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Were you a big ship cruiser who's switched to luxury?

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Hi. Wondering about what draws you to luxury cruising, particularly if you've done larger, more mainstream voyages. What was the impetus when you finally jumped from big ships to smaller, more luxurious ones? Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

 

 

Carolyn

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I jump the Celebrity cruise line in 2016. I was on a wonderful 15 day cruise full ship (Iberian Pennisula) on the Constellation. This was my 7th Celebirty cruise.

We had a CC aft stateroom with huge balcony. It was on a sea day, sitting alone on the balcony because the pool area was overcrowded. Cafe Bacio was full all day without a seat to have... the Maritni bar was three rows deep in the evening. The servers at Sunset bar were few and far between.

I began to assess that the crowds, and service was beyond annoying. I made the decision , it is time to find what a smaller ship with more included amenities would feel like.

I booked a Viking Ocean ship for a 15 day TA in 2018. OMG, the difference was amazing. :D

One only needs to read posts on the VO forum or read the reviews to know that design of common space, service, food , and treatment of passengers as thinking adults is top notch.

I am smitten with VO and have found a new cruise line that fits my needs perfectly.

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I cruised with HAL for a couple of decades. We got tired of all the crowds on the ship and the offered excursions and wanted a better experience.

 

On one of our cruises with HAL we spoke with a couple of ladies that regularly cruised with Regent and raved about how much better an experience it was. So when we were looking for another cruise i checked out Regent. Loved the idea of having an all inclusive experience where we weren't continually being hounded to buy this or that, that included excursions in the price and was a smaller ship. We liked that the air was included and that Regent offered business class fares for a reasonable upcharge. Of course now, all or almost all their cruises include international business class air. On our first cruise they also offered a reasonably priced post-cruise tour in Egypt. It was well run and we loved the whole experience. We have taken advantaged of the post or pre-cruise offerings and in fact on one cruise we took advantage of both the pre and post-cruise tours. One was free and the other was a reasonable fee.

 

Regent is our go to cruise line now though we have done suite class on Celebrity when Regent didn't offer the itinerary we wanted. We pick our cruises based on itinerary not on ship or cruise line but i always check Regent first to see what they offer. I am an accountant so i also always crunch the numbers if there is more than 1 cruise line offering the itinerary we want. Because we take advantage of all the inclusions offered by Regent, it always comes off as a good a deal if not better than other lines.

 

Service, food and cabins are great.

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We did sail on some main stream lines but pefer smaller ships

 

So when we tried Oceania (not a luxury line) we loved the small ship experience that was back in 2004

 

We tried some other main stream lines NCL, Princess & HAL we now just stick with Oceania

 

It is not a Luxury line but is suits our needs & wants

 

 

 

It does not have to be a Luxury line to find what some are looking for

YMMV

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Our very first cruise was on RCCL's Vision of the Seas, one of their smallest ships. It was a four night cruise in the Baltics. We had a good time, but my husband didn't like all of the nickel and diming and constant emphasis on tipping. We'd rather pay a lot before we get on the ship than pay less and end up with a big bill as we disembark. We also like smaller ships, especially ones that allow you to sit at your own table, and we like our booze and prefer not to having to worry about signing chits. For the most part, I think we're a lot happier on the luxury lines.

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After 40+ years working for & cruising with P&O/Princess, we finally dumped them after our 2015 World Cruise. The standards started dropping as soon as they were purchased by Carnival, but laterally have been in free fall. The quality of victuals has decreased significantly and life aboard is constantly based on nickle & diming. The final straw was their complete lack of customer service, it was almost as if they want rid of Elite pax.

 

Based on reviews we elected to go with Viking Ocean, with our first cruise being the 2020 World Cruise. Don't anticipate heading back to a mainstream line.

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Thanks, everyone, for sharing your stories about "making the switch"!

 

 

I probably should have asked the question of anyone liking small ship (not just luxury); which we figure are about 1,000 passengers or fewer.

 

 

One luxury/small ship line told me recently that river cruises in Europe were the best referral ever. Travelers who'd done big ships tried a riverboat and liked the smaller size so much that when they went back to the oceans, they went "small".

 

 

 

Hope folks keep posting. It's so interesting!

 

 

Carolyn

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The luxury ships we've been on are SeaDream I and Hebridean Princess. SeaDream has just 112 passengers per vessel and Hebridean Princess tops out at 49 passengers! I can't even imagine getting on a ship with 1,000 people on it now.

 

I never see Hebridean Princess listed among the favorites of luxury cruisers, but I have experienced the most amazing, personalized service on that line. The food is outstanding and all excursions, transfers, and alcoholic beverages are included in the fare. Tipping is also forbidden and when you board the ship, you don't even need to hand over a credit card. Granted, Princess used to be a car ferry, so she's not the newest or fanciest, but luxurious she definitely is.

 

I have no desire to be on a big ship now, even one that is a luxury brand.

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It's never really been a contest for me, as far as big ships versus small and/or luxury ships. I have no interest in mega-ships, don't like to wait in lines and don't like to pay up-charges for restaurants or add-ons for alcoholic beverages.

 

I enjoyed the scale of Wind Surf in November 2011 and did my first Seabourn (the Pride, now part of Windstar) in June 2013. I followed that up with another Seabourn (the Sojourn, about 450 passengers) in October 2014.

 

I sailed on Silversea Spirit in August 2016 and found it very enjoyable and comparable to Seabourn in scale and service level. In a little more than a month, I'm going to be aboard Seabourn Ovation, and I want to find out if their 600-passenger capacity is comfortable for my taste or "pushing the envelope."

 

In short, I will probably always prefer smaller ships, fewer passengers and more amenities and inclusions. I've had good experiences on a couple of river cruises with AMA Waterways and will likely try them again, too.

