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The Difference in Luxury vs. Main Stream Cruise Brands by a New Luxury Cruiser


Sthrngary
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I recently watched a YouTube.com video on the topic, “What is Luxury Cruising?”  It surprised me a bit. The spokesperson was confused that after his first day, nothing seemed that different. He deep dived into the luxury experience because of the investment made. He had a few preconceived expectations that were now flawed. Interesting study at the very least.

I personally and recently went on a luxury brand for the first time. I also had many preconceived notions as well. We think sometimes that our research will provide us with a better experience then just simply going on the cruise. I, like the YouTube.com presenter, came to somewhat of the same conclusion. Since this CruiseCritic.com topic is about luxury, I thought this might help other wanting to venture into the luxury cruise segment.

Before I begin, this is just one person’s opinion. There is no scientific study done. Just me and my thoughts on the reality I had. All me to also add. My spelling and grammar are awful. Please look past that at the message I am attempting to provide.

 

What were my expectations and my reality by topic?

 

Personalized Service: 

  1. My Expectations: I thought that the crew would get to know me and my needs after a day or two.  I would go to a restaurant, and they would know my drink, the way I like my steak.  When I went to customer service, they would treat me like a person and not a number.  I could again have a relationship with crew members like the days of the past when dining was at specific restaurant, table, and time. My hopes were that personalized service would be able to enhance my cruising experience.
  2. My Reality: All the above.  This is the most noticeable difference for me from mainstream cruising even in the “Ship-With-In-The-Ship” concept and luxury.  The service for everyone regardless of stateroom was 99% the same and impressive.

 

Dining:

  1. My Expectations: I was expecting some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in.  Food, Service, Variety and Atmosphere. I was not only comparing the food and dining experience to other mainstream cruises brands.  In addition to any restaurant, I had ever been too. 
  2. My Reality:  The service was as mentioned above, over the top.  The atmosphere was great especially considering the view of the ocean. The food, seasoning and taste was good.  Better then the Main Dining rooms in mainstream cruise brands for sure.  Not as good as shore upper-end dining.  To my surprise was where the real improvement was located.  The buffets were smaller since the ship was much smaller.  The foods and preparations on the buffet were outstanding.  The grill by the pool that served simple foods like Hamburgers and steak sandwiches were over the top outstanding.  The quality of the meats and fish were above average. This is not to take anything away from the other fine dining.  Just what stuck in my mind.

 

Bars and Adult Beverages:

  1. My Expectations:  In my stateroom that the small bar would have some wine and tiny bottles of spirits.  That the mini refrigerator would be complementary.  The ship bars would have premium brands and great bartenders that really knew how to mix a drink.
  2. My Reality:  No tiny bottles of spirits.  I told my butler what I liked, a certain spirit brand and type.  The next thing I knew, a litter was in my room.  The mini refrigerator was stocked and restocked every day and yes complementary.  My wife who loves wine, had her white wine on ice every day and never ran out. The welcome Champagne was French and a very nice bottle. Every single bar tender knew their craft.  The drinks simply seem stronger, and I really cannot tell you why.  Much of the wine provided was the cruise brands label yet was excellent.

 

The Stateroom:

  1. My Expectation:  A stateroom that would be a cut above the average.  Well, kept and lots of room.  Well, thought out.
  2. My Reality:  The staterooms in my case penthouse was average to below average.  The veranda looked worn with uneven wood planks.  The area on the deck was large but it seemed empty with only two chairs and a table.  Not well thought out.  The separation between the living room and bedroom was a curtain vs. wall/door separate rooms.  The entry to the bathroom had a 6-inch step which both my wife and I tripped over during the week.  The US electrical plugs were rare and very few USB.  It was clear, you do not go on a luxury brand for the stateroom. 

 

The Butler:

  1. My Expectation: A professional and attentive butler that would do their best to provide as good of a cruising experience as possible.
  2. My Reality: Wow, just wow.  Did I say wow.  Ask and you will receive.  You had to beg to have him stop bringing food.  Every single request I had was just not handled, it was handled immediately.  The Butler was a “Game Changer”. Just remember, not every stateroom got a butler.

 

Shows and Entertainment:

  1. My Expectation:  The shows would be smaller in scale, yet a good quality.  There would be small bands in the normal places like certain bars, pubs, and the pool.
  2. My Reality: Do not go on a luxury cruise for the entertainment.  Except for the piano player in one small bar, it was not great.  It was also inconsistent.  Yet there were some guests, usually the most loyal of loyal guests, that raved about the entertainment.  I got the feeling they were more protective of the performers then the quality of the show.

