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The world’s top five luxurious cruises


There are few industries that evolve as continually as cruising, forever looking to reach new peaks and explore untrodden turf, delivering something truly unique to travellers.

As part of an ongoing effort to appeal to a younger demographic and transform the image of cruising, many companies are turning away from large, mainstream ships headed for classic destinations like the Caribbean, in favour of smaller vessels headed for lesser-visited destinations.

Luxury travel is turning towards river cruises, which offer a more personal experience in less accessible parts of the world, promising adventure and something completely different.

The Cruise Line, the UK’s original luxury cruise specialist, share their top five luxury cruises.

The Danube on the Crystal Mozart
Drift through some of the most picturesque landscapes of Central and Eastern Europe on the spacious deck of the Crystal Mozart for a river cruise of the Danube, dubbed ‘the Queen of Europe’s rivers’ by Napoleon. Elegant penthouse accommodation with French balconies offers sleek, executive-style luxury to enjoy, complete with butler service, while complimentary excursions are on offer at every port, from a city tour of Vienna and vineyard hikes to glassblowing demonstrations and guided museum visits. A huge choice of activities is available at every stop to appeal to all tastes, with a scenic voyage route that begins and ends in Vienna, travelling through the glorious Wachau Valley.

The Danube
Cruise down the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river

Myanmar on the RV Samatha
Having spent decades as a no-go area for tourism, the Irrawaddy River of Myanmar (Burma) is one of the least-visited and unspoilt landscapes in the world, bountiful with misty temple-topped forest canopies that seem straight out of a Rudyard Kipling story. Its isolation from other countries makes it the perfect place to visit by boat, for a truly unique travelling experience. Courtesy of APT, travellers can immerse themselves in this breathtaking scenery whilst enjoying the luxury of a brand new boutique-style river ship. The vessel capacity of just 60 passengers ensures a personal luxury experience, without crowds and queues, and offers high-end dining, with special menus exclusively designed by celebrated chef Luke Nguyen, and cultural onboard entertainment in the form of traditional Burmese puppetry and performance art.

Russia on the Scenic Tsar
The waterways of Russia remain largely untouched by the mainstream cruise circuit, and it is emerging as one of the hot new destinations for river cruising. The Volga river serves as a pathway through a truly eclectic cultural patchwork, from the majestic cities of St Petersburg and Moscow and their unrivalled byzantine architecture to the vast tranquillity of Lake Ladoga, Russia is teeming with utterly exclusive landscapes, the likes of which are unrivalled anywhere in the world. The Scenic Tsar offers 5-star luxury, with spacious and elegant suites – all equipped with ‘sun lounge’ feature windows – six restaurants, wellbeing spa, and state-of-the-art vitality pool on the sun deck. Winding along the Volga river is probably the best way to fully experience the urban and rural treasures of Russia.

Africa on the Zambezi Queen
Take a river expedition through the breath-taking African scenery onboard an intimate luxury vessel designed with sight-seeing in mind. Travel the Chobe river through Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe aboard a simplistic wonder of nautical engineering: AMA’s Zambezi Queen is an elegant, contemporary ship, the ideal means of safari by waterway. Observe elephants, giraffes and big cats in their natural habitats, from the balcony of one of the vessel’s 14 opulent staterooms, from the indulgent pool deck, or from the panoramic restaurant. You will never be closer to the wonders of nature than on the river tours of Africa with AMA.

The glacial wonders of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean have been attracting hardier cruisers recently, with vessels being specially built to withstand and explore the arctic waters up close and personal

Alaska on the Golden Eagle
The glacial wonders of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean have been attracting hardier cruisers recently, with vessels being specially built to withstand and explore the arctic waters up close and personal. Sikumi’s Golden Eagle Yacht offers the perfect luxury retreat after a day of wintry wildlife spotting, extreme water sports, crabbing, beachcombing, or even taking a plunge in the natural hot springs. About as personal an experience as you can get, the Golden Eagle accommodates a maximum of 12 guests, promising celebrity-style treatment in one of the world’s least conventional destinations.

This is just a sample of the top cruise companies’ most exciting and interesting voyages, but there are a lot more on offer, with many of the world’s narrower and more meandering waterways now accessible via river cruise. It is becoming popular as the intimate and off-the-beaten-track way to travel, that still offers all of the luxuries you come to expect on a hard-earned holiday. Take the plunge this year and try a river cruise.