Luxury cruisers will find all the finer things in life on a luxury cruise. Gourmet cuisine, fine wines, an open bar and highly personalised service are guaranteed.

Luxury ships have a high crew-to-passenger ratio, often 1:1, more spacious interiors and elegant décor. Accommodation is akin to a five-star hotel, with king beds, separate living areas, walk-in wardrobes, minibars, fresh flowers and lavish bathrooms that might have a Jacuzzi, heated floors, designer-brand toiletries and two basins.

From the moment luxury cruisers step aboard a luxury ship, they are spoilt by the crew. A glass of Champagne will likely be presented upon boarding, while a room attendant offers to carry hand luggage to your suite. If desired, a butler can unpack suitcases, draw a bath, deliver evening canapes or act as a concierge, taking care of restaurant reservations, shore excursion bookings and spa appointments.

Afternoon tea is served by white-gloved waiters, accompanied by classical music, while breakfast, lunch and dinner are world-class dining experiences curated by celebrity chefs. There may be dress codes such as suits and ballgowns for ‘formal night’, elegant clothing for cocktail parties, or a ban on jeans in the fine dining restaurants.

Butler service is one of the perks of luxury cruising
Butler service is one of the perks of luxury cruising

Itineraries are designed for well-travelled people, so the destinations may be more exotic or less crowded than the ports frequented by mainstream ships. In the Caribbean, South Pacific or Greece, for example, luxury cruises visit islands that are not on the big ship routes. In cities, complimentary shuttles into the city centre are often provided.

All-inclusive fares include things like drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), gratuities and room service. Unlimited Wi-Fi, laundry, transfers and airfares may also be included. Often, the only extra costs are spa treatments and some top-shelf spirits, liqueurs or premium wines.

Best cruise lines for luxury

The most inclusive ocean cruise lines are Silversea, Seabourn, Scenic, SeaDream, Regent Seven Seas, Windstar, Ponant, Paul Gauguin Cruises and the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection. Upper-premium lines include Cunard, Viking, Oceania and Azamara. The most luxurious river cruise lines are Uniworld, Scenic, Viking and Avalon Waterways. For expeditions, the top three picks are Ponant, Silversea and Scenic.

Luxury cruisers have access to smaller ships and ports and the best amenities
Luxury cruisers have access to smaller ships and ports and the best amenities

Luxury cruiser

Sharon Summerhayes, owner of Deluxe Travel & Cruise, loves nothing more than being treated like royalty on a luxury cruise.

“I love not having to ask and having my needs anticipated. Having my suitcase unpacked and repacked for me. Having the most inclusions in my up-front cruise fare. Most luxury ships are smaller, so I love the fact we can dock at ports that other ships can’t.

“Having dinner on my balcony with a full menu to choose from. No request seems impossible. Check-in feels more like a meet and greet, rather than standing in long lines for ages. It’s all the little things that add up to a big difference in your cruise experience.”

What should you expect on a luxury ship?

“You should expect fine dining, impeccable service, luxurious accommodations, unique itineraries and experiences, extra inclusions and low-key entertainment.”

Summerhayes says the attentive service due to the guest-to-staff ratio separates luxury cruising from other luxury holidays.

“Definitely the guest-to-staff ratio. The attentiveness you receive on a luxury cruise far outweighs that of a land-based luxury holiday. The staff get to know you and anticipates your needs. You feel like you’re all that matters to them, and that’s a rare feeling to get on holiday.”

A recent sailing with Ponant stood out as an especially amazing experience.

“My recent trip to the Mediterranean, I sailed on one of Ponant’s newest luxury yachts, Le Jacques Cartier. It was wonderful to be able to dock at the little ports, or anchor in the city’s bay due to how small we were. My favourite part of the cruise was jumping off the back of the ship!”

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