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12 of the world's most luxurious cruise ships

Cruise Advice
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The idea that there is such a thing as 'the world's most luxurious cruise ship' is a little problematic, not least because the definition of 'luxury' is so subjective.

On top of this you have the many different types of cruising to consider: there are classic ocean cruise ships, but also river and expedition cruise ships, along with ships that specialise in specific destinations, and there is huge variation in the size of these ships. At Mundy Cruising we firmly believe that a smaller ship offers a more luxurious experience, and while there are many superb vessels that fit into this 'small ship' category, there are a few that really stand out as contenders for the title of 'world's most luxurious'…

Most luxurious décor: Seven Seas Explorer & Seven Seas Splendor

Regent's Seven Seas Explorer has been the subject of not just one but two TV documentary series, starring in 'Building the World's Most Luxurious Cruise Ship' and 'Secrets of the World's Most Expensive Cruise Ships'. The 750-guest Seven Seas Explorer, which launched in 2015, and sister ship Seven Seas Splendor, which followed in 2020, both offer the perfect balance of space and intimacy.

Regent Seven Seas Splendor - Pool deck

Guestrooms are large and lavish, ranging from a generous entry-level 300 square feet to the extraordinary Regent Suite, which clocks in at over 4,000 square feet on Splendor and includes your own bar, in-suite spa and Steinway piano. All suites open onto a private balcony, a concept that Regent pioneered with the Seven Seas Mariner in 2001, the world's first all-balcony ship. There are plenty of dining choices, with specialty restaurants offering superb food in stylish surroundings, and the all-inclusive fares are the most inclusive of all any luxury line, with even your shore excursions included in the price.

Regent Seven Seas Explorer - Regent Suite bar

Most luxurious according to the critics: Europa 2

The launch of the 500-guest Europa 2 in 2013 was eagerly anticipated by those in the know, as it marked German cruise line Hapag-Lloyd's entry into the international market. At the time of launch the original 400-guest Europa had the highest rating of any ship in the noted Berlitz Guide, so the bar was high, but for once the sequel was even better than the original.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises - MS Europa 2 - Ocean Spa

Europa 2 brings a fresh and contemporary look to cruising, with light-filled public spaces, elegant suites (all with balcony), and an inviting combination of blonde woods and muted earthy tones, the definition of 'Scandi chic'. It's no surprise that Europa 2 has now usurped her predecessor, acclaimed by the Berlitz Guide as the best cruise ship in the world.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises - MS Europa 2 - Grand Ocean Suite

Most luxurious expedition ship: Scenic Eclipse

When Scenic revealed the specifications of Scenic Eclipse, their first discovery yacht, they ruffled a few cruise industry feathers. Many wondered how a ship of just 200 guests could offer so many dining choices (10 experiences across 7 venues), along with a spa, lounge, theatre, plus a submarine and two helicopters.

Scenic Eclipse in Valletta, Malta

When she finally launched in 2019 we were thrilled to see Scenic Eclipse deliver on all this and more, with all-balcony accommodation and a sleek and stylish interior that makes this ice-class expedition vessel just as suited to the yachting ports of the Mediterranean as the ice-filled bays of Antarctica.

Scenic Eclipse - Owners Penthouse deck in Antarctica

Most luxurious icebreaker: Le Commandant Charcot

Very few ships can truly reach the ends of the earth, but Ponant's icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot is no ordinary ship, able to reach the geographic North Pole and parts of Antarctica that are way beyond the reach of other expedition ships. Until now, the only passenger vessel regularly offering such remote expeditions was the formidable Russian nuclear icebreaker 50 Years of Victory, but the hybrid LNG/electric-powered Le Commandant Charcot brings a new level of luxury to polar travel.

Ponant - Le Commandant Charcot in Antarctica

The ship's high-tech features go well beyond the propulsion system, and there is even a scientific research laboratory on board. The ship's 270 lucky guests can enjoy French culinary flair, spacious guestrooms with private balconies, indoor and outdoor pools, a wellness area, fitness centre and even a winter garden. This promises to be the most exciting addition yet to the Ponant fleet.

Ponant - Le Commandant Charcot - Firepit

Most luxurious in the Galapagos: Silver Origin

To cruise in the Galapagos, ships quite rightly have to abide by the stringent policies set by the Ecuadorian government to preserve this incredible habitat. Guest numbers are capped at 100 and ships are restricted to operating solely around the Galapagos, and until recently you had to choose from a selection of older vessels and ships that have been converted to operate here. Then came the introduction of Silver Origin, Silversea's stunning new ship purpose-built for this unique environment.

Silver Origin - Royal Suite bedroom

This intimate 100-guest ship is supremely comfortable, with all balcony accommodation, plenty of deck space, two restaurants, outdoor whirlpool, observation lounge with a well-stocked library and a fitness centre with panoramic views. As well as the extensive shore programme and onboard lectures there's the chance to learn more about the archipelago's flora and fauna at the Basecamp, with its amazing interactive wall. In the evening you can enjoy socialising over cocktails at the Explorer Lounge, and cosy up around the outdoor firepit after dinner.

Silver Origin - Marina and Zodiac

Most luxurious river cruise ships: Crystal Bach, Mahler, Debussy & Ravel

Crystal took the world of river cruising by storm in 2016, bringing their exacting standards to the rivers of Europe for the first time. With four brand new sister ships - Bach, Mahler, Debussy and Ravel - Crystal stands out as something rather different.

Crystal River Cruises - Crystal Bach

Whilst other river cruise lines have built on an existing model of river cruise operation, Crystal created a new style based on their award-winning ocean ships, with genuinely open seating dining, Michelin-inspired cuisine, alternative casual dining in the Bistro, industry leading crew-to-guest ratios and spacious accommodation, with all suites well above the water line and floor-to-ceiling balcony windows allowing natural light to flood in. Other spaces on board include the exclusive Vintage Room for private dining, plenty of outdoor deck space with comfortable loungers, and an indoor swimming pool.

Crystal Mahler - Two Bedroom Crystal Suite

Most luxurious fleet: Seabourn

Seabourn currently operate the most modern fleet of all the classic ultra-luxury cruise lines, and we particularly love their two newest ships, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.

Seabourn Encore - Pool deck

Building on the successful Seabourn style and sophistication that makes their three 'Odyssey class' ships so popular, these slightly larger vessels have interiors by designer Adam D Tihany and a speciality restaurant in collaboration with Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller, which has since been rolled out across the fleet. On the top deck you'll find The Retreat, where 15 private cabanas, each with flat screen TVs and a refrigerator stocked with a personalised selection of beverages, surround a central whirlpool.

Seabourn Ovation - Wintergarden Suite
Alex Loizou
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Director of Sales & Marketing at Mundy Cruising

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