I’ve toured all of the world’s best cruise ship suites — here’s why these 5 blew me away
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As regular readers know, I’m as happy in a tiny “inside” cabin as I am in a super-suite on a cruise ship. I’m a minimalist at heart, and all I really require from a cruise ship cabin is a place to lay my head at night and enough storage for what I can fit in a 21-inch carry-on bag.
But even a minimalist can be wowed by the over-the-top maximalism that has taken hold in what I’ve been calling the Great Cruise Ship Suite Wars.
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One of the biggest stories in the cruise world over the past 15 years or so has been the arrival of a new generation of super-large, super-swanky suites on ships that are chock full of every sort of upscale feature and amenity you could imagine — and they are sights to behold.
Some of the biggest of these suites measure 2,000 square feet or more — approaching the size of the typical American home. A handful go far beyond that.
If you’re a fan of super-suites, there’s never been a better time to cruise.
I haven’t stayed in all of these new suites. But over more than 20 years of writing about cruise ships and sailing on more than 150 different vessels, I’ve toured pretty much all of them. I can’t think of any major cruise ship suite that I’ve missed. And there are a few that really have stood out.
Below, you’ll find my picks for the five most spectacular suites at sea.
In some cases, these are one-of-a-kind suites found on only a single vessel. In other cases, they are suites that have similar sisters on multiple ships.
To be clear, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Disney fans will no doubt admonish me for not including the supersized suites on some Disney Cruise Line ships, such as the Art Deco-influenced Roy O. Disney Suite on the Disney Fantasy. I’ve been in these suites, and — for sure — they are impressive.
Also missing from my list — and worth honourable mentions at the very least — are the Owner’s Suites on ocean ships that Viking has been rolling out since 2015. True owner’s suites in the sense that they are used by Viking founder and owner Torstein Hagen when he sails on the ships (and incorporate some of his personal items, including family photos), they are the ultimate in Scandinavian cool.
Luxury lines Silversea, Seabourn and Crystal Cruises also offer quite a few wonderful suites on their ships, and some of the biggest suites at sea are those found on Norwegian Cruise Line‘s Jewel Class vessels.
The Regent Suite
Ship: Seven Seas Splendor (Regent Seven Seas Cruises)
Every time I think of this suite, I think of that famous scene in “Dr Zhivago” where Comrade Kapuchina dresses down the good doctor on the size of his mansion. “There was living space for 13 families in this one house!” she scolds.
You might not be able to jam 13 families into the Regent Suite. But, in a pinch, you probably could come close. It sprawls over an astounding 4,443 square feet — nearly twice the size of the average American home. And its opulence is like nothing you’ll find anywhere else at sea (except on a similar suite found on Regent Seven Seas’ four-year-old Seven Seas Explorer).
Located at the very front of Seven Seas Splendor, the Regent Suite is so big it stretches all the way from one side of the ship to the other, offering views in three directions. It has two massive bedroom complexes — and they really are complexes, with seemingly endless space — three bathrooms, a living room, a separate dining area and what is perhaps the most spectacular balcony at sea.
Among the insanely over-the-top things you’ll find in the Regent Suite is a bed with a handmade mattress that Regent executives claim cost more than $200,000. It was handcrafted by four artisans at the renowned Hästens workshop in Köping, Sweden, using horsetail hair along with flax, and cotton and wool batting.
The Regent Suite also has a ridiculously large master bathroom that doubles as a personal spa, complete with its own sauna and steam room. It’s big enough that it also can be used as a personal spa treatment room. To that end, the Regent Suite — get this — comes with its very own spa therapist on call. Unlimited spa treatments are included in the cost of the suite.
Other perks of staying in the Regent Suite include first-class domestic flights to reach the ship; a personal car, driver and guide in every port; and a dedicated butler to help make arrangements on board.
The only downside to a stay? Regent charges $11,000 (about £7,975) a day for the privilege.
Royal Loft Suite
Ship: Quantum of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
At 1,640 square feet, the Royal Loft Suite on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas isn’t nearly as big as the Regent Suite on Seven Seas Splendor. But it offers something the latter doesn’t: Views across the ship’s wake through a soaring, two-deck-high glass wall.
That’s right, the Royal Loft Suite on Quantum of the Seas sprawls over two decks and has a main room that is two stories high — a lavish use of space that is rare in the cruise world.
Royal Caribbean offers a Royal Loft Suite on each of its Oasis Class and Quantum Class ships. But there are some design differences between them, and my favourite of them all is the Royal Loft Suite on Quantum of the Seas — the first vessel in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class series.
