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The Journey to a 10-Day Mediterranean Cruise comparing The NCL Haven vs. Premium Plus, Luxury or Ultra-Luxury


Sthrngary
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Disclaimer:  I did not know where to post this so I thought, if it broke any CruiseCritic.com policies, the moderator would transfer it to the correct locations.  Also, you will clearly see that my Grammar and Spelling are awful.  Please forgive me.  I hope my message makes sense.

 

Introduction:

As most of you know that read my op-eds, I do very much LOVE the NCL Haven VIP Experience.  It sure helps to know the amenities, strategies and YES secrets of the NCL Haven Luxury Experience.  I am a believer that once you have cruised in the Haven, it is super hard to go back.  Yet back I did go recently to an NCL Club Balcony Suite as a Solo cruiser.  Was it hard, not as hard as you might think.  Was it fun, you bet.  Now it is time to consider a bucket list 10-day European Mediterranean 45th wedding anniversary cruise.  The only way I can make the decision, is to do my normal and insane due diligence.

 

Back Story:

I met my wife 44 years ago. We have been married 43 years.  Our honeymoon was a cruise on the Norwegian (Now called NCL) SS Norway, the largest cruise ship in the world at that time.  My goal or more like a dream was to do a 10-day Mediterranean Cruise with my wife for our 40th wedding anniversary.  Covid-19 took that off the table. What I wanted to do was, go on an Ultra-Luxury all-inclusive cruise vacation.  The brand of choice initially was Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC).  RSSC seemed to check all the boxes.  Until I saw the investment which was the equivalent of paying cash for a small SUV.

 

Years ago, I did my due diligence and decided an Ultra-Luxury Cruise was not the way for my wife and I to go.   The journey to that decision was taking what I called a “Luxury Cruise Test Drive”.  I quickly realized that the premium paid for luxury or ultra-luxury did not provide the value I was hoping to achieve at that investment level.  That decision was a very personal one.  In addition, I did extensive research on many social media platforms engaging with frequent and loyal RSSC guests.  It became clear, I might have loved the trip however my wife would have been intimidated.

 

Our friends joining us for this upcoming trip, could not even consider the cost premium for Ultra Luxury Cruising.  That left Mainstream, Premium, Premium Plus and Luxury as potential selections. All great choices.  I am simply explaining the process my mind went through.

 

After all was said and done, I choose Oceania Cruises for 10-days on their ship the Riviera November 9, 2023.  The stateroom category I choose was a Penthouse Suite. The Labor Day four-category upgrade special was the push I needed to book, which I did. I will explain the process below and compare it to the NCL Haven and other choices.  I know this is an NCL CruiseCritic.com Blog.  I also know if all were equal, I would have booked the Haven.  All was not equal for this trip. I hope this does what all my op-eds attempt to do.  Create thoughts on how to improve our cruise vacation experience. To do this, we must have realistic expectations.

 

Step One: Make an Excel Spreadsheet with ALL brands being considered

You never have to twist my arm to make an Excel to look at different cruise facts.  I love the opportunity and it stimulates my brain.  I took the dates I wanted (October and November 2023); Itinerary which was Mediterranean with a focus on Greece; Number of day which was 7-10; Different Cruise Categories (mainstream, premium, premium plus, luxury and ultra-luxury); Brands that coordinated with the categories; stateroom categories including VIP areas on Brands (From Balconies to Penthouse Suites; VIP area’s like Haven and Retreat); Amenities and perks provided; Airfare costs; and of course fare Investment.

What you learn is every cruise brand includes or does not include, amenities making it hard to develop an apples-to-apples comparison.  This is where really drilling down on the details makes a huge difference. An example is RSSC includes unlimited excursions, where Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection does not.  To compare both, you must estimate the cost of an excursion at every port.

 

Step Two: Make a list of just amenities on each brand and price point

Allow me to put this in simpler terms.  It is obvious when going on NCL or Celebrity and in the Haven or Retreat respectively; you will have much better personalized service in those VIP area’s then you will have on the rest of the ship.  When you consider cruise segments like Premium Plus to Ultra-Luxury, the entire ship becomes the Haven/Retreat on steroids.  You soon realize, regardless of stateroom selected, once you leave your suite/cabin, everyone is treated the same.  In our evaluation of what we want in a cruise, if personalized service throughout the entire ship is high on our list, then best to stay with Premium Plus through Ultra-Luxury brands.

 

Until you make a list of what you receive and don’t receive from each brand; you really can’t compare value.  I personally learned this on my first cruise after Covid-19 which was in August 2021 on Crystal Cruises out of Miami.  Crystal which is now out of business; however, will be returning soon, treated everyone the same outside of their stateroom.  It was a completely different cruising feeling and experience.  Before I went on the Crystal Cruises, I knew every amenity and asked hundreds of questions on the Crystal Cruises blog.  With this current decision, I have done the same for ALL the brands I have chosen to research. How else can we make a good business decision.

