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 onboard, 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 a combination of approval from experts and travelers as well as health ratings (a must after the past few years).
Which ones made the cut? These are the seven best luxury cruise lines in the world.
Bottom Line: Oceania Cruises
You’ll find a mix of retirees, young couples and solo travelers on Oceania Cruises.
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. Some ships also have a cooking school where you can learn to make delicious dishes.
What Travelers Say About Oceania Cruises
"We ate meals at seven restaurants & they were all delicious. Constantly changing menus provided a wide array of choices each day. Menus are available on your cabin TV so you always know what is available. Grilled Lobster, Lamb Chops, and Steaks were available every night in the Terrace restaurant Grill in addition to the ever changing evening selections. Service was very good throughout the ship and some of the staff are truly exceptional. Everyone was very friendly & always willing to help." — BobC1950
*Note: Reviews may be edited for punctuation, spelling and other grammatical errors.
Best Oceania Cruises Trip
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 Rome, Italy, to Miami, Florida, over the course of 24 days, starting at $3,399 per guest.
You won’t just be traipsing across the Atlantic on this action-packed trip — you’ll get to visit ports in Italy, Spain, France, Monaco, Antigua and Puerto Rico.
You'll also have two non-consecutive days in Barcelona, Spain. You can choose from myriad excursions, including seeing the city highlights and a chocolate and cava foodie experience. If you are already familiar with this beautiful city, we suggest taking a tour to the Monastery of Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery perched on the side of a mountain.
6. Silversea Cruises
Year founded: 1994
Number of destinations: 900
Bottom Line: Silversea Cruises
The 10 small ships that set sail for Silversea Cruises are luxurious and intimate, with 51 to 304 suites.
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. The all-inclusive aspect makes the steep price tag worth it, with no limit on premium wines and spirits, in-suite dining or entertainment.
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."
What Travelers Say About Silversea Cruises
"We simply cannot imagine that any other operator delivers better tours in as much comfort...We can strongly recommend this cruise. I cannot claim to have sampled a variety of Galapagos tours. But based on discussions with guides (who had worked on other tour boats) I feel confident Silversea offers the best planned and most luxurious tours." — Twinklles
Best Silversea Cruises Trip
For a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience, consider a compelling 18-day itinerary focused on the frozen north with fares starting at $17,550. After departing from Nome, Alaska, you’ll visit several Russian destinations, including Provideniya, Lorino Village and Cape Kuyveveem.
You’ll also get to explore dozens of ports in Alaska. The cruise will take you to places like St.Paul Island, Elfin Cove and Sitka. 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. Finally, you'll disembark in Vancouver, Canada.
5. Crystal Cruises
Year founded: 1988
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
Number of destinations: 1,000
Bottom Line: Crystal Cruises
You’ll find extremely personalized attention and elegantly designed vessels when you opt to sail with Crystal Cruises. The cruise line has eight ships, and most of them 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.
Crystal cruises range from six to 140 days and venture to destinations all over Europe, Africa, North America, Asia, Australia and even Antarctica. 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).
What Travelers Say About Crystal Cruises
"The big difference from a mainstream cruise is that things seem to happen easily. For example when we sat down to breakfast someone was over in a minute to see if we wanted coffee and juice rather than having to go look for it. The quality of the food was outstanding, and interesting. The unlimited internet worked smoothly, and quick. Having everything included meant you were not constantly bombarded with people asking you to buy something, and there was not a blizzard of flyers delivered to the cabin with sales, and offers. At dinner every night we were offered a selection of special wines. The crew made us feel very welcome, and pampered." — JCMass.
Best Crystal Cruises Trip
Crystal Cruises offers some of the most extraordinary itineraries in the world, including a 140-day trip that will take you from Miami to Barcelona for $69,489.
But don't think that this will be a straightforward transatlantic trip. Rather, you'll spend almost half a year sailing to the Caribbean, down Central and South America to then head to the Pacific Islands. You'll visit Australia and other countries in Oceania before going up to Southeast Asia, exploring the Indian Ocean and the East Coast of Africa. The trip then goes into the Middle East and the Mediterranean, stopping in several European countries before ending in Barcelona. Highlights include visiting the paradisal beaches of Tahiti, going on an African safari and stopping on Chile's Easter Island.
For a less ambitious, but no less extraordinary trip, you can spend 19 days sailing from Argentinean Patagonia to Cape Town.
4. Azamara Club Cruises
Year founded: 2007
Headquarters: Miami, Florida
Number of destinations: 260
Bottom Line: Azamara Club Cruises
With incredible trips that visit more than 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 earned the third spot for best cruise line for couples and for 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 four 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.
What Travelers Say About Azamara Club Cruises
"This was our first Azamara cruise and we were so impressed with everything, we decided that we will be an Azamara Customer for life. The service was fabulous and with a smile. The food in the dining room was fabulous and the menu had many choices.
