Have you thought about taking a cruise on a luxury line? If you haven’t gone beyond the thinking stage because you figure that a luxury cruise is beyond your budget, read on.
Mainstream and premium cruise lines offer wonderful cruise experiences that deliver comfort, convenience, entertainment and relaxation. Luxury lines do that, too, but they take everything a step further. Before we talk numbers, let’s look at what sets the luxury cruise experience apart.
Luxury ships tend to be small or mid-size, with all-suite, all-balcony accommodations. Suites are generally roomier than suites on ships in the popular and premium cruise line categories, with larger windows or glass doors and more spacious bathrooms (sometimes with full-size tubs). You’ll also find high-end linens and bath products, granite or marble countertops, elegant fabrics and thoughtful touches like fresh flowers or binoculars for wildlife viewing.
Luxury cruises sail with more crew members per guest, and the crew is trained to provide highly personalized service: they will know your name, remember your preferences and anticipate you needs. Don’t be surprised to come back to your suite to find your shoes polished and your evening clothes pressed (even if you didn’t ask).
You may not find the number or variety of dining spots now available on some of the largest cruise ships, but your dining choices will be top-notch from breakfast through late-night snack. Most cruise ship galleys will accommodate special dietary requests, but on a luxury ship (with a little advance notice to the maître d’) the chefs can create unique dining experiences perfectly in line with your tastes.
Luxury ships don’t have as much variety in onboard entertainment as larger ships do; instead, they focus on providing memorable on-shore experiences. Shore excursions tend to showcase an aspect of the local culture that’s off the usual tourist path; for example, you might choose from a behind-the-scenes winery tour with the head vintner, a hands-on cooking class with a local chef, and a museum visit to watch an art restoration in progress. Some luxury lines offer concierge services for shore excursions: just describe what you’d like to do, and the staff will make it happen.
On popular cruise lines, it’s not unusual to wait in line at the purser’s office, shore excursion desk or buffet, not to mention waiting to go on shore or re-board the ship. That doesn’t happen on luxury ships. It’s partly due to the smaller scale, but also to the high level of service delivered in every situation.
Now that you know the major benefits of luxury cruising, let’s look the cost. At first glance, luxury fares are about twice as much as those for popular cruise lines. But, take a close look at what’s included in a luxury cruise fare.
It will likely include:
No need to leave gratuities for the crew at the end of the cruise; you already did so as part of your fare.
This includes beer, wine and liquor – except, perhaps, for the priciest selections.
You might pay extra for any custom excursions that you request.
Access to all Restaurants
Every dining venue will be of gourmet quality, with no surcharges.
Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Considered part of your daily suite service.
When you consider the extras you’ll pay for on a non-luxury cruise, the total costs may be more comparable than you imagined. Some luxury fares even include airfare to and from the ship!