 

A couple of great examples are the Thermal Spa and a Butler.  If I were in the Haven, I would have a butler.  Yet the Thermal Spa is an add-on expense unless you are in a Haven Spa Suite.  On Oceania, when you are in a Penthouse or higher stateroom, you have complementary access to the outside Thermal Spa Sundeck, and you have a butler.  With Haven, you still need to tip your butler; with Oceania, the Butler’s gratuities are included in the daily gratuities amount added to your room.  All I am sharing is that a deep dive into amenities is important to compare value.

 

Step Three: Choosing Big or Small Ship Experience

When I am cruising out of Miami, New York, New Orleans, or Seattle; I usually only do the larger ships.  Those travel destinations are not always port intensive nor do some of the ports interest me.  Therefore, the ship and its activities hold a greater value.  When you are cruising the Mediterranean, it is less about water slides, go-cart tracks, pool games, Broadway Production Shows and virtual reality.  It is more about getting into smaller ports, spending a much time as possible at that port.  It is also much more about, relaxation, comfort, great dining, and personalized service.   

We choose a center ground of ships that have between 700 and 1200 guest capacity.  This also means entertainment will not be the same; the bars close earlier then mainstream brands and crowd is a bit older and reserved. Children are rare.  You must ask yourself a question, is this type of smaller ship right for your trip.  It was for us on this vacation and itinerary because it was about the ports.

 

Step Four: What does a higher category of stateroom provide you

This question is so hard to understand, almost impossible.  If as I did, you choose a cruise segment at above Premium Plus, you know your experience out of your stateroom will essentially be as great as the folks in the Owners Suite. Then you look at the difference in investment between a basic Veranda Suite and the lowest level Penthouse Suite.  The margins for a premium can be huge.  You must ask yourself, “what makes that much more of an investment worth consideration?

 

Good luck finding this information.  It seems all that is out there are folks that complain about these higher priced suites.  You see, those with the means to purchase at these prices, really don’t do intense reviews unless they are disappointed in some way. Then they write a book. I really wanted a blend of experience and had a very hard time finding that information.

 

Therefore, I drilled down on every piece of information that compared the two staterooms.  My reference point was my experience on Crystal Cruises.  Essentially, the differences fell into a few categories:

1.      The Stateroom:  More square footage.  Bigger balcony.  More storage and possibly a walk-in closet.  A separate shower and soaking tub which sometimes can be a jet tub.  More than one Flat Screen TV. Higher inventory and quality of bath products.

2.      Personal Butler:  Before a guest has had a REAL Butler, they often say, “I don’t need a butler.  The room steward is just fine.”  Then you get a REAL Butler.  When I travel on NCL in the Haven or Celebrity in the Retreat, they provide butlers.  These hard-working folks do the best they can do. The mainstream cruise brands give them so many things to do behind the scenes that personalized service is more difficult. Not impossible just difficult. That is why these butlers are usually Hit/Miss.  Where when you are on a Premium Plus or above brand, your butlers are OUTSTANDING.  For the most part, whatever you ask for you can receive within reason.  These butlers quickly determine what we like and don’t like and adjust their service accordingly.  It makes a difference in your cruising experience.  Now you must determine if the difference is worth the premium paid.

3.      Early Access:  Getting on and off the ship quickly is always a plus.  Having the availability of early access to Specialty Restaurant selections is another benefit. Priority booking while on the ship is yet another plus.  You paid more for your stateroom, know what you will receive and use it. Or else, why did you invest in the premium.

4.      Specific Suite Amenities: In the higher priced suites, there are some amenities that are not available on the lower-level staterooms.  We already discussed a few above, here are some others:

a.      Champagne vs. Sparkling Wine:  I do love a good Champagne, but I really don’t like Sparkling Wine.  This is a little thing but is does make a difference. The only Haven Suite that provides real French Champagne was the (H2) Deluxe Owners Suite.  The Champagne received was actually a great brand and yet stale. On my Crystal voyage, it was both a great brand and excellent.

b.      Daily Snacks Delivered:  This is a double-edged sword.  The first day your butler brings you these snacks, you are impressed.  You truly feel like a rock star. You take a drink to the balcony with your lovely assortment of food items.  The world is perfect for a few lovely minutes.  Then you go to dinner that night and not quite hungry as you thought you would be.  From that day forward you eat less and less of the snack until you tell your butler simply not to bring them. I made the mistake of telling my butler I liked smoked salmon.  Every day there was like 8 oz of smoked salmon in the normal smack delivered.

c.      Complementary Mini-Fridge: Your mini-fridge is restocked daily.  Depending on the brand and your suite, it usually has water, soft drinks, and juice.  In my Penthouse Suite on Crystal, I told my butler I liked Grey Goose Lemon and Bailey’s. Within minutes I had a liter of each on my bar.  My wife shared she loved wine.  We always had a full bottle in the ice bucket. 

