Of the hundreds of cruise ships sailing the high seas, which ones tender the most luxurious experiences? To answer this question and help guide you to your next cruise, U.S. News' travel editors analyzed a wide range of resources, including evaluations from travelers and experts, price class ratings and health ratings to compile the Best Cruises 2014 rankings. The result: A list of the cruise lines that not only rise above the competition with their impressive itineraries and innovative design, but also set the industry standard for luxury thanks to their superior service. Read on to find the cruise lines that consistently float to the top.
6. Cunard Line
Mixing Old World charm with contemporary flair, Cunard attracts travelers in pursuit of impressive experiences. Aboard Cunard's ships, you can retreat to an upscale cabin, sample inventive cuisine at specialty dining venues and rely on first-rate service. If you're yearning for more relaxation, splurge on a replenishing treatment at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub or savor a spot of tea in the English-inspired Garden Lounge. And when nighttime rolls around, delight in pre-dinner canapés and intimate meals before dancing the night away at themed galas.
A look at the luxurious Cunard Line.
5. Oceania Cruises
When you can anticipate gourmet dining options crafted by acclaimed chef Jacques Pépin and hands-on cooking classes at the Bon Appétit Culinary Center, you know you're in for some star treatment. And the buck doesn't stop there. During days on shore, you can experience a destination's culture and cuisine through food and wine tours. But even if you're not a traveling gastronome, you can rely on plenty of onboard enticements, such as relaxing treatments at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and private deckside cabanas available for rental (for a fee). The accommodations are an added allure: If you choose to stay in a Vista Suite, expect butler service, a Bose sound system and evening canapés.
There’s no shortage of gorgeous scenery when you’re aboard an Azamara Club cruiseship.
4. Azamara Club Cruises
Transporting travelers to far-flung ports of call across the globe, Azamara prides itself on fostering cultural immersion. While on land, you can partake in a myriad of shoreside forays, including scenic walking tours and food tastings. Plus, each voyage offers a complimentary excursion, known as an AzAmazing Evening, which can range from a polo match in Saint Tropez to a ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia. Apart from ample shore diversions, Azamara is also known for its elegant suites, top-notch service and refined — yet relaxed — atmospheres. Another draw: Azamara's ships hold no more than 694 guests, allowing for more personalized service and intimate spaces than its mid-size competitors.
3. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Laid-back luxury is the name of the game for the Regent Seven Seas fleet. Regent's ships feature all-suite accommodations, plus a variety of amenities geared toward those craving a balance of excitement and relaxation. On board, you can sign up for digital photography classes and food and wine pairing seminars or pamper yourself with a massage at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. During days spent ashore, you'll have your pick from a host of excursions, from rainforest tours in Grenada, to hot springs and winery expeditions in Santorini, Greece. Back on the boat, you can enjoy indulgent meals at specialty restaurants and casual sips at the ship's bars and lounges. And thanks to the line's all-inclusive approach, you can rest easy knowing that dining costs, onboard activities, shore excursions and gratuities are covered in your overall cruise cost.
Passengers will feel at home in one of Silversea Cruises’ plush rooms.
2. Silversea Cruises
Silversea sets itself apart from its peers with impeccable service, tasty gourmet food and enriching lecture series. And with all of its ships featuring all-suite ocean-facing rooms, Silversea maximizes the feeling of seclusion. Plus, Silversea's ships carry between 100 and 540 guests per voyage, allowing for more customization than its competitors with approximately one crew member catering to every passenger. Standouts include the Spa at Silversea and the Relais & Châteaux-affiliated specialty restaurant, Le Champagne, which matches decadent six-course meals with top-notch vino. Meanwhile, stops in remote destinations allow guests to sign up for customized tours (think vineyard-hopping in France's Bordeaux region and opera-watching in Sydney) that cater to their individual preferences.
1. Crystal Cruises
What better way to access spectacular destinations and explore off-the-beaten-path ports than on a Crystal cruise? While at sea, you can soak up the scenery in seclusion (Crystal prides itself on its high crew-to-passenger ratio and absence of crowds), and delight in dishes created by acclaimed chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio. Aside from tasting flavorful Japanese and Italian dishes, you can also count on exclusive onboard experiences, such as treatments at the Feng Shui-inpsired Crystal Spa and language lessons and tai chi classes at the Creative Learning Institute. Meanwhile, days on land yield unforgettable experiences, and can include everything from elephant rides in South Africa to helicopter tours over Oahu, Hawaii's treasured waterfalls and rainforests.