Luxury cruise lines are plentiful, and all offer varying degrees of pampering, experiences and exotic voyages to the most unique and glorious destinations. Here are our picks for the brands, one new ( RITZ CARLTON) small and big, but mostly for being consistent across all areas including price, value, food, on board / off board activities and delivering on an unforgettable LUXURY experience.
RITZ CARLTON YACHT – The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection offers an unprecedented opportunity to be untethered. Here, freedom and flexibility allow immersion in life’s exceptional experiences; exploration of earth’s exquisite and unexpected hideaways; and stirring of passions and curiosities that create new and deepened connections. All of this delivered in an intimate setting with a heightened level of care and attention
Viking Ocean Cruises, With 250 awards to its name, “Luxury” should be its middle name. Currently operating a fleet of state-of-the-art ships that have received numerous accolades, including the second year in a row, Viking was voted the #1 River Line and Ocean Line by Condé Nast Traveler in the publication’s 2023 Readers’ Choice .
Regent Seven Seas Cruises®consistently delivers unmatched luxury cruises with the very best value for over thirty years. Unrivaled onboard space. Unforgettable shoreside excursions. Incomparable culinary experiences. Exceptional personalized service. Every lavish amenity is included when cruising aboard The World’s Most Luxurious Fleet™
Seabourn, Cruising on a Seabourn ship is unlike any other form of travel. The experience is luxurious, yet relaxed — elegant, yet casual — sumptuous, yet understated. Our intimate ships visit the most desirable destinations worldwide, sailing to the heart of landmark cities, as well as to hidden gems where larger vessels cannot follow.
When you’re exploring new places on a trip, it’s the perfect time to shop till you drop! You’ll be happy to know that destinations in the Mediterranean are full of shopping opportunities. When you take a Mediterranian cruise, you’ll want to check out the best ports for shopping. Here are our favorite Mediterranean ports to get your shopping fix:
When cruising to Barcelona, exploring the port is a must. Begin your journey by having some tapas and sangria, but also be sure to check out the shops! A good place to head for the best shops is La Rambla boulevard. This area is a busy, exciting portion of the city and it’s not far from the cruise port. You’ll be happy to head back with some great souvenirs, and unique boutique finds.
If you’re cruising on a smaller ship, Capri may be part of your itinerary. You’ll find boutique stores as well as larger, designer brand stores here. If you’re looking to make big purchases and love expensive, designer goods, head to the street known as Via Vittorio Emanuele III street. If you prefer unique items and smaller shops, head to Via le Botteghe street.
Seville is the perfect place to stop while on your Mediterranean cruise. You’ll be happy to know that it’s full of shopping opportunities. A favorite area to spend time and shop is Barrio Santa Cruz. The oldest part of the city, it has charming views and is full of character. Explore the narrow streets and make your way from shop to shop. Sierpes and Tetuan are also excellent streets to explore if you enjoy shopping.
Another must-see destination as you make your way throughout the Mediterranean is Malta. This incredible island is gorgeous and full of things to do. As you begin your shopping adventure, head to Republic Street, which is the central shopping hub. Merchants Street is another fun place to stop. The Merchants Street Market is a good place to wander for fashion items. While here, be sure to visit C. Camilleri & Sons, which is the place to go while in Malta for sweets.
And there you have it—these are some of the best ports for shopping in the Mediterranean. Be sure to leave a little extra room in your bag when packing for your cruise so that you can bring home some local delights from your travels.
SeaDream Yacht Club has officially opened reservations for all of its 2020 sailings. SeaDream will kick off the year in the Caribbean, which will include calls in Cuba. The 2020 Mediterranean season will return to popular ports and incorporate new ones including: Ikaria, Greece; Vis, Croatia; Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy; and Koper, Slovenia.
“Our 2020 season encompasses the best of the Caribbean and Mediterranean,” said Andreas Brynestad, SeaDream Yacht Club EVP of sales, marketing and operations. “We take pride in creating memorable itineraries that our guests will find unique and enriching. We are delighted to provide our guests with the opportunity to experience remarkable destinations all while enjoying the SeaDream lifestyle.”
