Top 10 cruises of a lifetime

From living the high life in a luxury suite to exploring an exotic expedition in a far-flung destination, Joanna Booth suggests 10 cruises with real wow factor

whether clients are connoisseurs champing at the bit to get back on board or first-timers ready to try an introductory voyage, luxury cruising has much to offer. The top end of the market is innovating with new ships and intriguing itineraries, and options are particularly strong when it comes to the iconic trips that travellers have been dreaming of during lockdown. 

Pent-up demand and a desire to prioritise life goals have seen world cruises selling fast, and longer itineraries, both at sea and on rivers, are growing in popularity. And with the launch of new luxury lines Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and Explora Journeys on the horizon, there'll soon be even more choice. Take inspiration from Aspires pick of 10 awe-inspiring cruises.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Suite sailing

High rollers, ahoy! In November 2023, Regent Seven Seas Cruises will launch the aptly named Seven Seas Grandeur, featuring the most opulent version yet of its famed Regent Suite (pictured). 

This penthouse at the prow boasts the best views on board, whether from the spacious terrace with its own mini-pool, from the parlour (which features skylights for stargazing as well as wraparound glazing), or from the in-suite spa retreat, where the tub and heated loungers are set by the window wall. 

There's a Steinway grand piano, lithographs by Picasso and - of course - butler service. Select a spring voyage along the Riviera, and the destination will match the suite for glamour, with ports of call including Saint-Tropez and Monte Carlo.

Book it: The seven-night Glory of the Riviera voyage, setting sail on April 24, 2024, starts at £26,399 In the Regent Suite.

Quark Expeditions

Arctic from the air

With not one but two twin-engine helicopters and 20 quick-launching Zodiacs, Ultramarine (pictured) is designed to provide the most thrilling choice of polar activities in the business. Quark Expeditions' newest ship pampers guests on board with sleek staterooms, a spa and sauna, two restaurants and a bar, but it's off ship that it comes into its own. Book polar adventurers on a Greenland voyage and they'll access all-but-untouched areas of the world's second-largest ice mass, heli-trekking on the Greenland Ice Sheet and overnight camping in Tasermiut fjord. They'll also discover Viking history and Inuit culture, foraging on the tundra with a local chef.

Book it: The nine-day Greenland Adventure: Explore by Sea, Land and Air sailing, departing July 16, 2022, starts from £5,670.



Luxury on the Nile

The pharaohs wouldn't feel out of place on board Uniworld's latest Super Ship. The Sphinx features hand-carved ceilings, opulent carpets, a pool deck shaded by drapes inspired by ancient Egyptian barges and two restaurants serving traditional dishes paired with local wines. All 42 staterooms and suites have French balconies, with the intricately decorated Royal Suite (pictured) featuring a huge marble bathroom and an ornate lounge. The ship sails between Luxor and Aswan, showcasing all the highlights of the Nile, and voyages are bookended by hotel stays in Cairo for visits to the Egyptian Museum and the Pyramids of Giza.

Book it: The 72-day Splendors of Egypt & the Nile itinerary starts from £8,199, departing May 21, 2022, staying in the Royal Suite.


Silversea Cruises

Sakura in style

Japan's cherry blossoms are as fleeting and unpredictable as they are beautiful, so timing a trip to catch them can be tricky - unless clients take a cruise. A spring circumnavigation sailing with Silversea ticks off destinations the length of the nation over two weeks, meaning their visit is almost certain to coincide with the best of the petals somewhere. The line's immersive excursion programme lets passengers delve deep into the culture of this fascinating country, with street food tours, sake tasting, geisha-led tea ceremonies and bullet train rides, before heading back into the lap of luxury aboard Silver Muse.

Book it: The 11-day Yokohama (Tokyo) lo Yokohama cruise, departing March. 25, 2022, starts from £7,900.


Seychelles by sea

The warm waters of the Indian Ocean surrounding the Seychelles teem with marine life, and no cruise line gives clients more ways to enjoy it than Ponant. Cruising on the newest Explorer-class vessel, Le Jacques-Cartier, they'll be able to swim, kayak, paddleboard, dive, snorkel, waterski and fish, all via the unique three-position marina platform that also makes accessing Zodiacs a cinch. Those who don't want to get their hair wet can experience the underwater world in the unique Blue Eye Lounge (pictured), where they can watch through portholes and via real-time cameras from the comfort of special loungers that vibrate gently in time to the sounds of the ocean. On shore, they'll see giant tortoises, endemic birds and the white-sand beaches for which the islands are famed.

