Best Luxury Cruise Lines
Innovative designs, personalized service, upscale cabins, immersive itineraries … luxury cruise lines have long enticed travelers seeking superior vacation experiences. Some offer exotic itineraries to faraway destinations around the globe, while others attract travelers with comfortable cabins, stimulating enrichment programs and high-tech amenities. But with cruise lines continuously upping the industry standard with new ships, upgraded staterooms and reimagined entertainment offerings, how do you know which will deliver the best experience? Based on a methodology that factors in price class ratings, health ratings and approval among experts and travelers, U.S. News' Best Cruises team found the cruise lines that consistently land on top.
With its gourmet dining options, penthouse suites and engaging enrichment programs, from tai chi classes and language lessons to golf instruction from PGA golf pros, Crystal tenders VIP experiences. Aboard Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, you can taste creative dishes crafted by celebrated chef Nobu Matsuhisa and count on first-rate customer service (the line maintains a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio). Crystal also offers versatile experiences on shore, ranging from elephant rides in Bali to forest canopy ziplining in Hawaii.
Silversea Cruises specializes in exclusivity and personalization with all-suite accommodations, exotic itineraries and a variety of gourmet restaurants. While its ships are admittedly smaller than some other luxury competitors (carrying between 100 and 540 passengers), Silversea has continued to set the bar high for upscale cruising. While at sea, you can attend stimulating lecture series, indulge in meals at Le Champagne, a Relais & Châteaux-affiliated restaurant, or take advantage of onboard butler service while relaxing in your suite.
Travelers have access to a bevy of sophisticated restaurants and lounges, not to mention the decadent Canyon Ranch SpaClub, on each of Regent Seven Seas' all-suite ships. To cater to those craving more stimulation at sea, Regent also offers enrichment programs that spotlight a variety of topics, including culinary and cultural histories of different regions. And while on land, you can take advantage of an array of compelling shore excursions, including hands-on cooking lessons in Valparaiso, Chile, and glass-blowing demonstrations in Antibes.
Azamara's midsize ships are able to reach off-the-beaten path destinations, where passengers can participate in unique shore excursions, from food tastings to walking tours. And thanks to the line's complimentary AzAmazing Evenings program, guests can immerse themselves in the local culture with evenings ashore spent enjoying a memorable meal on the rolling hills of Tuscany or a spectacular ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia. In addition to diverse shore excursions, Azamara offers outstanding service, an intimate atmosphere and elegant suites appointed with floor-to-ceiling windows, along with other perks like complimentary seating at specialty restaurants.
Oceania's eclectic gourmet dining options — including decadent entrees designed by celebrated chef Jacques Pépin — and hands-on cooking classes at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center cater to foodies who value exemplary culinary experiences. Also, select voyages offer shore excursions that provide a taste of local traditions and cultures through food and wine tours. Though Oceania's midsize ships lack the same level of personalization as some of the top-tier luxury competitors on this list, they consistently wow passengers with their elegant settings and upscale accommodations.
Cunard impresses passengers with its refined atmosphere and attentive customer service. On board, you can delight in pre-dinner canapés, enjoy a rejuvenating treatment at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub or find respite in the English-inspired Garden Lounge before attending a themed gala at night. On this line, keep in mind your cabin class dictates your dining options. If you're seeking first-rate culinary experiences, spring for a Queens Grill suite, Princess Grill suite or Club Balcony stateroom, which grants access to exclusive seating areas in the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia Club restaurants, respectively.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship's Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship's Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.