Itineraries in the Caribbean will emphasize the area’s natural beauty, exclusive harbors and pristine beaches, ideal for soaking in the Caribbean’s distinct appeal. Whether visiting less frequented ports such as Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands or the largest city and capital of Barbados, Bridgetown, guests will be able to enjoy every stop along their luxurious Caribbean vacation. A new port of call for SeaDream during the 2020 season is Basseterre, St. Kitts, one of the oldest towns in the eastern Caribbean featuring amazing historical sights. Additionally, SeaDream will be returning to Cuba in 2020. The Cuba voyages will navigate the island from Havana to Cienfuegos, with up to six stops in some of the country’s most storied and least-traveled ports.
Recently named the leader in boutique ships by the renown Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ship guide, SeaDream’s ships will spend the summer of 2020 in the Mediterranean. Guests will experience an unforgettable vacation as they sail through the French and Italian Riviera, Greek Isles, the Spanish Mediterranean coast and to many less crowded yet beautiful ports in the region. The Mediterranean season also includes stops in Kusdasi, Turkey, more itineraries featuring Greece and Croatia, and more overnight stays to provide ample time for enjoying the region’s rich culture and breathtaking sights.
CroisiEurope Cruises, has announced their latest new program for 2019, adding to the existing 170 itineraries that take place on over 50 ships on 39 waterways and in 37 countries. In addition to the new ship joining the fleet on the Douro River, CroisiEurope will be introducing a new coastal cruise along the Adriatic on board the MS Belle de l’Adriatique. Prices for this 8-day cruise start at $2,518 per person with cabins on select February and March 2019 departure dates still available.
Highlights of this new program, which will include stops in Croatia, Greece, Albania and Montenegro, include:
Excursions in Albania to sites such as Apollonia, the country’s largest archaeological site; the captivating ancient ruins of Butrint; and city tours of Albania’s capital city, Tirana, and the old town in Gjirokastër, which is one of three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country;
Discover the hidden treasures of the island of Corfu, Ulysse’s last stop before returning to Ithaca, and the island’s emblematic palace, Achilleion, which was built by the beloved Empress Sissi;
Explore the wild beauty of Montenegro and the ancient city of Bar with its stronghold towers, city gates, gun powder room, Prince’s Palace, and Bishop’s Palace – it’s easy to imagine the impressive town that once stood here
CroisiEurope continues to innovate with new itineraries on river, canal and coast, new theme cruises, new destinations for their hugely popular biking and hiking cruises and a brand new premium rated ship on the Douro. In addition, in 2019 they will continue to offer a diverse range of perennial favourites – such as their cruises from Bordeaux on the Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne, all of which represent great value at a mid-range price.
In 2019 CroisiEurope will offer cruises on the Seine, Garonne & Dordogne, Rhone, Loire, Guadiana & Guadalquivir, Po, Douro, Rhine & Danube, Elbe, Mekong and Lake Kariba in Southern Africa, as well as on the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas and on the French canals. CroisiEurope’s complete 2019 cruise schedule is now up on their website.
Costa Cruises, has been named the top cruise line in the ‘Best Mediterranean Itineraries’ category for the 18th consecutive year in Porthole Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Considered one of the leading cruise-focused news publications, Porthole Cruise Magazine’s readers vote for their favorite cruise lines and ships in 55 categories.
Award winners were determined by thousands of readers and online fans of Porthole Cruise Magazine. The 2017 edition of the Readers’ Choice Awards garnered a record-breaking number of ballots.
“It is truly an honor for Costa Cruises to be named a winner at the Porthole Readers’ Choice Awards in such a competitive category,” said Ruben Perez, general manager, Costa Cruises North America. “With a record number of votes, it is a testament to the Costa product that consumers for 19 years have recognized our Mediterranean offerings as the best.”
Costa Cruises is one of the few cruise lines to offer year-round Mediterranean cruises. In 2018, Costa will deploy 11 ships at various times of the year across the eastern and western Mediterranean — from the coasts of Morocco to the shores of Malta on itineraries ranging from three to 14 nights.
Silversea Cruises has announced that guests will be able to start making bookings from Monday, 2 November, for its new flagship, Silver MuseSM, which begins sailing in April 2017. The boutique ship, with just 286 suites, will make its maiden voyage from Monte Carlo to Nice at the start of an exciting 2017 season. The 13-day sailing will depart on April 20, 2017 and arrive in Nice on May 3 stopping at Barcelona, Valletta, Amalfi and Sorrento.
