Credit: Copyright © Steve Filipiak 2007/Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent Picture Library

Cruise lines are providing exclusive admittance to museums and cultural sites around the globe. New this year, Silversea CruisesSilver Cloud takes you behind the scenes of the Monte Carlo ballet with a former dancer. You can see the company’s costumes, some designed by Matisse and Karl Lagerfeld; watch the making of pointe shoes, or observe ballerinas as they train (seven-day cruises from Rome to Barcelona from $4,118 per person; tours from $189 per person). This month, Crystal CruisesCrystal Serenity offers a private, after-hours tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel (888/722-0021;; nine-day cruises from Venice to Monte Carlo from $5,045 per person; tours from $769 per person). And on Abercrombie & Kent’s Egyptian cruises on the Sun Boat IV, you’ll get to visit the Egyptian Museum before opening hours and tour the tomb of Seti I, in the Valley of Kings, which is otherwise off-limits (800/554-7016;; 11-day cruises round-trip from Cairo from $6,575 per person, tour included).

Silversea Cruises

Silversea’s fancy, pampering experience is delivered on six sleek, 132- to 540-passenger ships, done up in contemporary décor, with gourmet cuisine, spacious ocean-view suites, free booze, and top-notch service—the solicitous crew even shines your shoes and brings room service, course by course. Steaks are prepared the way you like them. And yes, the bartender knows your name. An impressive guest lecture series includes famous chefs. The line also operates the upscale 132-passenger soft adventure ship Prince Albert II.
New and Newsworthy: The 540-passenger Silver Spirit debuted in 2009; it’s the line’s first new ship in eight years. Silver Wind recently had a multimillion refurbishment including a new observation lounge and spa.
Price: Weeklong cruises from $2,638 (plus air–inclusive offer).
Geographic Areas: Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Baltics, Africa and Indian Ocean, Far East, South Pacific, Caribbean, South America, Central America, New England/Canada,
Type: Luxury.