Book it: The eight-night Seychelles Secrets cruise, departing January 11, 2023, starts from £3, 100.



UK exploration

Lengthy flights aren't essential for the trip of a lifetime. Clients can sail on Seabourn Venture's inaugural cruise from leafy Greenwich in London and explore the British Isles in high style. The line's first luxury expedition ship offers all the casual elegance of its mainstream sisters, with eight dining experiences and 132 ocean-facing suites, all with private verandas, personal stewards and even heated jacket wardrobes, so clients will have a toasty coat to put on before excursions. Ventures first voyage will visit the far corners of the UK, from the Scilly Isles in the south to the Scottish islands of Iona, Mull, St Kilda and Isle of Lewis, with excursions focusing on the glorious heritage and wildlife of our own nations.

Book it: The 12-day Wild & Ancient British Isles cruise, departing April 10, 2022, starts from £4,099 in a Veranda Suite.



Seven-river sailing

Seven rivers, 14 countries, 46 nights; clients can see a huge slice of northern and central Europe in one fell swoop on AmaWaterways' Seven River Journey. After sailing from Paris to Rauen on the Seine, they'll cruise the Dutch and Belgian waterways from Amsterdam, from where they'll travel all the way to Giurgiu in Romania on the Rhine, Moselle, Main and Danube (pictured). The voyage has proved so popular the line has added a third 2023 sailing, in the autumn, perfectly timed to see the turning leaves around the Rhine's castles and the wine harvest in the Wachau Valley. Alongside the usual AmaWaterways inclusions, Seven River guests also receive exclusive experiences, commemorative gifts and complimentary laundry.

Book it: The Seven River Journey: Autumn Edition cruise departing August 24, 2023, starts from £21,830.

Celebrity Cruises

Glorious Galápagos

A visit to the Galapagos is like stepping into a wildlife documentary, with playful sea lions flopping across the paths, giant tortoises in the undergrowth and an underwater world as spectacular as anywhere on the planet. Adventurers who like the finer things in life can cruise on Celebrity Flora (pictured), an all-suite 1 DO-passenger mega-yacht designed specifically for the destination. Solar panels and a dynamic positioning system mean there's no anchor to damage the seabed, so the ship is sensitive to the environment. But there's no sacrifice for guests, who can enjoy sleek suites, gourmet dining and even onboard glamping, sleeping in an alfresco cabana after an expert-led stargazing session.

Book it: The seven-night Galápagos Inner Loop sailing, departing Baltra on August 7, 2022, starts from £5,830.


Submarine South Georgia

For most, Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Ensure clients make the most of their adventure and book a cruise that also includes South Georgia - they won't regret the extra expense and time needed to visit this sub-Antarctic island. Part of an underwater mountain chain, the surrounding seas are especially nutrient-rich, attracting pods of hundreds of whales. It's also the only place travellers can see king and macaroni penguins, the former in colonies of thousands. Passengers cruising on Scenic Eclipse can spend five days in South Georgia and, as its submarine Scenic Neptune (pictured) is the first permitted to operate in these waters, can marvel at the rich aquatic life in comfort.

Book it: The 23-day Antarctica, South Georgia & Falkland Island voyage, departing November 20, 2022, starts at £22, 180.


Oceania Cruises

Fall flavours

Autumn turns the trees of the Eastern Seaboard a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and yellows, and a cruise along the coast hits all the leaf-peeping hotspots between New York and Montreal. Sailing on Vista (pictured), the new ship from destination and food-focused line Oceania, clients can enjoy the best of US and Canadian flavours both on and off-ship. Of Vistas 12 restaurants, four are new to the line, including Ember. This handsome dining room serves American favourites, from braised short rib to Cobb salad, and clients will find US steaks and Maine lobster at established favourite Polo Grill. The Culinary Center on Vista will deliver hands-on instruction on culture and cuisine, with a new dining room for private group dinners and food and wine pairing experiences.

Book it: The 11-day Autumn Vistas cruise, departing September 18, 2023, starts from £5,109.