Editors’ Picks: Top 10 Luxury Cruises

November 24, 2014

A round up of the best cruises — from cruising around the world to sailing the Italian coast — all with a focus on unique island itineraries.

Best Island Cruises Guide | The Newest Luxury Cruise Ship | 20 Best Caribbean Cruises

1. Windstar, Italian Coast
No bullet trains to catch. No connecting flights or long layovers. Just lounging on the top deck, cocktail in hand, gliding effortlessly through the open ocean. It’s like the islands come to you — in style.
No ship fits this bill more so than Windstar’s Rome-to-Rome itinerary aboard Wind Surf. The intriguing quiet experienced while visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Pantheon will follow you back to the ship. Only 312 guests board this ship, so by the end of the cruise, you’ll feel like you’ve chartered a private yacht with your friends and family. And with help from engines, you’ll hit many of the less traveled Italian and French islands at a steady, relaxed pace. First island stop: Ischia for secluded beaches. Then the Blue Grotto of Capri and the nature reserve on Corsica. Between ports, indulge in the onboard spa, and gorge on the Le Plateau de Fruits de Mer, a tower of seafood delicacies. Stuffed? Go to sleep. Tomorrow, the Amalfi Coast will magically appear.
Rates from $2,649
Jon Whittle
2. Adventure Associates, Galápagos
One day you crouch on a grassy hillside watching a 100-year-old giant tortoise meander past. The next you walk through a field of daisies — as big as trees. Every day, you come face to face with natural selection in progress. This doesn’t feel like an ordinary cruise. A ship gets you to islands you can’t reach any other way. And the 48-guest La Pinta is one of the best-appointed ships in the Galápagos fleet — great chefs, spacious staterooms and oversize portholes with the same views Darwin saw. Walk among marine iguanas on the lava shore. Snorkel with penguins, turtles and sea lions. The real luxury is witnessing this dynamic ecosystem firsthand and seeing the source for the theory of evolution.
Rates from $4,935
Courtesy of Adventure Associates
Yachts of Seabourn, Around the World
In one-third of the year, you could spend about five hours at red lights, make your bed 100 times and grow your hair 1½ inches. Or you could cruise the world. Board the Yachts of Seabourn’s Sojourn maiden world cruise in Los Angeles and say goodbye to the States for the next 111 days. Cross the equator to explore Nuku Hiva, Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora. And then, while relaxing in one of the 225 suites, let it sink in — you have 45 more ports to explore. On land, Seabourn’s staff will set up everything for you — take three nights from Auckland to Akaroa, New Zealand, to visit the Southern Alps, and four nights from Hong Kong to Cai Lan, Vietnam, to see giant pandas. It will be the most productive year of your life, even if you stay in bed for the remaining 254 days.
From $49,955
Courtesy of Seabourn
4. Oceania, Caribbean
What’s better than taking a relaxing cruise through the Caribbean? Being the first to do so on a brand-new ship. Join the 625-room Oceania Marina during its inaugural season on the Caribbean Pearls itinerary to visit the classic islands (St. Lucia, Dominican Republic, Antigua) and some of our favorites off the beaten path (Dominica, Grand Turk, St. Barts). Between ports, dine at master chef Jacques Pepin’s first restaurant at sea and try your hand in the Culinary Center, where you can prepare your own meal from fresh ingredients bought that day in local markets. Whatever you choose, you’ll be setting the pace for cruisers to come.
Rates from $2,499
Courtesy of Oceania
5. Paul Gauguin, Tahitian Islands
The sun sets between the twin peaks of Otemanu and Pahia on Bora Bora as you sit down at L’Etoile for French cuisine served a la carte (no buffet). And you don’t have to make a reservation or sign a check. It’s included, as is your Irish whiskey nightcap served by Abner, your suite-deck butler. The ship sails as you sleep, and when you open the curtains in the morning, the green hills of Moorea fill the windows. The shallow-draft, 332-guest M/S Paul Gauguin can anchor inside the reefs. And that means, for once, you’re inside those postcard-perfect views — in Raiatea, Taha’a and Tahiti too. That’s right. You have arrived. Champagne?
Rates from $3,145
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin
6. Seadream, Caribbean
Kayak the bioluminescent bay off the coast of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Sail on a catamaran to the Tobago Cays. Eat brick-oven lobster pizza on Bequia. Meet a local ceramic potter on Nevis. When aboard the SeaDream II, you don’t just pick a few excursions on your nine-day trip. You do them all, because every island on this off-the-beaten-path itinerary is worthy of deeper exploration. Depart Puerto Rico and hopscotch south through the Lesser Antilles, hitting Culebrita, Guadeloupe and even Mayreau, to name a few, with plenty of time on each for exploring. But don’t call it cruising — this is yachting on a 112-passenger ship. You just may be able to check everything off your Caribbean bucket list on this one trip.
Rates from $3,699
Courtesy of Seadream
7. Cruceros Australis, Tierra Del Fuego
Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego — your itinerary reads like Admiral Byrd’s wish list. But whereas Byrd had a dogsled and lived on pemmican for six months, you have the brand-new, 210-passenger Stella Australis (launching in December for Cruceros’ 20th anniversary), a luxury expedition ship with picture windows, satellite phones and a pastry chef. Visit one of the most extreme regions on the planet in extreme comfort. Weave through icebergs as you land in a Zodiac on the Magdalena Islands to visit Magellanic penguins and regal cormorants. Zip up your parka as you stroll to the southernmost tip of South America on Cape Horn. Then head back to the lounge and relax with a cup of cocoa.
Rates from $2,520
Courtesy of Cruceros Australis
8. Regent Seven Seas, New Zealand
Take your time. Do it right — from dry-aged prime beef and fine wines to indulgent spa treatments and 16 days to explore just two countries. Take in five of New Zealand’s cities, from Auckland to Dunedin. Aboard the 350-room Voyager, cruise past the fjords of Milford Sound and across the Tasman Sea to Hobart, Tasmania (Australia’s cute little sister). Some itineraries hurry you from island to island and country to country. Not this one. By the time you dock in Sydney, you’ll be an honorary Kiwi/Aussie. $12,499
Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas
9. Silolona Sojourns, Indonesia
A Silolona Sojourns cruise is straight out of the history books — and you get to jump right in. Pretend you’re Columbus, Magellan and Drake sailing in search of cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. It won’t be too far a stretch, since Silolona is an authentic replica of the Indonesian sailing ships that used to troll the Spice Route for flavorful booty. Depending on the time of year, be one of only 10 guests to sail the Banda Islands, Raja Ampat, Sulawesi and Komodo. You might be retracing the past, but gliding past these remote islands, you’ll never want to forget the present moment.
Rates vary.
Courtesy of Silolona
10. Silversea, Mediterranean
Cruising and eating are almost synonymous. Luckily, aboard the Silver Spirit, fresh local food is the specialty every day — and on a cruise, local is different every night. Sail through the Italian islands eating air-dried ham from Parma and Ligurian ravioli on board at La Terrazza. Savor a six-course meal (including Perigord truffles) at Le Champagne after exploring Corsica. Then retreat back to your ocean-view suite (one of only 270) to watch as the islands that just fed you so generously begin to fade out of sight.
Rates from $5,308
Courtesy of Sliversea

More Cruises