 

Guest On Board:

  1. My Expectation: The guest would be a bit older because of the cost involved.  They would be more reserved.  No shipboard drama like on some of the larger ships.
  2. My Reality: The guest fell into two (2) categories.  The guest that has been loyal to the brand for the last one hundred years and the new guest wanting to try something new to improve their cruising experience.  The past guest was stand offish, snob like, and openly vocal to the point of making a scene when something was not exactly right.  It was awkward and uncomfortable so observe.  We were at the pool one day which only had a hand full of people.  The DJ only played on hour a day at the pool.  A past cruiser told the DJ to lower his volume which was already too low because it disturbed her.  That is an example. The newer cruisers were just happy to be there. Engaging, energetic and fun.  Just not enough of them. You cannot teach class.

 

Size of the Ship:

  1. My Expectation: The ship would be smaller. More intimate. This would allow the ship to go into ports that the mega-ships could not. It would be older but well maintained.
  2. My Reality: I love larger ships as a preference. Yet it did not feel like the ship I was on was small in anyway. As a matter of fact, it felt in some ways larger.  An example is the back of the ship. This really surprised me. Where on a large mega-ship this area would be high-end suites. On this much smaller ship it was open seating on every deck for guests. It was even allowing smoking which was very unusual. The view from the back of a cruise ship is outstanding.

 

Conclusion:

 

My tastes and opinions are mine. They only apply to this one luxury cruise experience. I am not an expert. My conclusion was a great experiment. Not the cruising experience I want unless it is port intensive where the ports are extremely interesting and unique. The past guests are really to blame here. Just because you can afford to travel luxury, does not mean you can affect the other guest’s experience. Rent your own yacht if that is the case. Having class has little to do with how much money you have, made, or can spend.

 

After my experience, I found a new appreciation for the Mainstream Cruise Lines VIP sections like the NCL Haven, MSC Yacht Club and the Celebrity Retreat. The bigger ships just have happier more appreciative guest. The level and quality of entertainment on the mainstream cruise brands is much better. Music is all over the place and folks simply seem to have more fun.

 

The Luxury Brands did personalized service extremely well. They also did not nickel and dime you every second. That was an appreciated difference. You paid your fare, mostly everything was taken care of apart from excursions. Kind of turnkey.

 

Is it worth the premium for a Luxury Cruise Brand? The answer is YES, absolutely. Just know, it is not your normal cruise experience. It is quiet, reserved, with little really to do or see. If you just want complete relaxation, book it tomorrow. I just consider it a better choice for Europe or unusual destinations. Just my two cents.

I want to give everyone a strategy here. Since some luxury brands cost as much as a small SUV, consider booking a 7-day cruise closer to the United States to take a Luxury Cruise Test Drive. Understand that brand loyalty with this luxury brands is very high. For example, after I post this social media topic, I fully expect folks to say things like, “You should try this brand…...” I have never seen folks that thing the brand they use is owned by them like this before on any product. A Luxury Cruise Test Drive simply gives you the high hard ones to see of Luxury Cruising is for you. You can also gain some very good fares right now so do your due diligence.  Just a thought.

 

Cruise well everyone.

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Interesting post.  I believe you sailed on Crystal but please know that line is on the low-end of the luxury spectrum.  I think you would find food, beverage, staterooms and service even better on SS, Seabourn and hopefully RC yacht.  However, the area you disliked the most - attitude of fellow cruisers and fun factor may be even less appealing to you on the other lux lines.  Those ships are even smaller so there’s even less entertainment and though there are many fun, interesting people you may find a little more of that snob factor that you noticed on Crystal.

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32 minutes ago, Gourmet Gal said:

Interesting post.  I believe you sailed on Crystal but please know that line is on the low-end of the luxury spectrum.  I think you would find food, beverage, staterooms and service even better on SS, Seabourn and hopefully RC yacht.  However, the area you disliked the most - attitude of fellow cruisers and fun factor may be even less appealing to you on the other lux lines.  Those ships are even smaller so there’s even less entertainment and though there are many fun, interesting people you may find a little more of that snob factor that you noticed on Crystal.

My bucket list was RSSC.  I just could not justify it until I tasted even the low-ed of the luxury spectrum.  Now, I understand about some of the positives which were many and the few negatives.  I actually was going to take RSSC out of Miami and went on facebook to the RSSC group. Wow, was the snob factor even worse there.  

