Over 25 million people will take a cruise this year, and while these numbers are staggering, so is what the cruise industry is doing to attract and accommodate this growing, and increasingly demanding, clientele. Ships are larger and more spectacular than ever before, and with even the most budget-friendly cruise lines offering tiered service and an impressive list of amenities, what does it mean to take a luxury cruise these days? Of course, the definition of luxury is highly subjective, but for those looking for a truly exceptional experience, let us introduce you to the world of ultra-luxury cruising.
What sets ultra-luxury cruises apart from their mass-market counterparts? First, the size of the boats. Ultra-luxury cruises from lines such as Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea rarely carry more than 500 passengers, with most topping out at around 250. This small manifest ensures a level of personalized service that is hard to achieve on a larger ship. Imagine the ambiance of a private club, where perfectly prepared cocktails are sipped in stately elegance.
If this sounds inherently dignified, that’s because it is. While ultra-lux cruises aren’t for everyone, families with young children and those looking for an endless party might be better served elsewhere, they are an extraordinarily refined way to explore the world. Sailings are usually accompanied by renowned lecturers in the arts and sciences, onboard piano bars host jazz singers and classical musicians, and shore excursions are small group affairs that range from private tours to authentic cultural experiences.
The food and wine is world-class as well, and onboard restaurants often feature menus curated by internationally celebrated partners such as Thomas Keller and Relais & Châteaux. Luxuriously appointed staterooms, spacious well-designed public spaces and serene spas are, of course, standard on all the lines. If an ultra-luxury cruise sounds like something you might enjoy, keep in mind that they can also be a remarkable value considering the level of service and amenities. A seven-day Caribbean cruise can cost as little as $2,000 per person including food and beverages, gratuities and sometimes even flights and shore excursions.