 

Cruising today has so many options and levels, there's something for just about everyone!

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Hi Carolyn, I missed this thread...…….if you are still asking for stories.

 

I was a loyal Celebrity cruiser for many years. I also sailed Royal Caribbean, HAL and Carnival but Celebrity was my line of choice (over 40 times in a span of about 12 years).

 

Then in 2016 I took my first river cruise (less than 150 passengers) (LOVED IT:D) and after some life changes I was able to try Silversea in 2017 and I recently sailed with them again this summer. These cruises were with less 500 passengers.

 

As for my opinion about the differences? I would say the overall ambiance is 180 degrees different....so many less people, food (as I said, just my opinion) food is much fresher, more things made to order. The galley is cooking for way less people. Service? They know your name after the first day. And it just has a different feeling on board. Now, if you love sailing with "the mass floating cities", these small vessels would probably not be for you. But I love them.:)

 

I am looking at other smaller size ships going forward...…..does it have to "luxury"? Not necessarily but I definitely enjoy the intimacy and what goes with it. Yes, it is quite a bit more $ but at this point in my life I have the chance to upgrade and am taking advantage of it:) And as a solo passenger, I feel very, very welcomed...….not that the mass market lines don't welcome you, but on such a small ship, Management encourages the staff/management to interact with the guests. Just an overall different vibe.

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We started out on some smaller ships (Windstar in particular -150 passenger ship) but took an inside passage cruise on Holland America (2,000 passenger ship,) after my brother recommended it. The difference in passenger load very noticeably affected the quality of experience. Windstar line offered much more attentive and individualized service, had an intimate atmosphere, and you were not treated like another in the "herd." Still our favorite ocean cruise line overall. The dining in Holland's main dining room was OK, but the "Lido" buffet was awful--too many people milling about aimlessly, no tables, food out in various stations. Similar experiences all over the Holland ship, just a big cattle call.

 

Since that cruise, we have stuck to smaller ship cruise lines. Oceania Insignia carried 700, and even that had the "too big" feeling at times, hence we have not used any of their newer larger ships. Seabourn was an ocean of calm on board with lovely, large suites. We rarely saw anyone in the hallways, like having the ship to yourself. AMA Waterways (river cruise) really stepped up their game on our recent Christmas Markets cruise, which was delightful. From now on, my spouse will not consider any cruise ship with more than the Seabourn Sojourn passenger count of about 400.

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As you can see from my join date, and cruise history, I started our with what were a small ship (Cunard Countess) and moved to big mass market ships, such as the Grand Princess beginning in 2000.

Honestly, while not luxury, the Grand Princess eighteen years ago was a much better product than large ships now, IMHO. The cabins weren’t fabulous, but there was plenty of non revenue generating public space, multi course dinners with tableside prep, much more personalized service. The Atrium didn’t feel like a Turkish bazaar. There were very few extras that were not included.

After my kids moved on, I started to do more luxury travel, in general. I don’t inherently hate large ships. I did enjoy the Queen Mary in the grills level of service.

I am not a fan of the river cruise experience, in general although we are doing the Nile on a Sanctuary ship in March, I have an Amazon 18 day booked for 2020 on the new Hapag Lloyd expedition ship which is jut a few hundred people. I spent 21 days on the Hanseatic with just 140 passengers, and only about 20 English speakers. And we had a full week at sea!

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We always took cruises as a family, so went on the big ships for their children and teen programs. When the kids grew up and we became empty nesters, we tried an Azamara cruise and decided we liked the smaller ship environment. Since then, we have been on an Amawaterways river cruise, and sailed Windstar and Crystal. We are currently deciding upon our next cruise and it will surely be on one of the smaller vessels.

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The decline of quality food and service; constant in-your-face selling and upselling; the nickel and diming; the # of passengers; the kids; the lines = these are the main reasons we will never get on a mass market ship again.

 

We prefer land trips to most cruises and discovered that luxury adult only resorts are a very good option for a beach vacation. Our major trips are to Europe and, with very few exceptions, we always will choose independent land over a cruise of any level.

 

I took my first luxury cruise in the early 90s.  This year we are taking Crystal for the first time (excited about this!) and also Viking Ocean, on a whim and already regretting that decision.  Hopefully, it will be better onboard than our pre-cruise experience has been.  I do not consider them to be luxury but we are interested in Cuba and VO does not allow kids and we are hoping for the best.

 

 We had a cruise booked on Scenic but they cancelled our cruise not one, but twice, with the most recent cancellation the replacement for the first one they cancelled. We will not be giving them a 3rd try.

 

We moved to river cruises from ocean and found it to be a much better fit for our tastes. AMA and Uniworld are our favorite lines.  Smaller ships with a more well traveled demographic and without the need for constant distractions and canned entertainment is our preference.  We will go back to the river after these 2 cruises.

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My first luxury cruise experience was with Crystal because they offered a consistently low single supplement......Not only do I think a single supplement of 100% is unjustified, a lower supplement across the board made me think they valued solo cruisers and wouldn't leave me feeling like an unwanted guest they didn't know what to do with.   I got what I wanted: treated well, like every other passenger.  And, of course, then I fell in love with the comfort, service, relaxing atmosphere, great lectures, and good food.

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We have just arrived home from a back to back voyage on SeaDream II in the Caribbean.

Like Caviargal above we prefer to take our holidays on land. But when we do go by sea we prefer yachting to cruising. SeaDream provides a perfect style of sea travel for those who want to feel the actuality of being on the sea whilst enjoying the highest level of service.

One of our fellow passengers on our latest voyage is a senior executive with one of the mass market cruise lines. But when he and his wife travel for pleasure, they always sail on SeaDream or one of the other boutique luxury lines. I think that says it all.

 

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