The Pinnacle Suite on Noordam

Cabins in two categories are the first to go whenever a cruise itinerary goes on sale: the most inexpensive staterooms and the top-of-the-line suites. It may surprise you that the priciest accommodations are snapped up first, but consider this: there are far fewer suites than regular cabins, so competition is fierce for these options that offer extra space and exclusive perks. If you're sailing with a posse, that elbow room will definitely come in handy.

One popular aspect of suite living, beyond lush furnishings, is the extra services most ships offer. You can expect concierge service, priority embarkation and disembarkation, and assistance when making reservations for alternative restaurants, spas and sold-out shore excursions. Butler service is offered by the most luxe brands; butlers handle everything from dry-cleaning and unpacking to daily delivery of canapes and making reservations for the spa.

There's a larger variety of cruise suites than ever before, but some still absolutely stand out from the competition. Here, we offer our favourites among the industry's most drop-dead gorgeous, pampering and elegant accommodations at sea. (Please note: Fares vary by itinerary and date. Prices listed are approximate and are subject to change.)

Best Cruise Ship Suite

Cruise Line

Starting From
(per person, per night)

Penthouse Suite

Celebrity Cruises

$667

Penthouse Suite

P&O Cruises

$307

Royal Loft Suite

Royal Caribbean

$839

Pinnacle Suite

Holland America

$1,145

Balmoral and Sandringham Duplexes

Cunard Cruise Line

$3,115

Vista Suite

Carnival Cruises

$215

Club Spa Suite

Azamara Club Cruises

$1,020

Grand Suite

Princess Cruises

$599

Haven 3-Bedroom Garden Villa

Norwegian Cruise Line

$707

Owner's Suite

Silversea Cruises

$2,988

Wintergarden Suite

Seabourn Cruises

$2,466

Crystal Penthouse

Crystal Cruises

$1,762

Regent Suite

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

$5,000

Penthouse Suite on Celebrity Eclipse

Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Solstice

Best Cruise Suite: Penthouse Suite

Why? The 37-square-metre (398-square-foot) verandahs -- complete with hip patio furniture and outdoor whirlpools -- are themselves larger than many traditional staterooms! And, of course, each inviting verandah is attached to a 120 sq. m (1,291 sq. ft) penthouse. Each well-designed Penthouse Suite includes a living room with plush furniture, hardwood floors and a throw rug; 52-inch LCD TV with surround sound; a baby grand piano; a separate dining room that accommodates eight; and a master bedroom with king-size bed and adjoining marble bath with double vanities, a humongous shower for two with dual Hansgrohe showerheads and separate whirlpool tub. These suites -- perfect for a romantic getaway -- can be found on each of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice-class ships, and are located midship, right across from the elevators and near the library on the Penthouse Deck. While you may never want to leave your Penthouse Suite, be sure to make a foray to Luminae -- the exclusive dining room for suite guests -- and Michael's Club, which is the exclusive all-inclusive domain for passengers booked in Celebrity's top suites.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $667 per person, per night, for a South Pacific cruise.


P&O Cruises' Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden  

Best Cruise Suite: Penthouse Suite

Why? Spread across 118 sq. m (1,273 sq. ft), these suites on Pacific Eden and Pacific Aria are almost four times the size of a regular balcony cabin and have more elegant decor plus a second bathroom, large walk-in wardrobe and dressing area and dining room. Penthouse passengers receive complimentary in-room dining, afternoon tea and evening canapes, all of which can be enjoyed in the suite's dining room. The balcony offers another nice spot for a bite to eat, with seating for four plus two sun loungers. Extra perks include priority check-in and disembarkation, a welcome aboard gift, complimentary laundry service, a Nespresso coffee machine, iPod music system, free bottled water and soft drinks.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $307 per person, per night, for a South Pacific cruise.


Royal Loft Suite

Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas

Best Cruise Suites: Royal Loft Suites

Why? Those accustomed to luxury will feel right at home in the lush Royal Loft Suites that can be found on Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas. At 148 sq. m (1,599 sq. ft), and not counting the massive 81 sq. m (874 sq. ft) balcony with a whirlpool and dining area that wraps around this fabulous suite, these two-story dwellings accommodate up to six passengers and are larger than many city apartments. The suite is stunning with its two-storey wall of windows, which affords panoramic views. The bedroom is upstairs in the loft, with a glass wall partition and blackout curtains. An adjoining bathroom features a tub, shower, dual sinks and a bidet. A second bath with a shower is found on the main level. It is easy to picture James Bond nursing a martini as he reposes on the living room sofa (which converts to a double bed).

