10 Best Luxury Cruise Ships

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Luxury Cruising
Is it a state of mind?
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#21
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
I think it's hard to judge if you haven't actually been on the ship. I have been on three SeaDream cruises and, at this writing, three Hebridean cruises. I was blown away by the SeaDream experience the first couple of times. By the third time, it was less impressive to me. My husband and I don't have a lot of time or money to spend on trying different ships, yet we're about to take our fourth Hebridean cruise. We've been wanting to try Seabourn for years, but Hebridean keeps luring us back.

Some people judge luxury by how new the ship is, the toiletries, and thread count in the sheets. Personally, I don't spend a lot of time in the stateroom and am more interested in other aspects of the cruise. But even without windows in the cheapest cabins, I have always found Hebridean's staterooms very comfortable, even if they aren't as huge as what you'll find on the newer ships.

To me, what makes Hebridean luxurious is the incredible crew and the fact that nothing is too much trouble for them. Tipping is forbidden, so that attitude of service is genuine. Yes, Princess is an old vessel, but she's very beautiful, well-kept, and unique. Moreover, some people think of smaller ships as more luxurious because of the places they can go. Don't knock it until you've tried it.

Anyway, after September's cruise, it may be awhile until our next Scottish cruise. We are wanting to try a French barge cruise next. I imagine that will make Hebridean Princess seem huge.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#22
1,240 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by Travelcat2
Just checked their website again and found their prices quite reasonable when compared to luxury cruise ships. What was very telling is the fact that there are only two cruises "Sold Out" between now and the end of 2017. Why can't they sell out when they have only 25 cabins?
Two cruises being 'Sold Out' only tells part of the story

The starting price of an available cruise is far more informative eg a 10 day Norwegian cruise priced from £9170 is indicative of limited availability.

Single cabins priced up to £14320 having sold out


http://www.hebridean.co.uk/itinerary-example.php?id=89


.
#23
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by English Voyager
knotheadusc,

So Berlitz was correct in it's review of the Hebridean Princess.

According to it's latest Press Release, Hebridean Island Cruises has been nominated for several major awards.

http://www.hebridean.co.uk/news-deta...87352817708860
I will admit that I am not yet a luxury cruise aficionado, but I am being honest when I write that the Hebridean experience is very special. It's not for everyone, obviously. People who like to stay up and party may not enjoy it because the cruisers tend to be older Britons and they aren't necessarily a partying crowd. It's definitely not a kid friendly cruise (which I like). But I can't imagine a normal person taking this cruise and not coming away with the idea that it's a luxury brand. No, it's not like Crystal, Silversea, or Seabourn, but it's still awesome and unique.

Twice, I've gotten to take walks on Sanda Island, which is a privately owned, uninhabited island. I've gotten to see baby seals and other amazing wildlife. Afterward, the hilarious purser was waiting with a picnic basket full of delightful snacks and beverages to warm us up while we waited to get back to the ship. I remember standing there with a cup of coffee laced with Bailey's while my husband enjoyed a dram of scotch. Again... all included in the fare.

Oh... and a couple of years ago, I emailed the office and asked them to send my mother information about their river cruises. I was addressed personally and they took excellent care of my mom, who booked back to back river cruises and traveled solo. Any time I need anything, I can email them and they know who I am and handle everything with a personal touch.

In my mind, the awards are well-deserved. Sorry... I'll stop gushing now.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#24
1,240 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by knotheadusc
Anyway, after September's cruise, it may be awhile until our next Scottish cruise. We are wanting to try a French barge cruise next. I imagine that will make Hebridean Princess seem huge.
One of my best holidays was a river cruise

The size of the cabin's bathroom was such that it made me think that I had been in bigger telephone kiosks.
#25
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by English Voyager
One of my best holidays was a river cruise

The size of the cabin's bathroom was such that it made me think that I had been in bigger telephone kiosks.

