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Celebrity vs Luxury Cruise Lines


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Hello Everyone

We have been on several cruise lines and picked Celebrity as the one we like the best. I am looking at getting a Sky Suite Nov '22 to celebrate 40th anniversary. This will be the first time in a suite vs our usual veranda. They are quite a bit more expensive and that got me to comparing the more so called luxury lines, 

  • Seabourn Cruise Line
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Azamara Club Cruises
  • Oceania Cruises
  • Silversea Cruises

 

What are the thoughts of people who have already figured all this out. Price, service. entertainment and basically just stuff to do.

 

Thank you

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It is a good question and perhaps much will change post COVID.  But no matter how you look at the question, Celebrity is not a luxury line....not even close.   Smaller ship cruising on a so-called luxury line is an entirely different experience then being on Celebrity.  They are both wonderful experiences, but different.  The atmosphere on much luxury vessels is very laid back, relaxing, no lines, quiet, and (for the lack of a better word) classy.  The closest we have come to this atmosphere on a mass market cruise line has been on MSC while cruising in their Yacht Club (ship within a ship concept).  

 

About 3 years prior to COVID we stopped cruising on Celebrity because we thought all the cut-backs (I have called it the death by a thousand cut-backs) had turned Celebrity into something we no longer thought was worth the money.  We actually cruised on Seabourn (14 days in Alaska) for less money then it would have cost us in a comparable cabin on Celebrity....and trust me when I say that Celebrity is no Seabourn.  

 

That being said, Celebrity has always been a decent mass market line....but keep in mind it is a mass market line and not a luxury cruise line.  There are many cruisers who would probably not enjoy smaller ship luxury lines because they prefer the amenities and more extensive entertainment options on bigger vessels.  But for those who prefer being pampered with decent cuisine, not waiting in queues,  being greeted by name by many crew members, etc. a smaller ship luxury cruise is a great value...even at higher prices.

 

Hank

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You have listed most of the Luxury/Premium cruise lines, but not Viking Ocean. I suggest adding them to your list of potentials.

 

We did a similar exercise after our last Princess cruise in 2015. I had both worked for P&O/Princess and cruised with them for about 35-40 yrs, but their standards finally dropped below what we expect. We started the exercise of selecting a new preferred cruise line by developing a Statement of Requirements, or basically our preferences:

  • Number of pax - for us 750 to 1,250 was ideal. Ships that are smaller have less entertainment options, bigger ships not interested. Most don't even look like ships
  • Pax/space ratio - mass market are way to crowded, we are looking for more space with lots of quiet spots
  • Formal nights - we enjoy them, having experienced the days when every evening was formal and everyone complied. However, many cruise lines now state dress codes are suggestions which results in everything from tuxedo/suits to shorts and tank tops, etc. Our preference was no formal nights and smart casual dress code, where it is enforced.
  • Dining - this is highly subjective, but we wanted quality meals, not necessarily the best on board cuisine, but good quality products, well prepared, presented and served. Also wanted a good variety, with destination themes.
  • Alternative dining options - rarely use the buffet, so wanted 2 or 3 alternatives from the MDR, that were inclusive
  • Cabin Service - 24/7 cabin service was preferred. Bonus, if it is included
  • Entertainment - not interested in wacky pool games, marriage games etc. Wanted a good variety, especially since we take World Cruises, with a balance of shipboard performers and guest entertainers. On our last World Cruise, the Cruise Director and his staff developed a number of shows onboard to supplement the cruise line standards. Also wanted quality lectures
  • Most importantly, what we didn't want is nickle and diming, photographers, art auctions, kids, casinos, shops expanding into the atrium selling inches of chain, cheap watches, etc.

 

We short listed to 2 cruise lines, which we researched thoroughly, before selecting our new preference. Having completed 1 World Cruise with them and have a 2nd booked, we have no regrets.

 

Of your list, you should be aware that Crystal Cruises new owners are Genting of Hong Kong. The parent company ceased making debt payments in August 2020 and many pax have been waiting almost 1 year for refunds. They also own the shipyard building their new ships, which required a bailout by the German Govt to keep the doors open.

 

Azamara has recently been sold to an investment outfit with no cruise experience, so no way to know how that may impact the cruise experience, for better or worse.