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $839 per person, per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


The Pinnacle Suite on Noordam

Holland America's Maasdam and Noordam

Best Cruise Suite: Pinnacle Suite

Why? Guests staying in one of Holland America's elegant Pinnacle Suites look the part with corsages and boutonnieres provided for formal nights. Other perks include a cocktail party with the ship's officers and 106 sq. m (1,150 sq. ft) of accommodation, featuring a living area, dining room, king-sized bed, dressing room, refrigerator and microwave and a separate guest bathroom. Four sun loungers on the balcony provide additional space to relax. Neptune and Pinnacle Suite guests have access to a private lounge for socialising with other top tier suite guests but the benefits, which include snacks, tea and coffee and a concierge to make dining reservations and book excursions, are fairly low key.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $1,145 per person, per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


Duplex Suite on Queen Mary 2

Cunard's Queen Mary 2

Best Cruise Suites: The Balmoral and Sandringham Duplexes

Why? The grandiose two-storey suites on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 each have a curved, sweeping staircase to the bedrooms on the second floor; two marble baths with whirlpool tub and separate shower; a full guest bath; private exercise equipment; and 209 sq. m (2,249 sq. ft) of living space. The terrace of each of these suites is unique in that it is visible from the public decks below (such as the aft pool area), so plan to "be seen" -- that can be a plus for some and a big minus for others. All of the amenities of the Queens Grill are yours to enjoy, including the dining room, a special lounge and a dedicated sunning deck.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $3,115 per person, per night, from Cape Town to Fremantle.


Carnival

Best Cruise Suite: Vista Suite (Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend)

Why? Vista Suites are slightly smaller than a Grand Suite, but they have knockout views with a wraparound balcony and windows along the back and side, offering a fantastic panorama of the ship's wake. Vista Suites are 22 sq. m (245 sq. ft) with a separate dressing and sitting area, double sinks and a spa bathtub and separate shower. The covered 20 sq. m (220 sq. ft) balcony with lounge chairs, in addition to the usual table and two chairs, is the perfect spot to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Aside from having more room, perks are limited to VIP check-in and priority embarkation and debarkation. However, the price for this accommodation is far less than you would pay for a suite on other lines.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $215 per person, per night, for a South Pacific cruise.


The Club Spa Suite on Azamara Journey

Azamara

Best Cruise Suite: Club Spa Suite (Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest)

Why? Club Spa Suites, which have been designed exclusively for couples, are the latest addition to the Azamara fleet. Measuring 38 sq. m (414 sq. ft), with a 5 sq. m (60 sq. ft) balcony, the highlight of these contemporary suites is the glass-enclosed whirlpool bathtub overlooking the ocean. Pipe in some music from the spa (don't worry, you can turn it off) and soak away your cares or relax under the rain shower with two body jets in the oversized bathroom. Club Spa Suite guests receive amenities such as a "Nights in Private Places" experience and a spa credit which can be used for treatments at the onboard Sanctum Spa.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $1,020 per person, per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


Princess Cruises

Best Cruise Suite: Grand Suite (Golden Princess)

Why? Grand Suite guests can drink cocktails and socialise in the Elite Lounge, sip a mimosa with their room service breakfast, enjoy free specialty dining on embarkation day and relax at the Lotus Spa with complimentary Thermal Suite access. Like all Princess ships, Golden Princess has just one Grand Suite measuring 122 sq. m (1,314 sq. ft), including a large 11 to 16 sq. m (114 to 181 square feet) balcony, with a sitting area with a fold-out couch and a bathroom with a separate shower and tub. Golden Princess is the only Princess ship with a Grand Suite sailing in Australia.

If you care more about suite perks than the size of your room, the well-priced Club Class Mini-Suites now being rolled out on Sea Princess, Sun Princess, Emerald Princess and Golden Princess could be the best option. These balcony staterooms are much smaller than a Grand Suite, however they come with an impressive array of perks such as a dedicated dining area in the main dining room featuring expedited seating and expanded menu options, priority embarkation and disembarkation, priority specialty dining reservations, complimentary in-room wine set-up, complimentary premium evening canapes, upgraded in-suite amenities and a welcome glass of Champagne on embarkation day.

Emerald Princess will have Club Class Mini-Suites fitted for this Australia cruise season. Check the Princess Cruises website for roll-out dates for the other ships listed above.

Plan to Pay: Grand Suite fares start at $599 per person, per night for a New Zealand cruise. Club Class Mini-Suites are less than half the price, starting at $250 per person, per night.


