Caribbean & Bermuda, Global The Evolution of Luxury Cruising

Silk napkins, plush robes, crystal flutes and an exceptional crew-to-guest ratio – these were once the hallmarks of luxury cruising. And while they are still present, the rest of the cruise experience is changing to become more experiential, more adventurous, and even more refined.

To give you an insider’s view at the modern state of luxury cruising, we asked three of our cruising partners to give us their own insights and opinions. Read on to discover how Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn and Silversea are elevating their onboard amenities, shore excursions and the ships themselves to provide a travel experience worthy of today’s cruisers.

Chris Austin, Seabourn


Chris Austin, Senior VP of Sales & Marketing


How has luxury cruising changed in the last 20 years?

CA: Much has changed in the last 20 years, and it’s important to stay up-to-date on the most current trends in the travel industry to remain successful. More importantly, we have to listen to our guests, travel advisors and partners to know what they like, don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work. At Seabourn, innovation, creativity and leading the ultra-luxury segment and “not following” are part of our brand’s DNA.

Years ago luxury expectations were more visible – ornate furnishings, more “in your face.” Today, luxury is more relaxed and perhaps a bit more sophisticated than 20 years ago. Today’s ultra-luxury traveler’s wish list includes authentic, immersive experiences. They want to see more of the world. People are looking for more transformation travel.

What has Seabourn done to stay at the forefront of luxury cruising?

CA: One example of how we have changed over the years to stay at the forefront: verandas in suites. Over the years, we have seen that luxury travelers want – and some even expect – to stay in a suite with a private veranda. So when we set out to design the Odyssey-class ships in the late 2000s, we made sure to include plenty of verandas. More than 90%of those suites have verandas, and on our two newest ships – Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation – every single suite has a veranda. To connect with more guests, especially those that have never cruised, we even adapted as time evolved to call our veranda suites “oceanfront suites.” After all, we do offer the very best view of the ocean any resort in the world can offer.

Also, in the ultra-luxury segment, the quest for authentic experiences is at the forefront, more so than tangible luxury goods. Another area where we’ve seen an increasing demand is expedition travel. Our past guests have shown great interest in these experiences. To meet this demand, we are launching two new expedition ships, which are expected to be delivered in 2021 and 2022, respectively. The new ships will be a brand new innovative design, created specifically for the ultra-luxury expedition traveler, and will include many amenities that have made Seabourn ships so successful as well as a host of features designed to enhance the expedition experience. With our new expedition ships, Seabourn will offer a true ultra-luxury expedition product with no compromise. The ships will add new capacity for Seabourn in Antarctica, the Arctic and other exotic destinations around the world. As vessels built for ultra-luxury expedition travel, the ships will offer luxury travelers a number of amenities designed to deliver an unparalleled guest experience in some of the most remote areas in the world, including many established Seabourn favorites. We are counting down the days to when we welcome our first expedition ship to the Seabourn family!

Jason Montague, Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Jason Montague, President & CEO


How has luxury cruising changed in the last 20 years?

JM: Perhaps the biggest evolution in the last 20 years is Regent’s Every Luxury Included approach. Our guests love all-inclusiveness because they do not want the hassle of paying for charges throughout their voyage. Regent’s fares always include all-suite accommodations, round-trip business-class air on intercontinental flights from the U.S. and Canada, ground transfers, the largest collection of unlimited shore excursions, unlimited internet access, highly personalized service, exquisite cuisine and specialty restaurants, fine wines and spirits, enrichment speakers and entertainment, gratuities and one-night, pre-cruise hotel packages for guests staying in Concierge-level suites and higher. Once our guests step on board, they experience the true value of our all-inclusiveness with the sense of comfort and freedom it brings.

The next big change is how luxury is defined. Luxury is an overused and misunderstood term in travel. Regent believes that luxury travel is ultimately defined by the details that create each moment. Therefore, for Regent to deliver a truly unrivaled experience for our guests, we must focus on the little details of every moment that add up to an unforgettable voyage. For example, more than great food, every meal is a celebration of the senses. More than places to rest, every suite delivers comfort and luxury on par with the world’s finest hotels. Beyond typical tourist spots, every off-ship excursion provides unique combinations of culture and discovery.

The third change is the perspective of our guests. Today, Regent Seven Seas Cruises guests may come from all over, but they share an insatiable curiosity about the world and desire to experience as much of it as they can. They prioritize these experiences over material goods. Luxury consumers today crave unique immersive and authentic experiences they can share with family and friends, making memories to cherish for a lifetime.

What has Regent Seven Seas Cruises done to stay at the forefront of luxury cruising?

JM: We continue to elevate how our guests immerse themselves and fully discover the world, while returning home to the exquisite comfort and care on board with every luxury included. We recently introduced new initiatives such as Go Local Tours. The program offers immersive experiences designed to give guests better insights into the culture of a destination. Examples include a trip to a traditional goat farm in the Andalusian countryside or a visit to an artist’s studio in Palma de Mallorca. Also new are Regent Choice small group tours, which limit the number of participants on popular shore excursions to allow for a more personal experience.