 

Respecting costs, yes premium/luxury have higher base fares, but also include so much more than mass market. I completed a spreadsheet of the total costs for our 2015 WC (mass market) v's 2020 WC (premium). Our cabins were both balcony in similar locations, with the premium  line being about 50% larger. The 2020 WC base fare was significantly higher ($65K compared to $35K) but when all costs were included, the 2020 cruise on a Premium Line was cheaper per day. At the end of our 2020 cruise we had no bill to settle, actually receiving a refund from the cruise line for the balance outstanding.

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7 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

It is a good question and perhaps much will change post COVID.  But no matter how you look at the question, Celebrity is not a luxury line....not even close.   Smaller ship cruising on a so-called luxury line is an entirely different experience then being on Celebrity.  They are both wonderful experiences, but different.  The atmosphere on much luxury vessels is very laid back, relaxing, no lines, quiet, and (for the lack of a better word) classy.  The closest we have come to this atmosphere on a mass market cruise line has been on MSC while cruising in their Yacht Club (ship within a ship concept).  

 

About 3 years prior to COVID we stopped cruising on Celebrity because we thought all the cut-backs (I have called it the death by a thousand cut-backs) had turned Celebrity into something we no longer thought was worth the money.  We actually cruised on Seabourn (14 days in Alaska) for less money then it would have cost us in a comparable cabin on Celebrity....and trust me when I say that Celebrity is no Seabourn.  

 

That being said, Celebrity has always been a decent mass market line....but keep in mind it is a mass market line and not a luxury cruise line.  There are many cruisers who would probably not enjoy smaller ship luxury lines because they prefer the amenities and more extensive entertainment options on bigger vessels.  But for those who prefer being pampered with decent cuisine, not waiting in queues,  being greeted by name by many crew members, etc. a smaller ship luxury cruise is a great value...even at higher prices.

 

Hank

FWIW:

Premium/Luxury cruising isn’t as expensive as many mass market cruisers may think. 

Folks who don’t do the real math often make the error of comparing only cabin prices between lines instead of looking at the “net daily rate” of all required and optionally preferred expenses on a cruise vacation.

 
The reality is that the inclusive nature of most premium/luxury fares can represent considerable savings.
 

For example: Headed out for an intercontinental embarkation? Included airfare can represent thousands of dollars. Consider also, beverages, Internet, gratuities, specialty dining, booze, excursions.....  

 

It all adds up on mass market lines. And we haven’t even started looking at the differences in quality (especially food) and service as well as what’s avoided at the industry’s upper ends: nickel-diming, bothersome photogs, phony art auctions, crowds and crowding.

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Thank you for all the comments. From the things I have looked at so far is that if you are looking for just a basic veranda room Celebrity probably wins. But even if you step up to the lowest of the suites, the Sky suite, the luxury lines seem comparable. And I haven't even looked into airfare. We have always drove from South Carolina to Ft Lauderdale/Miami for cruises but that 14 hour drive has started to sting more the older I get especially the return trip.

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11 minutes ago, spiff2 said:

Thank you for all the comments. From the things I have looked at so far is that if you are looking for just a basic veranda room Celebrity probably wins. But even if you step up to the lowest of the suites, the Sky suite, the luxury lines seem comparable. And I haven't even looked into airfare. We have always drove from South Carolina to Ft Lauderdale/Miami for cruises but that 14 hour drive has started to sting more the older I get especially the return trip.

I think you’re missing the point being made by several of us who have responded. You need to figure in all cruise related expenses (like that airfare et al.). For example, Oceania’s regular “O Life” pricing includes airfare (or an air credit) while that would be an extra on Celebrity. Add to that items like unlimited Internet, beverages and specialty dining plus a choice of included booze, excursions or SBC, which are included in the O fare but are extra costs on Celebrity and you’ll see that O may actually be less expensive fir a far better product. And it’s not just Oceania. You can compare mass market Celebrity to any of the premium/luxury lines (all with different inclusive packages) and the bottom line math may really surprise you.

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1 hour ago, spiff2 said:

Thank you for all the comments. From the things I have looked at so far is that if you are looking for just a basic veranda room Celebrity probably wins.

 

For us, the cabin is a minor factor in selecting a cruise line.

 

If purely comparing base cruise prices, every mass market line will beat a more inclusive Premium/Luxury line. The big difference is most often the bill at the end of the cruise, or lack of a bill.

