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AAA Traveler Worldwise | International
Your Guide To Luxury And Expedition Cruise Lines


The extraordinary experiences offered on today’s luxury cruises boggle the imagination, from complimentary business class airfare to submarine rides in Antarctica. Add exclusive itineraries, lavish amenities and exceptional cuisine, and it’s no wonder enthusiasm for luxury cruising continues to grow. Here's the lowdown on nine exceptional cruise lines recommended by AAA.

a Regent Seven Seas’ Superior SuiteAn example of a Regent Seven Seas’ Superior Suite; Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas

On ultra-luxury cruises, guests spend big for exclusivity and personal attention. The spacious cabins are outfitted with high-quality linens, soaking tubs and roomy closets. Daily excursions, all drinks and multiple meals served at specialty restaurants are included in the cruise fee. Typically, ultra-luxury cruise ships carry 300 to 700 passengers, who will never encounter lines and will always have access to exceptional ports of call.

steak and wineRegent Seven Seas’ Prime 7 serves up delectable steaks; Photo courtesy of Regent Seven Seas

Regent Seven Seas bills itself as the best value in ultra-luxury cruising, thanks to the wide array of inclusions in the booking price, such as shore excursions, transfers, valet service and business-class airfare. The fleet’s calling card is having some of the industry’s most spacious all-suite guest rooms, equipped with cashmere blankets, walk-in closets, soaking tubs and dual sinks. Four specialty dining venues—Asian fusion, Italian, French and a steakhouse—are complimentary, and Regent’s bartenders keep the premium alcohol flowing.

Guests can indulge in the spa’s hydrothermal suites or learn new cooking techniques in the Culinary Arts Kitchen. There are five bars and lounges, dance classes, and a nightly cabaret show featuring a five-piece orchestra in the Constellation Theater. Regent strives to create a relaxed onboard experience and offers Serene Spa & Wellness Tours that carry the feeling into port, too.

a submarine launching from a Seabourn shipLaunching a submarine from a Seabourn ship; Photo courtesy of Seabourn

Care for a polar plunge, or how about venturing under the sea in a custom-built submarine while sipping champagne? Perhaps you prefer a relaxing day of watersports (kayaking, paddleboarding, waterskiing and the like), or maybe you’d enjoy lounging in a private cabana? Each Seabourn ship is equipped to enhance a destination by providing tailored amenities and experiences.

Seabourn ships may be small, but the entertainment is big. An “Evening with Sir Tim Rice” is a Seabourn exclusive featuring the composer via video narration and his tunes from The Lion King and Aladdin. Seabourn’s Spa Wellness program by Dr. Andrew Weill integrates innovative practices, such as sound therapy in an Amethyst Crystal Sound Bath. Guests may make special requests through their Personal Suite Host, who can even draw a bubble bath for you. There’s nearly a one-to-one ratio of guests to staff on these small ships.

man and woman in cooking class with chefGuests aboard Silversea can take a cooking class with a Michelin-starred chef; Photo courtesy of Silversea

There are plenty of “cheers” on board Silversea. That’s because the wines, cocktails, caviar and specialty dining are all-inclusive. The staterooms are expansive, with opulent appointments; each one is assigned 24-hour butler service, which includes unpacking your suitcase at your request and serving in-suite multicourse dinners. The new Silver Nova carries just 728 passengers, but it boasts nine dining venues and an impressive choice of bars.

Silversea guests receive one free excursion per day, with offerings such as the S.A.L.T. (Sea And Land Taste) program, which focuses on visiting organic farms, vineyards and local markets or taking a cooking class with a Michelin-starred chef. Silversea also offers dreamy pre- and post-cruise extensions, along with epic itineraries, making it the choice for cruisers with a bucket list.

Luxury travel includes the best of the best, and AAA Members receive exclusive savings and amenities. Learn More

Premium cruise ships are usually larger than ultra-luxury, with some 900 to 1,200 passengers. These cruises exude a sophisticated country club feel, often with special attention given to dining. Itineraries emphasize experiential travel.

An Azamara ship docked in Ajaccio on the French island of CorsicaAn Azamara ship docked in Ajaccio on the French island of Corsica; Photo courtesy of Azamara Cruises

The atmosphere on Azamara ships encourages camaraderie, while the price point makes luxury affordable. The cruise line’s commitment to port-intensive experiences, with both late-night and overnight stays, echoes Azamara’s philosophy that travel should not be hurried.

Azamara cruises are typically longer and sail to ports less traveled. The Club Spa Suites have a Swiss-style soaking tub and rain-shower combination with outdoor views. Azamara guests value collegial merriment, especially during “White Nights” where everyone dresses in white attire and a buffet is served on deck. Most drinks (nonalcoholic as well as spirits, wine and beer) are included, as is laundry service.

Two couples wearing formal wear to a gala on Cunard cruise shipsCunard is known for its gala evenings; Photo courtesy of Cunard

Travelers associate Cunard with the golden age of cruising, but today’s fleet feels fresh and dynamic, with fans of the line cheering the coming launch of Queen Anne this May. On Cunard, guests put on the ritz for gala evenings and enjoy sumptuous afternoon teas. All staff members train at Cunard’s White Star Academy to ensure the same high level of service, from dining to housekeeping.

