The romance of cruising as a couple leaps off the page of those glossy magazine brochures. Photos of couples admiring the view at sunset or sipping champagne on their private verandah wistfully gazing at each other or spending time alone on a deserted beach with their mega-ship anchored in the background. Cruising can be one of the most romantic vacation options and choosing the right cruise line and, even more specifically, the right ship within the fleet, can be a big challenge.
Thanks to a $15 million facelift in September 2014, Crystal Symphony now boasts a handful of innovative amenities and renovated areas, including updated spa and casino venues and an outdoor Fitness Garden with cardio training machines. Crystal Symphony’s superior customer service sets it apart from its luxury competitors. The ship can carry up to 922 guests but it never feels crowded thanks to an abundance of quiet onboard areas and a low passenger-to-crew ratio, with 545 staff members catering to guests. The Feng Shui-inspired Crystal Spa offers unique treatments like Japanese Silk Booster Facials and Aroma Stone massages for guests looking to unwind. About 58 percent of accommodation offer verandas, all staterooms afford ocean views and each comes outfitted with a flat-screen TV, a large bathroom with a bathtub, a double sink and Aveda products, and free Wi-Fi access. Guests staying in a Penthouse category room are treated to extra privileges like complimentary welcome Champagne, afternoon canapés, free Internet access and butler service. You’ll be impressed with the ship’s extensive culinary offerings, which offer menu items selected by acclaimed chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Piero Selvaggio.
The newest Cunard ship, Queen Elizabeth set sail in 2010. With a capacity for a little more than 2,050 guests, Queen Elizabeth maintains a 1-to-2 crew-to-passenger ratio, providing more customization than you might find on a larger ship. The crew provide five-star service, especially during the embarkation and disembarkation process. Smaller than the cruise line’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth offers nearly 1,050 staterooms, 85 percent of which are outside cabins. In-room amenities include a mini-fridge, a half-bottle of sparkling wine, nightly turndown service and in the suites, walk-in closets and butler service. Daytime activities include enrichment classes, afternoon tea and outdoor garden parties. While this ship does provide some supervised entertainment for kids, the fact that Queen Elizabeth offers more adult-centered activities means a more peaceful cruising experience as a couple. For those interested in improving their dance skills, Queen Elizabeth is the only Cunard ship to offer dance lessons on board.
Carrying only 490 passengers, Seven Seas Navigator offers guests’ intimate surroundings, with all-suite accommodations outfitted with marble bathrooms, L’Occitane bath products and in most guestrooms, a private balcony. First launched in 1999, it boats modern facilities thanks to a major renovation in 2009. Like other Regent Seven Seas ships, Seven Seas Navigator prides itself on its high-caliber service, and maintains a nearly 1-to-1 passenger-to-crew ratio, with 345 crew members catering to guests. During days at sea, guests can unwind at the expansive pool deck, enjoy a rejuvenating treatment at the Canyon Ranch SpaClub or mingle with fellow shipmates over a cocktail at the Pool Bar. When it comes to dining, the ship offers three main venues, each with varied meal choices and atmospheres. Compass Rose which offers a mélange of European-inspired cuisine and the ship’s other eateries, especially Prime 7, are worth a visit. In the evenings, guests can venture to the swanky Connoisseur Club for a Cuban cigar or explore one of the four other onboard lounges.
Introduced in 2003 and refurbished in 2008 and again in 2011, the 3,090-passenger Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s flagship. Known for offering frequent trans-Atlantic crossings between New York City and Southampton, England, Queen Mary 2 is Cunard’s largest ship. All rooms include a full bathroom with a shower and tub and nightly turndown service, and almost 75 percent of the ship’s staterooms boast an 8-foot balcony. Nighttime entertainment on Queen Mary 2 features the cruise line’s signature theme balls and ballroom dancing, but unlike Cunard’s other ships, Queen Mary 2 also features the G32 nightclub, a two-level club with a live band and DJ. While Queen Mary 2 contains some of Cunard’s signature dining venues, such as the Queens Grill, Princess Grill and Britannia restaurants, it stands out with a few more unique eateries. The Todd English restaurant is another fine dining option you won’t find on any other Cunard ship.
