One of the great things about a cruise vacation is feeling like a rock star, if only for a week. Extravagant dinners in a different port every evening. Nights spent dressed to the nines in 19th century casinos. Lunchtime shopping along boutique-studded boulevards.
Such is life aboard a luxury ship. And many offer not only one-of-a-kind experiences and lavish onboard service but also a few extra treats and optional excursions that will have you desperate to book your next trip before you’ve even disembarked.
Here are some great ways to live like the 1 percent on your next cruise.
Be an underwater explorer
Explore shipwrecks from a deep-sea submersible on Crystal
Crystal Cruises is an old hand at offering one-of-a-kind experiences. Must-do onboard experiences include indulging in master chef and celeb fave Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa’s cuisine — lobster with truffle-yuzu sauce, grilled Wagyu rib-eye with wasabi pepper sauce — at Crystal’s Silk Road and The Sushi Bar eateries, and catching a mind-bending show at invitation-only Magic Castle, featuring master magician Rich Bloch and his cohorts from Hollywood’s namesake private magicians’ club. But one of the most unique experiences offered aboard Crystal Esprit is the chance to board Crystal’s deep-sea submersible and dive down 1,000 feet to explore reefs and shipwrecks hidden far below the surface crowd.
Harvest a black pearl
Find oysters beneath the sea in Tahiti on Windstar
Each Windstar Cruises sailing includes a Private Event designed to immerse passengers in the destination and culture: In Monaco, guests play the tables at the Grand Casino before dessert at Café Paris; in Ephesus, Turkey, passengers enjoy a five-course, white glove candlelit dinner accompanied by a trio from the Aegean Chamber Orchestra at the Library of Celsus, completed in 117 A.D.
Now Windstar is extending this exclusive feel to its newest shore excursions. On the seven-day Dreams of Tahiti itinerary offers, guests have the chance to do something very special: to harvest their own Tahitian black pearl. Just off the island of Raiatea, guests are taken by skiff to an over-water reef house for a lesson on pearl farming and jewelry production in French Polynesia before donning snorkel gear to explore the underground workings of a pearl farm. Then it's time for a treasure hunt: Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to find four oysters hidden by staff around the reef house, any of which might contain a black pearl.
Pack the pooch
Bring Winston along on your next Queen Mary 2 crossing
One of the perks of being rich and famous is being able to bring your pets with you whenever you travel. Oprah is renowned for flying her dogs by private jet to meet her at various homes, and you may recall Jonny Depp and Amber Heard got into deep water with Australian authorities after failing to mention they’d brought their two Yorkshire Terriers on a trip there in 2015. Cunard’s flagship liner Queen Mary 2 is not only a benchmark for luxurious transatlantic travel, but it’s also the only passenger liner to offer accommodations for four-legged friends. This past summer's refurbishment of QM2 included an upgrade and expansion of the kennels on the ship, doubling the amount of “rooms” and increasing the outdoor walking space for dogs and the owners to enjoy. You can even coordinate outfits — Cunard is partnering with British outdoors brand Barbour to offer stylish collars and leashes so dogs look as glam as their owners while aboard.
Eat up St. Tropez
Indulge in 21 gourmet experiences throughout the Med
Hungry to improve your culinary skills? Regent Seven Seas has your back, 21 times over. Over the summer, when the line launched Seven Seas Explorer in Monaco, it also debuted 21 Gourmet Explorer experiences throughout the Mediterranean for her guests, designed to augment the learning experiences offered on board at the Culinary Arts Kitchen. In Barcelona, you can explore Catalan cuisine on strolls through the famed Boqueria and Santa Caterina markets before lunch and go on a kitchen tour with Chef Jordi Cruz at Michelin two-star restaurant ABaC. In Monaco, you can go wine tasting at Cave Bianchi in Nice — cellars here have been pouring the best from France’s vineyards since 1860 — followed by dinner at La Chèvre d’Or restaurant.
But perhaps the jewel in the culinary crown is the chance to live it up like Brigitte Bardot with an evening of lavish culinary indulgence on the scenic French Riviera. First you’ll taste three Provence varietals at the famed La Croix winery; then settle in for jet set service at the renowned La Vague d’Or in St. Tropez, awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide.
Sip cocktails with an Austrian princess
Peer into lives of European aristocrats on Uniworld
After a long day dealing with the running of the palace, sometimes a royal lady needs a stiff drink — and on this occasion she’d like to invite you to join her. As part of Uniworld’s Monarch Collection — experiences that invite you into lives of European aristocrats — you can attend a cocktail reception at Artstetten Castle with Princess Anita von Hohenberg, a direct descendent of Empress Maria Theresa. While many Austrian castles are public properties, Artstetten Castle remains the private property of the Hohenberg family, so it's akin to being welcomed to a family home. Artstetten is also the final resting place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie — the princess’s great-grandparents — whose assassination in Sarajevo triggered WWI. At the museum dedicated to Franz Ferdinand within the castle walls you’ll discover the stern-looking archduke had a romantic side: He renounced his descendants’ claim to the Habsburg throne in order to marry for love. Alas, the love story didn't end well.
Monarch Collection is available on select 2016 and 2017 European Jewels and Enchanting Danube itineraries.
Want to cruise on one of these lines?
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In our series Luxury Cruises
- A taste of what you'll find on a luxury cruise
- Guide to all-inclusive pricing on cruise ships
- Guide to VIP enclaves on cruise ships
- 20 most luxurious staterooms on a cruise ship
- Experiencing Alaska on a luxury ship
- Butler service: A blissful perk on high-end cruises
- Top amenities on a Crystal cruise
- Top luxury spas at high-end cruise lines
- Is a world cruise right for you?