3 Luxury Cruises to Book for a Vacation Away From Westchester

With a booming industry, luxury cruises are better than ever with food experiences, relaxing spas, and incredible sight-seeing.

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Doris Day and Jack Carson fell in love while sailing across the Atlantic in Romance on the High Seas, and while times have changed, the allure of luxury cruising remains stronger than ever. From black-tie and Champagne to sensuous spa experiences and award-winning culinary adventures, luxury cruising has ascended to new heights. And the industry isn’t slowing down.

Luxury cruising has become more accessible from Westchester with the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal now home to more ships each year, and the direct flight from Westchester County to Fort Lauderdale’s cruise terminal at the airport makes sailing a hop, skip, and a jump from doorstep to sea.

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The key to packing for a luxury cruise is organization and preparation, which includes planning outfits around your sailing schedule. For instance, there will likely be a formal night (typically, this is the second night at sea). You’ll want comfortable loungewear for during the day, swimsuits for the spa, pool, and beaches, and shoes suitable for walking. While there may be a shop with some first-aid supplies, they are likely to sell out. You’ll want to bring basics like Advil, nausea medication, Benadryl, bug spray (depending on your excursions), sunscreen, and the like.

Luxury cruising is designed to tend to your every wish and remove the typical vacation friction points like planning where to eat, how to get there, and the messy details in between. When designing your cruise itinerary, you’ll likely be faced with the choice to buy several specialty packages. While the premium drink package is worth it (though, this is included in many luxury-class tickets), others, like specialty dining packages, may require more research.

Plan to bring cash for tips since not all cruises have ATMs. You’ll want to include gratuities for your room’s butler, bartenders, and servers. Typically, tips for butlers are left in-room daily, and for the remaining staff (bartends, restaurant servers), tips are given out on the last night. Some choose to tip bartenders at the bars they will frequent often on the first night to get priority service for the rest of the cruise.

Choosing the cruise that’s right for you requires a bit of soul searching. There are the basics: price point, destination, and if you’re willing to fly to the departure point and/or back. The second layer is a personality match: Are you a traditional cruiser or more interested in a resort feel? Are you looking for a restorative wellness journey or to dance the night away to the wee hours of the morning? We’ve researched nearly every major cruise line on the market, and here are three of the best luxury cruises for your next getaway.

MSC Meraviglia Yacht Club

For those who want a classic boutique cruising experience with a European feel, stationed in Brooklyn

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MSC Cruises
Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

Gianluigi Aponte was born in 1940 to a family of ship owners and seafarers in Naples who could trace their nautical Italian lineage to 1675. Aponte founded the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) that launched its first cruise ships in 1980. Today, MSC has two divisions: cargo shipping and MSC Cruises. Their Italian heritage can be felt throughout the ship in the smallest details down to the cappuccinos and house-made pasta dishes. Perhaps the best part of Meraviglia for Westchester residents is that it departs from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, removing the stress of flying.

A LED dome extends the length of the Galleria Meraviglia, the main promenade of the ship with shops, bars, and restaurants
A LED dome extends the length of the Galleria Meraviglia, the main promenade of the ship with shops, bars, and restaurants. Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

The ship has a range of price points, with the Yacht Club staterooms at the apex. MSC’s Yacht Club sits at the front of the ship and is meant to offer a private luxury experience with unobstructed panoramic ocean views. The perks of purchasing in the Yacht Club is apparent from the moment you arrive at the departure terminal where a butler seamlessly guides you through security, onto the ship, and straight to your room (think TSA pre-check with the ability to skip long, crowded lines). Each stateroom is serviced by 24-hour butler service which includes daily New York Times paper delivery, round-the-clock room service, ironing, shoe shining, turn-down service, and more — all included in the cost of the room.

The MSC Meraviglia docked in Ocean Cay. Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

The MSC Yacht Club Restaurant is a private dining room that features a different menu daily. Yacht Club guests enjoy exclusive access to the Top Sail Lounge which is akin to a swanky bar with small bites, live entertainment, and high-tea service. The MSC Yacht Club Sundeck is where you will find an open-air private pool, hot tubs, a solarium, and lounge chairs to enjoy a magnificent view of the ocean. Also included in the Yacht Club price is the specialty beverage package, high-speed internet access, and access to the thermal spa (you will want to make a reservation, as this is a popular destination). Yacht Club members get priority seating at shows and entry to Ocean House Beach on Ocean Cay for sailings that stop at MSC’s private Bahamas island.