Sleeping up to six, it offers a stylish, two-deck-high living and dining room space facing the complex’s giant window wall, complete with such modernist touches as an Eames Lounge Chair (which, being a minimalist, I of course adore). Among its highlights are a dry bar and sofa that converts into a double bed.
The first floor of the Royal Loft Suite also is home to a media room with a sofa that converts into a queen bed. It’s perfect for the kids, should you be travelling with kids.
Upstairs, the main bedroom is open-walled so you can see across the living area to the sea. It also is accessed via a bridge-like walkway, which I just love. It’s like crossing a drawbridge into your own private castle at sea.
Rounding out the complex is a spacious, 415-square-foot private balcony that has its own private whirlpool — another great place from which to look out over the water.
The Balmoral Suite
Ship: Queen Mary 2 (Cunard Line)
Royal Caribbean wasn’t the first cruise line to go the double-decker route when designing over-the-top suites. A decade before the debut of Quantum of the Seas, Cunard Line wowed cruise fans with the unveiling of this two-deck-high Grand Duplex suite and a sister suite, the Sandringham, on its iconic Queen Mary 2.
Named after a castle in Scotland owned by Queen Elizabeth II, the Balmoral Suite is fit for a queen with a stunning 2,249 square feet of living space.
Like Royal Caribbean’s Royal Loft Suites, both the Balmoral Suite and the Sandringham Suite have a sprawling living room and dining area on their ground floors and a spacious master bedroom complex on their second levels.
If that’s not enough room, you can go even bigger by joining together one of the suites with four adjacent suites to create a massive complex measuring more than 9,000 square feet.
Take that, Comrade Kapuchina.
One thing that I particularly love about the Grand Duplex Suites is that their master bedrooms are reached via dramatic, curving staircases.
Another allure of the Grand Duplex suites is that they come with access to the Queen Mary 2’s exclusive Queens Grill restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only open to passengers staying in the very top accommodations on the ship, this is a much more intimate, elegant and private eatery than the main Britannia restaurant where most passengers dine.
It’s the restaurant that was heavily highlighted in the recent Meryl Streep movie Let Them All Talk, which was set on the Queen Mary 2.
Ship: Celebrity Reflection (Celebrity Cruises)
Many Celebrity Cruises ships have spacious and alluring suites. But the newest of the line’s five Solstice Class vessels, the Celebrity Reflection, has one that tops all the others: The Reflection Suite.
Unveiled in 2012, the Reflection Suite was the brand’s first two-bedroom suite, and it measures a none-too-shabby 1,636 square feet, not including a 194-square-foot balcony.
Located in a panoramic corner spot on the ship, it features a glass-walled living and dining area with a dining table that can seat 10 people (just in case you want to hold a dinner party during your cruise) as well as two bedrooms.
But what will really knock your socks off when walking into the Reflection Suite is its stunning, glass-walled master bathroom. Dubbed a “sea-view bathroom,” it is just that — a bathroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that offers incredible sea views. It’s the most-talked-about highlight: A glass-enclosed rain shower that juts out over the edge of the ship.
Just be careful if you use it as the ship pulls into port. You might end up putting on a show.
That said, we can’t think of another bathroom on a cruise ship that is quite so cool.
Ship: Riviera (Oceania Cruises)
The Owner’s Suites on Riviera — there are three of them — rival anything you can find at a resort on land when it comes to elegance and style.
So do three more Owner’s Suites that you can find on Riviera’s slightly older sister ship, Marina.
All six of the suites were decorated using Ralph Lauren furnishings by designer Susan Bednar Long, and they have a wonderful flow and consistency in style.
The mahogany Bel Air beds that you’ll find in the master bedrooms are upholstered in steel-blue mohair — a striking touch — and are flanked by walls covered in Austyn cashmere. A few steps away, a marble-clad master bathroom offering more luxurious Ralph Lauren design touches.
Measuring around 2,000 square feet, the Owner’s Suites also have spacious living rooms and a dramatic entryway with a bar on one side and a grand piano on the other.
Plus there’s lots of outdoor living space with wrap-around balconies that are home to hot tubs and flat-screen TVs. These balconies overlook the back of the ship, offering great views.
In addition, among extra touches, a stay in one of the suites comes with butler service; free laundry service of up the three bags per sailing; priority ship embarkation with priority luggage delivery; and access to an exclusive Executive Lounge staffed by a dedicated Concierge.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured image courtesy of Oceania Cruises
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