14 Ways Cruises Are Now Better Than Ever Before

Regent Seven Seas Suite

From the tropics to the icy poles, on canals, rivers and the high seas, cruising is back – in many cases safer, tastier, friendlier to the planet and more relaxing than ever. Here’s what you can look forward to.

Grand style

Regent Seven Seas’ latest vessel is called Grandeur for several very good reasons and all of them are distilled in The Regent Suite, a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom, 413-square-metre sanctuary overlooking the bow of the 750-guest Seven Seas Grandeur. “We envisioned the living area as a gallery, where every piece of furniture, every material and every artwork has been curated to make the space feel inviting and welcoming,” says June Cuadra, lead designer at cruise ship and hospitality specialists Studio DADO. The master bathroom, which features nine different types of marble (including for the thermal-heated loungers) doubles as an in-suite spa with a sauna, steam room and the unlimited services of a spa therapist.

Local brew

MS Caledonian Sky

As if the sights, sounds and serenity aren’t enough, luxury tour company APT has added tastes of Australia’s Kimberley to its nine-night voyages from Broome to Darwin on the 99 passenger MS Caledonian Sky. It has partnered with Indigenous- and veteran-owned Spinifex Brewing Company, which infuses its beer with ingredients such as wattle seed and lemon myrtle sourced from regional producers. The best news? Beer and wine is included in your cruise.

Testing times

With COVID-19 tests an unfortunate but necessary fact of travelling life now, it was only a matter of time before luxury travel outfit Abercrombie & Kent found a way to take at least some of the discomfort away. On its Greek Islands cruises, rather than have passengers line up for testing in a concrete Piraeus cruise terminal, A&K arranges for the lab to come to the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, where guests are accommodated for two nights pre-cruise. Same same for upcoming Antarctica voyages – just switch hotels to the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires.

Eat, drink and be … healthy?

Silversea caviar

Some people hear “wellness” and think “deprivation”. Not Silversea. The company’s new Otium wellness program is based on the sensible principle that living well and being well are not mutually exclusive – something the ancient Romans figured out a long time ago. Launched on the freshly minted Silver Dawn, Otium isn’t confined to the spa; it extends to the way passengers sleep (Egyptian cotton sheets, custom-made mattresses, a pillow menu), bathe (each suite has a bath with bath salts, candle lights, a curated playlist and – if sir or madam wishes – champagne and caviar) and eat (aside from its usual complimentary wine and delicacies, Silversea has introduced a 24-hour comfort-food menu that, when you learn to speak Silversea, means lobster and caviar in brioche rolls). So what, you ask, happens when you get to the spa? Well, think spa things on steroids. “Care for a truffle, madam?”

Pretty as a picture

The Gauguin

While we were at home fiddling with sourdough starter, South Pacific-based luxury vessel The Gauguin quietly slipped away and had a face lift. Every stateroom, suite and public space on the luxury 330-guest ship has been refurbished to reflect its glorious patch of paradise. Think blues, greens and neutrals, vegetal patterns and woven textiles. There’s also a tribute art gallery with 150 paintings by the artist Paul Gauguin.

Cruising with cargo

It’s not for everybody but sharing a ship with a load of cargo is a unique – and increasingly rare – way to head off the beaten cruising track. The French Polynesian cargo cruise line, Aranui Cruises, has launched its 2023 program, adding a bonus Pitcairn sailing stop to make up for COVID-19 disruptions. Departing from Papeete, Tahiti, voyages on Aranui 5 variously take in the Austral and Cook Island groups as well as the remote Marquesas where cargo is delivered to the group’s six inhabited islands while guests hike, feast or visit remote archaeological sites. You may have cargo onboard but you also have a restaurant, two conference rooms, a boutique, a pool, gym, spa and three bars. Oh, and Veuve Clicquot.