It's always kind of a crap shoot on the smaller cruises. One thing that worries me is that a barge cruise will only have a handful of people onboard and you don't always mesh with other people. But I love the idea of going to unique places that aren't overrun with tourists. Also, my husband (who used to make fun of the French) has become a legitimate Francophile. We are fortunate to be living in Germany right now, so it's easy to visit France, but I am dying to see my husband's face when he tastes some really good artisan cheeses while I down some excellent wines. I really enjoy having interesting experiences in unique places and you can get that on a smaller vessel.

Someday, I hope to try one of the bigger luxury lines... and get back on a SeaDream cruise, too.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#26
Washington State
22,575 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by English Voyager
Two cruises being 'Sold Out' only tells part of the story

The starting price of an available cruise is far more informative eg a 10 day Norwegian cruise priced from £9170 is indicative of limited availability.

Single cabins priced up to £14320 having sold out


http://www.hebridean.co.uk/itinerary-example.php?id=89

.

Norwegian crises are typically amongst the highest priced cruises that any cruise line does (the cruises I was looking at on the website are considerably less money). Please tell me what I'm missing. When a 50 passenger cruise line only has 2 sold out cruises over the next 5 1/2 months, I would worry about it staying in business.

knotheadusc - I appreciate what you posted. Since you have not sailed on a luxury cruise ship vs. a 50 passenger boat, there is little to compare. I'm curious how you would compare SeaDream to Hebridean Princess.


Also, FYI, Silversea has a few expedition ships that visit very unique ports. Their smallest ship carries 128 guests and the 7 night cruises start at around 9,000 GBP per person while their larger ship carries 296 guests and have cruises starting at 12,883 GBP per person. These cruises sell out quickly and are based in many parts of the world.

P.S. The luxury cruise lines I've listed are not party cruises. The guests are approximately 20% from the U.K., and 75% from the U.S, and Canada with another 5% from various other countries. The demographic is also older (generally 50+ except for summer cruises when the age is lower). No luxury ship particularly wants children but they are allowed. When school is in session, longer cruises tend to have no children while shorter cruises have a couple of them. There are no activities for children which tends to keep them away (again, except during mid-June to mid-August and during Christmas holidays).
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Tolerance and Patience are two things we all need..........
Total nights: Regent = 375 / Silversea = 36 / Oceania = 26 (Upcoming 104 nights: 3 Explorer, 2 Voyager and 1 Mariner)

Sailings per ship: Explorer (4), Voyager (11), Mariner (10), Navigator (3), PG (1), Silver Spirit (1), Silver Whisper (1), Silver Shadow (1), Oceania Riviera (2)

Itineraries Sailed: Alaska (3 sailings) / Baltics / Barcelona – Dubai / Barcelona - Miami / Cape Town – Rio (2 sailings) / Cape Town - Cape Town / E. & W. Caribbean (4 sailings) / CHRISTENING CRUISE - Explorer - Monte Carlo-Monte Carlo / Ft. Lauderdale – Lima / Istanbul-Istanbul / Istanbul-Venice / London-Monte Carlo / Miami – Barcelona 2 sailings) / Miami-Miami (Amazon) / Mumbai – Bali / New York-Southampton / Rome to Lisbon / Singapore to Sydney / Stockholm - Copenhagen / Tahiti / Venice-Rome / Vancouver-Tokyo
#27
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by Travelcat2
Norwegian crises are typically amongst the highest priced cruises that any cruise line does (the cruises I was looking at on the website are considerably less money). Please tell me what I'm missing. When a 50 passenger cruise line only has 2 sold out cruises over the next 5 1/2 months, I would worry about it staying in business.

knotheadusc - I appreciate what you posted. Since you have not sailed on a luxury cruise ship vs. a 50 passenger boat, there is little to compare. I'm curious how you would compare SeaDream to Hebridean Princess.


Also, FYI, Silversea has a few expedition ships that visit very unique ports. Their smallest ship carries 128 guests and the 7 night cruises start at around 9,000 GBP per person while their larger ship carries 296 guests and have cruises starting at 12,883 GBP per person. These cruises sell out quickly and are based in many parts of the world.