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While I agree with much of what Flatbush Flyer has said, I am not as sold on the idea of "O" falling into the luxury category.   There are some lines such as Azamara, O and Viking that I would categorize as being somewhere between the better mass market lines and luxury lines.  For the lack of a better term perhaps we could call them "near luxury."   When I think of the true luxury lines I am thinking of all suites, all-inclusive on board, etc.   These lines generally do not have things like gratuities and drink packages since it is all included.    The cabins on the old "R" ships used by both "O" and Azamara do not come close to what we would expect on a luxury line.  I should add that "O" does not include either adult beverages or gratuities in their normal fare (I am aware that "O" Life does include some benefits). I do understand that some "O" fans will talk about what is included in special fares (like O Life) but that is really not much different then folks who book RCI, Celebrity or Princess with various packages which can include lots of different amenities.   

 

I sometimes like to relate what it was like the first night we were ever on a Seabourn ship.  Our cruise fare had no add-ons and simply included everything from drinks (mostly top shelf), wine and tips.  The only extras were what one chose to spend ashore (partially covered by a nice On Board Credit).  The first evening we walked into the main lounge on the small vessel (max 450 passengers) the bar waiter greeted us by name (we later found out that many of the crew memorize lots of names from photos posted in the crew area).  We decided to sit at the bar and I immediately ordered two glasses of Champagne (and it was French) and a double order of Caviar.  The caviar soon appeared as part of a large plate with a large portion of decent caviar and various fixens.  The Champagne was fine.  The extra cost for all this was zero.  In fact, after 14 days on the Soujourn my entire cruise bill was also zero.  That is what we expect on a luxury line.   On some luxury lines such as Regent one can also find things like Business Class air included in the all-inclusive price.

 

Getting back to the OP's question one can certainly add more luxury to a Celebrity cruise by booking a large suite with a package that includes Premium Beverages.   But one must accept that you are still a passenger on a mass market ship with silly clothing sales  taking up part of the public areas, gold chains sold by the inch, annoying photographers, etc.  This is not what you get on true luxury lines.

 

Hank

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18 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

While I agree with much of what Flatbush Flyer has said, I am not as sold on the idea of "O" falling into the luxury category.   

....perhaps we could call them "near luxury."   When I think of the true luxury lines I am thinking of all suites, all-inclusive on board, etc.  ...

....which is why I generally identify Oceania as “premium.” Even Oceania identifies itself as “ultra-premium” in part to differentiate itself from sister line Regent which is all-inclusive.


And we actually prefer Oceania’s “less-than-all-inclusiveness” because we don’t need access to as many ship excursions or as much booze as is offered on Regent (at a significantly higher price). In addition, we take the O air credit and mix it with FF points for biz class air. Plus, we get comp gratuities and some other sizable perks on O.


FWIW, we’ve compared almost identical Oceania and Regent itineraries including pricing O upgrades to unlimited booze and unlimited excursions plus their BizClass air upgrade on included air tix. On a cruise of at least several weeks duration, the price difference for a veranda cabin (with similar perks and, IMO, equal food and service and, consistently, Regent is thousands of dollars/person more. And, BTW, as yacht sailors, the last thing we need is overly spacious cabins.

 

As I’ve already said many times, Oceania fills a very specific niche that appeals to more than enough folks to keep their cabins in high demand. And we’re glad to be among them.

 

 

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2 hours ago, spiff2 said:

Thank you for all the comments. From the things I have looked at so far is that if you are looking for just a basic veranda room Celebrity probably wins. But even if you step up to the lowest of the suites, the Sky suite, the luxury lines seem comparable. And I haven't even looked into airfare. We have always drove from South Carolina to Ft Lauderdale/Miami for cruises but that 14 hour drive has started to sting more the older I get especially the return trip.


I’m a little different from some of the others because I regularly cruise numerous lines and don’t have loyalty to any one line. I share your love for Celebrity. It’s an excellent cruise line and the suites are amazing. I actually like Celebrity’s suites better than luxury line suites. 
 

I’ve cruised all the lines mentioned in this thread and my clear favorite is Viking Ocean. The dining on VO is better geared toward the itinerary and destinations than the other lines. So is some of the entertainment. It makes more a more immersive cruise. 
 

If service and overall quality is something you’re interest in, I highly recommend stepping up to see if you like it. However, if entertainment, both quality and variety, is important, you’ll likely be disappointed on an upgraded line. 

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We just love suite perks on Celebrity, suite restaurant has excellent service and food , love there suite lounge excellent service and drinks, the two newer ships have a new retreat area with swimming pool and hot tubs, some. Of the older ship now have a retreat area with hot tubs, you will not want to sail in normal balcony again. Have not done luxury lines.

