World's Best Luxury Cruise Lines, Ranked
Cruising is already one of the best ways to travel — all of your luggage stays in one place while you sail from destination to destination, you’re guaranteed at least three top-notch meals each day and there’s always something to do on board, whether it’s a live show, a massage at the spa or hanging out by the pool.
But taking a luxury cruise? Now that’s really something special. Luxury cruise lines pull out all the stops, offering intimate ships with just a few hundred people on board, itineraries to jaw-dropping destinations and impeccable, personalized service.
Of course, you’ll pay top dollar for all of these perks, but on the best lines, the splurge is worth it.
So which cruise line is the most above-and-beyond extraordinary? U.S. News & World Report compared luxury cruise lines based on expert analysis of atmosphere, facilities, activities, cabins, cuisine and service; sanitation quality; and feedback from travelers.
The following seven came out on top.
7. Silversea Cruises
The nine small ships that set sail for Silversea Cruises are not only luxurious, they’re also intimate, with room for just 100 to 596 passengers each.
Silversea’s all-inclusive cruises appeal to travelers over the age of 50, as well as groups, couples and solo travelers who are looking for small ships and luxurious accommodations. All of the cabins are posh suites, and they boast ocean views and butler service.
One perk of sailing with Silversea is its flexible dining schedule, which means you can eat whenever you feel like it with anyone you want. Cruises also feature onboard lecture series and expert guides, so you won’t have a chance to get bored while sailing — ever.
U.S. News & World Report singled out the line's focus on "exclusivity and personalization," as well as its "exotic itineraries and gourmet restaurants."
Best Silversea Cruises Trip
Silversea, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, offers trips to more than 900 destinations across the globe. With so many itineraries to choose from (there are options on all seven continents), it can be hard to know where to start.
But for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider one of the cruise line’s compelling itineraries focused on Russia, including a 29-day journey with fares starting at $23,500. After departing from Japan, you’ll visit the Russian ports of Korsakov, Tyuleniy Island, Yankicha Island, Atlasova Island and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
You’ll also get to explore dozens of ports in Alaska, including Kodiak Island, a busy commercial fishing port where you can fish, kayak and look for bears. Cruise past Hubbard Glacier, the largest glacier in North America, and sail along Point Adolphus, where you might get the chance to see humpback whales or orcas.
6. Oceania Cruises
You’ll find a mix of retirees, young couples and solo travelers on Oceania Cruises, which touts ships that travel to more than 400 ports around the world.
Four of Oceania’s ships can accommodate 684 guests, while two larger ships set sail with 1,250 passengers aboard. Despite being considered a mid-sized cruise line, Oceania maintains a 2-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio, which makes it feel more intimate and personalized.
Oceania offers unique amenities onboard its ships, including art classes, a library, and a card room complete with board games and bridge.
This is also the cruise line to book if you want to break your diet. U.S. News notes that Oceania "caters to foodies," with gourmet dining, cooking demonstrations, wine and martini tastings, and more.
Best Oceania Cruises Trip
Oceania cruises range from seven to 180 days, and you can choose from hundreds of itineraries in places as diverse as the Mediterranean, Alaska, South America, Asia and the South Pacific. Uniquely, Oceania also offers aptly named “grand voyages,” which are essentially itineraries that combine multiple regional cruises together into one incredible, super trip.
Among the most memorable of these uber-journeys is a jaunt from New York to Barcelona over the course of 28 days, starting at $5,799 per guest.
You won’t just be traipsing across the Atlantic on this action-packed trip — you’ll get to visit ports in Canada, Ireland, France, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Morocco and Spain.
The ship spends several days docked at the port of Bordeaux, France, so you can immerse yourself in the region and soak up as much history (and wine, let’s be honest) as possible. One Bordeaux excursion takes you on a tour of the city and its surrounding vineyards, including a stop at a prestigious wine estate for a lesson in wine-making.
5. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Come aboard one of the four ships under the Regent Seven Seas cruise-line banner and you won’t be disappointed. It’s the No. 5 pick for luxury cruises, thanks to its quality service, low staff-to-passenger ratio (there's rarely more than two guests per staff member) and deluxe accommodations (all the cabins are suites).
Plus you can really immerse yourself and try lots of new things. All shore excursions are complementary, and you can participate in as many as you have time for at every port.
Regent Seven Seas prides itself on offering all-inclusive cruises all over the world, which means your fare covers everything from airfare and hotels before and after the cruise to alcoholic beverages, specialty restaurants, Wi-Fi and gratuities once onboard the ship.
Oh, and if you're looking to relax, this is the line for you. Ships include the Canyon Ranch Spa, which U.S. News calls "decadent."
Best Regent Seven Seas Cruises Trip
Whether you’re looking for a quick trip or a long voyage, you’re sure to find a cruise that appeals to you — trips range from seven to 131 nights.
Looking to soak up culture? During a 12-night journey to Cuba, you’ll visit Havana as well as a handful of Caribbean ports in places like St. Lucia, Antigua and Grenada. Fares start at $6,699 and include excursions like a tour centered on Cuban rum, cigars and art in Havana, and a champagne and lobster catamaran cruise at St. John’s.
In Bonaire, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, you can view the beautiful marine life and coral reefs from a glass-bottomed boat, or spend your day on the beach snorkeling.
