Six Of The Best Short Luxury Cruises

Emily Bamber, The Daily Telegraph, June 19, 2013

If you’ve yet to try a cruise, then this year’s high-profile ship launches, led by none other than the Duchess of Cambridge, who earlier this month named Royal Princess, Princess Cruises’ newest vessel, might tempt you to dip a toe in the water. A short break on one of the following luxury ships could be the ideal introduction to a holiday at sea.

Baltic Blast

Explore the galleries, castles and churches of the Baltic capitals by private car — a new service offered during this five-night cruise on Crystal Serenity. With two days in St Petersburg, the Hermitage Museum is a must and you can read the director's guide to the museum here — its art collection includes works by Michelangelo, Monet and Picasso. Also make time for the Catherine and Peterhof Palaces, plus an evening at the ballet watching Swan Lake in one of Russia’s oldest theatres. Follow in the footsteps of Peter the Great around the cobbled streets of Tallinn, then embark on the cruise, which is part of Crystal’s Getaway short-break programme and finishes in Stockholm. Evenings on board are a treat — book time in the spa, enjoy Italian and Asian fine dining and take advantage of the excellent guest lecture programme.

Crystal Cruises offers a five-night Northern Enchantment cruise from St Petersburg to Stockholm, departing August 4, 2013. From £2,175pp including flights. Half-day private car from £290 ( ).

Across the Pond

Spend July 4 stateside on a five-night cruise along the Eastern Seaboard. Queen Mary 2 will sail from New York to Nova Scotia, where Titanic is remembered in the Halifax graveyards and at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. The ship will then spend two days in Boston, a fitting place in which to mark Independence Day with a walk along the Freedom Trail, before returning to New York for your flight — or passage — home. Queen Mary 2 offers luxury on a grand scale, with formal dining, white-glove service, a Canyon Ranch spa and lavish public areas. Closer to home, the ship also operates mini-breaks from Southampton to Hamburg, St Peter Port or Zeebrugge.

Cunard offers a five-night Fourth of July Getaway round trip from New York, departing July 1, 2013. From £1,609pp including flights ( ).

Spanish Trio

See three cities in three days on the most luxurious ship to launch this summer. The allsuite, all-balcony Europa 2 will sail from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona with a day in Valencia en route. It’s one of several new combinable cruises from Hapag-Lloyd aimed at busy professionals. The spacious, contemporary public areas will include Italian, Asian and French restaurants, a jazz club, a 3D cinema, a cookery school and a large spa. Cram in some culture during your day ashore: Valencia not only has the City of Arts and Science complex but an important Museum of FIne Arts and a cathedral containing paintings by Goya. You'll also find trendy dining around the art nouveau Central Market.

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises offers a two-night cruise from Palma de Mallorca to Barcelona, departing August 1, 2013. From £947pp excluding flights ( ).

City Slicker

This four-night cruise is a great way to sample the impeccable service offered by Silversea as well as visit three cities — happening Hamburg with its lakeside fashion boutiques; Berlin, where important galleries belie monuments to its troubled past, and elegant Copenhagen. You’ll also spend a full day transiting the Kiel Canal, the waterway connecting the North Sea with the Baltic. This is an ideal opportunity to relax and enjoy the low-key all-inclusive luxury of Silversea’s newly refurbished Silver Cloud, which has a Relais & Chateaux wine-pairing restaurant, a spa and various lounges.

Silversea offers a four-night cruise from Valletta to Civitavecchia (Rome), departing October 3, 2013. From £1,040pp excluding flights ( ).

Tasty Morsels

Sizzle, steam and stir your way around the Mediterranean during a chef-hosted cruise on a classic tall ship. Culinary master classes will take place on the teak deck of Star Clipper on selected sailings, and wine-tasting sessions and lectures will reflect the region visited. During this cruise from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Monaco, via Elba, Corsica and Sardinia, chef Mama Lazzari will teach passengers to make pasta and rustic Ligurian dishes. Life on board the 170-passenger refurbished clipper ship is relaxed — modern comforts such as two small pools, open-seat dining and attentive service are combined with traditional seafaring style — gleaming mahogany, brass plaques and antique prints abound.

Star Clippers offers a five-night Corsica, Sardinia and Italy cruise from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Monaco, departing October 14, 2013. From £1,239pp including flights ( ).

Autumn Interlude

More mega-yacht than cruise ship, the 100-passenger SeaDream I couples refined living at sea with attentive staff and superb dining. It is rare for the ship and its twin, SeaDream II, to operate short cruises, but this autumn a five-night sailing between Dubrovnik and Rome (Civitavecchia) takes in the best of the Adriatic and Eastern Mediterranean, cruising into Montenegro’s fjord-like Bay of Kotor and delivering you to shore adventures on Corfu, Sicily and Capri. Relax in the hands of the team from SeaDream Spa, which specialises in Thai treatments and La Prairie products; take a dip in the pool; or, in selected ports, enjoy complimentary water sports from the ship’s retractable platform.

SeaDream Yacht Club offers a five-night cruise from Dubrovnik to Rome (Civitavecchia), departing October 9, 2013. From £2,069pp excluding flights (0800 783 1373; ).