The 7 best luxury cruise lines – a premium cruise vacation

If you are looking for a premium cruise line with a touch of luxury to take you away from everyday life, here is our selection of the six best luxury cruise lines that sea you across the waters today. 

All these cruise lines offer classic cruises on board ships that provide similar experiences.

By that, we mean dining is generally excellent on board. All these premium lines have improved tremendously, and menus are becoming more and more diverse. Some even have a partnership with particular chefs.

Staterooms are not vastly different in size. But you may find extra nice touches such as branded toiletries included in your room.

Activities and entertainment are good with a wide variety to suit all tastes. Some are more focused on families than others. At the same time, some are offering a calmer, more elegant cruise with more low-key activities.

What makes a luxury or premium cruise line?

First of all, there are no official categories. We describe a luxury cruise line as a sophisticated experience on board a smaller cruise ship with personalized service, excellent cuisine, and unique destinations.

Some cruise lines do it better than others. Here are 7 of the best.

1. Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has a reputation for being a modern, premium cruise line. And you can see this in the design and decor on board. All the newer and even the older but refurbished ships are just fantastic. The entire fleet is stylish and contemporary while still giving you the classic cruise experience.

Marketed to appeal to the mostly over 40 age group, in our experience on board, we have seen that a high proportion of guests are older. Most are 50+ right up to the older generation. 

And while it is primarily adults on board, if you want to cruise with kids or teens, you should (we did)!

Celebrity Cruises has launched “Always Included” pricing. The pricing offers an all-inclusive cruise to make the booking process a bit easier for you.  

What this means is, whichever class of cabin you book, your price includes the cost of gratuities, classic beverage package, and wifi (for one device per cabin).

Many of the ships in Celebrity’s fleet are, more or less, the same ships – except for the new Edge class. The Celebrity Edge class of ships is very different, super modern, and perfect if you are looking for a contemporary cruise ship. The architecture is simply fantastic onboard.

2. Holland America Line

Holland America Line is a classic cruise line with a slightly older guest age profile of 65+.

It was the first-ever cruise line to have a presence in the Alaska cruise market from the ports of Seattle and Vancouver. Expect exciting itineraries and a fully immersive cruise experience.

Many of their ships feature excellent musical entertainment with numerous venues offering various musical experiences. The standard of cuisine and service on board is impressive, and it’s a fantastic all-around cruise line offering an American experience on board.

3. Viking Cruises

Award-winning Viking Cruises offers river cruises, ocean, and expedition cruises. It consistently delivers award-winning cruises to destinations near and far. 

The focus is on destination immersion. Onboard guest speakers talk about the ports you visit to help you get the most out of your shore day. 

The ships are gorgeous, and the food and service are excellent. It is an adult-only cruise company; you must be 18 or older to climb aboard.

It’s an excellent choice for singles, couples, and families looking for a small ship cruise experience, a cut above the rest.

Viking Cruises initially only offered river cruises. And they have continued their trend of all-inclusive prices. Included are one shore excursion per port, all the dining, drinks during mealtimes, and gratuities. 

Don’t expect big entertainment shows, but rather more low-key productions. 

Choose your Viking cruise based on the itinerary you want. Each ship is more or less the same, so no one is better than the other. All cabins have a balcony; however, there are different-sized cabins, and you’ll see this reflected in the price of various categories.

4. Explora Journeys

Earlier this year, MSC Cruises announced its arrival into the luxury cruise market by introducing a new brand called Explora Journeys

Between now and 2026, MSC Cruises will launch MSC four new energy-efficient ships, offering cruise guests the chance to experience sea journeys in luxury. The first ship will have 461 suites with a private terrace, nine restaurants, and four swimming pools. In contrast to the big classic cruise ships the MSC Cruises currently have, there will be no loud announcements on board, no hard selling of drinks packages and shore excursions, and no loud anything. 

How nice.

MSC wants their guests to experience the luxurious way of traveling as a calm, intimate and elegant cruise. The maiden journey is planned for May 2023, with an 11-night cruise from Barcelona and ending in Athens.

5.Cunard

Cunard, owned by Carnival, is famous for its transatlantic crossings between Southampton and New York onboard the one genuine ocean liner at sea, Queen Mary 2. And more than deserving to be in one of the best luxury cruise lines category.

Expect balls and gala evenings, afternoon tea, a wide range of daily activities on sea days, and a British experience overall. Life on board is reminiscent of the glory days of sailing. Cunard cruise ships are genuinely memorable on the inside and as elegant as on the outside.

In their Britishness, they have captured the formal concept of cruising in a friendly yet meticulous way. Expect excellent service, attention to detail, and afternoon tea. Lining the walls are photos of the stars, celebrities, and members of Royalty who have been on board.

This is the type of cruise where you will surely pack your best evening wear. And while it is a British cruise line, the sails are tailored for a very international crowd.

Your fare includes your accommodation, dining, onboard activities, traditional afternoon tea, and gala evenings.

You’ll pay extra for the beverage package, any shopping you enjoy, shore excursions, and use of wifi on board. In addition, some specialty dining and afternoon tea experiences cost extra.

6.Azamara Club Cruises

Once owned by Royal Caribbean, Azamara has been sold to a private equity firm but continues to be one of the best luxury cruise lines we have ever experienced.

What do you love the most about Azamara? There is a lot to shout about; however, two things about Azamara that are great are the land programs and the extended shore excursions.

The Azamara land programs offer up to 5 nights of pre- and post-cruise hotel accommodation in many ports. And in the package, you get transfers and guided tours. It’s a great way to see your origin and destination port city and have it all organized by the cruise line.

In particular ports, your Azamara cruise ship will stay in port overnight. That means no hurrying to get back to the ship in the early evening. You can stay on shore and experience the destination at your own pace. All this with a boutique-style floating hotel to come back to. What a good life.

7. Oceania Cruises

Oceania Cruises, owned by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, have seven luxury ships for you to choose between. The maximum number of guests on any one ship is 1250, which means you can expect excellent service, and the style and elegance of the ship’s decor make this line worthy of being one of the best luxury cruise lines.

If you are interested in culinary experiences in unique destinations worldwide, then Oceania Cruises could be for you. Look out for new itineraries on board their brand new ship Vista, the first in the new Allura class. They promise a country club atmosphere and new, additional eating venues on board.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.