MSC’s Formula One racecar simulator reproduces driving conditions in one of the fastest cars in the world.
MSC’s Formula One racecar simulator reproduces driving conditions in one of the fastest cars in the world. Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

MSC’s commitment to sustainability is apparent in Ocean Cay, a marine-reserve island that the cruise line revitalized using all indigenous plants; it now serves as a research and educational center for marine life. The MSC Foundation’s Super Coral Programme is a global epicenter of innovative coral-restoration research. MSC Cruises is committed to finding a path to net-zero decarbonization by 2050.

Bahamas summer cruise (seven nights)
MSC Yacht Club Suite $1,030 pp
MSC Yacht Club Royal Suite $3,210 pp
*Kids under 12 sail for free

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Celebrity Beyond

For those who want a resort feel, high-end spa, and wellness offerings

Celebrity is the cruise line for folks who say they don’t like cruises. “I’m not a cruise convert, I’m a Celebrity convert,” says interior designer and TV personality, Nate Berkus, in an interview about the Sunset Bar on board, which he designed. The Celebrity line pulled out all the stops and brought in the stars for Beyond, which launched in 2022. Simone Biles serves as the ship’s godmother, Michelin-starred chef, Daniel Boulud is Global Culinary Advisor and has opened the exclusive Le Voyage on board, and Gwyneth Paltrow acts as well-being advisor. Celebrity was also the first cruise line to earn a Forbes Travel Guide Award, which aptly named it a “resort at sea.”

The top deck of 17 decks aboard Celebrity Beyond
The top deck of 17 decks aboard Celebrity Beyond. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Beyond was awarded the 2022 Gold Award for Spa Design by Travel Weekly’s Magellan Awards, and with merit. Paltrow’s influence is evident in the SEA Thermal Suite featuring the Crystalarium salt room, infrared sauna with picturesque ocean views, steam room, traditional hammam (Turkish bath), and heated tile loungers. Spa treatments go beyond traditional offerings, with Elemis Biotec facials, R3 pain management therapy, a Spa Wave MLW Amphibia table, WellMassage 4D®, the Iyashi Dôme, and more. After your spa treatment, head over to the Spa Café in the solarium for a fresh juice or smoothie.

A push of a button in the Infinite Veranda Stateroom and the living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge
A push of a button in the Infinite Veranda Stateroom and the living space becomes the veranda, letting you walk right out to the water’s edge. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Le Voyage by Daniel Boulud was awarded 2022’s Gold Award for Restaurant Design and features an exquisite tasting menu with an award-winning wine-pairing program. You will want to book this experience early, as reservations fill up quickly. The Eden Restaurant is a must for a sensory dinner and features a plant-based tasting menu in addition to an adventurous menu. Le Petit Chef is an interactive 3D-table-animation culinary experience curated by the artists of animation studio, Skullmapping. Book an AquaClass stateroom and get exclusive access to the SEA Thermal Suite, complimentary dining at Blu restaurant, and a personal concierge.

The Sunset Bar features almost 360-degree views.
The Sunset Bar features almost 360-degree views. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

For an even more elevated getaway on Celebrity Beyond, The Retreat is an exclusive private club at sea. Guests of The Retreat dine at private restaurant, Luminae, designed by Kelly Hoppen and featuring dishes by Daniel Boulud. Accommodations range from suites (one with a hot tub and Peloton bike) and two-story villas with ocean-front views and private plunge pools.

Caribbean summer cruise (seven days)
Veranda Oceanview Room starting at $1,101 pp
AquaClass Stateroom starting at $1,652 pp
The Retreat starting at $3,079 pp

Crystal Serenity

Spacious staterooms that feel like a boutique four-star hotel, and elevated public spaces

If the cruise industry is experiencing a renaissance, the Crystal Cruise line is a prime example. Longtime cruisers may recognize the Crystal brand name, which started in 1988 in Japan. After a long line of acquisitions, Crystal announced in August 2020 that it would cancel all cruises that year due to the financial pressures of the pandemic. In 2022, American luxury giant, Abercrombie & Kent acquired Crystal Cruises and completely relaunched the once-struggling brand, overturning the traditional cruise ship designs and bringing in top-tier luxury experiences — without losing the essence of the Crystal that so many cruisers adored.

