Cruising is no longer the preserve of wealthy retirees or 18-to-30-year-old partygoers. Aboard a cruise ship, the intrepid sailor can learn to cook from a Michelin-starred chef, hone yoga poses while gliding past curious seals, or partake of the latest anti-ageing treatment in a world-class spa. And as the demand for cruising holidays continues to grow, cruise companies are amping up their offerings – now there’s a cruise-line to float anyone’s boat. We’ve picked 10 incredible holidays at sea.
Regent Seven Seas’ small fleet is all-suite, so no matter the ship or room, the experience is one of opulence. Voyages take place everywhere from the wilds of Alaska to the glittering Mediterranean. Their Explorer is billed as the most luxurious ever built (think lobster eaten off Versace crockery in view of a Picasso and you’re on the right track).
Smaller ships mean Seabourn can take travellers into the heart of some of the world’s most fascinating ports. There’s a relaxed elegance aboard but make no mistake: each aspect of the journey is highly engineered. Seabourn specialises in the unexpected, the luxurious and the innovative such as its Evening in Ephesus, which allows guests to enjoy a candlelit concert among ancient ruins.
Cruising in the grand tradition
The Cunard line recalls the golden age of cruising, when the world’s well-to-do made the journey across the Atlantic from Southampton to New York in grand style. This is high-class cruising – guests dress for dinner, a string quartet provides the soundtrack and Shakespeare classics play in ornate theatres.
Oceania’s claim to culinary fame is Michelin-starred chef Jacques Pepin, who is responsible for the cruise line’s many topnotch restaurants including the degustation at 10-seat restaurant Privée and who oversees its respected cooking school. In addition, Oceania’s Culinary Discovery Tours allow guests to shop at food markets, tour wineries and learn cooking techniques in local classes.
The Seine, the Danube, the Rhone – these rivers are the lifeblood of great cities. Each morning, open the curtains of a Uniworld river cruise suite to reveal fairy-tale castles along the Rhine, terraced vineyards in Portugal’s Douro region or fields of tulips in the Netherlands’ Keukenhof Gardens. White-gloved butlers, Hermes bathroom products and a farm-to-table menu round out the experience.
Silversea’s Wellness Expeditions are like a health retreat, only with much better scenery. The program includes fitness classes such as yoga, pilates and gym sessions, and the menus are designed by nutritionists. You can also sign up for some nutritional counselling and of course, pampering spa treatments.
All expeditions with Aurora have 60 guests or fewer, meaning the moment a polar bear gazes idly in your direction from her icy habitat or a century-old sea turtle paddles through the waters of the Galapagos is that much more intimate. The small groups also mean there’s flexibility if weather is inclement and there’s scope for frequent shore excursions.
Beloved Disney characters perambulating the decks, animated movie marathons, themed parties and live performances of Disney classics: Disney is the cruise company for families. Rooms are designed with adults and kids in mind, as are eating options, which include eateries Eye Scream, the Enchanted Garden and the Royal Court, inspired by fairy tale castles.
With its latest ship designed to carry more than 6000 people, there’s one word to describe a Royal Caribbean cruise: vast. Equipped with impressivley tall waterslides, ice-skating rinks and skydiving and divided into various “neighbourhoods”, these ships are like small water-bound cities. The dining options alone (18 eateries in total) may be impossible to fully explore on a short cruise.
For some people, cruising isn’t cruising unless the flapping of the sails can be heard overhead. If a windjammer is your seafaring vessel of choice, Sea Cloud Cruises can fulfil those sailing dreams. Below deck, there is accommodation for fewer than 70 passengers. The friendly crew, informal atmosphere and the camaraderie that comes from sailing the high seas together makes for an extraordinary journey.