P.S. The luxury cruise lines I've listed are not party cruises. The guests are approximately 20% from the U.K., and 75% from the U.S, and Canada with another 5% from various other countries. The demographic is also older (generally 50+ except for summer cruises when the age is lower). No luxury ship particularly wants children but they are allowed. When school is in session, longer cruises tend to have no children while shorter cruises have a couple of them. There are no activities for children which tends to keep them away (again, except during mid-June to mid-August and during Christmas holidays).
I can compare SeaDream to Hebridean Princess. They have a few similarities in that they are older ships that are all inclusive with excellent (but very different) crews. I like SeaDream for the Carribean, although my third cruise with them was in Europe and was overall my favorite of the three. Frankly, though, I find that the vibe is different on SeaDream, especially if a large group is onboard. There's a lot more drinking. I certainly have nothing against drinking, but sometimes when alcohol and heat mixes, you end up with people who are less than considerate.

I generally haven't seen that behavior on Hebridean Princess, which is more formal and attracts an older crowd, most of whom are British. Hebridean has guides and is more likely to offer speakers and/or enrichment. On my last cruise, there was a guy who had authored many books about whisky and was there to serve as an expert. On SeaDream, we didn't have any enrichment aside from exhibitions by staff members. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't the same thing.

SeaDream is less about enrichment and more about having fun and relaxing. They have water toys and let you swim off the boat. I loved that in the Caribbean (it was too cold for me in Europe). It's also much less formal than Hebridean is. I loved their Thai spa and piano bar, which Hebridean doesn't have.

I do think both SeaDream and Hebridean *are* luxury vessels. They just aren't the biggest or newest. I think it's crazy to call SeaDream, which has vessels from the mid 80s that have no private balconies, "luxury", but not Hebridean, which does have several beautiful staterooms with balconies. And for some people, a small vessel is luxurious. I much prefer small ships with personalized service to floating cities. But to each their own.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#28
Washington State
22,575 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Thank you for the explanation. We have not had a desire to sail on SeaDream -- probably because of the size of the boat and the small cabins.

The luxury cruise ships that are popular in the U.S. and Canada (already named) do have enrichment programs and you rarely see a person who has had too much to drink. As I mentioned, the demographics skew older on luxury cruise lines.

I do believe that the age of a ship and the size of the suites are important for luxury cruise lines. Seabourn got rid of three older ships (passenger capacity about 210) and now have only newer ships with larger suites and passenger capacity around 450. (they sold them to Windstar). Silversea has built 2 new ships in the pasts few years while Regent has only built 1 with one due in 2020 (note: Regent's oldest ship was built in 1998 while the others were built in 2003 and 2004).

I don't think that SeaDream should be considered luxury either. We have spent over a year cruising on luxury ships and rarely hear anything about SeaDream. There are some people that do not consider Crystal as being luxury because of the size of their suites and the age of their ships.

Hapag Lloyd hasn't been discussed on this thread but most people that have sailed on Europa 1 and 2 definitely feel that they are luxury (and, from the look of them, they qualify in many areas). In the case of Hapag Lloyd, they encourage families (including children), are not all-inclusive and the majority of the passengers speak little if any English. For those reasons, while they are likely luxury, people in North America show little interest in them.

Debating these issues is not a bad thing - particularly when we can learn the differences between what passengers in other countries prefer vs. what passengers in North America prefer.

What I think you have is a quaint little boat that probably has excellent service and food that has a niche market - mostly in the U.K. There is nothing wrong with that!
#29
1,240 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by Travelcat2
Hapag Lloyd hasn't been discussed on this thread........................the majority of the passengers speak little if any English.
To put it mildly, rather misleading.
#30
Washington State
22,575 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by English Voyager
To put it mildly, rather misleading.
Why? Really curious. My opinions come from reviews of the ships. And, my decision not to consider the ships is due to my wanting to sail on a ship with as few children as possible (none would be fine) and prefer luxury all-inclusive. I think that the ships are beautiful - just not my cup of tea.
#31
1,240 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
Originally posted by Travelcat2
Why? Really curious. My opinions come from reviews of the ships.
One should not extrapolate one person's experience to be generally valid.

