourn Cruise Line's Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit and Seabourn Legend, at 200 passengers apiece, are next largest.
Luxury cruise liners
CRYSTAL CRUISES launched its first ship in 1990, and since then the line has firmly established itself within the deluxe market with the largest Six Star rated fleet in the world. The philosophy of the company is “to re-establish what luxury means in the cruise industry”, on board its two 960 passenger ships.
CUNARD is one of the leading cruise lines with a wealth of history and tradition. Cunard offers a range of itineraries, including round-the-world and Caribbean cruises, as well as the scheduled transatlantic crossings aboard QM2.
REGENT SEVEN SEAS was formed in 1995 following the merger of Diamond Cruise of Finland, and Seven Seas Cruises of San Francisco. It now operates a wide-ranging and luxury-quality fleet of six star rated small ships, operating port-intensive itineraries for the sophisticated traveller.
SEABOURN CRUISE LINE is generally regarded as the most celebrated cruise lines in the world and is positioned at the very top end of the luxury market. It offers a level of service second to none, setting Seabourn in a class of its own.
SEADREAM YACHT CLUB rated above all contemporary cruise lines in the 2003 edition of the authoritative Berlitz Guide to Cruising, SeaDream 1 & 2 accommodate around 90 passengers on each voyage, the crew to passenger ratio is averagely 1:1. From Bulgari toiletries to Pommery champagne, Belgian linen to the Asian Spa, from the Top of the Yacht Bar to the Balinese Sunbeds, SeaDream Yacht Club are the perfect antidote to conventional cruising.
Where to go
True luxury ships do not follow set schedules but offer worldwide itineraries with the emphasis on the offbeat - Crystal Cruises, for example, has a new cruise of Japan and China among her itineraries this year, while the Seabourn Pride has cruises of the Chilean Fjords in her line-up.
Such ships are aimed at people who seek not only an interesting travel itinerary but also a genuine insight into the places they are visiting and the broader world about them. Expert lecturers in the fields of history, geography, archaeology and other disciplines are regularly invited on board to give guests talks and lead them on walks ashore.
And some of the world's greatest stars and performing artists have been spotted on cruise ships - either talking about their craft or simply enjoying a few days away from the pressures of stardom.
What to wear Subdued elegance rather than over-the-top glitz is the order of the day among the seriously rich. But don't be intimidated into lashing out on more designer wear than Joan Collins - smart casuals in natural fabrics are fine for daytime. In the evening, splash out with anything from a cocktail dress to a full ballgown - but keep jewellery discreet.
Indeed, it seems that nowadays, you're more likely to rub shoulders with the famous on a cruise ship than in a trendy night-club or expensive restaurant.
For example, the relaxed combination of a casual, sporty atmosphere and top quality service attracted rock icon David Bowie to the five star rated sailing ships of Windstar Cruises a few years ago.
No doubt Bowie was impressed by the music systems installed in every cabin - with speakers aimed inwards towards the bed so you just hear your own music, no-one else's. Cunard's five star liner QE2 was the greatest star-grabber of them all before retiring from service in 2008 - Nelson Mandela and Elizabeth Taylor have both been on board, to name just two!
Seabourn - is the not surprising choice of computer billionaire Bill Gates and Donald Trump; Silversea, meanwhile, has played host to the likes of Charlton Heston and Richard Dreyfuss.
Best of the restIf your budget doesn't quite match Bill Gates', and you can't run to a truly top-of-the-range ship - or you feel a small luxury vessel would be simply too confining - try booking a top cabin on one of the big ships.
Celebrity Cruises' ships have beautifully designed top suites with large balconies and butler service, as do the state-of-the-art Grand Class vessels of Princess Cruises. Holland America Line has some pretty top suites and an old fashioned charm to its ships, which feature lovely flower arrangements and priceless museum displays.
Big ship cruising won't give you the exclusivity or standards of service available in the top, small luxury ships. But it will give you access to an enormous range of facilities, with the option of heading back to your suite for a romantic dinner in the evening - or eating at one of the many restaurants your floating resort has to offer.
Top cabin cruise liners
CELEBRITY CRUISES was launched in 1990 specifically for the premium cruise market. Celebrity is rated for its fine cuisine and excellent service on its fleet of sophisticated and technically advanced ships.
HOLLAND AMERICA Cruise Line offers five-star cruising, gracious living and stylish comfort aboard its fleet that includes ships adorned with priceless antiques. Holland America’s motto is a “Tradition of Excellence” stretching back over 125 years.
PRINCESS CRUISES operates a fleet of luxury vessels, including three five-star cutting edge ‘Grand Class’ ships - Grand Princess and the highly acclaimed Dawn and Sun Princess. These new vessels offer a high proportion of private balconies, 24-hour dining, a choice of up to nine different places to eat and an intimate on-board feel.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL cruises have an informal and contemporary atmosphere, appealing to all age groups. The fleet consists of 12 ships noted for their spaciousness and outstanding range of facilities.
WINDSTAR CRUISES With only 148 or 312 guests, Windstar cruises visit exotic destinations where the “bigger ships” cannot go. Ranked “The Most Romantic Ships Afloat” and number one for honeymoons, a Windstar cruise combines the romance and adventure of masted schooners with a relaxed lifestyle and understated luxury that includes all-stateroom accommodation and unstructured dining.