Cunard ships are equipped with paddle tennis, two-story libraries and the largest planetariums at sea. New bespoke excursions such as helicopter rides and lobster fishing are making a splash. Cunard’s signature voyage is the Transatlantic Crossing on the Queen Mary 2, with seven nights at sea between New York and Southampton, England.

Elegant dining in Oceania’s Toscana restaurant;Elegant dining in Oceania’s Toscana restaurant; Photo courtesy of Oceania Cruises

As the creator of the premium category some 20 years ago, Oceania continues to lead the niche today. These stylish ships offer both value and luxury. The guest rooms are only slightly smaller than ultra-luxury brands, and because ships are larger, Oceania can offer more dining choices as well as immersive food experiences.

The line launched the industry’s first hands-on cooking school aboard a ship, and Oceania’s Go Local tours provide a deeper understanding of local culture and food. For example, guests can enjoy an Argentine dinner at a local resident’s home, learn to make Irish bread in Belfast or take a paella workshop in Alicante, Spain. The specialty restaurants are available at no extra cost, and Oceania offers private dining experiences in the Privée and La Reserve dining venues.

Viking’s WintergardenThe serene setting of Viking’s Wintergarden; Photo courtesy of Viking

Viking’s oceangoing ships are known for gracious spaces and access to smaller ports, including on its new China itineraries. Clean design and Nordic artwork represent the company’s Scandinavian heritage. Look for brightness and light in the Wintergarden, where tea is served daily, and the main pool, where a retractable roof adjusts for warm, sunny days or wintery skies. The complimentary thermal suite in the Nordic Spa features several hot and cold immersion options, including the invigorating Snow Grotto, a small glass-enclosed room filled with manmade snow.

From dishing up lively poolside buffets to serving elegant meals in the Main Dining Room, Viking’s chefs have mastered nearly every cuisine and love sharing their talents. Beer, wine and one daily excursion are included.

Luxury expedition cruises focus on far-flung destinations while not skimping on comfort. These cruise lines cater to guests seeking adventure and access to breathtaking natural places. The small ships can tuck into remote locations, often using Zodiac boats for landing and observation. Newer ships may feature hybrid-electric motors. Onboard naturalists lead excursions, and a number of ships conduct official scientific research. Some programming caters to families and multigenerational travelers.

Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen during a cruise expedition Hurtigruten’s MS Roald Amundsen was specially constructed to cruise polar waters; Photo by Andrea Klaussner

Hurtigruten launched the first expedition cruise in 1896 and still operates the historic Norwegian Coastal Express with stops at tiny hamlets and islands along the Norwegian coastline. Today, the intimate ships of Hurtigruten Expeditions, or HX for short, sail into wild places, marshalling passengers onto kayaks or equipping them with snowshoes and trekking poles for real-life adventure. From night snowmobiling in the Arctic to guided hikes up a Nicaraguan volcano, HX passengers fully immerse themselves in extraordinary landscapes.

Most HX ships have two or three restaurants serving complimentary wine and beer. The ships feature a high-tech Science Center, and some suites boast outdoor hot tubs. The line offers a northern lights promise, which states that if passengers don’t have a recorded sighting of the aurora borealis, they’ll receive a second cruise free.

mand and boy looking at camera, water and ships in backgroundA Ponant expedition cruise to Southern Patagonia; Photo by ©StudioPONANT-Olivier Blaud

Some 60 years ago, Lars-Eric Lindblad was the first explorer to take private citizens to Antarctica and the Galápagos Islands. Now, his family’s cruise line offers more than 100 itineraries across seven continents. Through Lindblad’s partnership with National Geographic, guests can learn from naturalist photographers, who deepen their understanding of pristine environments while teaching composition and technique.

The design of the current fleet offers passenger amenities such as on-deck igloos (you can sleep in one), firepits, glass-windowed saunas and a digital photo studio for photo-sharing events. Menus include kid-friendly options. That, paired with the National Geographic Global Explorer program for younger cruisers, helps Lindblad serve as a paragon in luxurious multigenerational travel.

Penguins at a Ponant expedition cruise in Southern PatagoniaLindblad Expeditions has special programming for children; Photo courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

Ponant is on the leading edge of science-driven expeditions through its partnerships with the Explorers Club and Smithsonian Journeys. On Caribbean and Polynesian itineraries, Ponant’s six Explorer ships boast The Blue Eye, a lounge located below the waterline where passengers experience the sights and sounds of the undersea world through marine windows and underwater cameras.

Ponant’s Le Commandant Charcot, the world’s only hybrid-electric luxury icebreaker, is also a research center with an onboard laboratory. Here, Explorer Club experts share their scientific research of glaciology and oceanography.

The cruises are all-inclusive, and ships are equipped with amenities such as heated indoor pools, a Turkish bath, a giant firepit and an on-deck Blue Lagoon pool heated using the ship’s own recycled energy. Ponant caters to international travelers seeking exotic destinations and French food and wines.

Exceptional cruise lines come with exceptional experiences in fabulous destinations—and provide a vacation that’s nothing short of extraordinary.