Royal For many people, the idea of a cruise conjures up images of elderly people sailing sedately around the Mediterranean or wealthy American widows embarking on endless circuits of the Caribbean.
But cruising has never been so popular and is one of the fastest growing holiday sectors across the globe.
Cheap cruises can be had, of course, but when it comes to pushing the boat out on a luxury liner, the sky is the limit with cruises that could set you back the best part of £1,000 per person per day.
Below we list five of the biggest, best and most beautiful cruise ships that are guaranteed to ram a hole in all but the sturdiest bank accounts.
And remember, if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it!
Caribbean’s Oasis of the Sea
She cost nearly £1.4 billion to build, she’s almost as tall as the Empire State building and she has 18 decks. The gleaming maritime monster called the Oasis of the Seas can fit 5,400 passengers on board plus a crew of approximately 2,160.
As with most of the larger cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas offers all the mainland amenities one could ever think of and they are all right on board while the ship is hundreds of miles from land.
There’s a mini golf course, night clubs, bars, lounges, five swimming pools, sports courts and facilities as well as theme parks and nurseries for children.
Incredibly, the ship even has its own park on board with over 12,000 plants and 56 trees.
For a real touch of luxury, the Royal Loft Suite sits on deck 17 overlooking the ocean. It has LCD TVs, a library, a baby grand piano, a Jacuzzi and a dining room that seats eight people
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Sea
Allure of the Seas is the sister ship of the Oasis of the Seas but it is actually the Allure which holds the real record for being the world’s largest passenger vessels because the Allure is just two inches longer than the oasis!
With a crew of almost 2,400, this Leviathan can comfortably accommodate up to 6,300 passengers in all berths.
Like its sister, this grandiose cruise ship also has a natural woodland park to take a long stroll in. Guests can enjoy the two-deck dance hall, a theatre nearly 1,400 seats, an ice rink, numerous pools, spas, gyms and a rock climbing wall.
One of the ship’s neat features is the touch-screen guides on every deck with buttons for ‘What to Do Right Now?’ and ‘Room Finder’.
And for anyone who needs their dose of coffee in the morning the Allure is the first cruise ship ever to include a seagoing Starbucks Coffee stand.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2
Viewed by many as the ultimate, a cheap cruise is not really what this behemoth of the high seas is all about.
She’s 147 feet longer than the Eiffel Tower and she features ten magnificent dining rooms, five swimming pools, a casino, ballrooms, theatres, lounges.
And the Queen Mary 2 is believed to be the only ship ever to have a planetarium on board! She has a guest capacity of 2,620 passengers and a crew of 1,253.
The cost to board can be anywhere from $3,000 to $38,000 per person and the Queen Mary 2 is the only dedicated transatlantic ocean liner in operation specifically as a liner.
The ship offers five duplex apartments which are two stories high and measure more than 1,650 square feet. Each apartment features its own gymnasium and balcony and of course, butler and concierge service.
Yachts of Seabourn’s Odyssey
Though tiny compared to the previous cruise ships mentioned, the Odyssey is the largest of Seabourn’s ships. Seabourn cruise lines are known for their exceptional service; but they’re not cheap. Cruises can cost tens of thousands of pounds and can last for 100 days.
The Odyssey has a capacity of 450 passengers with a ratio of nearly one crew member for every passenger (335 crew members total). Odyssey passengers can enjoy five-star, all-inclusive dining in four restaurants with menus crafted by top international chefs.
The Odyssey has its own special features, water sports from the unique marina and even a private diamond showroom. The Retreat area features a contoured nine-hole mini golf course, a giant chess board, shuffleboard and a special area for stargazing in the evening.
Additional amenities include Seabourn-branded netbooks and iPods for loan, as well as complimentary pool-side massages.
All of the 225 Seabourn Odyssey accommodations are suites, ranging in size from 295 to 1,682 square feet. Ninety percent of the suites have private balconies.
MSC Cruises’ Splendida
You may see this vessel as the most beautiful in the world or perhaps just the most extravagant.
But either way, no one can deny the stunning visual appearance in a grand Italian style. The ship was even christened in July 2009 by legendary Italian beauty Sophia Loren.
Among the ship’s most illustrious features are the two sweeping staircases in the reception area made of Swarovski crystal. Each of the 72 steps glitters with $40,000 worth of crystals ($2.8million in total).
Even the grand piano sparkles with 20,000 Swarovski crystals!
Suites offer interactive TV, Wi-Fi, Nintento Wii, luxurious linens and marble decorated furniture.
The Yacht Club even provides free Wi-Fi-enabled notebook computers for guests to use from their cabins or the common areas of the club.