Don’t write off the big lines just because of their scale. Sometimes at sea, great experiences come in extra-large sizes.

By Jane Wooldridge
December 17, 2015
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Regent Seven Seas Explorer

What we love: Debuting this summer, the 750-passenger, all-suite vessel will have the largest verandas at sea.

Why it matters: More space outside means more space inside.

Perks: Passengers can have Canyon Ranch spa treatments, then retreat to their cabin deck. All Regent prices include airfare, fine wines and spirits, gratuities, and excursions.

Norwegian Escape

What we love: The Haven, a private area with 95 staterooms.

Why it matters: The intimacy of a small boat with the benefits of a massive vessel.

Perks: The ship-within-a-ship is like a gated community of all balcony cabins with butlers and a serene pool. Haven guests can hit the amenities of the rest of the ship, but the area is off-limits to other passengers.

Oceania Cruises

What we love: Locavore adventures right on board.

Why it matters: Foodies can immerse themselves in cuisines of areas they’ll be visiting before they’ve even docked in port.

Perks: Small-scale wine-pairing dinners, hands-on cooking classes, and half a dozen gourmet restaurants with menus by celebrated chef Jacques Pépin.

Holland America Koningsdam

What we love: The line’s biggest ship ever, with room for 2,650 passengers, launches in April.

Why it matters: Interior designer Adam D. Tihany’s contemporary touch is an important evolution to HAL’s nautical style.

Perks: New partnerships with Chateau Ste. Michelle and BBC Earth deliver a higher level of amenities.

Celebrity’s Solstice- and Millennium-class ships

What we love: Luminae, a private-access restaurant.

Why it matters: Suite passengers now have a luxurious dining experience—fewer than 100 will occupy the space at a time.

Perks: Three-course, innovative dinners that include amusebouches like tuna tartare and entrées such as côte de boeuf.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2

What we love: Single cabins.

Why it matters: Solo travelers typically have to pay for two—not any longer aboard the 175-year-old line's popular ship.

Perks: On the 2,695-passenger Queen Mary 2, 15 single cabins are well priced and have ocean views. There are 30 additional balcony staterooms, too—though these are still aimed at couples.

Viking Ocean Cruises

What we love: The infinity-edge pool on Deck 7.

Why it matters: Viking ventured into the open seas in 2015, and this year adds a fourth ship. It has a pool that will make you feel like you could float off into the deep blue sea.

Perks: Things not normally factored into the price—Wi-Fi, port excursions—are part of the rate.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

What we love: Shipboard watersports marina.

Why it matters: Few other ships have snorkeling, kayaking, and windsurfing just off the aft deck, which is right at sea level.

Perks: Tahitian staff bring authenticity to the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin. New itineraries go to the Society Islands and the Tuamotus.