Cruising has been in the news lately with the unfortunate fire aboard the Carnival Splendor. What has intrigued me and many others in the travel industry has been the descriptor “luxury cruise.” Carnival advertises itself as the “fun ships,” but never as a luxury cruise line. What is a luxury cruise? To understand that, we first need to understand all types of cruise lines.
Mass Market Cruise Lines
These are the ships you see advertised on television or in print media. These cruise lines offer big ships and lower cost vacations, but with fun activities, enjoyable dining, great ports, and entertainment. The difference between the cruise lines in this category is enough that people may be dedicated to one and adamantly against another. Cruise lines in this category include Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian, Disney, and Costa.
These cruise lines offer smaller ships that are still large in size, but offer a spacious feel. The decoration is less in your face or over the top, the food will be of a higher quality and presentation, and entertainment will be different – more polished so to speak. Although accommodations include the inside, outside, balcony, or suite offerings, some cruise lines offer butler service in suites. Onboard lectures are common on these cruise lines and some have culinary programs, too. Although one would expect these cruises to be more expensive, I personally have seen extraordinary deals on premium cruise ships that beat the mass market cruise lines out of the water. Cruise lines in this category include Holland America, Celebrity, Princess, Oceania, and MSC.
Although not for everyone either because of taste or price, luxury cruise lines are definitely an interesting choice. Smaller ships, sometimes yachts or even clipper ships, these ships offer elegance and luxury at every turn for their passengers. Often all-inclusive, guests like the all-inclusive alcohol included with some of these cruise lines, but for the price tag – I would expect it, too! Cruise lines in this category include Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn, and Crystal.
Although some might think of only Europe when it comes to river cruising, there are river cruises available in the United States, too. River ships allow passengers to get into ports not serviced by larger cruise ships. Think of this as the difference between a large tour bus vs. a a minivan. Access to smaller ports means you get into places you might never have experienced otherwise. You can expect many of the same amenities you might receive on other cruise lines in a more intimate setting. Cruise lines in this category include American Cruise Lines, AMAWaterways, and Viking Cruises.
Although divided into mass-market, premium, luxury, and river cruises, the cruise lines offer a variety of pricing within each class of ships. For example, on the Allure or Oasis of the Seas by Royal Caribbean, you can reserve a royal suite for only about $8000 per person. Yes, I said per person! The loft suites are even more expensive. Alternatively, you might decide an inside cabin is more your style on a luxury cruise line and although not cheap, it won’t be the most expensive cabin on the ship. Think of what you want to do, where you want to go, and activities you might be interested in when planning your cruise. You might be surprised about the options that are out there above and beyond the mass market cruise deals you see on TV, online, or in your local paper.