                                                    i.     NOTE: This is NOT every brand.  I will be on Oceania, the Mini-Fridge will be stock but no alcohol.  No issue if you know that prior to sailing.  In the Haven (H2) Owners Suite, they provided you with three bottles of spirits.  The key is “Realistic Expectations”.

d.      Dry Cleaning/Laundry Service:  Depending on the stateroom, you might get no laundry service to unlimited.  On my next trip on Oceania in a Penthouse Suite, I have three (3) bags of laundry, pressing on the day of embarkment, show shines when needed. Just like Crystal, Oceania and many other better category brands have public complementary washers and dryers. On a recent solo cruise on the NCL Joy, I was in a Club Balcony Suite.  I was given one bag of laundry with my stateroom selection.  Yet the Haven does not include a complementary laundry service. Glad I understood the perks prior to sailing.

e.      Streaming Media:  Seems silly to watch a movie in your stateroom while on a cruise.  It really comes in handy sometimes.  On many mainstream cruise brands, unless you are in the VIP area suites, streaming movies are charged to your stateroom.  On Premium Plus and above, they are usually complementary however you should always check. Streaming movies were All complementary when in a NCL Haven Suite except for adult titles.

f.       Specialty Coffee/Afternoon Tea Service:  On specialty coffee, most Premium Plus and above brands have this as complementary.  Afternoon Tea Service in your suite is something that is usually provide for Penthouse and above.  There is usually a place on board in a public area that does Afternoon tea.  It is lovely to do occasionally. On Mainstream cruise brands even in the VIP areas, Specialty Coffee’s could have a charge. Afternoon tea is usually not an option.  This only matters if it matters to you.

g.      Ship-to-Shore Phone Minutes: This is usually a perk of the more expensive suites.  I had this on a cruise with Crystal and simply did not use it.  I was glad it was available though.  ship-to-shore Phone calls are super expensive usually. No value it you don’t know you have it or don’t have a reason to use it.

h.      Ship Mobile Phone:  This is a stateroom phone that is wireless, and you can take it with you on board.  You can be reached and call others on board or call your butler for service regardless of where you are located. The Haven and Retreat also has this as a perk/amenity.

i.       iPad Usage: You can simply request the iPad and use it while onboard.  This is a nice perk yet another one I have never utilized. This little perk is usually for the higher category suites.

j.       Unlimited Priority Specialty Restaurant Reservations: When at certain stateroom levels, you have NO limits to the number of times you can book a Specialty Restaurant.  You can even have the menu served in your stateroom course-by-course with your butler. On Mainstream VIP areas, Specialty Restaurants are not complementary.  In some cases, you might get one or two. This goes back to attempting to do an Apple-to-Apple comparison.

k.      Special Thermal Spa/Outside Spa Area: On most mainstream cruise brands, these areas are extra.  On NCL the Thermal Spa is $300.00 per week per guest unless you have a spa suite.  The Vibe Beach Club is $209.00 to $275.00 per week per guest.  On Oceania they have a private access only outside spa area with a Thermal Spa for upper-level staterooms.  The equivalent of a Mainstream inside Thermal Spa.  On Premium Plus brands or above are usually complementary.

l.       Bottles of Spirits:  I have only had one suite on a Mainstream Cruise Brand that had bottles of spirits provided.  It was the NCL (H2) Haven Deluxe Owners Suite.  That was it.  On my Crystal Cruises (Luxury) sailing, my butler brought bottles to my suite at my request and yes, they were complementary.  On Oceania, the three top level suites NOT including the Penthouse Suites; have 6 bottles of spirits provided to the suite.

m.    Excursions: Some brands like Viking and RSSC have unlimited or one excursion per port.  Others like Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collections and Oceania Cruises you pay for your excursions. From a budget standpoint, I like the lower investment so having unlimited excursions is not a benefit to us.

n.      Gratuities: I wish everyone would understand that when gratuities are included in your fare, you are still paying for them.  They are not complementary. When you attempt to book Celebrity (Premium), you can choose the package where one item is your gratuities or do cruise only.  NCL does not include gratuities in their fare nor does Oceania.  As a matter of fact, if you have a suite class stateroom, the gratuities are higher because of the guest to crew ratio. 

 

Conclusion: After all the research that I did, yes, I choose Oceania Cruises.  It was a balance of all the amenities I like, personalized service, excellent dining, nice sized staterooms, and flexibility on excursions.  All of this was in a budget range that was in many cases, less than the VIP sections of NCL, Celebrity and MSC.  The situation that put me over the top was a four-category upgrade promotion putting my friends and wife in a Penthouse Suite with a Personal Butler. That is like paying for a NCL Club Balcony Suite and getting a Haven Penthouse Suite.  NCL does not do that.

