TOP 10 REASONS TO UPGRADE TO
(Article from Cruise Critic Cruise Styles)
Considering making the leap
from a mega ship to a luxury vessel?
It may not exactly be an
original thought, but here's a piece of advice for anybody
planning a cruise vacation: Buy as much cruise as you can
Generally speaking, a cruise
- in any category of room - tends to be a fairly hefty
investment. So why not get the most bang for your
buck, and the most satisfying vacation experience? In
other words, why settle for the lowest-end inside stateroom
if another couple of hundred dollars will get you outside
accommodations? Don't take a standard outside room if
a few more bucks will get you into a unit with a balcony and
don't book a basic balcony room if you can make your budget
stretch to a mini-suite or suite! It's that simple.
And finally: Why not consider
traveling on a small luxury vessel rather than on a
mainstream cruise line's massive mega ship? Many
people never give the likes of Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal
and others in that upscale niche a second thought when they
get down to making their cruise plans. That could be a
mistake. Sure, these companies charge more. But
they tend to give a lot more as well.
Here, in no particular order
(and with a nod to David Letterman) are 10 reasons why you
might want to think about moving up to one of the luxury
lines. It should be stressed that not all of
these apply to all luxury lines. Policies,
practices, and ambiances differ from company to company.
But they're the kind of things you are more likely to find
on luxury ships.
Accommodations. Almost by definition, luxury ships (Silversea
Cruises' Silver Shadow, Regent Seven Seas Cruises' Seven
Seas Mariner, et al) are all-suite, no-inside-rooms vessels.
How important is that? Very. It's especially
important in a destination area such as, say, Alaska, where
the weather is not always your friend and where shore
excursions, however informative and exciting they are, can
be tiring (try a half-day Chilkoot Trail hike out of
Skagway, for instance, or a five-hour kayaking adventure in
Prince William Sound and you'll know what we mean).
It's so nice after outings like that to put your feet up in
an airy, well-appointed, super-comfy suite. And the
balcony that invariably comes with the suite makes wildlife
and scenery viewing so much more enjoyable -- also, of
course, of particular significance in places like Alaska,
Hawaii, and the fjords of Chile and Norway. And for
the most part, even standard cabins on luxury ships will be
outfitted with luxurious appointments -- from high cotton
thread count sheets to flat screen televisions.
Touches. There's no other way to put it. It's the
little things -- the attention to design, detail and layout
-- that make the difference between a luxury experience and
"just another" cruise. Things like Bvlgari toiletries;
twin sinks; separate bathtub and shower; terry robes; a
well-lighted dressing table (is there a woman out there who
doesn't appreciate that feature?). The stateroom
drapes will form a real blackout over the windows,
eliminating once and for all those annoying chinks of light
that keep you awake at night and intrude on your early
morning slumber. In Northern Europe and Alaska, where
it's light most of the day in the summer, that is a real
About those twin sinks we mentioned: The counter tops that
enclose them are likely to be real marble. The faucets
may be of absolutely top quality stainless steel. The
soft furnishings will be plush and inviting, the carpets
deep. On luxury ships, you won't find a lot of plastic
or Formica coverings.
No tipping. Most of
the luxury lines do not encourage the practice. In
fact, some make it very clear in pre-cruise literature that
no gratuity is expected. And it appears that the crews
have gotten the word. On two cruises in the last year
-- on Seabourn Pride and the Silver Shadow -- our offers of
a small gratuity for special services rendered were flatly
(but politely) declined.
including alcohol. On some of these ships, there is no
charge for booze -- at the bar, in the restaurants and
lounges, in the stateroom (your in-suite fridge will be
stocked with a bottle of wine or champagne, some beer and
soft drinks). The ships include wine -- on the whole
excellent and thoughtfully chosen -- with lunch and dinner
at no charge. It's true that if you have very
expensive tastes (if the only thing you can drink is a
Chateau Mouton Rothschild Premier Grand Cru Classe - 2000,
for example, or a 1998 Opus One), you'll pay extra.
Maybe a lot extra. But most people don't have that
problem. One passenger we met on a recent cruise on
Silversea's Silver Shadow expressed a preference for Pinot
Grigio rather than the Chardonnay that was being served that
day. And he got it! The wait staff simply opened
a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the complimentary wine list
Smaller ships, including those in the luxury category, are
able to visit places that their bigger brethren can't or, at
any rate, don't. In Alaska that means the likes of
Wrangell and Haines, Misty Fjords and Sawyer Glacier.
In the Western Mediterranean, they'll call at more exclusive
places like Portofino and Capri. Not only are these
ports of call a bit more exotic -- it's also less stressful
to be, for instance, part of a group of just a handful of
passengers of the only ship in Haines that day than a
tourist in Juneau when four or five mega ships are in port.
Service. There's a
reason that service people (stewards, maitre de's, waitstaff
and so on) don't hustle tips on the luxury ships: They're
paid better than their counterparts on mainstream ships.
And because they are paid more and are therefore not as
reliant on the generosity of passengers for their income,
these lines manage to attract a higher quality of employee,
well-trained, well-disciplined operatives who understand the
concept of "the customer comes first."
announcements. Because they tend not to get involved in
the seemingly never-ending stream of onboard entertainment
opportunities, there is no need for the cruise director to
be constantly on the public address system ("Hey folks, this
is Peter from the bridge reminding you that in fifteen
minutes we'll be starting our jackpot bingo in the main show
room, with a prize today standing at $600!"). On some
ships, the announcements seem to come on with mind-numbing
frequency. Not so on luxury vessels. There's
generally a morning announcement of the day's events, maybe
a lunchtime follow up -- and that's it!
Think about it. On huge ships -- vessels like many of
those operating in Alaska each year, some with 2,600-plus
passengers -- the sometimes enormous distances involved in
getting food from the galley to the table often drops the
temperature of the food by several degrees. That may
not sound like a big deal, but some people find lukewarm
food unappetizing. And when you're looking forward to
a bowl of nourishing soup after a morning on deck in the
chilly air watching glaciers calving, you want that soup
piping hot. On the luxury ships, it tends to be -- and
so does every other dish that's supposed to be.
Getting to know people in depth.
On any of the mega-ships, especially in this day and age of
freestyle dining and alternative restaurants aplenty, it's
possible to meet people once and never see them again.
On a smaller ship, you tend to be thrown together more
easily, and more often.
Although this can sometimes
work to your disadvantage, it's often a benefit. Case
in point: On the first night on a recent Silversea cruise,
we met what seemed at first glance to be a rather
intimidating English couple. She was a dairy farmer,
short, stocky -- the absolute quintessential Shropshire
lass. You could just picture her striding across her
acreage, wearing a tweed suit and wellington boots.
Her husband, a tall, almost patrician ex-British Army
officer (he insisted on being addressed as "Major" even
though he retired from the service a dozen years before)
was, let's say, "teddibly" British. Now, if this had
been a mega ship, we might have given this duo a wide berth
for the rest of the voyage. But it wasn't. It
was a 25,000-ton luxury ship in which the available space
afforded no real way to totally avoid contact.
And what a boon that proved
to be. On subsequent meetings, as these two relaxed
and opened up, we saw a whole new side of them. They
turned out to be delightful, amusing traveling companions,
whom we were able to know in more depth because of the
nature of our cruise ship. We didn't eat dinner with
them every night (they were invariably among the first into
the dining room while we usually ate later in the evening,
but we saw enough of them in bars and lounges, on tours and
on deck, to realize that our initial impressions of them
were quite wrong).
Ultimately, you can't expect
all of the aforementioned to happen to you, even if you
upgrade to a luxury ship. This is simply a random
sampling of impressions gained during recent voyages on that
kind of vessel. Find out before you book which ships
offer the features that most appeal to you. Just keep
in mind is that it's sometimes "penny-wise and
pound-foolish" to take the cheapest room when it might make
more sense to upgrade -- maybe even all the way to a luxury