Cruise holidays may be on hold for now, but many hopeful holidaymakers are spending this time planning their next big getaway. With so many cruise options on the market, it can be hard to know which one to pick, especially for first-time cruisers. Though luxury cruises certainly sound like the most glamorous of the lot, but what exactly can guests expect?
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Adam Coulter, managing editor of Cruise Critic spoke with Express.co.uk to reveal a behind-the-scenes look at luxury cruises and why they are so popular for those looking for something extra special.
“Luxury cruises are generally smaller ships with a more favourable guest-to-crew ratio, meaning service levels are often much more personal and intuitive than you would find on a mainstream cruise,” said Adam.
“Because of their size, luxury cruises are also able to visit more off-the-beaten-path destinations – places the larger ships simply cannot reach.”
Some of these specialist destinations range from sailings to the heart of St Petersburg, or through the Chilean fjords, to journeys which span the icebergs of Alaska.
“Their itineraries tend to be a bit more exotic than cruises on larger, mega-ships, which also makes sailings more destination-focused,” continues Adam. “It’s less about what there is to do onboard, you won’t find high-energy water parks or high production, West End-style shows, and more about what to do in port and enrichment opportunities onboard.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any amenities on board at all.
Regent Seven Seas luxury cruises offer a range of speciality restaurants onboard, which frequently change menus and themes to keep things fresh, as well as a special spa.
Meanwhile, Seabourn Cruise Line offers a spa complex, pool deck, water sports marina and a selection of gourmet restaurants.
“There are a number of luxury cruise lines on offer, and their experiences all vary by line,” says Adam.
“Beyond ocean-going luxury cruises, there are also a selection of luxury sailings on river and expedition itineraries – allowing travellers to sail waters all across the globe in style.”
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However, while all luxury cruises might sound similar from the outside, the experts warn that each one is a specific tailor-made experience.
Some cruises, such as Regent Seven Seas, offer an inclusive holiday package with fares covering pre- and post-cruise tours and hotel stays, transfers, gratuities, internet, shore excursions, beverages and sometimes airfares.
On the other hand, lines like Pontant are notably not inclusive but do offer a “fuss-free” experience.
Other sailors might be keener to travel with the family and should opt for a family-friendly luxury provider like Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2.
“Be sure to consider what you’re looking for in an onboard experience,” Adam continues.
“If you’re not looking for a bustling onboard atmosphere, and are more focused on an intimate environment that focuses more heavily on the destinations you’re visiting, a more serene luxury ship might be just what you’re looking for.
“But If you’re looking for the ship to be a destination in and of itself – with plenty of restaurants, bars, entertainment and kids’ clubs, a mainstream line might be a better fit to meet those needs.”
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Of course, along with a varying offering is also a varying price tag – though luxury naturally comes with a higher figure.
“Overall, you’re likely to find higher base fares on a luxury ship, as compared to a more mainstream line,” says Adam.
“But luxury fares are more inclusive in their offerings than mainstream lines.
“Luxury fares often include fees you’d pay extra for otherwise, like alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, gratuities and Wi-Fi – and sometimes even costs like flights or pre- and post-cruise hotels.
“Exact fare comparisons will vary by line and cabin type – you can sometimes sail for less on a luxury line in a lower cabin type than you could in a higher-level suite on a mainstream line.”
Whether the cost is worth it or not really depends on the type of experience you hope to enjoy.
He advises: “To decide whether it’s worth the investment, it’s best for travellers to decide whether they’d prefer to pay a higher base fare with more inclusions, or if they’d rather a lower base fare and more a la carte experience that you’ll find on a mainstream line – allowing you the chance to choose what added fees are worth your investment, and which you’re happy to pass on.
“It’s also important to ensure you’re actually on a cruise you will enjoy – your investment is wasted if you find yourself on a cruise that doesn’t meet our needs or preferences.”
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