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7 hours ago, Cruzaholic41 said:

However, if entertainment, both quality and variety, is important, you’ll likely be disappointed on an upgraded line. 

For me, shows, activities & entertainment are the most important aspect of any cruise.

So I would never spend my time & a lot of money on a small, luxury ship with hardly any entertainment, shows or activities.

I would prefer Royal & Princess for the best in entertainment

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11 hours ago, spiff2 said:

Thank you for all the comments. From the things I have looked at so far is that if you are looking for just a basic veranda room Celebrity probably wins. But even if you step up to the lowest of the suites, the Sky suite, the luxury lines seem comparable. And I haven't even looked into airfare. We have always drove from South Carolina to Ft Lauderdale/Miami for cruises but that 14 hour drive has started to sting more the older I get especially the return trip.

 

It isn't just the cabin.  It is the overall ambience.  It is how they treat the customers.  It is the attitude of everyone on board.  To use a really bad analogy.  Would you want to stay in a high class suite at Motel 6 or a good room at the Ritz?

 

DON

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Just now, gerryuk said:

 

 

19 hours ago, Heidi13 said:

 

  • Pax/space ratio - mass market are way to crowded, we are looking for more space with lots of quiet spots
  •  

 

 

Its all relative. The space ratio on a ship that holds 500 pax will be the same as a ship that holds 5000 pax. There would be a difference if the ship that holds 500 pax was the same size as the ship that holds 5000. Happy to be corrected.

 

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49 minutes ago, gerryuk said:

 

Its all relative. The space ratio on a ship that holds 500 pax will be the same as a ship that holds 5000 pax. There would be a difference if the ship that holds 500 pax was the same size as the ship that holds 5000. Happy to be corrected.

 

Gerry you are absolutely correct and spot on.

Besides that,

To operate a small capacity ship is much more expensive on a per passenger basis, even if the facilities are the same.

(to provide luxury facilities would increase the costs exponentially)

it may not be financially viable to operate these small capacity ships

Maybe that is why Royal Caribbean sold off Azamara.

And why Crystal was sold to Genting Cruises

Edited by drsel
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1 hour ago, gerryuk said:

 

Its all relative. The space ratio on a ship that holds 500 pax will be the same as a ship that holds 5000 pax. There would be a difference if the ship that holds 500 pax was the same size as the ship that holds 5000. Happy to be corrected.

 

 

This is demonstrably not true.  See this explanation and listing of passenger:space rations per ship:

 

https://www2.cruisewatch.com/top-10/ships-space-ratio/

 

Now I will say that these ratios are not always the only indication of space, but they provide a good "thumb" estimate of how the ships are designed.

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1 hour ago, gerryuk said:

 

Its all relative. The space ratio on a ship that holds 500 pax will be the same as a ship that holds 5000 pax. There would be a difference if the ship that holds 500 pax was the same size as the ship that holds 5000. Happy to be corrected.

 

 

Thanks for trying, but in this case, I probably don't need corrected.

 

The pax/space ratio of Gross Tonnage/# passengers, while not an exact science is a reasonable indicator of the amount of space available per pax. This metric has been used for many years.

 

In the marine industry, Gross Tonnage (GT) is a measure of the ship's enclosed internal volume, it is not a measurement of weight, as that is Displacement, Lt Displacement, Deadweight, etc.  Once the totally enclosed internal volume is determined, GT is calculated using a complex formula, but for simplification we use 1GT = 100 cubic feet.

 

A better metric would be Net Tonnage (NT), which is also a measure of volume, but removes the working spaces, etc to be the volume of space on a ship available for cargo, which on a cruise ship is the passenger spaces. Net Tonnage is calculated the same as GT.

 

Unfortunately, Net Tonnage and the other tonnages assigned to ships are rarely published. Therefore, GT is generally used to determine the space ratio.

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2 hours ago, gerryuk said:

 

Its all relative. The space ratio on a ship that holds 500 pax will be the same as a ship that holds 5000 pax. There would be a difference if the ship that holds 500 pax was the same size as the ship that holds 5000. Happy to be corrected.

 

Well - let me offer you that correction. (Yet another reason to choose premium/luxury ships):

https://www2.cruisewatch.com/top-10/ships-space-ratio/

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8 hours ago, drsel said:

For me, shows, activities & entertainment are the most important aspect of any cruise.

So I would never spend my time & a lot of money on a small, luxury ship with hardly any entertainment, shows or activities.