Catlover54 in her reviews stated that German passengers, presumably only those that she had met personally, spoke little or no English.

My experience, during my cruises on the Europa 2, has been the complete opposite.

I have only met two German passengers who have spoken no English.

The remainder have spoken excellent English including one in particular who had been educated at an English Public School.

With cruises on the Europa 2 it really is the luck of the draw.

Where I do agree with Catlover54 is that with Germans there is a certain formality and reserve when attempting to initiate a conversation with them.

One must not attempt to rush things.
#32
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
I happen to live in Germany right now and I have found that many of them, particularly the younger ones, speak English as well or better than Americans do. But it is true that they tend to be very reserved and, on the whole, can take awhile to warm up. Case in point, I have lived in my current neighborhood for almost three years and my husband and I just now got invited to a neighborhood barbecue for the first time.

Germans seem to enjoy Hebridean Princess, too. Every single one that I've met on that ship spoke almost perfect English.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#33
antwerpen
1,027 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
luxury is very personal ... and in general the companies mostly frequented by US passengers underwent quite a process of "economising " ranging from small items to bigger issues.
For me the quality of the gastronomy is very important for me , i am not going on a cruise to collect a vast collection of Bulgari bathroom amenities or to listen to an " announced" as very famous lecturer or to see a so said world famous magician... or a performer doing the same act as 20 years ago
children : most of the time they behave very well on Hapag Lloyd , on one occasion i saw children cursing waiters on Crystal for not delivering giant ice cups
i do not know details of Seadream ( just one lunch as guest ) and probably very good but Hebridean is not for me ( i am not a whisky drinker neither )
maybe it is true that if you do speak German it is easier to get in contact with other passengers on board Hapag Lloyd - in general younger people do speak English in Germany .
all inclusive is not a synonym for luxury - certainly not on a bigger ship - i still remember the changes on the former Seabourn Sun and unfortunately also on Crystal.
In general i like to drink better wines as the complimentary ones on Crystal , SB and SS - so i am happy Hapag Lloyd does have a very good and very fairly priced wine list.
#34
CA, USA
13,783 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
I really think all these discussion become repetitive and boring. Let's just be grateful that there are cruise line out there which suit different people and we can choose what we like best. No need to tear down one line just because we prefer a different one.
#35
antwerpen
1,027 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
yes - about all the lines probably everybody can find something he dislikes ...
on hapag lloyd the drinks are not included and the embarkation is late , on SB the orange juice is not freshly made ..... etc etc
most important is that everybody can find a company that suits him the best
today i was on a ship of CMV as visitor in my hometown : that is in Berlitz between 2 and 3 stars and unfortunately his rather not so great comments are true. But those people on board seemed to be happy on her .
maybe we must be grateful we are able to cruise on Crystal or Hapag or SB or SS . or Regent or Oceania
#36
Washington State
22,575 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Originally posted by vistaman
luxury is very personal ... and in general the companies mostly frequented by US passengers underwent quite a process of "economising " ranging from small items to bigger issues.
For me the quality of the gastronomy is very important for me ........
.
I know that you said "in general" but I must add that Regent has done the opposite of economizing. It has spent a lot of money improving their menu - even their everyday selections (items such as Filet Mignon, New York Strip Steak, Rib eye Steak, New Zealand Lamb Chops, Veal Medallions, Half Roast Chicken, Smithfield Pork Chop, Maine Lobster tail, Jumbo Shrimp, King Sea Scallops, Norwegian Salmon Fillet, Whole Dover Sole, etc. prepared any way that you like it and you can pair it with about 14 various sauces.

For appetizers, there is a Traditional Shrimp Cocktail, Alaska Crab Salad, Norwegian Style Gravlax, Iberico Ham, Beef Carpaccio, Burgundy Escargots, Pan-Seared Foie Gras and Egg Tuffle with Soft Poached Egg with Black Truffle.