The pool was refurbished and re-lined in 2023; two hot tubs flank the pool
The pool was refurbished and re-lined in 2023; two hot tubs flank the pool. Photo courtesy of Crystal

The line now touts one of the largest spaces-per-guest in the industry, and a near one-to-one ratio between guests and crew members. Staterooms were expanded and are reminiscent of luxury boutique hotel rooms. Crystal partnered with Italian ultra-luxury brands Jesurum Venezia 1870 for bed linens and Ortigia Sicilia for complimentary bath and shower amenities.

Dine at the only Nobu restaurant at sea. Umi Uma by Nobuyuku Matsuhisa is a Peruvian-Japanese dining concept by the Michelin-starred master chef. Other culinary offerings include Osteria d’Ovidio, an elevated Italian restaurant, and The Bistro, a Parisian-inspired café. Book a wine-centric dining experience at The Vintage Room, or for light fare, stop by the Waterside Restaurant, Trident Grill, Tastes Kitchen & Bar, or the marketplace open-air buffet. One aspect that sets the Crystal Cruise line apart is its all-inclusive price which includes all restaurants (including Nobu), drinks, and more. If you are looking to book Nobu or Osteria d’Ovidio, seating is limited so plan ahead and make reservations.

The Aurora Spa is named after the Roman goddess of dawn and features massages, acupuncture, Elemis and Grown Alchemist facials, and a medispa which offers Thermage, Dysport, Restylane, and microneedling treatments. The salon features hair, nail, and teeth-whitening services, and the men’s grooming salon offers elevated shaving treatments. If you’re looking for further wellness, a body-composition analysis, personal training, and nutritional consultation are all available as part of the fitness program.

The Junior Penthouse Suite has separate dining and living areas. Size ranges up to 646 square feet, plus a veranda, up to 161 square feet.
The Junior Penthouse Suite has separate dining and living areas. Size ranges up to 646 square feet, plus a veranda, up to 161 square feet. Photo courtesy of Crystal

Start the day with either a game of golf on the putting green or a pickleball match on the full-size Wimbledon Court. Lounge by the pool or relax at the library which holds more than 2,000 books, in addition to magazines and board games. After an exquisite dinner, head to the romantic Avenue Saloon or the Connoisseur Club, a cigar and cognac club.

North America and Canada summer cruise (six nights)
Double guest room with Veranda $3,300 pp

Luxe Essentials

Pack these items to make your sail easy-breezy and luxuriously carefree.

Sunscreen

Supergoop!

Seamlessly blend your SPF regimen and your makeup routine with tinted Glowscreen (SPF 40) and Glow Oil (SPF 50). Protect your part with Poof 100% Mineral Part Powder (SPF 35).

Supergoop
Photo courtesy of Ulta Beauty

Wardrobe Care

Nori Handheld Iron

If you choose to forgo costly on-board dry-cleaning and pressing services, this handheld steaming iron is perfect for small spaces and simple touch ups.

Water Bottle

Kiyo UVC Water Bottle by Monos

Clean drinking water is clutch on cruises, especially if you’re going on an all-day excursion. This self-cleaning water-purifying water bottle eradicates 99.99% of bacteria with just the press of a button.

Skincare at Sea

goop

Between the sun, pool, and hot tub (not to mention the daily application, removal, and re-application of makeup), your skin needs extra love at sea. For a deep cleanse, try goop’s Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator, and follow it with the All-in-One Nourishing Face Cream.

Haircare

Rahua Heat Protectant Shield

Your hair (and head) will be put to the test with high heat and strong rays, so a protectant for your strands and scalp is key.

Maya Ono is a food, travel, and lifestyle writer who graduated from Soka University of America where she received her B.A. Maya also works in publishing and is currently writing her debut book. When she is not scouting the next great getaway or escaping into the pages of an exciting new title, you can find her curled up with her rescue dog, Sweet Pea.

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