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The Gauguin (Photo: Paul Gauguin Cruises)

5 Dreamy Cruise Experiences You Might Not Know Exist

Exotic destinations? Yes, please. Complimentary wine, beer and cocktails? If you insist. Luxury cruises sure know how to give us everything we desire. As if it couldn't get any better, some lines up the ante with experiences so remarkable, you might not have dreamed they were even available on cruise vacations. Indulge in some cruise fantasies with our five favorites.

Updated September 5, 2018

Champagne and Caviar Beach Parties

Seabourn butlers serving caviar and Champagne at the Caviar in the Surf event

Popping bottles and nibbling on caviar while standing waist-deep in the water might sound like something out of a hip-hop music video. But it's how luxury small-ship lines like Seabourn and Seadream Yacht Club throw a beach party.

Known as Caviar in the Surf and Champagne & Caviar Splash Party, respectively, the popular activity involves the ship's officers floating out Champagne bottles, caviar tins and other accoutrements on surf boards to passengers wading in the sea. The group sips and schmoozes, while a barbecue lunch and drinks await them on shore. If this isn't living the high life, we don't know what is.


Onboard Marina

Aerial view of the Watersports Platform on Wind Spirit

OK, so small ships don't have rock climbing walls or multiple swimming pools. That doesn't mean they don't know how to indulge adventurous spirits. A few lines, including Windstar, Seabourn, SeaDream and Paul Gauguin Cruises, are equipped with onboard marinas that house kayaks, paddleboards, snorkeling gear and other recreational toys. Passengers are free to use the equipment at their leisure, weather-permitting, as long as the ship is anchored or in some cases docked.

The onboard marina is not open on every itinerary, so choose your cruise carefully if it's high on your list.


Climb the Mast

Passenger climbing the mast on a Star Clippers ship

Traditional masted sailing is not a thing of the past. A handful of lines pay tribute to the golden age of sailing, with tall ships that run on the power of ocean winds. One of them, however, takes channeling your inner sailor to the next level. Star Clippers offers its passengers a chance to climb the mast for unbeatable views, the ultimate sense of accomplishment and of course, bragging rights.

How it works: You get strapped into a safety harness, climb more than 60 feet up a rope ladder and end at the crow's nest (a small lookout platform). Unless you've got the heebie-jeebies, don't rush to come back down. Soak up the scenery, and document your bravery with a selfie.


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Nights in Private Places

Bottle of Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and candles beside the hot tub for the Nights in Private Places Experience on Azamara Journey

Nothing says "romance at sea" quite like butler service, dinner on your own personal deck and sleeping under the stars. Azamara's Nights in Private Places is a package just for couples, in which the ships' spa terrace is closed off to other passengers and transformed into a sensual hideaway. Lovers canoodle in luxurious robes, over Champagne and canapes, a saltwater whirlpool and freshly grilled meals paired with wine. At the end of the night, retreat to your outdoor canopy bed with privacy curtains for a long night of passionate … stargazing.

Psst: Seadream also offer an opportunity to sleep under the stars on its Balinese Dream Beds, though extras like dinner and Champagne are not included in the experience.


Private Submarine Ride

Partial underwater shot of Crystal's submarine, with Crystal Esprit on the water in the background

Riding in a submarine -- who didn't dream of that as a kid? On Crystal Cruises' Crystal Esprit, you can finally satisfy your childlike curiosity on a three-person submarine that travels up to 300 meters under the sea.

Helmed by the ship's captain (or his first mate), the sub -- which looks more like something out of "Transformers" than your stereotypical military watercraft -- features a Plexiglas bubble that offers 360-degree views of the marine life below. It's kind of like scuba-diving, except you're fully clothed in a cozy, protective capsule and never actually get wet.

Even more expedition yachts will offer onboard submarines when they debut, including Scenic Eclipse (launching 2019), Crystal Endeavor (2020) and Seabourn's new expedition ships (2021).

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You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy manoeuvres in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed holiday stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.
11 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalised service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your holiday style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive holiday experience, while Oceania draws travellers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.