Best "Luxury" non-luxury Cruise Line

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Luxury Cruising
Is it a state of mind?
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#1
AZ
496 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
So my wife and I have been cruising for over 20+ years. (Maybe been on 25 cruises.) When we started back in the early 90's, I would have to say, cruising was a wonderful experience. We started way back on Royal Caribbean which was a bit "upscale" at the time, but we did other lines as well. There were midnight buffets, great food with lobster almost every day if you wanted it. There was ice carving, and they even had live bands on board. If you were going to the Caribbean and they had a Caribbean band on board.

So fast-forward 20+ years to today, and a cruise on any of the "mainstream" cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, and Norwegian) compares to those old cruises of the past like a dinner at Luby's compares to dinner at the Bellagio buffet. So much so that my wife and I have given up cruising for now.

I do believe what we are looking for is available in one of the "luxury" lines, but after researching this a bit, I'm still not sure which one. We really don't want "luxury" as we don't want pampering, but just a casual fun environment, with reasonably good food, a band or two, some nightly entertainment, and typical guests under 90. (Were in our 50's)

So what cruise line do you think fits us best? Does this even exist anymore?

We are exploring Crystal, Oceania, Viking Ocean, and Regent Seven Seas but are open to any if its a better fit. So middle-aged crowd, better food, non-stuffy environment, some entertainment, maybe some enrichment/destination lectures, etc.?

We don't care about alcohol, casinos, and art auctions.
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Allen & Pam
#3
Charlotte, NC
734 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Also look at Hapag-Lloyd Europa 2 which would tick the boxes you've listed. My family's current preferred ship.

I can't recommend from personal experience but given the lines you've listed, I wouldn't see why you shouldn't look at Seabourn as well.

Would presume by your "casual" fun comment, you've ruled out Silversea for dress code.

Regent's clientele will skew older than your age - not to say that's a problem. Trivia especially can be lively and entertaining.
I'd just be concerned about the perceived value given the comparatively high cost to support "included" alcohol since you've said it is not important to you. To a degree the quality of excursions being included may vary depending on the region.

Which leads to a follow up question - where are you looking to cruise? Standard or Expedition ship?
Answers may vary depending on destination.
For example, there are many posters I respect who love the Paul Gauguin and if I was looking to cruise Polynesia it would be top of my list to investigate.

I'd recommend you spend some time on each of the individual boards to get a flavor of the current successes and concerns of each line's clientele. Within a week you should get a feel for the temperature of a group as well as how you feel about certain posters' content and whether or not you think your opinions may be concordant.
Alas - since Hapag-Lloyd hasn't been granted a board you may not visit a line specific site but there are several helpful posters who will answer those questions if you start a dedicated thread.

The research can be a part of the fun of a cruise.
Good luck.
#4
antwerpen
1,046 Posts
Joined Apr 2007
if you do not need "drinks "Oceania is an option as the drinks and wines are onerous on that line and a 18 % service charge.

Silversea is still rather formal but entertainment is very low - that aspect is not so good on Oceania neither

Maybe Crystal is an option and as you never did a cruise on Crystal before they went to all inclusive - you will not see the changes ... it is still good however it was far better before all inclusive.
But the basic cabins are rather small - recently Crystal made a lot of promotions.

Entertainment on Seabourn is also not great .

On Oceania the soda's are free , on the other 3 it is all inclusive ( basic wines and drinks )
#5
CA, USA
13,871 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
I recommend that, if you don't already have one, you find a goof TA who knows each of these lines well and can guide you to what best suits your needs. Nothing beats a good professional because all you will get here on CC is opinions.
#6
Washington State
23,022 Posts
Joined Dec 2005
Agree with wripro. A TA that specializes in upper premium and luxury cruise lines can be invaluable.

In terms of age, short itineraries and itineraries during the summer skew younger (and there will be children onboard if school is out) while longer cruises skew older. I am not aware of a luxury cruise line (other than luxury yachts) where the average age would be below 50-55.

We have sailed Regent and Silversea (luxury) and Oceania (premium plus). As mentioned, Silversea is much more formal while Regent is "Elegant Casual" (no jeans or shorts after 6:00 p.m.). Oceania permits "dress jeans" in their MDR and short, jeans or whatever in their buffet restaurant in the evening.

We haven't tried Crystal due to the small suites and they had/have set seating or open dining by reservation. Note: One of their two ships will have open seating either this month or next month and the other ship will do the change next year. We won't be trying Europa 2 because there are few English speaking passengers and it is aimed towards families which likely means more children on board. They are also the only "luxury" cruise line that is not all-inclusive.

