The cruise industry was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC issued a no-sail order in March 2020, and did not ease restrictions until last October. Since then, government-imposed passenger limits and safety concerns among travelers combined to ground many would-be cruisers.
Now, as more vaccinations are administered around the globe, experts are preparing for a travel boom. Many of the world’s most luxurious vessels have stayed afloat during the pandemic, preparing for the onset of demand. The question is not whether cruisers will return, but how much money they’re willing to splurge and where they’ll sail.
With that in mind, here are 5 of the world’s most luxurious active cruise ships:
Encore is Seabourn’s largest ultra-luxury ocean liner, able to carry up to 600 passengers on 12 decks. Its maiden voyage to Bali in January 2017 sold out in two days. In July it’s set to host passengers again, this time to Greece.
On-shore excursions made Seabourn cruises famous, including their signature indulgence: “Caviar in the surf,” in which passengers swimming on shore are greeted by uniformed staff holding caviar and champagne.
Filled with an array of public spaces, Encore‘s sheer size makes it easy to occupy the time at sea. Large outdoor areas leave plenty of room for everyone to sunbathe, sip cocktails, watch for wildlife, soak in a hot tub and, during the summer months, enjoy programs tailored to kids.
Crystal had no problem filling Serenity‘s 980 spacious cabins when it announced a July 2021 re-launch out of the Bahamas. The vessel has been all around the globe since its maiden voyage in 2003. In 2016 it became the largest to cross the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic waters.
For a taste of Serenity‘s luxury, visit the Nobu Matsuhisa-branded sushi bar and Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant, Umi Uma. According to the cruise line, the master chef himself frequently sails on Crystal voyages “for special events and ongoing refinement of cooking techniques.”
The ship is so cozy, a Florida woman has paid $164,000 a year to live there year-round. People-watching underneath a giant stained-glass dome in the marble-tiled Crystal Plaza is worth the cost alone.
In the spirit of combing the Seven Seas for hidden treasure, Splendor offers guests a $5 million curated fine art collection. The permanent display is highlighted by two original works by Pablo Picasso — emblematic of the all-encompassing luxury aboard a brand-new liner that re-launched in April 2021.
In total, the ship features 216 exquisitely designed crystal chandeliers in restaurants, lounges, and other public spaces. Another 119 crystal chandeliers hang inside the spacious suites, and 218 chandeliers illuminate the ship’s corridors.
Peek inside the Splendor’s signature 4,443-sq ft. Regent Suite. It features two bedrooms, three walk-in closets, and a private balcony with a custom-made Tresse Minipool. Its mattress alone is valued at $200,000. Book the suite and you’ll also have access to a personal butler on sea and a personal car on land.
The stunning exterior design is impossible to miss on this luxury ocean liner, which offers a coveted 1-to-1 guest-to-staff ratio on its lesser populated expeditions, including its popular Antarctic expeditions scheduled for the Winter of 2021-22.
You don’t have to be an international man of mystery to enjoy the Eclipse, but it helps. The ship’s helicopter seats up to six guests for tours by air. Its submarine, which is capable of diving to a depth of 300 meters, also offers seating for up to six.
First priority for booking for the helicopter and submarine goes to the occupant of the 2,659-square ft. penthouse, which features two bedrooms and a private jacuzzi. All guests enjoy the ship’s all-inclusive dining, beverages, wellness spa and butler services.
Geography nerds will feel right at home in the Endurance, which launched in 2020 specifically to explore the most remote regions of the globe: the Arctic and Antarctic.
Every cabin comes with a “Command Center,” which includes a National Geographic Atlas, barometer, analog clock, and a digital tablet with daily programming. It’s designed to carry a relatively modest 126 passengers, with more than enough windows for everyone to take in the awe-inspiring sights of glaciers and wildlife.
Combining luxury with a sense of adventure, Endurance holds a fleet of Zodiac motorized landing craft, kayaks, snowshoes, and cross-country skis. Sophisticated equipment allows an undersea specialist unique access and ability to share the underwater world with guests.