Why Take a Luxury Cruise?
The cruise industry is continuously expanding. With more and more cruise lines offering cruises of all types to travelers of all budgets and styles, it makes sense that well over 20 million people are expected to take cruises this year. However, not all cruises are created equal. If you’re new to cruising, it might seem like prices are a little too dynamic and vary a little too much to be rational.
In fact, luxury cruise lines, like Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises, and Seabourn actually offer a very different cruising experience than their larger (often cheaper) counterparts.
So what exactly makes luxury cruises different from the rest of the cruise lines on offer? Is it really worth the extra money? And how do you know that you’re actually getting the luxurious cruise you pay for? These are important questions, and we will answer them for you here. You can also find out how to find the best luxury cruise for you, what you can expect on a luxury cruise, and everything you need to know about luxury cruising.
7 Main Differences Between Luxury & Mainstream Cruises
When it comes to the main differences between luxury and mainstream cruises, things usually break down in terms of quality vs. quantity. For example, while you may have an abundance of dining and entertainment options on a Royal Caribbean megaship, the average quality of each restaurant, class, spa, or excursion will be lower than on a luxury ship. Here are some of the biggest differences between luxury cruises and mainstream cruises.
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1. Price of luxury cruises vs other types of cruises
It’s true - luxury cruises come at a premium. While we don’t want to suggest that it’s impossible to find discounted fares on luxury sailings (in fact, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Cunard all tend to offer significant discounts within 100 days of departure), it’s far more likely to find fares up to 5 times as expensive as mainstream cruise prices. While these prices can seem sky high, it's important to bear in mind that most luxury cruises are all-inclusive. This means that you pay more for luxury cruises up front (sometimes significantly more), but you avoid the nickel-and-diming that happens on standard or mainstream cruises. From specialty restaurants to gratuities, costly cocktails and shore excursions, standard cruises can quickly add up extra fees that can leave a sour taste at the end of your cruise.
Don't believe us? Check out this price comparison of three Caribbean cruises - one on a luxury line, one on a premium cruise line, and one on a standard cruise line:
Price comparison for 7 Night Caribbean Cruise
Prices shown are per person for double occupancy. They do not include taxes & fees.
|Luxury Cruise||Premium Cruise||Standard Cruise|
|Hotel Stay (1 Night)||included||$150||$150|
|Shore Excursions**||$0 (included)||$58||$75|
|Total Extra Expenses||$0 (included)||$1,793||$1,614|
|Cost Per Day||$690||$678||$421|
2. More space for passengers in suites and common areas
Luxury accommodations are one perk of paying higher prices, and almost all luxury lines offer all-suite staterooms. These more spacious suites also feature ocean views and balconies, and many are bedecked with finer furnishings, including designer toiletries from Bulgari, L’Occitane, and Hermès. While common areas and dining rooms may lack the grandeur of larger ships, they still offer breezy comfort and uncramped coziness.
3. Better service before, during, and after the cruise
It goes almost without saying that the onboard service of luxury cruise lines is excellent, with personal touches that exceed expectations being the norm. However, even before you board or after you disembark, these cruise lines go above and beyond with their standard of service. Airport transfers are often included and are just the beginning - many lines also offer pre- and post-cruise accommodation in luxury partner hotels or superb, stylish shore experiences (Regent Seven Seas and Silversea Cruises are two such lines). These extra perks may cost extra, but for many cruisers the peace of mind is well worth it.
On many luxury cruises, the staff-to-guest ratio is a mere 1-to-2, meaning that attentive service is available day or night. Staff and crew also undergo rigorous training, and the butler service offered by many luxury cruises anticipates needs and handles requests without passengers having to ask.
4. Exotic itineraries
Tired of visiting the same ports and tourist hubs cruise after cruise? Perhaps you’re a seasoned traveler who’s new to cruising and you’re looking for something unconventional to tempt your wanderlust? With luxury cruises, it’s much easier to find itineraries that are off the beaten path. As luxury lines typically feature smaller ships, more isolated ports are available in every region - from exclusive Mediterranean islands to tough-to-reach Alaskan hideaways. Not only that, luxury cruises also often plan overnight stays in more popular ports so passengers can have time and space to immerse themselves after the crowds from larger cruise ships have dispersed.
5. Enrichment over entertainment
Luxury and premium cruises tend to cater to an older, quieter clientele, many of whom are well-heeled and cosmopolitan and value immersive small-group courses over action-packed entertainment. That’s not to say there isn’t any entertainment on high-end cruises. Rather, the focus tends to be more on the people on board, connecting passengers with each other, and in the experience of each port’s unique culture, cuisine, and camaraderie. While some luxury ships do still offer full theatrical productions, that’s about as showy as it gets.
