Chances are if you’re on this website you already believe this, but it never hurts to add fuel to the fire.
Small Ship Size
Who wants to fight their way to dinner like its Times Square on New Year’s Eve? Carnival’s gigantic floating cities carry over 4,500 passengers. Royal Caribbean can carry over 6,000 people. To put that in perspective, Texas has 200+ towns with fewer residents than that cruise ship. Luxury ships offer relief from the crowds. Most carry less than 1,000 passengers; Silversea’s Silver Cloud carries 296 and nearly a 1:1 crew to passenger ratio. Oceania’s larger mid-size ship Riviera carries 1,250 passengers and 800 crew, also nearly 1:1. Smaller numbers mean more open spaces on the pool deck, better chances of scoring a reservation with your favorite specialty restaurant and people you can actually get to know over the course of your voyage.
This has become one of the biggest draws of luxury ships. Seabourn boasts a membership to the Chaine des Rotisseurs, one of the most prestigious gastronomic societies, and proudly serves Black River Ossetra Caviar. Oceania houses five specialty restaurants ranging from the french inspired Jacques, named for its famous chef Jacques Pepin, to the Italian LaToscana with its Versace tableware and artisan olive oil menu. For the seafood lover, lobster tails are par the course on Oceania: they go through the equivalent of 40 tails per person per cruise. These ships also do not require set seating times, allowing passengers to decide where and when they want to eat each night. As if that were not enough of a draw, the ships are all-inclusive – food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the price. Some, like Silversea, also include alcohol, while others require you pay per drink or buy a drink package.
An interesting parallel exists in the cruising world: the more expensive the ship, the fewer mandatory formal nights. Carnival requires formal dress 1-3 nights per cruise, while Oceania has no formal nights and Silversea’s are optional. Many guests rave about the relaxed dress code (especially the men) and use the extra room in their bags to purchase more souvenirs. But do not expect to get away with shorts and a tee-shirt – luxury lines require Country Club Casual throughout the ship (except on the pool deck), especially during dinner in the specialty restaurants. Think of it as a more colorful, flexible variation of the standard golf club polo-and-Bermudas uniform.
Smaller ships get into more ports. It’s a fact of the cruise world. These slighter ships can go to remote islands like Nuku Hiva in the French Polynesia, travel south to seven different ports along Indonesia, squeeze into Monte Carlo and jaunt along the Amalfi coast. Forget the usual ‘Miami – Bahamas’ round trip. These are different, unique, once-in-a-lifetime itineraries with fabulous names like “Seas of Antiquity” and “Burma to Bali Adventure”.
Many guests travel aboard luxury ships for the intellectual quality. They enjoy learning, whether it be through a guest lecturer detailing Rome’s Republic era or a lengthy wine tasting sampling the local Spanish specialties. The speakers are not white-haired, mothball-scented professors, either. Crystal Cruises just introduced a microbrewery cruise along the northeast coast, and snagged four of the top craft beer experts including Victoria Tonini, a cicerone (the beer version of a sommelier) and Anthony Caperole, host of Art of the Drink.
Bigger Rooms + More Amenities + Service
This probably goes without saying, but the more you pay the bigger and better the rooms. A comparison of the top-level suite on Royal Caribbean versus Oceania’s Owner’s Suites is ridiculous: 1,285 sq ft to 2,000 sq ft. But the real benefits come with the lower-level rooms. Almost all of the rooms on smaller cruise ships have verandas, while many of the cheaper lines have a small porthole window or are interior rooms. Every room on Silversea comes with a personal butler, even those few without a veranda. Guests can order room service 24 hours a day. The idea of a room smelling musty upon arrival is not only unacceptable, but plain unheard of. If you like comfort, pampering and convince, book with a luxury ship. The cheapest room is better than the most expensive on a larger line.
Built for Adults
Apologies if you have children; this is not to imply you can’t take your family on a luxury cruise. Unlike the bigger ships, however, there are no children’s pools, rock climbing walls, kid’s clubs, Nickelodeon bedtime sets or any child-based activities. Luxury ships swap these out for wine tastings, cooking classes, art lessons, large casinos and lecture series. The spas offer delectable treatments like hot stone massages, full body wraps and aromatherapy facials. The gym has state of the art equipment, looks out to sea and offers free classes like Sunrise Pilates and “Core Conditioning”. But if you have children don’t despair – the ships also come packed with ping pong tables, nightly entertainment plays, DJ’s in the lounge areas at night, tennis courts and magic shows.
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