For many travelers, any cruise is a luxurious getaway, but true luxury cruises have several prominent differences when compared to the mainstream ships most passengers are familiar with. The ports of call, types of passengers, and the ships themselves differ quite significantly, and prospective travelers should investigate luxury lines to be sure they're a suitable match before making vacation plans.
What Does Luxury Mean
Different travelers define luxury in different ways. It may mean the highest caliber of gourmet food, the finest wines and spirits, sophisticated entertainment, and superb yet unobtrusive service. Luxury is the ultimate opportunity to do whatever your heart desires, without the limitations of scheduled activities, assigned dining seating, or standardized menus. In the cruise travel industry, luxury is synonymous with sophistication and dignity, and luxury cruises operate with a more formal atmosphere than other cruise ships.
Characteristics of Luxury Cruises
Certainly every passenger has a different idea of what should be part of a luxury vacation experience. Though the different luxury lines have distinctive personalities, there are a number of characteristics they share that define them as luxury cruises, including:
- Typically smaller ships carrying less than 1,000 passengers for more intimate service without a crowded feel. Cunard Cruise Line and Crystal Cruises do have larger ships that still offer exquisite luxury, however.
- Sophisticated entertainment in the form of guest lecturers with a variety of dignified skills, including cooking, art, history, diplomacy, writing, and so on.
- Many included amenities such as gratuities, a variety of alcohol, and possibly shore excursions that cost extra on non-luxury lines.
- Less formalized daily schedules without assigned dining times or tables and with fewer scheduled activities to allow passengers plenty of leisure time to dictate their own pursuits.
- More extensive and flexible menus, particularly room service menus offering full dinners rather than cold selections or common snacks.
- A variety of name-brand extras such as high-end bath products, designer chocolates on pillows at night, and complimentary music, personalized stationary, or high-quality luggage tags.
- A greater number of formal nights with stricter dress codes: tuxedos and gowns are the norm for several nights.
- Escort services, particularly for unaccompanied women who wish to dance or converse with a refined gentleman.
- Visits to out-of-the-way Cruise Destinations that larger ships cannot maneuver into that offer a more laid-back, less frenetic experience.
What You Won't Find
While the characteristics of what you do find sets luxury lines apart from more mainstream vacations, what you won't find is just as telling about the quality of the vacation and the type of people who choose these distinguished voyages. For example, you usually won't find:
- Flashy entertainment options such as casino tournaments or raunchy comedy routines.
- Corny planned activities such as belly flop contests or scavenger hunts.
- Late night entertainment in booming night clubs or discos.
- Extensive year-round children's programs or multiple family options.
- Visits to well-known, frequented ports of call with dozens of cruise ships docked simultaneously.
Naturally, every cruise line harbors a distinctive personality, and some are more laid-back than others. Before choosing which luxury line to experience, travelers should consult a travel agent familiar with the different lines who can offer personal testimony about the pros and cons of each. Luxury lines include:
For passengers familiar with mainstream cruise lines who wish to step up to more luxurious sailings, Holland America Cruise Line or Princess Cruises may be a good intermediate step, as those mainstream lines also offer a variety of luxurious options similar to full-scale luxury cruises.
Cost of Luxury Cruises
It is no surprise that higher quality cruises naturally have a higher price tag. Luxury cruise lines rarely offer discount fares, and a typical voyage may cost two or three times the price of a similar voyage on a mainstream cruise line. Passengers should note, however, that the cost usually includes all gratuities, a selection of alcoholic beverages (for example, wine with dinner or an in-cabin mini-bar), and possibly a shore excursion or even the requisite airfare for transatlantic or European voyages.
Is a Luxury Line for Me?
For many passengers, luxury cruises may see too stiff and formal for a relaxing vacation. If you prefer to really let your hair down and go crazy on a vacation, your best option would be to investigate more fun-loving mainstream lines such as Carnival Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean Cruises. If, however, your ideal vacation involves attentive service, nonstop gourmet cuisine, quiet chats over evening cocktails in a piano bar, elegant displays of eveningwear, and exotic ports of call not crowded by thousands of passengers at once, a luxury cruise may be your finest option for an unforgettable getaway.