I would prefer Royal & Princess for the best in entertainment

Best entertainment we ever had is on music charters on Celebrity ships , Grammy and rock and roll hall of famers like Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, BJ Thomas , America Todd Rundgren and a host of others, cruises that are offered are 50’s , 60’s 70’s etc etc, more expensive than normal cruises. 

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1 hour ago, drsel said:

Gerry you are absolutely correct and spot on.

Besides that,

To operate a small capacity ship is much more expensive on a per passenger basis, even if the facilities are the same.

(to provide luxury facilities would increase the costs exponentially)

it may not be financially viable to operate these small capacity ships

Maybe that is why Royal Caribbean sold off Azamara.

And why Crystal was sold to Genting Cruises

Wrong on both accounts.


See the recent posts regarding space ratios and peruse https://www2.cruisewatch.com/top-10/ships-space-ratio/

 

As for smaller always being more expensive: the cost of a ship’s operation depends on many many many factors including those when it is in layup or running at full speed. And specific snapshots like engine efficiency or crew ratios can easily contradict each other in determining which ship’s operation is more efficacious.
 

Further, remember that it’s a rookie mistake to only compare cabin prices. The true cost of a cruise is the “net daily rate” which takes into account ALL required and optionally chosen “bottom line” expenses (e.g., that premium/luxury line that includes everything from bottled water to airfare). Over the years on CC, there’s been a zillion threads regarding “bottom line” price comparisons between industry segments in general and specific lines in particular. And the right itinerary may often find smaller premium ships to be less expensive than larger mass market ones.

 

Finally, if future bookings on the ships of at least one premium line are any indicator, the profitability quotient when comparing segment prices is just an academic exercise. If it turns out that the cost of operation for any particular  itinerary/ship increases, the line can/will raise the price AND people in the niche/demographic that frequents that cruise line will pay it.

 


 

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2 hours ago, drsel said:

Just like other luxuries in life,  50% better is 500%  more expensive

LOL. 
Ever bought a new car? Depending on package selections, fleet pricing, knowledge of unpublished manufacturer to dealer rebates, a new Mercedes can cost less that a new Ford similarly equipped.

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36 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

Further, remember that it’s a rookie mistake to only compare cabin prices. The true cost of a cruise is the “net daily rate” which takes into account ALL required and optionally chosen “bottom line” expenses (e.g., that premium/luxury line that includes everything from bottled water to airfare). Over the years on CC, there’s been a zillion threads regarding “bottom line” price
 

Agreed that the luxury lines include airfare,  unlimited alcohol, specialty dining, shore excursions, WiFi, spa, photos, etc.

All these are factored into the high cost.

 

Considering the prices they charge, all beauty treatment and massages in the spa should also be included.

 

But if someone doesn't need even ONE of these, why should he pay for all of them?

For example, why should a teetotaler pay for unlimited alcohol if he or she will not touch a drop of it?

A person with mobility problems may not be able to do shore excursions at all the ports.

 

Everyone should be given a choice to pay only for the addons that they need or want.

Edited by drsel
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57 minutes ago, drsel said:

Agreed that the luxury lines include airfare,  unlimited alcohol, specialty dining, shore excursions, WiFi, spa, photos, etc.

All these are factored into the high cost.

 

Considering the prices they charge, all beauty treatment and massages in the spa should also be included.

 

But if someone doesn't need even ONE of these, why should he pay for all of them?

For example, why should a teetotaler pay for unlimited alcohol if he or she will not touch a drop of it?

A person with mobility problems may not be able to do shore excursions at all the ports.

 

Everyone should be given a choice to pay only for the addons that they need or want.

And that is the beauty of at least one of the premium lines, Oceania. 
While basics like unlimited Internet and all non-alcoholic beverages (yes- even Pellegrino water), as well as specialty dining are always provided to all passengers, you can choose discounted “cruise only” pricing, which eliminates airfare (or an air credit) and your chosen O Life perk. And even with the regular “O Life” pricing, you get a choice of an included amenity (booze, tours or SBC) and the option of air tix or an air credit.


Of course, O’s liberal policy of allowing unlimited personal wine and spirits for in-cabin consumption (or your wine at public venues fir $25 corkage per bottle) is another great item.

 

It’s this flexibility (e.g., teatotaler? Choose tours) that is a main factor in setting O apart from its sister line - luxury Regent - which is far more “expensive” even if you don’t want everything provided.

Edited by Flatbush Flyer
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