While we do not drink a lot, we don't like signing for everything and therefore prefer luxury cruise lines that include alcohol. We sail Regent frequently because they are the most inclusive luxury cruise line (including international business class air, most excursions, pre-night hotel for guests in most suite categories, etc.). Again, the age on some cruisers skew older. We will be doing a cruise to the Amazon on Regent in November and, due to the type of area that we will be in, the cruise will likely have more people in their 50's and 60's that are fit.

The one thing that I feel the luxury cruise lines miss in terms of what you are seeking is "fun" in terms of entertainment, up to date music and dancing. These cruise lines tend to attract people that have "been there - done that" and want a quieter, more serene environment. There is music and dancing but the tunes are more classic (but do include Beatles, etc. -- just not hip hop or loud music that seems to be the trend right now).

Regent has a lot more going on than trivia and bingo -- on sea days, the Cruise Director has various games going on - some silly and fun and it is the younger folks (your age) that tend to participate. We hear a lot of laughter when those games are going on.

Again, a TA could give you the right perspective as those of us on CC do tend to post about our favorite cruise lines and our views may be sightly skewed in that direction.
#7
Florida
4,049 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Originally posted by ededmd

I'd recommend you spend some time on each of the individual boards to get a flavor of the current successes and concerns of each line's clientele. Within a week you should get a feel for the temperature of a group as well as how you feel about certain posters' content and whether or not you think your opinions may be concordant.
I wish it were always true. Certain participants on the Oceania board are different from the friendly feel you get on the ships. It's our favorite line marketed to North American customers: good food, casual dress code, all non alcoholic drinks included.

All our long cruises have attracted older passengers doesn't matter which line. The lines mainly marketed to speakers of other languages tend to have a younger clientele. Expedition cruises, Hurtigruten, and the Aranui5 as well.
#8
1,267 Posts
Joined Mar 2006
Look at the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti. Spectacular location in the South Pacific. Designed and built for the region. True Polynesian feel. All inclusive including alcohol (we also don't drink). No formal nights. Great food. Small, intimate ship with no more than 320 passengers. All age ranges but well traveled and most in the 50 - 60 age range (some honeymooners are always sailing). When looking at land based options in the region the ship is actually economical.
#9
CA, USA
13,871 Posts
Joined Apr 2004
Originally posted by FlightMedic555
Look at the Paul Gauguin out of Tahiti. Spectacular location in the South Pacific. Designed and built for the region. True Polynesian feel. All inclusive including alcohol (we also don't drink). No formal nights. Great food. Small, intimate ship with no more than 320 passengers. All age ranges but well traveled and most in the 50 - 60 age range (some honeymooners are always sailing). When looking at land based options in the region the ship is actually economical.
But a very limited itinerary. Once you've done Tahiti, unless you want to return, the Paul Gauguin doesn't sail anywhere else.
#10
89,936 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
This is what I would do.

Go to each of the websites for the cruise lines you mentioned. You will learn a lot from them. Study the diagrams and study what they emphasize. Look at specific itineraries.

Pick up a copy of the book updated on Ocean Cruising written by Douglas Ward and published by Berlitz. It is available on Amazon.Com

It provides a two to three page writeup on each ship. I find it to be very helpful. It will also include statistics about each ship.

Read Cruise Critic reviews. There will never be 100% consensus so go with what I call the 80/20 issue which I used at work. Until I have experienced something myself if 80% of the people say something is positive or negative about a cruise line and/or ship I accept it as fact until I experience it myself.

If you have friends who have sailed any of these lines talk with them since they know you.

As Wripro mentioned as did TravelCat2 find a TA who specializes in Luxury Cruising and most importantly doesn't just know the products but has sailed on each of the luxury cruise lines. I find this to be very helpful.

In the end, you won't know for sure until you experience it yourself. So do the homework and then make a decision.

I do not believe that one size fits all because if they did everyone would prefer one ship or cruise line over the other and that is not the case. I also believe that for some itineraries that some lines/ships work better then others.

Keith
#11
Katonah,NY, USA
2,792 Posts
Joined Jul 2000
I would ask yourself, what type of cruising are you interested in? There are more brands and ships than ever.
I agree that the Princess of 2000 is nothing like it is today. Most of the mainstream lines are not what they were.
I would agree that the book mentioned above provides a very good overview and jumping off point, it’s a quick way to get exposure to many brands.
I need to get over the fact that stuff is included that doesn’t matter for me, I don’t drink, and prefer to do my own excursions. I am happy not to have casinos. I am intrigued by Viking, which has a very clean elegant look. Hopefully they will expand their itineraries, as that is what drives my choice.
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#12
Sacramento, California
943 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
You might also look at a premium line like Windstar. It ticks all the boxes you've asked about except nightly entertainment. Depending on the cruise destination perhaps a bit older than 50 but much less than 90 - generally active (their two smaller sail ships don't have elevators - the larger sail ship and the 3 motor yachts do), adventurous, nice people. Not at all stuffy - smart casual in the evenings.

