All-Time Best Cruises for 2012

Best Cruises Dec 2011
Zach Stovall

The Mediterranean on Windstar

I never fancied myself a cruise lover. That aversion started to change the night the Windstar left Ischia Island near Naples. The boat's sails unfurled overhead. The setting sun cast its last light on the imposing facade of Castello Aragonese. I felt the bow turn into the oncoming seas. This was genuine nighttime sailing. At that moment I became hooked on cruising. —Jon Whittle

Tahiti on Paul Gauguin

This was my first luxury cruise, and nothing has matched since. Native Tahitian girls sang as we set sail. The ship anchored inside the reefs of Bora Bora, Tahaa and Moorea. I woke every morning to see towering peaks rising from blue lagoons. And in every port, I met travelers who'd seen the same views decades earlier and then never left the islands. What a way to start cruising. —Matthew Miller

The Caribbean Sea on SeaDream I

SeaDream I, holding just 112 passengers and 95 staff, took me from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to St. John, St. Barts, and Jost Van Dyke. Sleeping on deck in a Balinese daybed with Belgian linens and spending 24 hours on St. Barts (large ships can't access this posh port), I felt more like a sailor out to sea on my own private yacht than a cruiser in line for the next buffet. —Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

The Far East on StarClipper

The isles dotting the Andaman Sea made for a breathtaking backdrop, but it was the Clipper ship and its crew that captured my heart. With the boat's 70 staff members to 170 passengers, crew members were available to teach guests how to tie knots, how the sails were repaired (on the biggest sewing machine ever) and even how to hoist the 16 sails on the four masts. This personalized service was the perfect complement to the exoticness of the Far East. —Lori Barbely

Melanesia on Orion

Real, raw and remote, this cruise line lived and breathed its motto, "A Path Less Traveled," which is how I like to discover the world. I got to explore islands that hadn't seen travelers in years. —Ty Sawyer

For Information:

Windstar Cruises; 1-800-258-7245

Paul Gaugin Cruises; 1-800-848-6172

SeaDream Yacht Club; 1-800-707-4911

Star Clippers; 305-442-0550