A Winter Escape

The most luxurious cruises

Readers of American Condé Nast Traveler magazine have just named Crystal Cruises ‘Best Cruise Line’ (mid-sized) – for the 18th time. Other awards in 2011 have included three for the $25 million redesign of Crystal Serenity, which offers itineraries of 7-98 days to destinations around the world. The multi-award-winning Silversea Cruises has announced details of its all-inclusive World Cruise 2013 – aboard the intimate Silver Whisper (maximum 382 guests). The 115-day voyage (January 5th to May 1st, 2013) from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale will follow the tropical belt to 52 destinations in 28 countries, crossing the equator four times.

In 2011, Celebrity Cruises (part of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd) won the most awards in its 20-year history; has just been named best large-ship cruise line in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards; launched its fourth ship in the Solstice series, Celebrity Silhouette, and its 11th ship Celebrity Reflection joins the fleet in autumn 2012.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers all-inclusive fares – including unlimited shore excursions. Their ships Voyager, Mariner and Navigator are the world’s only all-balcony, all-suite vessels, and travel to more than 300 ports – including some not accessible to larger ships – on all seven continents. Small ship cruise line Seabourn has a fleet of six all-suite vessels, with capacity ranging from 208 to 450 guests – and crew numbers to match. Newest ship Seabourn Quest was named in Barcelona in June 2011 and, like sister ships Sojourn and Odyssey, has probably the largest spa on any luxury ship. Enjoy the romance of cruising under sail with Swedish cruise line Star Clippers. Flagship Royal Clipper has 42 sails and is the largest and only five-mast full-rigged sailing ship built since the beginning of the 20th century. Oceania Cruises is offering its first-ever mostly epicurean-themed ‘Signature Sailings’ cruises in 2012. New ship Riviera offers 10 dining venues, hands-on cookery school, Lalique grand staircase and Owner’s Suites furnished with Ralph Lauren Home. Its maiden voyage – a 12-day Ancient Grandeur itinerary – departs Piraeus in April 2012.

The flagship of German cruise line Hapag Lloyd is MS Europa – the world’s only cruise ship awarded a 5-star-plus ranking by the Berlitz Cruise Guide 2012 – a distinction held since Berlitz’s 2001 edition. Every passenger (maximum 408) has a suite – and their own onboard email address! Azamara Club Cruises’ two intimate ships Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest each carry 694 guests in an environment that feels more like a European boutique hotel. Boasting a clutch of industry awards, the cruise line offers itineraries to 187 ports in 58 countries and shore excursions they call ‘Land Discoveries’. Family-owned SeaDream Yacht Club says it offers “yachting, not cruising”. It has won some of the industry’s highest awards for its twin cruising mega-yachts SeaDream I and SeaDream II. Each takes just 112 guests, who are looked after by a crew of 95. In 2012 and 2013 they’re offering Amazon voyages.