They have one night each cruise where they bring on local entertainment and one night with a crew show. Other than that there are two duos who play in two of the bars/lounges each evening but no shows. The ships can go into ports that larger ships can't use.

For more entertainment, you could try Crystal. They have a lot of entertainment and enrichment (shows every night, often 2 or 3 lectures each day) On shorter cruises all nights are smart casual. On longer cruises, they have a black tie optional evening.
#13
1,212 Posts
Joined Jun 2001
We're looking forward to an upcoming cruise with Viking Oceans. I think we're in for a special experience with Viking Oceans. Love their open, spacious decor and outside areas; casual. Haven't tried Windstar... some day. We enjoy Azamara, but balcony cabins are small, and their rates have gone up a lot.
#14
341 Posts
Joined Jun 2010
I am also looking for a new cruise line. We were on Celebrity in a suite and found they downgraded the butler service, the concierge in Michaels Club, Michaels Club, and Lumanae all downgraded from previous experiences.

We are looking for the private lounge for drinks, dining room with an upgraded menu from the main dining room with the same waiter each night and the butler services we had received on previous trips. We did book another Celebrity cruise, however, when looking at the pricing, we are thinking we could do better on another line.
#15
Brisbane
116 Posts
Joined Jul 2012
We just returned from a Celebrity cruise (in a suite) and all I can say is 'never again'... We'll either go back to Hapag Lloyd or try Crystal next.
#16
Florida
4,049 Posts
Joined Feb 2010
Originally posted by Momma Rene

We are looking for the private lounge for drinks, dining room with an upgraded menu from the main dining room with the same waiter each night and the butler services we had received on previous trips. We did book another Celebrity cruise, however, when looking at the pricing, we are thinking we could do better on another line.
What you are describing is the ship within a ship concept which works on large cruise ships.

In my experience, on a relatively small luxury ship, you do not need a private lounge for drinks because the entire ship works like a private club. Our most luxurious ship so far has been the Europa 2, but we were not in one of their suites with butler. We had the same waiters because we chose to eat in their section of the dining room. The food was of superior quality in all dining venues. No place was ever crowded because the space-passenger ratio is very generous. The price reflects all of the above, but I haven't compared it to Celebrity's Aqua class.
You could try one of Oceania's suites with butler (not concierge).
#17
166 Posts
Joined Jul 2017
Originally posted by ano
So my wife and I have been cruising for over 20+ years. (Maybe been on 25 cruises.) When we started back in the early 90's, I would have to say, cruising was a wonderful experience. We started way back on Royal Caribbean which was a bit "upscale" at the time, but we did other lines as well. There were midnight buffets, great food with lobster almost every day if you wanted it. There was ice carving, and they even had live bands on board. If you were going to the Caribbean and they had a Caribbean band on board.

So fast-forward 20+ years to today, and a cruise on any of the "mainstream" cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity, and Norwegian) compares to those old cruises of the past like a dinner at Luby's compares to dinner at the Bellagio buffet. So much so that my wife and I have given up cruising for now.

I do believe what we are looking for is available in one of the "luxury" lines, but after researching this a bit, I'm still not sure which one. We really don't want "luxury" as we don't want pampering, but just a casual fun environment, with reasonably good food, a band or two, some nightly entertainment, and typical guests under 90. (Were in our 50's)

So what cruise line do you think fits us best? Does this even exist anymore?

We are exploring Crystal, Oceania, Viking Ocean, and Regent Seven Seas but are open to any if its a better fit. So middle-aged crowd, better food, non-stuffy environment, some entertainment, maybe some enrichment/destination lectures, etc.?

We don't care about alcohol, casinos, and art auctions.


Viking !


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#18
3,123 Posts
Joined May 2005
Originally posted by dcsam
We're looking forward to an upcoming cruise with Viking Oceans. I think we're in for a special experience with Viking Oceans. Love their open, spacious decor and outside areas; casual. Haven't tried Windstar... some day. We enjoy Azamara, but balcony cabins are small, and their rates have gone up a lot.
We did a Viking river cruise last year, so we booked a Viking Ocean cruise for March. I'm looking forward to it. It's a Caribbean cruise and we had been looking at Windstar, but we really liked Viking and WIndstar had no balconies for the itinerary we were interested in.

I've been looking at Regent and Seabourne because they seem to be in line with the kind of cruise style we like. I'm keeping them on the back burner until after our Viking Ocean.
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