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It’s always been assumed that, for luxury cruising, small ships are a must.

But more and more big ship lines are now offering ship-within-a-ship experiences with many of the add ons you expect from a luxury line: exclusive dining, personal services, exclusive spa and private spaces.

Spectrum of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s biggest and most expensive ship in the region, arrived in her new homeport of Shanghai, China recently, with the line’s first Suite Club enclave.

With pool and solarium at the front of the ship, two special eateries and a personal shopper, you really can travel with 4000 people and only see your fellow suite class guests.

Spectrum of the Seas suite club

Spectrum of the Seas was launched recently with the line’s first Suite Club enclave

The Suite Club is on decks 13 through to 16, and features 36 Golden Suites and 106 Silver Suites. They have an exclusive access elevator, as well as a private restaurant and lounge.

In addition to a range of amenities, Golden Suite guests may access The Balcony, a private outdoor space with the best views of the sea; and The Boutique which can be reserved for private shopping, intimate parties and wine tastings.

Travellers in suites are also provided with a dedicated team of Royal Concierges who provide Royal embarkation, enhanced food and beverage experiences and exclusive room service.

If you book the 127 sqm “ultimate family suite”, you can take 11, including children, on the ride of a lifetime. This duplex offers a private cinema (complete with popcorn machine) which doubles up as a karaoke lounge, in-suite slide (yes, you heard that right!) and an amazing spa shower overlooking the water.

There is even a private personal shopping space, where the concierge brings luxury items to you as you sip a drink or read the catalogues.

Cruise Passenger was on board the ship’s inaugural journey from Shanghai last week and we took a special look at the suites.

They are light, airy and spacious with some fabulously quirky features.  The Ultimate Family Suite staircase, for instance, can be played like a piano. The stairs light up and it plays notes – made for budding Beethovens.

Our question: if you were able to pay upwards of $18,000 a week for a cruise, why would you pick a big ship?

The almost universal answer: because you’re taking the family. According to RCL, the Family Ultimate Suite is the “always the first cabin to be booked on any sailing.” And indeed, it’s already booked on many itineraries this year.

Now that there is Suite Class – and The Haven on Norwegian – there is a way to get the best of both worlds: exclusive privacy AND waterslides, rides and big show entertainment.

With a family of kids plus gran and grandad, everyone gets something from a big ship holiday.  Even mum and dad can relax knowing everyone is taken care of.

Spectrum of the Seas is sailing in China, where big families on the water are a normal sight. Small wonder she’s booked out.

But Ovation of the Sea’s loft appartments are also popular.

Which offers most value? We took a look at three ships from the same Royal Caribbean stable: Spectrum of the Seas, Silversea’s Silver Muse and Azamara Quest.

We choose a seven to 13 night journey to Japan to examine each line’s offering. Here’s what we found:

Spectrum of the Seas

1 Oct 2020 to 8 Oct 2020

7-night Best of Japan departing Shanghai, Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Ultimate family suite – quad share A$18,349 pp making the price of $2621 pp per night.

Prices for silver junior suites start from $3039 pp which means $434 pp per night and the Golden Junior suite from $4469 pp which means $638 pp per night.

However for RCL suite class, there are no shore excursions included, no beverages, all dining except specialty restaurants. Prices include taxes and gratuities.

Silversea’s Silver Muse

13-night/14-day cruise from Tokyo to Tokyo on 27 Sept 2019 calling at Osaka, Hiroshima, Karatsu, Busan, Niigata, Aomori, Hokkaido and Tokyo in an owners suite cost A$36,300 pp – equals to $2792 pp per night.

Silver Muse, Australia

Silver Muse

The owner’s suite on deck 9 is a 2-bedroom suite, with one bedroom of up to 129 sq m and another at 98 sq m for the second bedroom including verandah. The all –inclusive itinerary includes a dedicated butler, unlimited WiFi, a living room with sitting area, laundry service, afternoon canapés, dinner for two at La Dame on one evening per voyage, two hours of worldwide phone calls and a refrigerator stacked with premium beverages of your choice plus free economy flights.

The Vista Suite cost $12,200 pp which works out to be $938 pp per night.

Azamara Quest

4 – 18 Sept 2019, a 14-night Circle Japan Intensive Voyage calling at 11 ports including Kobe, Kochi, Kagoshima, Nagasaki, Busan, Kanazawa, Akita and Hakodate with three late night stopovers and two overnights.

Prices of the Club Ocean Suite start from $26,773 pp which equals to $1912 pp per night.

Azamara Quest

Azamara Quest

Club Ocean suite has a master bedroom of 44 sq m, verandah of 16 sq m, sitting area, refrigerator with mini bar, with complimentary AzAmazing Evening events, butler service, 240 minutes complimentary internet pp, one free bag of laundry service per suite for seven days, gratuities, complimentary in-room spirits and afternoon tea service, complimentary dining for two in specialty restaurant per seven days and $300 onboard credit pp for club suites . Select standard spirits, beers and wines are complimentary. Bottled water and specialty coffee are free.

A Club Oceanview Stateroom cost $5086 pp which works out to be $363 pp per night.