Go placidly

Ponant ship

Navigating some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems – the North and South Poles – is a task that luxury small-ship outfit Ponant takes… very lightly. Alongside a number of other eco-friendly initiatives, the company’s newly launched polar explorer, Le Commandant Charcot, boasts a hybrid-electric engine powered by liquefied natural gas (last year, the vessel reached the geographic North Pole entirely on zero-emission electric battery power). The 245-passenger ship is equipped with seabed- and marine-wildlife detectors plus ice-routing software meaning ancient floes are safe. If you’re getting spartan-science-ship vibes, rest assured, Ponant hasn’t sacrificed a smidgen of luxury in its effort to be kind to the planet.

Ponant Le Commandant Charcot

SEE ALSO: 5 Epic Cruises to Book for 2023

Walk on water

In these health-conscious times, it’s hard to argue against a ship with loads of outdoor space. Ocean Boulevard, the vast alfresco area aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Prima (set to launch in August), features restaurants, lounges, two infinity pools with uninterrupted views across the ocean and the spectacular Oceanwalk: two glass bridges that allow you to watch the waves beneath your feet as you circumnavigate the 294-metre vessel. Nervous? Close your eyes and think of Instagram.

Hold the phone

Want to order a fresh latte from the comfort of your suite on a cruise with Seabourn? Make an onboard dinner reservation? Maybe compile pre-embarkation health assessments or retrieve your digital boarding pass? There’s an app for that! The Seabourn Source app (for iPhone or Android) also lets you view each day’s activities on your screen. Should that include a wine lecture, the Uncorkd feature unlocks a list of hundreds of recommended wines and teaches you about different varietals.

Big thrills

Keeping kids entertained on a voyage is a perennial challenge for parents and cruise lines. On its Quantum-class ships, Royal Caribbean has surely shut down the “I’m boooored” chorus with the FlowRider surf simulator and indoor dodgems, plus Two70, a two-deck-high venue at the back of the ship with massive floor-to-ceiling windows that turn into ultra HD screens at night and project robotic dancing to complement the singers, dancers and acrobats on stage. Good luck getting them to go to sleep.

Silver Moon ship

Just add S.A.L.T.

Debuting on Silversea’s 596-passenger Silver Moon, S.A.L.T. (meaning Sea and Land Taste) aims to connect passengers to the destination they’re sailing to through food, people, rituals, traditions and flavours. Whether it’s family-made Greek cheese or the world’s best pizzaiolo, you can taste the food, see where it’s produced, meet the makers and hear their stories.

Aqua Expeditions

Wild luxury

While much of the world has been in lockdown, Aqua Expeditions has been busy, launching one luxury river vessel – Aqua Nera, which took its maiden voyage through the remote Peruvian Amazon last year – and preparing to launch the seven-suite, 50-metre superyacht Aqua Mare (right), which will begin sailing the Galapagos Islands in May.

Elegant sufficiency

Twelve dining venues for 1200 passengers. With its newest ship, Vista, Oceania Cruises has upped the culinary ante, adding two new eateries to its already-impressive line-up. Ember will plate up American classics from crab cakes to Cobb salad, while Aquamar Kitchen has a wellness focus. Superfood smoothie coming right up.

Eclipse II

Go high… and low

Scenic has added the Eclipse II to its fleet and it will be coasting Australian waters for the first time in 2024, with such onboard essentials as a submarine and two helicopters. Set off from Newcastle, NSW, as one of just 228 guests, stopping at K’gari (Fraser Island), Percy Isles National Park, Magnetic and Willis islands. Enjoy lunch on famous Whitehaven Beach before soaring above the Great Barrier Reef or plunging down through its waters. Or you could sail the ship (which also comes with Swarovski telescopes) into the Kimberley on an 11-day journey that departs from Darwin and winds up in Broome, taking in Mitchell Falls, Montgomery Reef and the Horizontal Falls along the way.

SEE ALSO: This Aegean Cruise is the Best Way to Explore the Mediterranean

picture of a dawn landscape in australia

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