 

If I would have chosen the NCL Haven on the Breakaway (Mainstream) the total investment was $14,001.00; NCL Haven on the NCL Viva (Premium) the investment was $16,611.70; The Celebrity Edge (Premium) in the Retreat $14,912.85; Viking (Luxury) $10,596.00; Oceania Cruises (Premium Plus) $10,656.00.  The examples given included fare, airfare, specialty restaurants, exclusive area’s on the ship and gratuities.  Except for Viking which also included an excursion at every port.  Those excursions were all walking excursions so not what I was looking for.  

 

I wrote this op-ed from an informational standpoint only.  It is my research done over-time.  It was based on my wants/needs, NOT yours.  It allowed me to decide and book a “Bucket List” cruise opportunity.  I did my best to do an Apple-to-Apple comparison. I hope it is helpful and I am willing to answer any questions you might have.

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment.

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Hi, Gary,  you sound very much like me as far as comparison shopping for those 'bucket list' cruises!  I am doing a similar search for an AUS/NZ and Panama Canal cruise.  We originally had an NCL suite for AUS/NZ, but ended up cancelling when I was pricing air fare and found it to be ~$10K/pp for bus class.  Yes, great price on the stateroom (booked during shut down), but the air killed it.  We could get RSSC within $2k/pp and a longer trip. (Unfortunately, longer is not necessarily better for us as we are both employed full time.  I have time to burn, but hubby is in health care, so very limited!)

Air fares are getting to be more reasonable, so I'm back to looking.  Considering O for Panama Canal because the embark/disembark are both in US, so don't need business class flights.  O is terrible if you are wanting to upgrade overseas flights to business class thru them, as they evidently don't have contracts in place, so charge excessively.  We don't have status to use points on flights.  Are you upgrading your flights on this cruise?  What was your experience....do you go thru O or book your own?

Always enjoy your reviews!  Keep it up!

Thanks, Karla.

 

 

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Hi Gary,

 

Husband and I are celebrating our 50th next year.  We also looked, and had made a reservation on, Oceania.  But I got REALLY tired of all the choices I had to make using their "O Life" and canceled.  

For this special occasion we finally settled on Regent's 21-day trans-atlantic Rome to Miami.  We are staying in a Concierge Suite, which includes business class air, night-before in luxury hotel, transfer to port, shore excursions, gratuities, all drinks, free laundry, and early choice of excursions and dining.  I wanted to make it as simple as possible.  Is it expensive, yes.  But we both wanted a situation where, basically, everything is included.

We are also Titanium Elite with Marriott so will fly over to Rome a few days early and use points for the hotel.

I agree with you that one must do due diligence when choosing an upper-tiered cruising experience.

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23 hours ago, Sthrngary said:

Different Cruise Categories (mainstream, premium, premium plus, luxury and ultra-luxury)

How do you decide which into which category you put each cruise line? I started cruising with Disney when our young men were young boys, then switched to NCL when we wanted to do Hawaii on the POA. We’ve since done a Breakaway cruise in a balcony and a Bliss cruise in the Haven.  After we use up our last CruiseNext certificate, I’m trying to decide whether to try out another cruise line. Your post has me thinking about looking at Oceania. Can I assume that you’re going to do some type of review after you take this trip? If so, can you post a link here? I’ve not spent any time on the Oceania board, so I’d miss it if you don’t link it here. TIA!

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38 minutes ago, Candy Apple 12 said:

How do you decide which into which category you put each cruise line? I started cruising with Disney when our young men were young boys, then switched to NCL when we wanted to do Hawaii on the POA. We’ve since done a Breakaway cruise in a balcony and a Bliss cruise in the Haven.  After we use up our last CruiseNext certificate, I’m trying to decide whether to try out another cruise line. Your post has me thinking about looking at Oceania. Can I assume that you’re going to do some type of review after you take this trip? If so, can you post a link here? I’ve not spent any time on the Oceania board, so I’d miss it if you don’t link it here. TIA!

@Candy Apple 12 Your question is how do you choose a category of cruise brand. There are no real official categories however most people know the terms Mainstream through Ultra-Luxury.  The higher up you go, the smaller the ship becomes.  The smaller ships, the easier those ships get into smaller ports.  So if you are in Europe, I would choose a smaller ship.  Those ships are also more expensive with a higher crew to guest ratio.  

 

Then I look for what is included and not included.  I used to think I wanted a completely all inclusive ship.  The only one that every comes close is Regent.  The 10 day Mediterranean Cruise was which did include Restricted Business Class, was $24,000.00.  The same agenda on other ships that were not all inclusive with coach class travel was in the 10-12,000.00.  Those ships were Luxury or Premium Plus. Oceania is Premium Plus to Luxury.  You give up the Business Class Airfare and have to pay for gratuities and excursions.  You can do a lot of Excursions for the difference in price. 

