Explore the world aboard some of the most luxurious all-inclusive cruise lines—with iconic ports and unspoiled destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean

by Nubia DuVall Wilson

Gone are the days when cruising meant sailing on oversized ships the size of Texas with long buffet lines and tiny accommodations. Today, cruise lines vie to offer discerning guests the most impressive amenities in intimate settings. So, get your sea legs ready to dive into these all-inclusive ships that offer expansive ocean view suites, private balconies, Michelin-star dining, and exclusive excursions.
Silversea’s boutique luxury ships offer some of the highest space per-guest ratios of any cruise line, and all its ocean-view suites include butler service. Voyages and cruise expeditions sail to more than 800 destinations on all seven continents. Its medium sized but ultra-luxe ships can course along narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier (while larger vessels are forced to anchor off shore). Renowned for culinary excellence and innovative spirit, Silversea cruises offer a choice of open-seating dining throughout the fleet, as well as several specialty venues aboard all non-expedition ships.

With the largest suites in the Silversea fleet overall, Silver Spirit—which travels to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and South America—also has a truly over-the-top apartment at sea, the Owner’s Suite. A one- or two-bedroom accommodation (the larger is 1,668 square feet), it features a large teak veranda with patio furniture, a living room with sitting area, and a dining room. Fare options include sushi at the Asian fusion restaurant Seishin, along with the Stars Supper Club and its live entertainment. Before or after, recharge and rejuvenate in the 8,300-square-foot spa and fitness center. Rates start at $2,565 per person.

In April 2017, Silver Muse will launch and travel to 52 UNESCO World Heritage Sites during its inaugural season, from ancient Greek temples to historic Caribbean fortresses. Disembarking from Monte Carlo, the ship will travel the Mediterranean for eight days, visiting Cinque Terre in Liguria, Rome, Olympia, and Lisbon. The 12-day voyage embarks from Barcelona and will explore the islands of Ibiza, Mallorca, and Porto Mahon, then turn north and visit Monte Carlo, Saint Tropez and Rome. Rates start at $4,185 per person.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ new all-suite Seven Seas Explorer first set sail in July from Monte Carlo and boasts one of the highest space ratios in the industry. Including sexy Saint Tropez and Ibiza to romantic Venice and Cinque Terre, the ship’s inaugural season will also offer itineraries to sought-after destinations throughout the Mediterranean.

In all, there are 375 spacious suites that feature large verandas, and accommodations range from entry-level 307-square-foot Veranda Suites to the 900-square-foot Seven Seas Suites. The ship’s eponymous suites exude a cosmopolitan apartment feel, with a living room and dining area outfitted with sophisticated furnishings and sliding glass doorways that lead to a private balcony. The luxurious two bedroom Regent Suite is almost 4,000 square feet, and offers guests an in-suite spa, private vista garden, wraparound balcony, personal butler, and daily canapés. Guests in Concierge Suites (the majority of the accommodations on the ship) are treated to a one-night pre-cruise luxury hotel package, complimentary internet packages, and priority access to shore excursions and specialty dining.

Choose from four restaurants, including the steakhouse Prime 7, inspired by the private clubs of London. La Veranda delivers 1960s Italian Riviera glam, with rich mahogany accents, terrazzo flooring, and brushed brass marine accents. Eat casually inside, or al fresco with sweeping ocean views.

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Shore excursions include 22 new Gourmet Explorer Tours designed for foodies seeking unique epicurean adventures, such as making cheese in Sorrento, wine tasting in the 17th-century underground vaulted cellar at Cava Bianchi in Nice, and dining at the famed two-star Michelin restaurant ABaC in Barcelona. Rates start at $5,499 per person.

Award-winning Crystal Cruises has earned a number of “world’s best” accolades from the travel industry. Its recently-debuted, all-suite Crystal Esprit yacht is part of the line’s new category, designed for just 62 discerning individuals seeking privileged access. Voyages include seven- to fourteen-day sailings exploring Seychelles, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. All suites are equipped with butler service, a customizable bedside iPad to view bookings and daily announcements, lounge area, and ETRO bath products and amenities. The Yacht Suites include queen-size beds, spacious closets, and design-forward bathrooms with backlit mirrors, rain showers, double-vanity sinks, and natural stone flooring. The luxurious 515-square-foot Owner’s
Suite is ideal for entertaining, outfitted with a separate living room, four-seat dining table, bar, and fridge. The spa-like bathroom includes an egg shaped jacuzzi stone tube.

