Cruising is evolving so fast that someone may have brought out a new contender for being the biggest or best before you’ve reached the end of this article.
For now, to celebrate the innovative – and sometimes outrageous – approach taken by various cruise lines, we’ve put together a compendium of superlatives.
1. Biggest suite
A typical standard cabin on a modern cruise ship will give you 160 to 200 square feet of floor space. If you want to take your kids, grandchildren and parents (but sorry, not the dog), then Norwegian Cruise Line’s three-bedroom Garden Villa cannot be beaten – it covers an almighty 5,750 sq ft. That’s four times the size of a typical three-bed semi-detached house. Available in the exclusive Haven on four of the company’s ships, the villa has four bathrooms, an eight-seater dining table, garden terrace with hot tub and, of course, butler service.
2. Best bed
Costing as much as a top-of-the-range Mercedes, the bespoke Savoir bed in the top suite on Regent Seven Sea’s uber-luxe Explorer should at the very least guarantee a decent night’s sleep. The mattress is filled with horsehair and the linen alone is said to be worth more than £40,000. You’ll awake to a nice view too as the bed faces the sea. The Regent Suite also comes with a Steinway piano so your partner can play you lullabies to help you drift off.
3. Most valuable art collection
When Holland America’s Koningsdam was launched in 2016, it boasted an art collection valued at more than $4million (£3m), turning the ship into a floating gallery. The most expensive piece is the £600,000, seven-ton Harps sculpture in the atrium but there’s something for everyone among almost 2,000 works by artists from 21 countries, from classic to avant-garde. Among the materials used for the more intriguing art is paint-injected bubble wrap.
4. Longest waterslide
Most big ships now have at least one plastic tube that conveys squealing kids (and petrified adults) around a series of loops, swooping into a splash pool. At 394ft, the longest waterslide so far is Vertigo on MSC Cruises’ Preziosa. In case you were thinking of a serene glide through the purple snake, your journey is interrupted by a transparent section when the slide heads out sideways, far above the waves. Vertigo is not the tallest waterslide at sea, though; that title belongs to Ultimate Abyss, which happens to be on…
5. Biggest ship
Do you like figures? Try these. Royal Caribbean’s new Symphony of the Seas displaces 228,000 tons (that’s 750 Boeing jumbo jets). It is 1,188ft long (almost four football pitches), 238ft high and has 18 decks. It can accommodate up to 6,680 passengers and 2,200 crew. There are 22 places to eat, 24 pools and tubs, 24 lifts and, in the park that runs through the ship’s centre, 20,000 plants. It cost almost £1 billion to build. And the Ultimate Abyss waterslide is 10 storeys high.
6. Longest cruise
On August 31, 2019, Viking Sun will set out from Greenwich – and won’t arrive back there for 245 days. In between, its 930 guests will visit every continent apart from Antarctica, call at 113 ports in 59 countries and cover almost 64,000 miles – and the ship will no doubt double in weight with all their souvenirs. Destinations include Greenland, New York, the Caribbean, the Amazon, the Falklands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Borneo, China, India and Jordan. Balcony cabins start from £66,990pp but the top suites, including the £194,390pp Owner’s Suite, have already sold out.
7. Oldest wine
The first transatlantic crossing by a Cunard ship was in 1840 – and that’s the date on a bottle of port in the Carinthia Lounge of Queen Mary 2. The bar features several more ports marking key years in Cunard’s history. You can’t taste them at any price – they are a permanent historical display. For wines you can drink, the collection on Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships is one of the largest at sea. The two-deck, temperature-controlled glass wine tower in the main dining room holds 1,800 bottles from around the world.
8. Best restaurant
There are many contenders for this title, such as Disney’s Remi (fine French), Oceania’s Red Ginger (Asian fusion), Holland America’s Pinnacle Grill (perfect steaks), Viking’s Manfredi’s (Italian), P&O Cruises’ The Epicurean (molecular) and Silversea’s Relais & Chateaux-approved La Dame. One of our favourites is the Sushi Bar on Crystal Symphony, serving sensational sushi and sashimi designed by legendary chef Nobu Matsuhisa. From November 2018 it will share its space with Umi Uma, specialising in Nobu’s Japanese-Peruvian creations. Best of all, guests can eat here once without supplement.
9. Fastest ship
It’s Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 again. Specifically designed for transatlantic crossings, it slices between Southampton and New York at 30 knots (34.5mph), whereas most large cruise ships run out of puff at about 20 knots (23mph). The hull shape means your G&T will barely be rippled even at that speed. Power comes from two gas turbines and four diesel engines that together produced about double the output of a conventional ship.
10. Biggest pool
For serious swimmers, the 25-metre pool on Tui’s German-speaking Mein Schiff 4 is easily the longest at sea. English-speaking bathers should head for P&O Oriana, where the Crystal Pool measures a generous 12m x 5.25m, large enough for a proper workout. It’s an adults-only ship, so you won’t get splashed by kids.
11. Tallest observation deck
You pay for those endless sea views, but if you want to boast that you are the highest-person-on-any-cruise-ship-at-this-precise-moment, then you need to be in the North Star pod of Royal Caribbean’s three Quantum-class ships. The 14-passenger pod swings on a giant arm, reaching 300ft (just short of Big Ben) above the waves and entering Guinness World Records as the highest viewing deck on a cruise ship. It sways out over the side of the ship, so you’ll need a head for heights or a stiff drink beforehand.
12. Biggest spa
Although it’s a few years old now, we can’t find a larger spa than the Mandara on Norwegian Epic. A small army of therapists can administer more than 50 different treatments in 24 private rooms. The Four Hands Massage is the signature treatment but the ‘Hot Stone Heaven’ using volcanic rocks from Hawaii and the Elemis Exotic Frangipani Body Nourish Wrap sound deliciously exotic. Add in the Hydrotherapy Courtyard, with tropical garden in which to unwind, and you could easily find a few hours disappearing.
13. Most sails
There are a number of cruise ships that use wind power, at least for some of the time, as propulsion. Star Clippers’ Royal Clipper is not only the world’s largest true passenger sailing ship but has the most sails – 42 giant white sheets billowing from five tall masts. When the breeze is up, the crew sets the sails to the sound of Vangelis’ Conquest of Paradise pumped out of deck speakers. Even after a week it still stirs the soul.
14. Best cocktail
Most cruise lines will lay claim to this title, so we’ll just pick two of our favourites. The Martini Bar on several Celebrity ships offers a flight of six small martinis poured all at once on a frost-topped counter. Various flavours are available, with apple our choice. Then there’s the Rebellious Fish on NCL ships, simply because the fruity concoction is served in a fishbowl. Accompanying goldfish are not available.
15. Most bizarre feature
Back in the day, mutineers, pirates and general ne’er-do-wells were forced to walk the plank over the side of a ship, ending up at the mercy of the sharks below….
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