All that being said, I would do Crystal or RSSC or the other brands you mentioned in Europe for my 45th wedding anniversary in a few years.  I just thought folks like myself might like to know my experience.  BTW, some of the folks I met online with Crystal were AWESOME.  

 

Thank you so much for replying.  It was very nice of you.

 

Cruise well.

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8 hours ago, Silver Sweethearts said:

We do.  Try a Grand or Master or Owner's Suite for instance and you may change your mind.

Thank you for your reply.  You are correct.  If one could afford those suites, they would be something truly special.  No question.  Thank you for your thoughts.

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8 hours ago, misterkevin said:

Thanks for this thoughtful and thorough post. I recently watched your YouTube video about your experience on Crystal and appreciated your review. I'm curious as to the video you watched which prompted this post? Who was the vlogger? 

It was Gary B.  He had three items that made the difference in Luxury Cruising.  I watch every single YouTube influencer.  He seems to be one of the best.  I think it is "Tips for Cruising".  What is funny about my YouTube Video, review, cruise critic posts and the above posting.  The majority of my experience was positive.  Many folks however focus on the negative.  

 

I think the main conclusion I can draw is all levels of cruises have positives and negatives.  You just have to have realistic expectations when you board. 

 

Thank you so much for your kind words.  It means a lot.

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I am surprised you were on the same luxury line as we  were

 

Maybe sailing during limited capacity post covid   got you closer to your expectations

 

  I had expectations  that the food would be better  than our favourite premium line   but  not so

the buffet on the luxury line  was self serve  ..YUCK  people touching the food  

 

 Bar staff  could not remember  what our drink was   but we do not sit at the bar all night  so maybe  that is why

Glad you enjoyed the Luxury experience   you did put a lot of research into choosing the right  line for your needs

 

for me  I will stick with  our favourite  line

 

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2 hours ago, LHT28 said:

I am surprised you were on the same luxury line as we  were

 

Maybe sailing during limited capacity post covid   got you closer to your expectations

 

  I had expectations  that the food would be better  than our favourite premium line   but  not so

the buffet on the luxury line  was self serve  ..YUCK  people touching the food  

 

 Bar staff  could not remember  what our drink was   but we do not sit at the bar all night  so maybe  that is why

Glad you enjoyed the Luxury experience   you did put a lot of research into choosing the right  line for your needs

 

for me  I will stick with  our favourite  line

 

I remember your reviews and your comments. If I recall correctly your brand is Oceana. A fine brand at that. What I love about cruising is we all have a choice and not everybody likes the same things.

 

Cruise well

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28 minutes ago, Sthrngary said:

I remember your reviews and your comments. If I recall correctly your brand is Oceana. A fine brand at that. What I love about cruising is we all have a choice and not everybody likes the same things.

 

Cruise well

Yes our go to line is Oceania

 

 I prefer the staff serve people  at the buffet & not have  people touching the food

That is just me 

 

Bartenders that can make any cocktail   not just pour  a mixer in a glass with spirits

call me picky LOL

Enjoy your  next  adventure

 

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10 hours ago, Silver Sweethearts said:

With all due respect, keep in mind that is not only the cruise line that matters, but also the ships within those lines.  They differ enough to each have their own following.  

I am not sure to whom you were responding too.  So I figured I would post back.  The challenge for folks like myself is fear.  We are not rich nor are we poor.  We have been cruising for in my case 42 years and like it very much.  We want to have an improved cruising experience and with all we have heard, luxury brands are the way to go.  The fear is to make an expensive decision then regret it. 

 

Therefore we look for a way to hedge our bets.  To see if the increased investment will provide us with what were thought we were looking for.  In my case it was a mixed bag.  Mostly yes yet in some cases no.  Great experiment.  

 

You mentioned lines differ and ships within those lines differ.  The challenge is we can't go from line to line or ship to ship.  The financial expense is to great.  We are just happy to have an experience.  I also noticed personally, the experience becomes even better weeks and months after the cruise.  There is not one day that goes by where I don't say, "I wish I did or handled something differently on that cruise.".

 

I hope my thoughts makes sense. 

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I think I get what you are talking about. We had a very disappointing experience on our most expensive cruise ever. It has made us a bit hesitant to try a cruise on an unknown line. We saved a decade for our big retirement WC and for that cruise we only considered a line we knew. We know this WC for us was to be a one and done. Covid made it most likely a done.