 

Now if I want high energy with lost of ship activities, I would always default the the NCL Haven on a larger full Haven Ship or Celebrity Retreat.  Again, it depends on the destination and what you are looking for in your vacation.  

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment. 

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5 hours ago, Hearthosesteeldrumsplayin said:

Hi, Gary,  you sound very much like me as far as comparison shopping for those 'bucket list' cruises!  I am doing a similar search for an AUS/NZ and Panama Canal cruise.  We originally had an NCL suite for AUS/NZ, but ended up cancelling when I was pricing air fare and found it to be ~$10K/pp for bus class.  Yes, great price on the stateroom (booked during shut down), but the air killed it.  We could get RSSC within $2k/pp and a longer trip. (Unfortunately, longer is not necessarily better for us as we are both employed full time.  I have time to burn, but hubby is in health care, so very limited!)

Air fares are getting to be more reasonable, so I'm back to looking.  Considering O for Panama Canal because the embark/disembark are both in US, so don't need business class flights.  O is terrible if you are wanting to upgrade overseas flights to business class thru them, as they evidently don't have contracts in place, so charge excessively.  We don't have status to use points on flights.  Are you upgrading your flights on this cruise?  What was your experience....do you go thru O or book your own?

Always enjoy your reviews!  Keep it up!

Thanks, Karla.

 

 

@Hearthosesteeldrumsplayin I have never used the Cruise Brands air.  I want to fly in the day before and control my own Itinerary when flying. I am a Delta Airline Life Time Platinum 5 mil miler. I know when to book the flights and have saved hundreds of thousand points for this upcoming trip to go full Business Class.  I have to wait a few months to book it because flight open up 8 months before the take off.  

 

I have heard so many horrible stories on Cruise Booked Airfare that I simply stay clear.  Also, Airlines are much more flexible now if your cruise is cancelled.  That was the only benefit to Covid. I saw the "O" business class options and just laughed.  I am taking the $2000.00 off by not using their coach air. I hope that all makes sense. 

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment. 

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2 hours ago, IrishKathy said:

Hi Gary,

 

Husband and I are celebrating our 50th next year.  We also looked, and had made a reservation on, Oceania.  But I got REALLY tired of all the choices I had to make using their "O Life" and canceled.  

For this special occasion we finally settled on Regent's 21-day trans-atlantic Rome to Miami.  We are staying in a Concierge Suite, which includes business class air, night-before in luxury hotel, transfer to port, shore excursions, gratuities, all drinks, free laundry, and early choice of excursions and dining.  I wanted to make it as simple as possible.  Is it expensive, yes.  But we both wanted a situation where, basically, everything is included.

We are also Titanium Elite with Marriott so will fly over to Rome a few days early and use points for the hotel.

I agree with you that one must do due diligence when choosing an upper-tiered cruising experience.

@IrishKathy You are absolutely doing the right thing for a 50th anniversary.  Congrats.  It took me a long minute to figure out the O Life but with some questions on cruise critic, I got it.  No I would have chosen regent also but our friends can not go that high on their budget.  We chose friends over the cruise brand I wanted.

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment. 

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I've tried a similar approach to see if upgrading from NCL Haven to a more 'fancier' cruise line would be right for us, but so far it just hasn't. Even the Retreat on Celebrity I haven't been able to find either a good itinerary or one in a price point I'm comfortable with. Although there's a 2024 Japan cruise I've been keeping an eye on, but it's been sold out for several months now with only single random cabins popping up here and there.

 

Some of the fancier lines or even with Celebrity it comes with things that the NCL free at sea plan either doesn't have, or steps it up a notch (basic drink package vs 'premium', wifi minutes vs unlimited, etc). But again, when focusing only on the things which are important to us, those 'bonuses' are not perks to us and have no or limited actual value add. So even though apples-to-apples one line is 'better' than the other, it's giving us stuff we don't want or need - so I'd rather not have to pay for it at all.

 

We just finished a 10 day Canada trip on Joy that had many port days. So my 150 free at sea internet minutes were plenty for our basic needs on sea days and my cell phone carrier was fine for the port days. If I had unlimited wifi would I have used it more? Probably... but did I really need to? No. 

 

"Free" business class flights for a European or Asia itinerary is a nice perk for me, but obviously less important or a non-value add for folks that want full control over their air.

 

In the FB group for this most recent Canada trip many folks were complaining about being nickel & dimed on NCL. I asked for specific examples, and got none. So honestly it's a complete crapshoot as to what is a "good" value to one person verses someone else. I still think we're too lowbrow to sail with anything much fancier than NCL Haven, but I do love those itineraries that the smaller ships can get to and will find myself in the Galapagos one of these days...

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1 hour ago, Sailing12Away said:

So even though apples-to-apples one line is 'better' than the other, it's giving us stuff we don't want or need - so I'd rather not have to pay for it at all.