The Crystal Esprit also boasts an onboard marina equipped with water sports gear, including a two person submarine (one of only four in the world), as well as kayaks, snorkeling equipment, and jet skis. Dining options include The Yacht Club Restaurant, which serves six-star modern dining and bespoke tasting menus imagined by Michelin Star-awarded chefs. The Terrace and Patio Café serve regionally inspired small plates, gourmet charcuterie, cheeses, and pastries.

The 14-day round trip Venice cruise visits Croatia’s charming medieval towns like Rovinj, Sibenik, and Trogir, and guests will also explore the iconic winding streets and squares of Kotor, Montenegro. The seven-day Athens voyage starts at Piraeus, Greece’s largest port and gateway to the Mediterranean since 482 BC, and travels through
Mykonos, known for its vibrant nightlife scene, picturesque Santorini, and Rhodes, ending in Paphos, Cyprus (known as the birthplace of Aphrodite). Rates for seven-day cruises start at $5,880 per person; 14-day cruises start at $11,452 per person.

For discerning travelers who prefer a private jet experience, Crystal has launched two new plane services that transport guests for ocean, river, or yacht voyages from any point in the United States to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and the Pacific. Accommodating up to 13 guests, the Bombardier Global Express XRS will feature a spacious two-cabin configuration with four executive club seats, a four-place conference area, and a rear entertainment cabin. The ACJ319 jet includes 16 lay-flat seats.

A&K is known for its small group journeys that offer accommodations in the best hotels and insider access to revered sites worldwide. The tour company’s Luxury Expedition Cruises immerse travelers in the exotic and the unspoiled through a tailored itinerary and an expedition team of conservationists, scientists, and historians. Its fleet includes Le Boreal, Le Lyrial, L’Austral and Le Soleal, with a limited capacity of 199 per ship, guaranteeing a private balcony with every room. Two-room suites on deck six are outfitted with a sitting area and access to a complimentary private butler, while the 500-square-foot Owner’s Suite includes a large balcony with panoramic sea views, bathroom with jacuzzi, living room, and dining area. All ships feature outdoor heated pools, three open bars, a fitness center, hair salon, two restaurants, spa and hammam (Turkish bath), plus a lounge with expansive views from its terrace.

The new Arctic cruise, Iceland & Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings, had its maiden voyage this year. The 12-day trip on Le Boreal retraces the routes taken by the Vikings when they made their way across the Atlantic to North America, and allows travelers to visit historical landmarks and striking Arctic tundra. Explore the volcanically active Westman Islands; view humpback whales, hooded seals and 140-foot-tall, 2,500-foot-wide glaciers close up in Zodiacs on Greenland’s southeast coast; view the largest, best preserved Norse site, Hvalsey Ruins; and explore Nuuk, the world’s northernmost and smallest capital city that features 15th-century Qilakitsoq mummies. Rates start at $10,495 per person.

The rarely visited Rykuki Islands in Japan will be part of a new A&K expedition cruise that started in May. Guests will visit remote tropical islands, secluded wilderness areas in Japan, and iconic cities in Taiwan and Hong Kong during this 16-day trip that includes pre- and post-cruise hotel stays, sightseeing, and shore excursions. The expedition follows the arc of islands south from Osaka, spanning seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a diverse spectrum of tropical climate zones with unique flora and fauna (Yakushima Island, for example, spans every climate zone found in Japan). Guests can choose from a number of hikes exploring the ancient cedar forests, waterfalls, and boardwalk trails of Yakusugi Land Nature Park. Under the guidance of one of the island’s expert craftsmen, learn to carve chopsticks from 1,000-year-old Yakusugi Cedar, and visit Toro-ki, a scenic waterfall cascading directly into the sea. Also take in Amami-oshima, a wild island paradise of mangrove forests with stunning deep-blue waters and vibrant coral reefs, or relax on the sands of Miyako-Jima, a small volcanic island of crystal waters and pristine beaches. Rates start at $19,995 per person.