Mark Conroy, Silversea Cruises

Silversea Cruises

Mark Conroy, Managing Director


How has luxury cruising changed in the last 20 years?

Luxury cruising has evolved over the years to reflect innovations in products and services, from introducing balconies and butlers, to improving staff-to-guest and space ratios, to adding multiple specialty dining options and more inclusions. It has responded to a growing interest in adventure and experiential travel by offering an elevated expedition experience designed for luxury travelers. And every step of the way, Silversea has been at the forefront of refining and redefining the luxury cruise experience.

There was a time when luxury cruising mainly appealed to an affluent, older and less active demographic. Back then, capacities were flat and occupancies were about 80 percent. Today we’re seeing record growth in capacity in the luxury and expedition segments, with occupancy rates that are over 90 percent. And while the average age of our guests has decreased, even our older guests seem to be healthier and enjoying a more active lifestyle.

At Silversea, we’re also catering to more multigenerational family groups, helping them to create long-lasting memories of their shared vacation experience, which now often takes place on journeys to more far-flung destinations. Currently, Silversea’s ships alone visit more than 900 different ports, providing a broader variety of global travel choices.

What has Silversea Cruises done to stay at the forefront of luxury cruising?

Several years ago, we recognized the potential of luxury expedition cruises and decided to expand into this exciting segment of travel with a groundbreaking fleet of elegantly appointed ships boasting enhanced onboard comforts and amenities, as well as itineraries rich in unique and remote destinations.

Overall, we’ve updated our product offering to appeal to the most discerning guests with itineraries designed to travel deeper to unlock truly inspirational and authentic experiences. At the same time, our culinary options have been expanded to offer greater variety, with an appeal to more sophisticated tastes, which is showcased in our increased number of onboard dining venues.

While we continually update and reimagine our existing ships, we are also introducing new ships that will incorporate enhancements and innovations that are based on feedback from our guests and crew, and our focus on improving the overall guest experience. We’re building slightly larger ocean-going ships with spacious suites and public spaces that will preserve an intimate onboard atmosphere by hosting no more than 600 guests. And as today’s guests want to stay connected with their family and work when traveling, we’re making sure our ship innovations include the latest technology that will let them escape in comfort, and still stay in touch.

Lindblad Expeditions

Scott Harner, Regional Sales Director


How has luxury cruising changed in the last 20 years?

Cruise travel is focused inwardly—the ship is ultimately the destination, and off-ship excursions are optional.  Since Lars-Eric Lindblad led the pioneering first ‘laymen’ expedition to Antarctica in 1966, Lindblad Expeditions have been focused on the world beyond the ship, on understanding the world and all that’s in it. Our ships are platforms, equipped with cool tools, for exploring the planet’s most wild, remote and charismatic regions. Everything you can and might want to do is included, because it’s integral to the expedition experience, which is learning-oriented and about being actively engaged in discovery.

Over the past few years, more and more cruise companies have begun to market expedition-style products, with their own interpretation of what constitutes an expedition.  Given the cruise line provenance of many of these companies, luxury has been imported into their notion of expedition cruising;  an authentic commitment to exploration and discovery is not necessarily part of it.

For Lindblad, the catchphrase is “The privilege of exploring the world’s wildest places, the luxury of comfort.”

As our fleet has grown, from 3 ships 20 years ago to 14 today, we have consistently innovated to enrich the guests’ discovery experience—equipping our ships with tools for exploring, from zodiacs, kayaks and paddle boards to ROVs and undersea specialists; and now on the newest ships, adding science hubs for visiting research scientists to share work with guests; and a media studio for journalists and news organizations interested in filing stories direct from the climate fronts. We have evolved our food program from healthy and delicious, to masterfully prepared, plated and presented, while maintaining our commitment to source from sustainable fisheries and providers.  Our pioneering farm-to-table program in Galápagos, and the fresh produce provisioned in the Falkland Islands from hydroponic farmers we’ve supported for decades demonstrate the importance we place on dining well.

What has Lindblad Expeditions done to stay at the forefront of luxury cruising?

We have stayed at the forefront by remaining specialists, focused on our core: expedition travel. It is a tribute to our leadership that so many have entered the category.

For Lindblad, luxury is in the connection between what we make possible for guests and where.

We’re focused outward—on exploring the wild world, experiencing the exhilaration of discovery in polar regions, tropical regions and everywhere in between.  Ships adapted to the geographies they explore, fully equipped with cool tools for up close personal explorations. Teams consisting of knowledgeable naturalists, expert captains, National Geographic photographers, explorers, grantees and other experts, accompanied by guest speakers to add extra layers of insight and relevance—all committed to doing whatever it takes to make each expedition incomparable for guests.  A hotel team devoted to gracious care and service. A culinary team dedicated to delicious, beautifully prepared and presented food, obtained from sustainable providers. These are values we hold constant.

Seeing, learning, inhabiting the comfortable, immersive context we create for our guests, and having uniquely meaningful and memorable experiences is truly the new dimension in luxury.