Your point is extremely important.  That is why I list all the amenities.  My choose would be focused on my likes and dis-likes.  Yours is focused on the things that enhance a trip for you.  If everyone could learn that simple thought, more folks would be much happier.  

1 hour ago, Sailing12Away said:

In the FB group for this most recent Canada trip many folks were complaining about being nickel & dimed on NCL. I asked for specific examples, and got none.

I could give you a few but they don't bother me.  I have learned that these situation happen and just say NO.  Also, on the internet minutes.  I could not agree with you more.  I liked it better years ago with no cell phone, phones or internet.  I do the unlimited for my wife, not for me.  As a matter of fact, I do a lot of the choices I make for my lovely bride.  

1 hour ago, Sailing12Away said:

I still think we're too lowbrow to sail with anything much fancier than NCL Haven, but I do love those itineraries that the smaller ships can get to and will find myself in the Galapagos one of these days...

The Haven is and has been my favorite way of cruising.  When I did go on Celebrity in the Retreat, it was ok but I like the Haven better.  However, when I went on the Crystal Cruises voyage, I understood the difference.  The entire ship was the Haven/Retreat on steroids.  My choice of Oceania for this trip was much more about the Itinerary, investment and being held to a budget because we were going with our friends.  What I am trying to say is there is a very big difference in personalized service when it is the entire ship.  Hard to quantify.  Hope that all makes sense.

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment. 

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Hi Gary,

 

Joe here.  The wife and I have traveled a lot using all means of transportation. We have been RVing since 2006, own a high end Class A and have taking the grands on cross[country trips every summer except during the COVID shutdown. We have traveled a lot by air, have used ferry boats, chartered a self drive boat to travel up the Canal Midi, traveled through Europe on trains, have traveled on both power and sail boats,  etc. We lived in Japan for 4-years and Kuwait for 2-years and took advantage of a lot of travel opportunities.

 

We also cruise and pre-COVID would take at least one cruise a year. After our second cruise, we have always booked suites.  Mostly on Celebrity and NCL. 

 

We Have booked a suite with RCL from Miami to Cuba and were totally unimpressed and unhappy enough to write a letter to the CEO. 

 

Our first cruise was in 1984 aboard Carnival's Mardi Gras.  We booked a large inside cabin on the main deck, but I don't think it was a suite. We also booked 3-Carnival cruises out of bot Ft, Lauderdale and Miami by invitation from a member of Kuwait's Royal family.  He cruises exclusively with Carnival because of the almost none existent dinning room dress code.  In 2008, we had a family reunion cruise from Vancouver to Alaska.  We booked a suite and the only perk we got was a larger cabin...nothing else. By the way if you can do it, a family reunion cruise is the only way to go!  You don't have to worry about cooking or cleaning and is low pressure.  We agreed to meet for dinner in the MDR to share what we did during the day.  I understand Carnival now has a Haven type section of their newer ships called Havana.  We have not stayed in the Havana, but know all Havana guests must be 12 years old or older.

 

Our last cruise was on Oceania's Nautica where we opted for a Vista suite.  This was a 10-day cruise from Barcelona to Venice in Oct/Nov 2019.  Boarding was a breeze, the suite was as large as an NCL Owner's suite.  Except in the seated dinning venues, we didn't find the service to be any different for what we get on NCL.  Their on-board entertainment was sophomoric, and the drink package that came with booking cover drinks consumed in the dinning venues.  We didn't realize that until we order drinks from the main bar, which incidentally was very small,  There two couples sailing with babies, who never caused a stink or problem.  They were in the suite next to and never heard a peep.  We did get a goodie bag of stuff we take home with us, i.e. shower 2-robes, 2-towels, a Oceania ball cap, a Oceania Billed open top hat, and a wrapped collection of toiletries.  We did not take advantage of their Free Airfare.  Instead we booked Turkish Air Business Class out of Miami.  They offered great fares.  WE flew from Miami to Istanbul and after a moderate layover from Istanbul to Barcelona.  From Venice we flew to Istanbul and deplaned.  Because we were flying business class we got a perk of staying 3-nigths in Istanbul on the airline (economy gets one free night).  This was our first time visiting Istanbul so we extended our stay from 3 to 5 days.  If you haven't flown with Turkish Air, We can vouch for their service.  It was excellent!

 

One thing I do not like with Oceania is that despite what class cabin you book everyone only gets one point for the cruise.  There is no doubling or points per night for those who book a suite. 

