Who Operates The World’s Best Luxury Cruise Line?

Luxury lines square off: Who's the best?

My colleague at USA Today’s Cruise Log posed an interesting question today: Are Crystal and Seabourn the world’s best cruise lines?

His post, inspired by the results of a Travel & Leisure reader survey, is getting good engagement with lots of comments and varying opinions. I encourage you to join the discussion.

My opinion? Well, thanks for asking.

Are Crystal and Seabourn the world’s best? Not for everyone. And just because a cruise line scores higher by a marginal differential doesn’t make it the best for you. Crystal ranked number one among large-ship lines with a score of 92.45; Regent Seven Seas Cruises scored 90.14 in that category. Seabourn topped small-ship cruise lines with a score of 93.3; Silversea Cruises, 90.03; and SeaDream Yacht Club, 88.33.

Will you have a better experience on Crystal with its 2.31 higher score than on Regent? That depends. If you enjoy imbibing without signing a check, you’ll be happier on Regent. If you need Nobu nightly, you’ll discover your bliss on Crystal.

If we limit the discussion strictly to luxury ships (or say those that are nearly all-inclusive and carrying fewer than 1,000 passengers) it would be extremely difficult to name a world’s best between the contenders: Silversea Cruises, Seabourn, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club and hey, even Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa.

All of these luxury lines offer gourmet dining, free booze (Crystal starts freely pouring in 2012), six-star service, high staff-to-guest ratios, roomy staterooms and suites, bathrooms you can get lost in, expansive balconies (SeaDream is the exception in these last two categories. Bathrooms are the “soap up and spin” variety, and while there are no balconies, there is a lot of open deck space and beautiful Balinese beds. With only about 100 passengers, the open deck space on SeaDream feels like your balcony.)

When you get to this level of luxury, it’s hard to say who ranks best, because essentially it comes down to who’s the best for you?

Desire dining (or sleeping) outdoors with St. Tropez as the backdrop? SeaDream is the best for you. Enjoy expeditions? Silversea’s Silver Explorer is the best luxury line for you. Want lots of activities and Nobu’s brand of sushi at sea? Go Crystal. Prefer as all-inclusive as possible? Regent is calling your name. Want to cruise on the industry’s newest fleet of luxury small ships? Seabourn is the way to go.

What’s your take? Continue the conversation here or at the post I’ve started on Google+ or at USA Today’s Cruise Log.

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  • We travelled on the Seabourn Legend on 15th July 2011 and came back very disappointed with their inability to deal with “No meat or shell-fish” as my wife’s request. For instance, the chef replaced fois gras followed by lobster bisque on the Gala Night with a few leaves with balsamic vinegar (6-star?!). We have a number of friends who often travel on Silvers Seas and couldn’t believe this and the other problems with the food.
    I have written to Seabourn (twice) and they haven’t even acknowledged the email of fax so, I assume, our experience is nothing special.
    If we had been able just stick to the relatively limited standard menus I think we would have enjoyed the cruise.


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