8 Most Luxurious Ocean Cruises
Considering a cruise, but aren’t sure which one to go with? Our easy guide to the top cruise lines will have you longing for the high seas in no time.
1. Royal Caribbean
The largest cruise ship ever built, the Allure of the Seas has seven neighbourhoods and a crew of over 2,300. Twenty-five dining options satisfy traveller's desire for diverse menus, and they also have the first Starbucks at sea. You can see Broadway musicals and take part in activities such as zipline on board. Truly a sailing city.
The ship departs from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and sails to ports in the Eastern Caribbean - such as St. Thomas, the Bahamas, and St. Maarten - as well as the Western Caribbean, from Jamaica to Cozumel, Mexico. A seven-day cruise can start from $800 but there are also three-, five-, and nine-day cruises throughout the year.
For cruises, the shore excursions are just as important as the onboard amenities and entertainment. With a name like Disney you have a pretty good idea what you're doing when in port. Combine a cruise to the Bahamas with some theme park magic. Put some fun time in at Walt Disney World Resort before boarding and sailing to Castaway Cay, a private island also owned by Disney. A seven-night Land and Sea Vacation can include entry to four parks - Epcot Center, Disney-MGM Studios, Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom. Disney visits Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, Alaska and other parts of the Caribbean as well. A five-day Bahamian cruise can start at about $700 per person and can add a nice deal on the theme parks when purchased as a package.
Carnival is the world's most popular cruise line, and and is still the best choice for the budget-conscious. Their ships sail from 19 different ports in North America. Carnival Magic, one of their newest ships, sails out of Galveston, Texas to Western Caribbean destinations such as Roatan, Cozumel, Belize, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. A seven-day cruise with an inside cabin can be as low as $500! There are plenty of activities for the kids and a Vegas-style casino for the adults. Watch movies outdoors, or get some relaxing time at Cloud 9 Spa.
Although its name suggests its warm water sailings, this ship gets around a lot farther. Caribbean Princess also visits New York, Halifax and then goes trans-Atlantic to Dublin, London and Glasgow, setting sail first out of Puerto Rico. This cruise comes in multiple durations, but a fifteen-day sail can start as low as $900 depending on date and cabin level. Other non-Caribbean spots include the fjords of Norway on a trip out of London. This ship was the first to show movies in an open-air cinema.
Celebrity really spans the globe with its destinations: Alaska, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and South America. But it is also the only one of the big cruise companies that is operating in the Galapagos Islands. Their 96-passenger Xpedition offers a more personal experience and in one of the most fascinating natural areas on earth, as you visit the places Charles Darwin was once inspired by. Rates vary throughout the year but a package price can be as low as $7718 for two on a seven-day cruise, including two days before and one day after in Ecuador's capital Quito. Other packages can include a trip to Machu Picchu.
6. Holland America
Get on-board a musical-themed cruise with Holland America Line's Zaandam. Instruments and memorabilia from the likes of the Rolling Stones and Santana decorate the ship while a Dutch pipe organ created in a Baroque-period style occupies the three-story atrium. And here's something unusual: onboard tech seminars by Microsoft, teaching travellers how to put together movies and photo shows of their trip before heading home. In the winter the Zaandam sails places such as Hawaii, Mexico or even Australia, while in the summer you can explore the coast of Alaska and other northern locales. A seven-day Glacier Discovery can cost as little as $599 per person.
Cunard's famous flagship, the Queen Mary 2 is a true luxury liner and doesn't spare opulence. The QM2 recalls the days of old when passenger ships were the only transportation across the Atlantic. The QM2 still makes that scheduled run between New York and Southampton. However, there are also winter cruises to the Caribbean for 12-19 days and a 106-day world voyage that one can join in its entirety or any of its various segments. A weeklong crossing of the Atlantic can cost around $1395 per person while a 28-day cruise to the Norwegian fjords and originating in New York, starts around $6185 per person.
NCL made Freestyle Cruising its central concept: guest are not on a clock. There are no scheduled seatings for meals and there is no requirement for formal attire. The Norwegian Gem offers 16 dining options covering a variety of cuisines, a world class spa, a casino, and even a bowling alley. The Norwegian Gem currently sails from New York City with itineraries ranging from a simple overnight cruise to ten-day cruises to Quebec or the Caribbean including islands such as US Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Maarten, British Virgin Islands or the Dominican Republic. Ten days to the Caribbean can be as low as $709 per person.