 

Our longest cruise was 22 days from Japan to Vancouver aboard a Celebrity ship.  We stayed in a Celebrity suite, that until they introduced the Retreat was our favorite suite.  We have not yet booked a cruise that has the Retreat.  Next longest was 15 days out of San Diego thru the Panama Cannel.  It was a belated honey moon cruise for our daughter, son-in-la and 2 year old grand daughter.  There was only one more infant on the cruise and little Robin was a hit with all the passengers.  We were able to arrange for a baby sitter on 2-nights and enjoyed dinner in our suite with everyone.  The 3rd longest Celebrity cruise we took was a 14 day South American cruise.  Our other X cruises were between 10 and 7 days and were in the Caribbean. I can't say enough about how well the entire staff treated us....on each Celebrity cruise we took. All of our Celebrity cruises were pre Retreat, so I can't provide a comparison between the Retreat and the Haven. 

 

The only reason we shifted from Celebrity to NCL was because of the service we received on our firs NCL cruise. It was a 40th anniversary Scandinavian Cruise that took us from Copenhagen to Saint Petersburg.  In Copenhagen we were able to met and spend 5-days with a good friend that we had met in Kuwait.  She, her son, and mother were great tour guides!  We booked an Owners suite and , as Gary suggested in another thread, we wrote a letter to both the on-shore Concierge and on-ship butler.   We introduced ourselves, told them a little about us, made some requests, and told them our selection of booze (3-bottles).  One of the requests was for seating at the now defunct Chef's table.  Everything we requested happened.  They even organized the Chef's table dinner for the night of our anniversary. Talk about service...our Butler even scolded me for not fully utilizing his service and relying to much on the Concierge.  With the exception of our upcoming November 7th NCL French Polynesian cruise we have booked either the owners suite on none Have ships or a Haven suite.  We only decided Sept 5th to book the cruise and the only suite available was a Penthouse. The service me, my wife and when they have cruised with us our two grandchildren have received as Haven guest has been extra ordinally good!  I really thing we have gotten more bang for buck sailing with NCL.

 

Cheers and Bon Voyage!

 

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9 hours ago, Traveling Fools said:

Hi Gary,

 

Joe here.  The wife and I have traveled a lot using all means of transportation. We have been RVing since 2006, own a high end Class A and have taking the grands on cross[country trips every summer except during the COVID shutdown. We have traveled a lot by air, have used ferry boats, chartered a self drive boat to travel up the Canal Midi, traveled through Europe on trains, have traveled on both power and sail boats,  etc. We lived in Japan for 4-years and Kuwait for 2-years and took advantage of a lot of travel opportunities.

 

We also cruise and pre-COVID would take at least one cruise a year. After our second cruise, we have always booked suites.  Mostly on Celebrity and NCL. 

 

We Have booked a suite with RCL from Miami to Cuba and were totally unimpressed and unhappy enough to write a letter to the CEO. 

 

Our first cruise was in 1984 aboard Carnival's Mardi Gras.  We booked a large inside cabin on the main deck, but I don't think it was a suite. We also booked 3-Carnival cruises out of bot Ft, Lauderdale and Miami by invitation from a member of Kuwait's Royal family.  He cruises exclusively with Carnival because of the almost none existent dinning room dress code.  In 2008, we had a family reunion cruise from Vancouver to Alaska.  We booked a suite and the only perk we got was a larger cabin...nothing else. By the way if you can do it, a family reunion cruise is the only way to go!  You don't have to worry about cooking or cleaning and is low pressure.  We agreed to meet for dinner in the MDR to share what we did during the day.  I understand Carnival now has a Haven type section of their newer ships called Havana.  We have not stayed in the Havana, but know all Havana guests must be 12 years old or older.

 

Our last cruise was on Oceania's Nautica where we opted for a Vista suite.  This was a 10-day cruise from Barcelona to Venice in Oct/Nov 2019.  Boarding was a breeze, the suite was as large as an NCL Owner's suite.  Except in the seated dinning venues, we didn't find the service to be any different for what we get on NCL.  Their on-board entertainment was sophomoric, and the drink package that came with booking cover drinks consumed in the dinning venues.  We didn't realize that until we order drinks from the main bar, which incidentally was very small,  There two couples sailing with babies, who never caused a stink or problem.  They were in the suite next to and never heard a peep.  We did get a goodie bag of stuff we take home with us, i.e. shower 2-robes, 2-towels, a Oceania ball cap, a Oceania Billed open top hat, and a wrapped collection of toiletries.  We did not take advantage of their Free Airfare.  Instead we booked Turkish Air Business Class out of Miami.  They offered great fares.  WE flew from Miami to Istanbul and after a moderate layover from Istanbul to Barcelona.  From Venice we flew to Istanbul and deplaned.  Because we were flying business class we got a perk of staying 3-nigths in Istanbul on the airline (economy gets one free night).  This was our first time visiting Istanbul so we extended our stay from 3 to 5 days.  If you haven't flown with Turkish Air, We can vouch for their service.  It was excellent!

 

One thing I do not like with Oceania is that despite what class cabin you book everyone only gets one point for the cruise.  There is no doubling or points per night for those who book a suite. 