For now if we are considering a new cruise line we will look for a deal and try them out. This is how we tried and discovered we really like Seabourn and Regent. We also like Celebrity, especially the higher suites. We found a deal on Windstar in 2023, very reasonable, so trying the cruise line.Cruise critic helps give some cruise feedback but only a piece of the puzzle in choosing a cruise. Btw, sorry for your perception of the Regent board. For the last several years my questions have been answered kindly and rarely snarky. Truly enjoy your posts and hope to cruise with you someday.

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1 hour ago, travelwell said:

sorry for your perception of the Regent board. For the last several years my questions have been answered kindly and rarely snarky. Truly enjoy your posts and hope to cruise with you someday.

Thank you.  Of all the research I have done, RSSC was without a doubt my first choice.  It was also the most expensive.  When I went on the Facebook Regent board, most folks were nice.  Then all of a sudden some of them thought I was a spy or something.  The my intentions to learn as much as I could and journal my experiences made me somehow a threat to the brand.  My questions were specific and all I was looking for was the differences of RSSC to my personal past experience.  I was taken back by the comments.

 

I also really did not like the RSSC phone representative.  He was not a great communicator.  So this soured me a bit.  All that said, it is still my first choice for a Bucket List 10-day Europe Cruise for my 45th wedding anniversary.  After a decade or so, I deleted my Facebook personal and business account.  When I book now, I will only do it through my travel agent.  Simple fix.  

 

The most important thing is for all of us to do our due diligence.  Then be confident with your choice.  The only social media I am on now, is CruiseCritic.com.  

 

Cruise well.

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Ahhh , I just carefully re-read your post. I thought you were referring to cruise critic. I do not have much experience with RSSC on Facebook. I have actually made serious friends on cruise critic and gathered invaluable information. I also love my travel agent.

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7 minutes ago, mj_holiday said:

I appreciated your comments/review of your experience.

 

The Regents Facebook is just a very/very small percentage of people. 

Hopefully your Regent shipboard experience for your 45th will be wonderful.

I want to be transparent.  RSSC is my first choice but not my final choice.  I also did like Crystal which is a much different choice.  I did a very detailed excel spreadsheet.  I listed four different luxury brands.  When you take everything into consideration, RSSC was the most expensive but not by much.  

 

I have a year or two to make that decision.  The big thing is the fact that it will be an epic cruise. 

 

Cruise well. 

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2 minutes ago, misterkevin said:

Gary, I vaguely recall reading about that spreadsheet back some time. Did you share it here?

No, I will when I update it.  Thank you for asking.  I am kind of a crazy man with these kinds of things. 

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3 hours ago, Sthrngary said:

  When you take everything into consideration, RSSC was the most expensive but not by much.  

 

 

Doesn't RSSC include more than some of the other lux lines?

 Like excursions  for one

 

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26 minutes ago, LHT28 said:

Doesn't RSSC include more than some of the other lux lines?

 Like excursions  for one

 

When I did all my research on my initial Excel Spreadsheet, it was impossible to do a true Apple to Apple comparison.  You made one of the points, excursions.  That is what makes doing a financial comparison so difficult. 

 

The first step was to look at each brand and list what was included and not included.  Your example is a great one on Excursions.  When that happened, I had to take an average cost for excursions for the other brands.  That got closer to an apple to an apple.  The challenge added to excursions alone is that it assumed that every port would have an excursions where even on RSSC the guests doesn't always do a ship excursion.  Also, not every excursion is complementary with RSSC.  Some high end excursion are not included but they were things like helicopter rides so understandable.  I think everyone can see the in-exacts science here.

 

Some others were butlers, pre-cruise hotel and Business Class airfare.  To each situation, due diligence had to happen.  Not the easiest comparison I have ever done.  

 

Hope that clarifies what was done. 

 

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That was my point

 Not all cruise lines are equal & you cannot really compare dollar to dollar  value by guesstimating prices of say Excursions  Biz air  for years down the road

 Then there are the intangibles 

But if  you enjoy doing the spread sheets  etc..  😉

 

Enjoy whatever cruise you choose

 

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Just now, LHT28 said:

That was my point

 Not all cruise lines are equal & you cannot really compare dollar to dollar  value by guesstimating prices of say Excursions  Biz air  for years down the road

 Then there are the intangibles 

But if  you enjoy doing the spread sheets  etc..  😉

 

Enjoy whatever cruise you choose

 

Thank you and same to you.  All I try to be on social media is helpful, informative and clear.  All the cruise brands make it so a fully accurate comparison is impossible.  Yet, the more you research, the more you learn.  When you are investing/paying for something that is the same prices as a small car, you might as well do your due diligence.  At least then, you feel better about your decision.  

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