Posted July 4th, 2013, 12:08 PM
I haven't done either type of cruise (the "first class" experience offered by Mainstream lines OR a true Luxury cruise) so I'm not in a position to comment ... I was hoping somebody would see this thread who has done both.
Speaking for myself the big issue is that my wife and I love balcony cabins ... to the point that we won't cruise on mainstream lines without it.
IF we were to ever stretch for a luxury cruise the most we would be able to afford would be the lowest category cabin (an inside or oceanview cabin). We aren't sure if the added benefits of being on a luxury ship would make up for not having a balcony.
For reference on mainstream cruises we spend inordinate amounts of time on our balcony, even eating our MDR meals on our balcony, drinking the personal bottles of wine we bought in port, skipping shows to sit out on the balcony, etc .... to be fair a part of the reason for this behaviour is because it's so crowded on mainstream lines that we don't want to leave our room!! We also really enjoy the feeling of the ocean air, sitting outside in the heat is such a treat when you come from the icy North.
We were looking at an option like The Yacht Club on MSC mainly because we would get a balcony cabin for about the same price as an inside/oceanview on a luxury line.
So I guess that leads to my next question. Without having really experienced it myself it's hard to envision the differences one would experience on a Luxury line compared to mainstream and if those differences would make up for losing having a balcony cabin.
Yes! The luxury ships have much smaller passenger loads and much higher per passenger space ratios. (Very few have inside cabins, most have at least portholes/windows.). We had similar misgivings when we booked Wndstar for two weeks, sailing in a 180 s/f cabin when the smallest cabin we had ever been in before was about 600 s/f on the Dianey Dream, which offers a ship within a ship experience for suites.
By the end of the second day we were over the fears. The cabin was spacious enough for what we used it for--sleeping and showering. We found that there was more space in nooks and crannies in the public areas than you could imagine. We never saw chair hogging. Even on sea days we were always able to find chairs by the pool. We also found that we had much in common with our fellow passengers, and wanted to spend time with them. The intimate environment made it easy to make friends, and one has become a close friend who I speak to almost every week. On the mass market lines, like you we wanted to stay away from the masses. We never met anyone.
You don't have to hide, because you can get a table for two at your meals--or share if you prefer. There are no disturbances like conga lines and hairy chest games while you are trying to relax. The environment is intellectually stimulating yet serene at the same time.
If you don't want to sit by the pool, you'll find any number of other places to sit and enjoy each others company with no one else around. It's actually quite amazing.
Speaking for Wndstar, they include all non-alcoholic beverages including specialty coffees, sodas, bottled water, etc. and your room fridge will be kept stocked. Ours had a bunch of stuff we don't drink, and I asked for just ginger ale and a couple of bottles of water, and they gladly replaced it. I never drank the ginger ale as we had smooth sailing.
They also don't push shore excursions, and will gladly give you info and brochures on your ports so you can DIY. They have bikes you can borrow, might be a nominal fee, we would go that route if we went back to a couple of the ports we visited in Croatia.
The entire experience is so different. So relaxing, never a line for anything, and they think of things you wouldn't even consider. The entire two weeks there was one time that I missed not having a balcony, and it was one morning where I wish I could have stuck my head out to see the temperature. Seriously. One time, for one minute.
They allow you to bring your wine on, if you drink it in the dining room there will be a corkage fee, but it's rather reasonable. Any bartender is happy to hand you as much stemware as you need for your cabin, or the Steward will supply it for you.
The experience is night and day, and we again booked the smallest room for our PG cruise next year, because a small room on a luxury ship is better than the royal suite on a mass market. Having done both, I can state this without hesitation.