There is more but I have gone overboard with listing items from the everyday menu already because food is important to you.

Regent has also included Business Class international air for all passengers residing in the U.S. and Canada. So, at least in this case, there has been no economizing.

I understand that people in Germany, in general, can speak English but their preferred language is likely German and, as English Voyager indicated, there is a formality there that people in the U.S. and Canada are not used to. While we love immersing ourselves in the local culture (and did this for years before we began cruising), we now prefer the ambience, food and luxury of the newer cruise ships that provide an all-inclusive experience. All of us have our own preferences which is why it is great that we have so many cruising choices.

P.S. I would not want to be on an all British ship either - even though there is only a slight language barrier. No prejudiced here - my DH is British and feels the same way that I do (usually)
#37
Germany
1,068 Posts
Joined Oct 2008
Originally posted by wripro
I really think all these discussion become repetitive and boring. Let's just be grateful that there are cruise line out there which suit different people and we can choose what we like best. No need to tear down one line just because we prefer a different one.
I totally agree. I also agree with the statement that luxury is very personal. I am grateful that I've had the chance to try two lines that, at least for me, are very luxurious. I hope someday to be fortunate enough to try others.
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Our first cruise- Vision of the Seas- June 4, 2009 Baltics
#38
Greenville, SC
1,756 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
I would love to try some of the other cruise options out there - all of the ships being discussed sound like they'd be a great vacation...but unfortunately, I'm still in the active workforce and don't have the time or money right now to experiment with other lines.

We found a cruise line we're comfortable with and as long as they don't price themselves out of the market and continue to provide interesting itineraries, we'll stick with what we know. I'd hate to blow my time and money on a vacation that doesn't meet my needs!

Maybe when I'm retired I'll have some leeway to try other options, but for now I'll have to settle for reading about all these great options. Keep postin', y'all!
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RSSC Navigator, Mediterranean, July 2009
RSSC Voyager, Baltic, July 2010
Queen Mary 2, Caribbean, December 2010
RSSC Navigator, Alaska, May 2011
RSSC Mariner, Mediterranean, August 2013
RSSC Voyager, Med/Iberia/UK, May 2014 Canx
RSSC Mariner, Mediterranean, July/August 2015
RSSC Navigator, Barcelona-Haifa, July 2016
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#39
2,848 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by wripro
I really think all these discussion become repetitive and boring. Let's just be grateful that there are cruise line out there which suit different people and we can choose what we like best. No need to tear down one line just because we prefer a different one.
Well as someone who is newly exploring options on luxury lines, I'm not finding it boring at all, however I am trying to find a cruise line that will suit DH and I. I'm not looking for tear downs, just honest comparisons by those who have done both. I'd rather do some research than spend a lot of money on a cruise that isn't going to suit us from the get go.

I've mostly cruised on Carnival in the past because I usually cruised with my sister and that's what her budget allows. DH and I are now retired, and we are well enough situated financially that we can and want to upgrade. We recently did a Viking river cruise and were very happy with their product, so we booked an ocean cruise with them. Now I know many if not most in this section of the CC universe do not put Viking up with the likes of Seabourn, Crystal, Regent & SilverSea, but we liked them a lot. We are not particularly brand loyal and we're open to new options.

We are primarily looking for newer, but smaller ships. We do NOT want to cruise on the huge floating theme park, mega mall monstrosities. We want to cruise on a ship that's not pretending to be something other than a ship - preferably with a good space to passenger ration. We do not need to be entertained 24/7.

We would prefer to cruise without hoards of young children running around unsupervised by parents determined to use up all their included drink allowance in one sitting. We would rather cruise with well-traveled adults with a broad range of interests and a love of good conversation as well as traveling. We would rather not cruise with snobs who will look down their noses at us. As I said, we're well situated, we're not top 1% - probably not even top 20%. We worked hard, and we're not leaving any inheritances

I want some pampering and excellent service. We want good food and wine. We like good wine, but we're not wine snobs either - though we both worked for a wine importer and distributor. I want a nice room - doesn't have to be a suite, but it must have a balcony and a comfy bed. We don't have any specific itineraries in mind - we're open on that aspect.

