Forbes Travel Guide is expanding its 2023 Star Awards for ocean cruises with the addition of three ships to its winners list. Evaluated through incognito, in-person inspections, the new winners — Seabourn Ovation, Silversea’s Silver Shadow and Oceania’s Insignia — join the roster of nearly 2,000 hotels, restaurants, spas and ocean cruises on FTG’s 2023 Star Awards list.
The only independent global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas, the 65-year-old company launched its first fleet of ocean cruise Star Award winners in February 2023 and unveils its second wave of additions to the prestigious list today.
See the full list of 2023 Star-Rated properties here, and learn more about our roster of star-studded cruises below.
With only 388 guests and 300 staff members aboard this Four-Star Silversea ship, you will feel well taken care of — especially since everyone receives attentive butler service and champagne on arrival. Every accommodation is a suite with windows overlooking the ocean and a bathroom with a full-sized tub.
Come out of your luxurious suite to dine at standouts like La Dame, a classic French restaurant featuring white-glove service and custom-made crystal Lalique panels, and La Terrazza, an Italian restaurant that sources its premium ingredients from Naples, Umbria and other spots.
The Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star ship puts a lavish touch on all its offerings. On board the all-suite cruise, you’ll stay in spacious, elegant accommodations and savor mouthwatering steaks and lobster thermidor from The Grill by Thomas Keller, the revered chef behind Five-Star The French Laundry in Napa.
Back on shore, Seabourn Ovation will treat you to its signature Caviar on the Surf event, where you will wade waist-deep into the sea to a surfboard bar where staff members pour champagne into flutes and dole out bites of caviar as an appetizer to a beach barbecue.
This Forbes Travel Guide Recommended ship enlists iconic chef, TV host and author Jacques Pépin to oversee its restaurants and San Francisco-based Humphry Slocombe to supply its gourmet ice cream (Regatta Royale with bittersweet chocolate, orange zest and smoked sea salt is made exclusively for Oceania).
During the voyage, learn about your destination from expert speakers, like historians and naturalists. Peruse the spa’s Wellness Discovery Tours, shore excursions like hiking to an Argentine glacier or soaking in Rome’s thermal baths. And then retreat to the contemporary sea-and-sand-hued staterooms with teak verandas and bathrooms with Bulgari toiletries.
The following cruises earned Star Awards in February:
There’s no better way to explore the Galapagos Islands’ wondrous wildlife than this Four-Star ship — it was specially designed to sail to the archipelago. Accommodating only 100 guests in 50 suites, Flora employs a team of Galapagos National Park-certified naturalists to lead onboard activities and twice-daily excursions.
The vessel also is eco-friendly — for example, every suite comes with a water filtration station so you can refill water bottles before heading out on an adventure; the ship stays in position without dropping an anchor and damaging the ocean floor; and solar panels help reduce emissions.
The Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Edge pioneered cruise ship design with the Magic Carpet, the world’s first cantilevered venue at sea, and “infinite verandas,” floor-to-ceiling windows that transform staterooms into indoor-outdoor spaces. Edge offers the Celebrity fleet’s widest range of staterooms, and each gray-drenched accommodation exudes modern luxury.
Edge also launched The Retreat, a sort of hotel-within-a-hotel experience featuring perks like a sundeck with a pool and hot tub, a lounge with concierge service and Luminae restaurant showcasing dishes from respected chef Daniel Boulud, who helms Five-Star NYC restaurant Daniel and also serves as Celebrity’s global culinary ambassador.
You’ll find the same marquee signatures from Edge on its younger ship sibling, which made its maiden voyage in 2020. The Four-Star Apex features the floating orange Magic Carpet, sleek staterooms with infinite verandas and The Retreat’s elevated offerings.
Apex changed up some of its culinary experiences, introducing Craft Social, a bar specializing in craft cocktails, wines on tap and hard-to-find beers; adding a new 3D animation Le Petit Chef show that happens on your table; and updating the lush Eden restaurant to accommodate theatergoers. Visit the ship’s sculpture-dotted Rooftop Garden to catch alfresco films and live music.
Set sail on this Four-Star ship, which underwent a $500 million makeover in 2019 inspired by Celebrity Edge’s design. The renovation ushered in The Retreat with its pool deck and lounge; a refreshed casino; warm, stylish Kelly Hoppen-designed staterooms; and new spa-like AquaClass suites with on-demand wellness television programming and in-suite fitness amenities.
While away your time by learning glassblowing, playing pickleball on the open-air courts, dancing the night away at a silent disco with dueling DJs, taking aim at a bullseye with some archery or unwinding on a quarter acre of real grass.
Board this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended vessel to experience the hallmarks of the Celebrity brand, like The Retreat. Be sure to escape to the spa to choose from a whopping 120 treatments and relax in the SEA Thermal Suite (with a hammam, crystalarium and salt room) and Persian Garden (aquatherapy facilities)
Get complimentary, unlimited access to the latter two by upgrading to AquaClass, wellness-focused staterooms that also include a spa concierge, a fitness pass, healthy room service options, a yoga mat and free dining at Blu, a clean-cuisine restaurant solely reserved for AquaClass guests.
How We Rate
To compile these ratings, FTG’s incognito inspectors boarded luxury cruises, posed as ordinary guests and tested hundreds of exacting standards. Since service is at the heart of FTG’s ethos, ocean cruises undergo the same formula as hotels: 70 percent of a cruise’s rating relies on its service, and 3 percent of that figure is made up of a new guest experience score that looks at how the overall experience feels, including the level of personalized service, sense of place and value. The quality and condition of the facilities determine the remaining 30 percent of the rating.
With three Recommended ships earning a place in the new guide, FTG’s entry-level award assures passengers of an exceptionally comfortable cruise experience with an array of high-quality amenities and services in upscale surroundings. Five ships earned Four-Star awards, which denote vessels that offer not only a high-quality facility but a particularly excellent level of personalized service.
See our collection of Star-Rated cruises here and stay tuned for more — FTG inspectors are sailing on inspections that will result in more cruise ratings for our annual Star Awards in February 2024.