The world of luxury cruising is growing, with almost every line adding new ships in the next two years.
So when the champagne and caviar is free flowing, where is the best white-gloved value?
Last weekend saw four of the leading brands park ships in Sydney:
Someone had to do it, so Cruise Passenger sent a team to test the best of the best.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org which is the best ship and why and win a year’s subscription to Cruise Passenger!
Type: Luxury small ship rated four star by Berlitz
Cabins: All have outside views and range from 18.5 square metres to 45 square metres.
Food: Unpretentious, stylish open-seating with French flare and fabulous deserts
Ambiance: Unashamed French chic
Who’s it for: Young and young-at-heart expeditioners who want to arrive in style
Price: Ponant have a 11 night Malaysia to Hong Kong for $5520 or $501 a night
Verdict: Modern, chic fleet of expedition ships; smart compact cabins and balconies.
Type: Luxury small ship rated five star by Berlitz
Cabins: Generous size (smallest is 25 square metre metres and the largest 105 sq metres). All have baths and showers.
Food: Thomas Keller, the American chef, is bringing his influence to the line. Dining is casual, elegant and delicious across three venues. Try the Colonnade which features outdoor dining. The bread sticks are home made and Moorish.
Ambience: American club
Who’s it for: Well heeled older set who like to have the best.
Price: The Odyssey will sail a 20-day Panama Canal departing Los Angeles on in March from $6,999 or $349 per night
Verdict: Ralph Lauren would be right at home; smart casual sums it up; wide corridors, great areas at the stern for looking out to sea and a nice roomy feel everywhere
Type: luxury small ship rated five star by Berlitz
Cabins: The 33-square metre terrace suite on deck 5 has a walk-in wardrobe, twin wash-basins, a good-sized shower room and Bulgari toiletries. But the balcony is one long shared terrace. Suites on higher floors have their own private verandah.
Food: The ship has four restaurants, a casual poolside bar and the grill, the Italian Le Terrazzo which has a pasta bar and slow-cooked dishes. The specialty restaurant Le Champagne manned by the renowned Relais & Chateux chefs has seating for only 20 people. At The Restaurant we had a four-course meal starting with a crab terrine asparagus soup or mushroom risotto, roast chicken or a vegetarian ragout. The crab terrine and soup were delicious.
Ambience: Decadent and relaxed.
Who’s it for: When you’ve got it – flaunt it and Silversea passengers have certainly got it.
Price: A 14-day cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore will cost $9,150 per person, twin share which is around $653 a day.
Verdict: Old world glamour meets 90s New York lounges. You’ll find guests dressed in Chanel circa Coco Chanel rather than Karl Lagerfeld Chanel.
Azamara Club Cruises
Type: Premium small ship rated four and a half stars by Berlitz
Cabins: The ship has 347 staterooms. The owner’s suite at 52 square metres has a separate living room, marble bath with whirlpool and shower, a guest bathroom and a 22 square metre verandah. The smallest cabin is a 13.3 square metre stateroom with obstructed view.
Food: We enjoyed a four-course meal at Aqualine, the contemporary Italian restaurant starting with carpaccio with parmesan croquette or tomato with buffalo mozzarella. For the second course, there is a choice of a lobster bisque or salad with radicchio, boiled eggs, blue cheese and toasted pine nuts. Main was breaded eggplant with linguini, sole fillet with sundried tomato risotto or sautéed beef tenderloin, shrimp and pancetta. There were two desserts – flourless chocolate torte or berrymisu.
Ambiance: Modern luxury
Price: Azamara Club Cruises has a 15-night cruise around Australia in 2018 ending in Sydney on New Year’s Eve for $6,602 or $440 a night
Verdict: Large enough to be interesting during long itineraries but also small, cosy and intimate.