6. Fine dining
Dining options aboard a luxury cruise leave almost nothing to be desired. In fact, most luxury lines have their own preferred partner chef curating culinary creations for the specialty restaurants on the small ships. Thomas Keller, the chef behind many a Michelin-starred restaurant, has lent his expertise to Seabourn, and his recipes can be sampled on all of Seabourn’s ships. Similarly, Crystal Cruises has partnered with chef Nobu Matsuhisa to offer Japanese dining and Paul Gauguin Cruises paired with French chef Jean-Pierre Vigato.
If you have a hankering for something specific, you can always alert the maitre d and the resident chef, who will be happy to whip up something special for you with a bit of notice. If food is an important aspect for you, check out our article including the best premium and luxury cruises for foodies.
7. All-inclusive fares
While luxury cruise fares may seem steep upfront, the vast majority of high-end cruises are all-inclusive. This means that everything - from drinks and meals to Wi-Fi and gratuities - is covered in the cost of your ticket. Some cruise lines, like Viking Ocean Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club, also include a shore excursion in every port. While Crystal Cruises doesn’t have a line-wide included shore tour, their yacht Crystal Esprit does come with an included excursion.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that “all-inclusive” doesn’t always cover all costs on every luxury cruise. While lines like Azamara Club Cruises include gratuities and alcoholic beverages, others, like Viking Ocean Cruises, do not. Keep reading to see a breakdown of what is included (and what isn’t) for the industry’s leading luxury cruise lines.
All-Inclusive Luxury Cruises
When it comes to choosing which luxury cruise line is right for you, it’s important to keep in mind what’s actually included in the fare. If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll want to pick a line with included Wi-Fi, as daily usage rates can rack up fast. If network connection is less important, but shore experiences are a high priority, opt for a line like Viking or Regent Seven Seas. Here’s what you can expect to be included in the cost of your cruise.
|Regent Seven Seas||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Regent Seven Seas||Yes||Yes*,**||Yes|
What WON'T You Find on a Luxury Cruise?
While it’s certainly true that there are plenty of included amenities and services onboard a luxury cruise, there are also some things you definitely won’t find. In order to ensure the best experience, it’s important to bear in mind the things that you won’t likely encounter on a luxury cruise.
We touched on this earlier, but it’s worth mentioning again. Because luxury cruises tend to cater to an older, more refined demographic, you’re unlikely to find costumed characters, Broadway-style musicals, or off-color comedy shows while onboard. Entertainment options on luxury cruises tends to be in the realm of cooking and yoga classes, wine tastings, and the occasional theatrical performance.
While many cruise lines market themselves as fun, vibrant vacations where you can let loose or unleash your inner kid (think Carnival Cruises or Royal Caribbean), luxury cruises tend to focus more on providing high-quality service, top tier itineraries, and delectable dining. Enrichment programs are easy to find and smaller ship sizes mean more memorable connections with fellow passengers, but after-dark entertainment tends more toward jazz club than nightclub, with many passengers in bed by midnight.
Perhaps you’re sensing a bit of a theme (no pun intended). Theme parties, costume contests, or other playful pursuits tend to be limited on luxury cruises, if they happen at all. It’s true that some lines still offer the occasional theme night, but these tend to be upscale, elegant, and formal. While many luxury lines have almost entirely done away with formal or semiformal dress codes, you’ll still be hard-pressed to find a karaoke night or drag show on a luxury cruise.
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How to Find the Best Luxury Cruise
Finding the best luxury cruise for you can seem like a daunting task. However, there are plenty of resources and tools you can use to make the process smoother, easier, and stress-free. Here are some of our top tools to help you make sure you’re getting be best luxury cruise for your needs at the right time, for the right price.
1. Use our ultra-refined cruise search
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a luxury cruise in a specific region (like the Mediterranean or Caribbean), at a certain time of year, or with a specific cruise line or cruise ship in mind, our free cruise search will help you narrow your scope and find your perfect cruise. Find your cruise now.
2. Activate free price alerts
When you find your ideal sailing, you can set a free price alert with just two clicks. Price alerts notify you automatically via email when prices on that specific sailing change. You can also set preferences to be notified about specific room types so you never miss out on a deal.
3. See 80% accurate price predictions
Whether you’re searching for a luxury river cruise or an all-inclusive world cruise, knowing when to book can save you hundreds. Our unparalleled cruise price prediction analytics offer clear-cut recommendations on whether you should book now or wait for lower fares.