Expect the best of the best from the moment you step onboard your luxury ship. From personal butler service to Michelin-star dining and designer products in the bathroom, nothing is left to chance. Luxury cruises are for people who like to travel in style – and are happy to pay for it. Read on to find out what you can expect when you sail on a luxury cruise.

  1. The largest cruise ships in the world can hold more than 6,000 passengers, but you won’t find of these behemoths in the luxury category. Luxury ships tend to be smaller, maxing out at about 2,500 passengers and going as low as just a few hundred. Smaller ships means more space per passenger and a higher staff-to-passenger ratio. It also means the ships can access smaller ports unavailable to the megaliners, allowing for itineraries that include less-visited destinations.
  2. The ship may be small, but your cabin certainly won’t be. Even entry level cabins on luxury ships will be 25-50 per cent bigger than cabins on other ships. Most of the newer ships in this category have private balconies for every cabin that are spacious enough for a small dining table or deck chairs. Everything here is bigger and better – separate living and dining areas, large bathrooms with full bathtubs and double sinks, walk in wardrobes and huge flat screen TVs are the norm. At the top end of town, the new breed of premium suites are like little palaces on the sea. Apart from the usual marble floors and baby grand pianos, passengers can choose from plush extras such as private hot tubs, wraparound balconies, indoor gardens, personal spa facilities, decorative fireplaces, a signature scent piped through the vents and glass-floored showers that protrude over the side of the ship.
  3. Personal service is key to the luxury cruise experience. All staff will greet you by name and quickly come to know your preferences, so they will always have your favourite drink waiting for you at the bar or save you an extra slice of cheesecake at dessert. Expect cold towels, chilled water and sliced fruit delivered to your deck chair by the pool. Most ships in this category will offer butler service for all cabins. Your butler will personally show you to your room (with a glass of champagne), unpack your bags, press your clothes, make restaurant reservations, set up a cocktail party in your room, personalise your mini bar, draw a bath or just about anything else your heart desires. Staff onboard these ships are trained to a much higher level and generally aren’t reliant on tips, so service will be flawless throughout.
  4. The entry price for luxury cruises is higher, but once you’re onboard it’s unlikely you’ll have to reach for your wallet again. Alcohol (although not top-shelf labels), specialty restaurants, specialty coffee, shore excursions, water sports, in-room movies and gratuities will all be included. Some lines will organise special extras, such as a private dinner for two on deck or a romantic sleep-out on a Balinese bed, at no extra cost. You should only have to pay for a few additional extras, such as spa treatments, professional photography, premium alcohol and high-end excursions like helicopter flights. Inclusions vary between lines.
  5. Once onboard a luxury ship you should never have to set eyes on a plastic plate, paper napkin or unsightly sugar sachet for the duration of your cruise. All amenities will be of the highest quality, from the elegant tableware in the dining room to the designer products in the bathroom and the Baccarat crystal chandelier in the stairwell. Cabins will generally be stocked with personalised stationery, fluffy robes, fresh flowers and a fruit basket that’s replenished daily. The whole ship should feel like a 5-star hotel with a luxurious finish for even the smallest details. Many feature original artworks and private collections.

Lines to try: Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, SeaDream, Silversea, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.