We do like a more casual atmosphere - or I should say DH does. I don't mind dressing up, but country club or business casual is fine with me. DH on the other hand is done with suits, dress shirts and ties. He'll do a dress shirt and if pressed a jacket - never a tie - and only 1 or 2 nights. Mostly he likes polo shirts and dress pants for dinner.

This is last is mostly the reason I haven't explored some of the more upscale lines. I know he won't be happy. I'm kind of interested in Seabourn and I'm not ruling some of the others out. I just need information and personal accounts are great - I can weigh them against what I like and it makes it easier to judge

So no - this thread and others like it are not boring!
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#40
Greenville, SC
1,756 Posts
Joined Jun 2009
Originally posted by Cyber Kat
We would prefer to cruise without hoards of young children running around unsupervised by parents determined to use up all their included drink allowance in one sitting. We would rather cruise with well-traveled adults with a broad range of interests and a love of good conversation as well as traveling. We would rather not cruise with snobs who will look down their noses at us. As I said, we're well situated, we're not top 1% - probably not even top 20%. We worked hard, and we're not leaving any inheritances

We do like a more casual atmosphere - or I should say DH does. I don't mind dressing up, but country club or business casual is fine with me. DH on the other hand is done with suits, dress shirts and ties. He'll do a dress shirt and if pressed a jacket - never a tie - and only 1 or 2 nights. Mostly he likes polo shirts and dress pants for dinner.

This is last is mostly the reason I haven't explored some of the more upscale lines. I know he won't be happy. I'm kind of interested in Seabourn and I'm not ruling some of the others out. I just need information and personal accounts are great - I can weigh them against what I like and it makes it easier to judge

So no - this thread and others like it are not boring!
Cyber Kat - we're in a similar situation as far as not starving but not driving Bentleys either, and we sure as heck ain't leaving our cruising money to the kids!!

We decided to try cruising back in '09 and did a LOT of research, quite a bit of it here on Cruise Critic, and between the information here, talking to friends, and spending way too many hours on the web, we settled on Regent for many of the reasons you've mentioned - good food, good wine, good cabins, few to no kids, and a casual but elegant atmosphere. We've sailed almost exclusively on Regent, and we've come awful close to booking on Seabourn which is, for us, a close second to Regent, at least on paper. I don't think you can go wrong with any of the lines you're looking at - you just need to find the one that best fits you guys.

We're leaving this weekend for another cruise on Regent's Explorer and although I'm taking a sport coat, there's a 50/50 chance it'll spend the cruise hanging in the closet.

Silversea and Crystal have some nice itineraries but everything I've read leads me to believe they're just a bit formal for our tastes (I believe Crystal is changing, though). But I'd sail on either one if the price/itinerary was right. Actually I'd sail on any of the 'luxury' lines if it met my needs, they're all that close.

Based on only having sailed Regent (and Cunard once - just once) and none of the other luxury lines, my preferences are:

1. Regent
2. Seabourn
3. Crystal
4. Silversea

And that list could change next week, or next month, or next year - it just depends on how the lines evolve - and they've all been evolving, at least during the last 8 years since I've been a customer.

Doing all the research sure is fun, isn't it?
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Past cruises:
RSSC Navigator, Mediterranean, July 2009
RSSC Voyager, Baltic, July 2010
Queen Mary 2, Caribbean, December 2010
RSSC Navigator, Alaska, May 2011
RSSC Mariner, Mediterranean, August 2013
RSSC Voyager, Med/Iberia/UK, May 2014 Canx
RSSC Mariner, Mediterranean, July/August 2015
RSSC Navigator, Barcelona-Haifa, July 2016
RSSC Explorer, Barcelona-Venice, April 2017

Upcoming cruises: