I was discussing the real benefits of splashing out on a luxury cruise with a newbie cruise fan recently, and the question was inevitably asked: do you really get more bang for your buck if you splash out on five-star? In my view, especially with the deals going about at the moment, the answer is yes.
Okay, so you’d be crazy not to want to cruise on a luxury ship with butlers, where everything is included and every stateroom is a suite. When you are forking out your hard earned cash for a cruise holiday, however, a lot boils down to whether the extras you get for upgrading are what you want or even need.
First, let’s look at some of the reasons why people step up to lines such as Regent, Seabourn and Silversea Cruises. For one, the ships tend to be smaller with fewer people, which means no long waits in line for anything including getting on and off ship in port. Smaller ships can also access ports of call their larger counterparts can’t, or can dock in small ports rather than needing to anchor. This can lead to more interesting a diverse itineraries, and you’ll share your destination with fewer cruise passengers also.
Also, in general accommodations at the luxury end are always larger. Many will have balconies as standard, and they’ll be fitted out with luxuries such as flat screen televisions, DVD players, a stocked fridge, bathrobes, and spacious bathrooms with amenities including toiletries. Some will also come with a personal butler, to respond to your every whim.
With few exceptions, there won’t be any tipping to deal with on truly five-star ships. In fact, tipping is not only included in the fare, but many lines actively discourage the practice while on board. Then there’s the alluring all-inclusive element where alcohol, bottled water and your daily latte are all covered in the fare.
There’s also cuisine. On many ships specialty dining is an additional charge, while on most luxury ships they are also covered by the fare. And even the smaller ships tend to have multiple venues, and again fewer people frequenting them.
And there’s transportation. At the luxury end, in many ports of call where the ship has to dock or anchor away from town, shuttle buses are usually provided free of charge. On others they are either not provided, meaning you might have to take a taxi, or they incur a nominal charge. Shore excursions can also be a significant added expense, but on some luxury lines certain events are included in the fare. The one exception to this is Regent, where free unlimited shore excursions up to a value of $200 are included for every passenger.
And finally, the one practice I find seriously annoying on many ships are announcements for everything from the latest sale in the boutique to bingo taking place wherever. On one ship which shall remain nameless, they not only had announcements throughout the day throughout the ship (including your stateroom), but spoke them in multiple languages!
If you are working within a budget, one way to help you with the decision of whether to step up is break down the cost of the cruise you are considering, and compare it to the luxury version. For example, if there are certain things on your “tick” list such as a balcony stateroom, daily bottled water and specialty coffees and teas, alcohol and so on, find out what each one costs so you can work out what you will need to add to your fare.
Paying $599 a person for a five day cruise in an inside cabin doesn’t sound like much, but when you include the many add-ons that rate could easily double. And either way, as with any cruise, do your research and check around for the best available fares, keeping in mind that early and late birds can benefit from good deals. Happy cruising!