Luxury Caribbean Cruise

June 3, 2024
MSC Cruises

The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crewmembers greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard!

First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine, as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios.

That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities, and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Yacht lines like SeaDream and Windstar may not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate ships can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises may be owned by the same parent company, but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak.

Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise ships to see which one resonates with you. (We've arranged them in order of size, with small ships accommodating fewer than 200 passengers, midsize vessels welcoming 300 to 600 cruisers and large ships designed for 700 or more people.)

Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Mariner

Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 700 to 445

Ship Features: Seven Seas Mariner was a rulebreaker when it first launched in 2001. It was the industry's first all-suite, all-balcony ship. While many ships are now outfitted in that way, Mariner led the charge.

The ship offers a flexible choice of accommodations that range from 252 to 1, 204 square feet, many with concierge-style amenities (think priority access to shore excursions and dining reservations, 15 minutes of complimentary ship-to-shore phone calls and an hour of free Internet access).

Penthouse suites and higher benefit from the services of a personal butler, upgraded bath amenities (Hermes instead of L'Occitane), an in-suite iPad and an iPod docking station.

It's the Little Things: When Regent says its cruise fare is all-inclusive, it's not kidding. Accommodations, shipboard meals, beverages (including alcohol), in-cabin mini-bars, room service and many onboard activities are included, as are unlimited shore excursions. That's right: you may select as many excursions as you wish from Regent's menu of land tours. With the exception of the more expedition-style luxury cruise options, that's unheard of, and it's definitely made travelers look twice at Regent.

Who Sails This Ship: Retirees and professionals prefer Regent. The line's longer itineraries are specifically designed for travelers who've got time to spend exploring the world.

Itinerary Highlights: Regent fans love Mariner's transatlantic crossings and other itineraries in the Mediterranean and South America.

Other Ships in the Fleet: Like Mariner, Seven Seas Voyager hosts 700 travelers per cruise, while Seven Seas Navigator is the smaller ship in the fleet with a capacity of 490. The cruise line likes to say that it offers "6-star service" on all its vessels.

Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity

Passenger-to-Crew Ratio: 1, 070 to 655

Ship Features: Crystal Cruises is one of the grand dames in the luxury cruise industry and is known for both its discerning service and interesting itineraries. This line, more than any other luxury line, has held steadfast to the old ways and still encourages passengers to dress for dinner and enjoy formal nights on all of its itineraries. In 2012, Crystal joined the ranks of other luxury lines by going the nearly all-inclusive route. Fares now include beverages and gratuities, in addition to the previously included specialty dining, enrichment programming, fitness classes, self-service laundry and shuttles into town from the cruise port.

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