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Our picks of the best suites you’ll find on a cruise ship aren’t necessarily the biggest at sea (though spacious digs on ships, where standard cabins typically rival a cheap London hotel for sheer meanness of size, are indeed a luxury).
All of these—and I’ve stayed in them—are superb for a variety of reasons, including an elegant ambience, fun tech toys, lavish bathrooms, walk-in closets, and extra services of butlers and other handlers. We also considered location. It’s an odd truism that on some ships the most elaborate suites back right up onto public deck pool areas and sports courts with no privacy at all.
Size matters. But it’s not everything.
Queen Anne Suite
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2
What works: Spacious, yes, but the Queen Anne suite is also cozy, featuring a living room/dining room combo with a table that seats four, a separate bedroom, one and a half—all marble—bathrooms and the all-important walk-in closet. But what I loved most was the view; the suite stretches halfway across the ship’s bow and from its bay-like windows you can see forever.
The Queen Anne Suite's starting price for a 2012 seven-day transatlantic crossing is $11,895 per person, plus government fees & taxes and fuel supplement, if applicable.
Norwegian’s Epic, Gem, Jade, Jewel, Pearl
What works: This is the best suite at sea for families, perfect for passengers who want small-ship pampering with big-ship entertainment and kids’ clubs. There are a variety of categories within the Haven on each ship, but some villas feature a living room/dining area, kids’ bedroom for two, with its own television and bathroom. There’s a separate master bedroom/bath combo with a fabulous whirlpool tub that’s tucked next to full windows.
From $2,999 per person double occupancy.
Seabourn’s Odyssey, Sojourn, Quest
What works: The Wintergarden, the largest suite you’ll find on Seabourn’s new trio of Odyssey-class ships, is perfectly pleasant, offering a Scandinavian design scheme, dining table for six, huge flat-screen TVs in living room and bedroom. There’s even a charmingly outfitted balcony with a dining table for alfresco meals. But the spot that will make you swoon is its conservatory, utterly unique, which sports a glassed-in solarium. Soaking in the egg-shaped tub while the ship is cruising is a marvelous feeling (er, in port you’ll need to draw the Venetian blinds), and the adjacent day bed is a wonderful spot for an afternoon nap.
From $10,200 per person based on double occupancy. Rates vary according to itinerary, and are subject to change and availability.
All suites, Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette
What works: Whether you’re talking about its lavish public rooms, its airy spa, its cinema, or its staterooms, S.S. Antoinette is not only the most gorgeous riverboat afloat, it’s also quite possibly the most beautiful ship anywhere. Its suites are magnificent. All have different themes but share in common Savoir beds, original artwork, silk-lined walls, and, particularly unusual, a walk-out balcony that can be converted, in inclement weather, to an indoor conservatory with the flick of a switch.
Royal Suite (pictured): From $3,725 per person above the base cruise price ($2,249–$3,499 per person).
Oceania Cruises’ Marina
What works: Marina’s trio of Owner’s Suites are a cross between a private yacht and a glamorous New York apartment in a 1940s flick. At 2,000 square feet apiece, they’re huge, but it’s the décor that wows, with touches like an ebony baby grand piano in the foyer and wraparound teak-covered verandas tricked out with a hot tub (with its own flat-screen television), dining table, and comfy chaises. Furnishings and bedding come from the Ralph Lauren Home Collection. The Riviera, launching in April, will have similar suites.
Prices vary based on the length of the cruise and the itinerary. Some sample prices: $6,999 per guest (basis two) for a seven-day Caribbean cruise; $14,999 per guest (basis two) for a 12-day Mediterranean cruise.
What works: After a complete refurb, Crystal’s penthouse suites are the most stylish at sea. Layout-wise, the suite’s a huge L-shaped space but you can pull a voluminous (and sound-reducing) curtain to cordon off the bedroom. Butlers serve course-by-course meals; residents can also order off menus from alternative eateries Piero Selvaggio's Prego and Nobu’s Silk Road.
Until December 31, 2011, “Book Now” fares for early-2013 itineraries range from $1,360 for a 10-day Miami-Lisbon Transatlantic leaving March 19, 2012, to $48,905 for a 2012, 94-day World Cruise round-trip from L.A.
What works: If you want to experience exotic itineraries—and at the same time maintain, if not improve, your wellness regimen, the four spa suites on Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa offer balance in the word’s best sense. They don’t just offer a pseudo-organic ambience as do most cruise lines with a trendy spa suite concept. Passengers booked here get lots of spa extras, from nutritional sessions to customized massage treatment plans.
From $12,450 per person, based on double occupancy for a 12-day cruise.