The pool area had some shade with lounge chairs to get out of the sun. The gym was great with a view, plenty of equipment and an area for yoga and Pilates classes, spin cycle classes. They offered watercolor painting , jewelry making and needlepoint classes at no charge." —Pboothe
Best Azamara Club Cruises Trip
One of Azamara's most distinctive trips is a 21-night West Africa voyage that starts at $5,159 and visits ports Cape Town, Takoradi in Ghana, Banjul in the Gambia, Grand Canaria in Spain and Lisbon, Portugal. Along the journey, you’ll taste local food, explore UNESCO World Heritage sites and visit open-air markets.
If you’re an adventure junkie, you’ll want to book a kayaking excursion in Namibia's Pelican Point. Travelers who want an immersive experience can do a drumming and dancing workshop in Ivory Coast.
3. Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Year founded: 1992
Headquarters: Miami, Florida
Number of destinations: 450
Bottom Line: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Come aboard one of the five ships under the Regent Seven Seas cruise-line banner and you won’t be disappointed. It’s the No. 3 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 in the cities you visit and try many exciting new things. All shore excursions are complimentary, 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.
What Travelers Say About Regent Seven Seas Cruises
"The accommodations are very nice (especially after getting bumped up two levels), the food is very good, and the crew is exemplary! ...The numerous free excursions were top-notch and the shipboard entertainment was amazing. The cruise director even sang and has a voice bar none. The free wine and liquor was also top notch and flowing...I highly recommend this ship and crew to anyone wanting a great voyage. It was worth every penny." — Erndog72
Best Regent Seven Seas Cruises Trip
Looking to soak up culture? During a 12-night journey throughout the Caribbean, you’ll visit San Juan as well as a handful of ports in places like St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and Colombia. Fares start at $6,499 and include excursions like snorkeling in a marine reserve in Guadealoupe and a 4x4 safari in Bridgetown.
In Curacao, a Dutch island in the Caribbean, you can view the beautiful marine life and coral reefs from a semi-submarine or do a wine and cheese tasting.
2. Seabourn Cruise Line
Year founded: 1986
Headquarters: Seattle, Washington
Number of destinations: 464
Bottom Line: Seabourn Cruise Line
Coming in at No. 2, Seabourn is a lavish cruise line based in Seattle with a fleet of six 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. Though if you want an upgrade, you can opt for a luxury suite. 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 also came in second place for best cruise lines in the Mediterranean and best cruise lines for couples, and in third for best cruises line in the Caribbean.
What Travelers Say About Seabourn Cruise Line
"The staff is tremendous. Some of the most attentive I have encountered. The food and ship wines were okay, not great. We do not cruise to eat so we didn't mind. The grill by Thomas Keller is outstanding, one of the top ten meals of my life...the wines off of their premium menu are fantastic. The stops were great. The tours(we only do half day) were well organized, interesting and fun." — kandylandmo
Best Seabourn Cruise Line Trip
Seabourn has a 30-day trip of the southern seas starting at $14,499. Over the course of a month, you’ll travel aboard the cozy 229-suite Seabourn Odyssey and visit various ports in New Zealand, Australia, East Timor and Indonesia. See komodo dragons on Komodo Island, jumping crocodiles in the Northern Territory of Australia and exotic wildlife in the Great Barrier Reef.
The prospect of visiting East Timor is particularly exciting. Having gained independence in 2002, it is one of the least visited countries in the world. As you enjoy land excursions around Dili, you can feel lucky to be one of the 75,000 yearly visitors the country gets.
1. Viking Ocean Cruises
Year founded: 1997
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
Number of destinations: 200
Bottom Line: 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. The cruise line was not only named as the best luxury cruise line, but it’s also been named the No. 1 line for couples, thanks to amenities like fireplaces, infinity pools and deluxe spa services, and for Mediterranean cruises.
Viking has nine, 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, all passengers must be at least 18 — so you’ll find a calm, relaxing environment perfect for active adults and retirees.
Viking’s typical ocean cruise options range from eight to 93 days, though you can spend up to 138 days aboard a world cruise.
What Travelers Say About Viking Ocean Cruises
"Food was first rate, pools were open and clean, entertainment was good. The speakers were very knowledgeable and entertaining at the same time...Embarkation was a dream - I never touched a bag and I was in my Cabin 90 minutes after my plane touched down in Barcelona." — Katootsie
Best Viking Ocean Cruises Trip
For a totally unique experience, consider Viking's northern lights cruise. This 13-day journey, which starts at $4,999, departs from London, England, and visits numerous ports in Norway, all the way up to the Arctic Circle.
This trip has a seriously exciting array of excursion offerings: You can explore snow-covered Arctic towns on dog or reindeer sled, do snowshoe hikes and explore the Norwegian wilderness on snowmobile. The most elusive but rewarding excursions center around chasing the aurora borealis. Though this unpredictable phenomenon cannot be guaranteed, if you are lucky enough to see it, it will be an experience you will never forget.