Carrying up to 835 passengers and 470 crew members, the ms Prinsendam can navigate to remote ports of call. In 2015, the ms Prinsendam will spend most of its time in Europe and the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to explore the Caribbean and South America. A main selling point of sailing on the ms Prinsendam is its intimate atmosphere. You won’t have to battle as many people for a spot by the Lido pool or a seat in the Crow’s Nest lounge. Staterooms range from 150 to 862 square feet, whereas the top tier suites on other ships often exceed 1,000 square feet. Many passengers are happy to give up the extra legroom for more customized experiences and the chance to sail to harder-to-reach destinations than those you would expect to explore on a 4,000-guest megaship. This is also a better option if you’re looking to avoid a cruise geared toward families.
Quest appeals to travelers seeking an intimate atmosphere. While the ship can carry nearly 700 guests, thanks to a low crew-to-passenger ratio with 408 crew members on board, the ship maintains a higher level of service than its midsize competitors. The ship’s well-appointed staterooms, outfitted with amenities like flat-screen TVs, minibars and custom About Rose toiletries, put Quest a notch above other ships in the same size category. Guests staying in suites are granted even more privileges, like butler service, a complimentary bottle of vodka and Scotch whisky, and complimentary dining at specialty restaurants Aqualina and Prime C. With four casual venues and the main dining area, travelers can count on versatile culinary experiences. The evening lineup is just as diverse. There’s blackjack in Casino Luxe, nightly shows at the Cabaret Lounge and cocktails coupled with ocean views at the Looking Glass Lounge.
The 3,082-passenger Caribbean Princess offers the amenities of its Grand-class siblings along with modern innovations, like a 300-square-foot theater for film screenings and an adults-only sundeck. The Sanctuary is an outdoor space, guests can lounge in private cabanas, enjoy sunset yoga classes and order free specialty beverages. With three upscale dining rooms, seven casual eateries and two specialty restaurants as well as unique balcony dining experience onboard, guests have a myriad of choices. Cabin categories range from 163-square-foot interior staterooms to 1,279-square-foot suites. Though stateroom sizes are comparable to other Grand class ships, roughly 80 percent of exterior cabins are appointed with private balconies, about 5 percent higher than most ships within the fleet.
After undergoing a multimillion dollar refurbishment in May 2014, Nautica has emerged with a new stateroom décor, a cook-to-order steak and lobster grill at the Terrace Café and the addition of a coffee bar and putting green, among other features. Nautica accommodates 684 passengers and 400 crew members, so cruisers can expect plenty of attention along with a less congested and typically kid-free onboard atmosphere. Geared toward older crowds, thanks to features like afternoon tea, wine tastings and the Canyon Ranch SpaClub. The ship also features a heated pool and three whirlpools. Nautica’s nighttime entertainment offerings range from comedians and musical acts to Cosmopolitans and Lemon Drops at Martinis bar. Dining aboard this ship is equally diverse with five restaurants to choose from, including a popular steakhouse and the elegant Grand Dining Room. In Nautica’s staterooms, cruisers will find BVLGARI toiletries, flat-screen TVs and minibars stocked with sodas and bottled water.
Launched in October 2012, the 3,046-passenger Celebrity Reflection is Celebrity’s newest ship. With features including a top-deck Lawn Club complete with an art studio and open-air grill, along with three additional suite class categories, the Celebrity Reflection sets itself from its mainstream competitors. Staterooms are 15 percent larger on average than sister ships and each comes appointed with a minibar, flat-screen TV and sitting area. Guests staying in one of the ship’s AquaClass suites are rewarded with extra perks, like direct access to the spa, a 79-square-foot veranda and 24-hour butler service. The pool areas are particularly comfortable and never overly crowded though Celebrity Reflection can hardly be classified as intimate with a capacity for 3,000-plus passengers but thanks to nearly 2-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio, it offers a higher level of service.
Pride of America is the only ship in the industry that offers sailings in Hawaii year-round. The ship represents the Aloha State with its Cultural Center teaching travelers about the history of Hawaii with hands-on learning programs and educational lectures. The ship isn’t only a top pick for travelers looking to cruise in Hawaii. The ship also caters to single travelers with its nearly 100-square-foot Studio cabins, which are designed especially for solo travelers and grant extra perks like access to the Studio Lounge. The ship also offers standard Inside and Ocean view rooms ranging from 132 to 144 square feet. Though these accommodations are smaller on average compared to the cabins found on older ships like Norwegian Sun and Norwegian Star, they are spacious enough to fit a queen-sized bed and a sitting area.