Before the maiden voyage, there will also be a unique Easter voyage, departing Monte Carlo on April 10 for an 8-day debut sailing, taking in destinations including Porto Mahon, Livorno and Portofino, arriving in Monte Carlo on April 18.
Silver Muse will redefine ocean travel, enhancing the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodation that are the hallmarks of the Silversea experience, alongside tailor-made service.
During 2017, Silver Muse will sail throughout Europe, Canada, North and South America as well as the Caribbean, taking in over 130 destinations in 34 countries. Silver Muse can accommodate up to 596 guests, who will experience the best dining at sea, with eight restaurants among which Atlantide, La Terrazza, Hot Rocks, Kabuki, and Regina Margherita.
Why limit your honeymoon to a land-based vacation?
Here’s a little-known fact: Taking a cruise for your honeymoon is one of the smartest – and most affordable — things you can do, especially if you sail on Azamara Club Cruises. We recently took a 16-day luxury Azamara sailing from Miami (commencing after a brief but wonderful stay at the Hilton Miami Airport hotel) to Athens, Greece. Extended sailings are a hot new trend — and we have all the insider tips to make your honeymoon, not only fantastic, but unforgettably fabulous – and wonderful for your wallet too.
Why cruise? First, unlike land-based honeymoons, you simply unpack just once and experience numerous terrific ports of call, with no hassle. If your goal is to honeymoon in Europe – especially the Mediterranean in the summer – and desire a superb warm-weather trip, Azamara should be your first choice. Why fly, unpack, and tote luggage from hotel to hotel, when an Azamara cruise makes traveling from place to place so simple and carefree?
Second, forget your wallet – onboard, all of your meals and drinks are included, including alcohol. A cruise obviates the hassles of finding good restaurants, taking taxis there, paying for dinner and shelling out big tips. On a cruise you can maximize your budget and pay for everything upfront, with no financial surprises.
Third, when you sail on a ship such as the Azamara Journey or Azamara Quest, the staff makes your cruise as special as it can be. Just tell them your requests, and you will see that there is no “No.” Here’s what we recommend, to make your romantic honeymoon cruise all the more fun:
Special-order hot fudge sundaes in the Jacuzzi. And with all alcohol included, go ahead and enjoy everything from an Appletini to a Zentini!
Bring a special romantic DVD from home, and watch it alone on the big screen in the Cabaret theater some night, complete with popcorn, cocktails and blankets.
Amp up your upscale by choosing a Continent Suite – these staterooms have bathtubs (good clean fun for the two of you) and also come with free entrée to the specialty restaurants, complimentary internet minutes, and the services of a dedicated butler.
Surprise your beloved with a special meal on your one-week wedding anniversary, with all of your favorite foods. Or surprise your sweetie with a favorite dessert – such as chocolate lava cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Just ask the Executive Chef and consider it done.
Don’t forget about taking ballroom-dancing classes and learning the basics from the professional dancers/entertainers on board.
Take a moonlit walk on deck at nighttime, under the stars.
Other reasons Azamara Club Cruises is so special:
Azamara Cruises are famous for longer port stays and more overnights, so that you don’t leave ports at the typical 3:00 PM. Instead, you can tour in the morning, shop in the afternoon, dress up for dinner, and go to town in the evening. Let’s face it – St. Tropez is special and completely different at night! Azamara also offers incredible – and complimentary – “Aza-mazing Experiences” to all passengers, such as a special concerts in Ephesus, in a historic amphitheatre, where you can enjoy cocktails, music and more. More so, you can plan your honeymoon around special European events – perhaps you’d like to visit the Monaco Grand Prix in 2016, or watch the golfers at the British Open next summer. These trips and more are available. Azamara’s fares also include all gratuities and tips.
Azamara’s small 686-guest club-like ships also take you to ports where larger ships won’t fit, like in the heart of Marseille, Amalfi, and Crete, or even to the doorstep of Bangkok (while other large cruise lines dock a few hours away).
We also took several excursions thanks to Land Discoveries, and this included a driving tour of Athens, visiting the Acropolis and the famous Plaka.
On disembarking in Athens, even more luxury awaited us at the Athens Hilton, on an Executive Club floor. Here, we were ensconced in a beautiful room, on a special Club floor – with dedicated concierge – who assisted us with dinner reservations and other excursions. Included with your Athens Hilton Club room are daily food presentations including a fabulous full-service breakfast. There’s also a serene spa, huge swimming pool and fitness center on the ground floor. The Athens Hilton is conveniently located to major city sites – including the Acropolis – and is a quick taxi ride to the Plaka, for gorgeous Greek jewelry, soaps, crafts, clothing, souvenirs, and more. We spent about 4.5 hours at the Plaka one Sunday, and with the strong American dollar, bagged tons of bargains. Dinner was either hors d’oeuvres on the Club floor (delicious!) or a five-minute walk to Oroscopo, a local favorite restaurant, where you can indulge in delicious pastas, pizzas, and salads.
Next stop: Shannon, Ireland. We chose Shannon as a final destination for two reasons. First, we wanted to break up our trip home from Athens to Boston into two manageable legs, and Shannon is the westernmost point of Europe, back to Boston. Second, we have also always wanted to stay in a genuine castle, and Dromoland Castle, a member of the Preferred Hotel Group, did not disappoint. This gorgeous five-star property is the type of place where Kate Middleton and Prince William would feel right at home. We’ll put it this way – once, many years ago, we stayed in probably the world’s best suite, at probably the world’s best hotel: The Presidential Suite of the Four Seasons George V in Paris. We never thought we would find a property to exceed that delight – until we discovered Dromoland Castle.
Located on 500 plush acres, with an impressive 18-hole golf course, Dromoland is your own personal Downton Abbey.
Gold-framed oil paintings on display everywhere? Check. Crystal chandeliers? Check again. One-to-one staff-to guest ratio? You bet. There are also voluptuous tapestries everywhere, and outside, a pony-and-carriage tour of the immense and lovingly maintained property. We were especially impressed by breakfast, offering every delicacy imaginable. It’s amazing – at 8:00 AM you’ll dine on fine crystal and china, served by waiters in tuxedoes. You’d swear you were at Windsor Castle.
The 98 rooms are renovated every five years, says General Manager Mark Nolan. And he ought to know – he so loves his job there he’s been at it for 26 years. Mr. Nolan says that most people discover Dromoland at the end of their journey – as we did after a cruise – and that the average stay is about 1.5 nights. The complaint about that? He says that most guests tell him, “Gosh, I wish we had stayed here another day. We have loved the castle experience.” We can easily tell you – if you’re honeymooning, there’s nothing more romantic than Dromoland Castle. And if you’re outdoorsy, you’ll be pleased to know you can also go fishing on Lake Dromoland, play tennis, walk and jog on idyllic woodland, go bike-riding, and also enjoy clay shooting and falconry.
Spa-lovers will also not be disappointed by Dromoland’s award-winning spa that showcases Voya organic products, which offer a spectacular facial. Try the Spa Honeymoon Package that includes a back, neck and shoulder massage, facial, head massage and scalp treatment, plus pedicure for him and her.
The Castle is situated so that you can easily experience the County Clare surroundings. We took a delightful tour of The Burren, the smallest national park in Ireland, which was formed by limestone 250 million years ago.
Despite its rocky lunar landscape, the Burren has nine months’ annually of growing Mediterranean and mountainous plants. Next stop was the Burren Perfumery, for handmade organic skincare and fragrances. (I’m crazy about the honey-orange lip balm, the rose otto cream and the clove-and-orange soap). This is a great place for brides to stock up on terrific locally made beauty products, for herself, or as souvenirs. Ladies – you will love it there.
Don’t miss the Burren Smokehouse, where you can procure award-winning organic smoked salmon, made with salt from the Camargue in France, and smoked on oak that imparts a distinctive flavor. Says Birgitta Curtin, who co-owns the smokehouse with her husband Peter: “What we do here is an art and a craft – it’s not a mass-production. We are an artisan smokehouse.” And — Holy smoke! – we can tell you – their smoked salmon is absolutely delicious and perfect to take home with you.
Our Irish piece de resistance was a boat trip to the Cliffs of Moher, featuring enormous cliffs and big-wave surfing!
For more information contact County Clare Ireland – www.clare.ie, and remember that the Gaelic word for “fun” is “craic!” May the craic be with you – on your European honeymoon.
By – By Debbi K. Kickham and William D. Kickham, Esq.
Debbi K. Kickham is the author of The Globetrotter’s Get-Gorgeous Guide – the world’s first beauty book for traveling women and brides, www.GorgeousGlobetrotter.com.