Our regular column from Andy Harmer, SVP Membership and Director of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) UK & Ireland

As the number of luxury cruise experiences continue to rise, more cruisers than ever are keen to enjoy a taste of the ‘high life’. Luxury cruises can be surprisingly affordable with many of the cruise lines offering room upgrades, premium drinks packages and VIP transfers as part of the experience. Planning ahead and booking your cruise early is another way to ensure you are getting value from your luxury getaway.

Of course, luxury cruising means different things to different people. For some, it might be having their own butler 24/7. For others, it might be all about exclusive onshore experiences in amazing destinations. I’m fortunate to have sailed on a number of luxury ships – ocean and river – and while high levels of service, fantastic dining and incredible amenities are standard, what is interesting is that each luxury cruise I have been on has been very different to the last.

You could be on a small expedition ship sailing remote regions, a larger all-inclusive luxury ship with varied dining options, a river cruise sailing through Europe’s waterways, or you could have a luxury cruise experience within a larger ship. All offer guests great levels of comfort, but as with all cruise holidays, choosing the right one is key to having an unforgettable holiday experience.

For many, smaller ships offer a truly luxurious and intimate experience. Silversea’s new flagship Silver Muse launches in April 2017, while the much-awaited Seabourn Encore launched just a few months ago. The attention to detail is what sets these cruise lines apart – staff remembering your favourite type of wine without having to ask for it, Michelin-starred dining and a butler that pre-empts your every need before you’ve even realised yourself that you needed something.

Luxury river cruise experiences are also endless, such as Uniworld’s luxury fleet that offers all-inclusive value and guaranteed river-view staterooms – and new to the fleet for 2017 will be the decadently styled S.S. Joie de Vivre, which aims to reflect the French joy of living. Finally, expedition cruising is a great way to experience a different kind of luxury. The chance to visit destinations including Antarctica, Alaska and the Galápagos Islands is ideal for the more adventurous cruiser desiring a luxury experience. Cruise lines offering great experiences in this area include Silversea’s Silver Cloud and Celebrity Cruises’ Xpedition ship.

So while a luxury cruise may not have been something that you have considered before, be sure to check all-inclusive options as the cost of a luxury cruise can easily surprise you.

If you’ve been inspired to take a cruise, use our Cruise Finder to find your perfect voyage.