Haven Suite

Norwegian Cruise Line

Best Cruise Suites: Haven 3-Bedroom Garden Villas (Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Star)

Why? These are the largest of all the suites at sea, at up to 534 square metres (5,750 square feet). If you're planning a family get-together, this is the suite for you. Features include a vast living area, bar with seating for four, dining table that seats eight, three bedrooms with king- or queen-sized beds, and a private garden terrace with an outdoor dining area and raised hot tub with a thatched roof to provide shade. Add a butler, concierge team and stunning views from the windowed walls that surround the suite from its perch atop the ship, and you have a "wow" factor that's beyond compare. Garden Villas guests also have access to all Haven amenities including a private pool, sun deck and fitness room.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $707 per person per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


Owner's Suite

Silversea Cruises

Best Cruise Suites: Owner's Suite (Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow)

Why? Walk into one of the two Owner's Suites aboard Silversea Cruises' Silver Spirit and Silver Whisper, and you'll likely hear soft music playing (compliments of the Bang & Olufsen stereo system in the living room) and see sheer curtains lazily catching the breeze by the glass doors, which open onto the 17 sq. m (190 sq. ft) teak verandah. At 120 sq. m (1,292 sq. ft) including the balcony, each of these suites is sophisticated, sexy and spacious. Tucked amidships on Deck 8, these stylish apartments at sea -- designed with sleek blond wood, wide striped wallpaper and modern furniture -- have the vibe of a swanky penthouse in London or Copenhagen. Your butler will make you feel right at home as you settle into the living room, which features subtle recessed lighting and a flat-screen TV as well as a work area with writing desk. You'll enjoy meals in the separate dining room (there's an Illy espresso machine for caffeine-packed pick-me-ups) and get a good night's sleep in the master bedroom, home to a sinfully comfortable queen-sized bed dressed with Pratesi bed linen, down duvet and a selection of pillows. The master bathroom has marble throughout, plus a double vanity, shower and separate, full-size whirlpool tub. There's also a powder room for guests.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $2,988 per person, per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


Wintergarden Suite

Seabourn

Best Cruise Suite: Grand Wintergarden Suite (Seabourn Encore)

Why? Available on the new Seabourn Encore, the 144 sq. m (1,550 sq. ft) Grand Wintergarden Suite comprises two bedrooms, including one with separate whirlpool tub, two and a half bathrooms; a living room with plenty of seating to host a gathering; a dining room with a table that accommodates six; a pantry with full wet bar and three televisions. There is also a private glassed-in Solarium with a soaking tub and day bed plus a generous veranda offering 23 sq. m (247 sq. ft) of private space outfitted with an all-weather table and chairs, making it an ideal setting for al fresco dining. Along with standard suite inclusions such as complimentary internet access and fresh floral arrangements, Grand Wintergarden Suite guests also receive private car transfers to and from the ship at the beginning and end of their cruise.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $2,466 per person, per night, for a New Zealand cruise.


Crystal Penthouse Suite on Crystal Serentiy

Crystal Cruises

Best Cruise Suite: Crystal Penthouse (Crystal Serenity)

Why? One of the most beautifully decorated suites at sea -- the Crystal Penthouse -- can be found on Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity. Spend just one night in this 1,345-sq. ft suite, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows that affords sweeping views of the ocean, and you'll wish this was your very own apartment. Swarovski crystal sconces light the living space, which has natural wood floors and Italian mosaic tile accents. Neutral colours blend seamlessly with the high-quality wood and marble finishes throughout. If you love the outdoors, you'll enjoy the private deck that was designed for lounging. But first you'll have to tear yourself away from the exceedingly comfortable living and dining areas. The master bedroom has a spacious walk-in closet, and the TV room (separate from the formal living area) can double as a second bedroom thanks to the sofa bed and guest powder room that is outfitted with a shower. If you entertain often while at sea, you'll love the fact that this suite has a private butler entrance.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $1,762 per person, per night, for a Caribbean cruise.


The Regent Suite on Seven Seas Explorer

Regent Seven Seas

Best Cruise Suite: Regent Suite (Seven Seas Explorer)

Why? There is only one Regent Suite aboard Seven Seas Explorer. In fact, there's only one Regent Suite in the entire Regent Seven Seas Cruises fleet. It was designed to be the most luxurious suite at sea; at 2,917 sq. ft (with a 958-sq-ft balcony), its footprint is larger than that of the average Australian home. But it's not just the size that impresses: the suite comes complete with a private spa, including treatment area, sauna, ceramic heated relaxation loungers and multijet shower, and residents are entitled to unlimited -- and complimentary -- in-suite spa treatments. Other perks include sedan transfers to and from the airport; a private car with driver and guide in every port; and free unlimited laundry and pressing. The location of the suite on Deck 14 is stunning, with 270-degree views over the bow. Throughout the two-bedroom suite, you'll find high-end touches in marble and exotic wood. The lounge features beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows and a custom $250,000 Steinway Arabesque piano. The suite offers not one but two 4K ultra-high-definition televisions, and each room is accented with limited-edition art books, Murano glass bowls and other handcrafted elements.

Plan to Pay: Fares start at $5,000 per person, per night.