 

Our longest cruise was 22 days from Japan to Vancouver aboard a Celebrity ship.  We stayed in a Celebrity suite, that until they introduced the Retreat was our favorite suite.  We have not yet booked a cruise that has the Retreat.  Next longest was 15 days out of San Diego thru the Panama Cannel.  It was a belated honey moon cruise for our daughter, son-in-la and 2 year old grand daughter.  There was only one more infant on the cruise and little Robin was a hit with all the passengers.  We were able to arrange for a baby sitter on 2-nights and enjoyed dinner in our suite with everyone.  The 3rd longest Celebrity cruise we took was a 14 day South American cruise.  Our other X cruises were between 10 and 7 days and were in the Caribbean. I can't say enough about how well the entire staff treated us....on each Celebrity cruise we took. All of our Celebrity cruises were pre Retreat, so I can't provide a comparison between the Retreat and the Haven. 

 

The only reason we shifted from Celebrity to NCL was because of the service we received on our firs NCL cruise. It was a 40th anniversary Scandinavian Cruise that took us from Copenhagen to Saint Petersburg.  In Copenhagen we were able to met and spend 5-days with a good friend that we had met in Kuwait.  She, her son, and mother were great tour guides!  We booked an Owners suite and , as Gary suggested in another thread, we wrote a letter to both the on-shore Concierge and on-ship butler.   We introduced ourselves, told them a little about us, made some requests, and told them our selection of booze (3-bottles).  One of the requests was for seating at the now defunct Chef's table.  Everything we requested happened.  They even organized the Chef's table dinner for the night of our anniversary. Talk about service...our Butler even scolded me for not fully utilizing his service and relying to much on the Concierge.  With the exception of our upcoming November 7th NCL French Polynesian cruise we have booked either the owners suite on none Have ships or a Haven suite.  We only decided Sept 5th to book the cruise and the only suite available was a Penthouse. The service me, my wife and when they have cruised with us our two grandchildren have received as Haven guest has been extra ordinally good!  I really thing we have gotten more bang for buck sailing with NCL.

 

Cheers and Bon Voyage!

 

Joe:  Thank you for sharing so much.  Also, you obviously have read many of my posts.  I have also booked the Celebrity (Celebrity Suite) and it was on the Equinox.  This was Pre-Covid and Pre-Retreat.  My experience was not the best and I also wrote the CEO a not explaining why I was disappointed.  The Suite was a nice blend of space, storage, balcony and living space outside of the Master Bedroom.  The ship was a month away from dry dock and the crew was less then excited which was shown in their attitudes.

 

As a Haven Guest, I have always had a great experience.  Partly because I did so much work to figure out how to gain every bit of value from my stay.  Whether early morning coffee in the Haven Library above the Horizon Observation Lounge or pre-dinner drinks at the Haven Bar having my favorite Tequila 1942. The Haven gave me a balance of quiet, private and relaxing time with the opportunity to be a kid on the Water Slides, Go Cart, Laser Tag and VR center.  I might be old but I love that stuff. 

 

My Selection of Oceania Cruise for my friends and my Mediterranean Cruise was much more about them, then about me.  I did an excel Spreadsheet on 10 different cruises, during the same time, going to similar locations.  My hope was we could find a away to go on the New NCL Viva in the Haven.  I took NCL Breakaway; NCL Viva, Celebrity Edge, Oceania, Regent, Viking, Ritz-Carlton and a couple of others.  I looked at staterooms from Spa Suites to full Penthouse Suites.  I looked at the Haven and the Retreat.  My focus was on staying within our friends budget.  The best choice for a cruise that has a lot of port days ended up being the Oceania Riviera.  

 

If this cruise was my wife and I, we might have simply paid more and gone on the Viva.  We both know, we will have a better time with our friends. On another note, I have stayed in the Haven (H2) Deluxe Owners Suite (Video on YouTube) with my family on the NCL Joy December 2021.  That was an experience and a half. I can see how the Vista Suite on Oceania might be lovely.  I am hoping for a paid upgrade opportunity if that exists on an Oceania Cruise. 

 

I love all the other travel you outlined.  Lovely way to enjoy our time and rewards on life.  I have no grand kids, so we often take our adult children with us. The central theme as we get older is friends and family make the cruise.  

 

Thank you again for taking the time to share your story.  A great story it was as wall.

 

Cruise well and enjoy every moment. 

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Gary,

 

RE: Celebrity Suite status.  I failed to include a comparison between the Haven restaurant and Celebrity's Luminae restaurant. Luminae has a different menu every night and we could order off the MDR menu as well.  The Haven restaurant's don't change, it is the same one every day.  However, my grandson who started sailing with us when he was 4 has been able to order mussels and lamb chops (not on Haven's menu) every evening.  We just had to notify the Maitre d' by 5 PM.  

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