4. Azamara Club Cruises
With exotic trips that visit more than 260 ports in 80 countries, Azamara Club Cruises earns high marks from luxury cruisers. The 45-and-up crowd in particular loves Azamara, with longer cruises typically booked by retirees who have spent years saving for relaxing vacations after the 9-to-5 grind.
In addition to snagging the No. 4 spot for luxury cruises, Azamara was named the No. 3 best cruise line for couples and the No. 4 best cruise line in the Mediterranean.
Azamara’s staff-to-passenger ratio is low — there’s roughly one staff member for every two passengers — so you’ll get personalized service when you set sail with this line. Cruises start at three nights and go all the way up to 26 nights on three ships.
This is a cruise line that also understands that size matters. U.S. New notes that boats are small enough to "reach off-the-beaten-path destinations, allowing the cruise line to offer unique shore excursions." No ship has more than 700 passengers.
On board, you'll have the opportunity to participate in activities like wine tastings, lectures and cooking demonstrations.
Best Azamara Club Cruises Trip
Azamara ships sail to 260 ports in 80 countries, and you really can't go wrong with any itinerary.
That said, one of the most distinctive trips is a 22-night West Africa cruise with a five-night post-cruise safari. It starts at $15,599 and visits ports like Lisbon, Casablanca and Cape Town. Along the journey, you’ll taste local wines, explore UNESCO World Heritage sites and head out on an African safari across the Kapama Game Reserve.
If you’re an adventure junkie, you’ll want to book the four-wheeling excursion across the dunes of Morocco. If you’re looking for a more laid-back activity, you can sip local wine at three wineries on Lanzarote, one of the Canary islands.
3. Crystal Cruises
You’ll find extremely personalized attention and elegantly designed vessels when you opt to sail with Crystal Cruises. The cruise line has just two ships, and they only include 461 or 535 cabins, meaning you won’t be battling crowds at any point during your journey. You can choose between deluxe staterooms (with or without verandas) and penthouse cabins on the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony.
Since the cruise line keeps its passenger-to-crew ratio very low (nearly 1-to-1), you’ll likely never have to wait for service when you’re sailing.
U.S. News also highlights the line's "engaging enrichment programs," which range from the heady (workshops led by thought leaders) to the fun (dance lessons).
Best Crystal Cruises Trip
Crystal cruises range from six to 85 days and venture to destinations all over Europe, Africa, North America, Asia, Australia and even Antarctica. If you really want to splurge, you can even drop $51,000 for an unforgettable 139-night cruise around the world.
Slightly less ambitious, but no less extraordinary, is a 75-day trip from Bangkok to Cape Town that will take you to diverse places all over the Indian Ocean.
You’ll get to explore the city lights of Ho Chi Minh City, the underground river of Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and the incredible wildlife of Richards Bay in South Africa. The cruise also stops in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and several other must-visit destinations — it’s a culturally enriching trip with luxury and comfort every step of the way.
2. Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking got its start with river cruises but began offering luxury ocean journeys in 2015. Since then, it's proven that its ocean trips are just as posh as its river jaunts. It’s also been named the the No. 1 line for couples, thanks to amenities like fireplaces, infinity pools and deluxe spa services, and the No. 2 best cruise line in the Mediterranean.
Viking has five, 930-passenger ocean vessels, each offering verandas for all cabins and seven dining venues. There are no children’s activities on Viking ocean trips — in fact, as of last year, all passengers must be at least 18 — so you’ll find a calm, relaxing environment perfect for active adults and retirees.
(It is worth noting that this list came out before Viking garnered negative headlines in March 2019 for an engine failure on one of its ships. In the end, all passengers were returned to port safely.)
Best Viking Ocean Cruises Trip
Viking’s typical ocean cruise options range from eight to 93 days, though you can spend up to 245 days aboard a world cruise.
For a totally unique experience, you’ll want to consider Viking’s new cruise along Africa’s western shores. This 29-day journey, which starts at $9,999, departs from London and visits Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Namibia and South Africa along the way. This trip has a completely diverse array of excursion offerings: You can sip wine in Cape Town one day, take a mini-safari in Senegal a few days later, then go whale-watching along the Canary Islands.
1. Seabourn Cruise Line
The No. 1 overall pick for luxury cruises is Seabourn, the lavish cruise line based in Seattle with a fleet of five super-intimate ships.
Each Seabourn vessel can accommodate just 458 to 600 guests, so you definitely won’t feel like just another face in the crowd on one of their journeys. All the rooms are suites, and they all feature ocean views, so you’re sure to be cruising in comfort. Come mealtime, you can expect impeccable menus, including several created by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller.
Given all that, it should come as no surprise that Seabourn also landed high on the list in other categories — it’s No. 1 for best cruise lines in the Mediterranean, No. 2 for best cruises in the Caribbean and No. 2 for best cruise lines for couples.
Best Seabourn Cruise Line Trip
Your only challenge with Seabourn might be selecting a cruise: They offer trips all over the world, visiting a total of 464 ports.
If you’re looking for a new way to celebrate the holidays this December, Seabourn has a 33-day trip of the southern seas starting at $15,999. Over the course of a month, you’ll travel aboard the cozy 300-suite Seabourn Encore and visit various ports in Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. See Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island, jumping crocodiles in the Northern Territory of Australia and exotic wildlife in the Great Barrier Reef.
If none of the pre-planned excursions excite you, you can rent a private car with an English-speaking driver for the day — in Sydney, rates start at $1,444.
Looking for a cruise experience that won't break the bank? Check out the list of the best budget cruise lines, ranked.