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Which cruise lines are doing it best these days??


Shep_Proudfoot
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I am asking this question in this “neutral” area of the CC forums because I wanted to hear from a variety of opinions, rather than asking in a cruise line specific forum where the answers will largely reflect that cruise line’s fans’ opinions. 
 

In these post-Covid, inflationary times, which are anecdotally full of cutbacks, reduced food quality, surcharges, inconsistent service, hiked fares and exorbitant excursion charges, which cruise line(s) are still doing it “right”, or at least better than the competition? This could be maintaining good service, holding the line on food quality, staying a decent value, rolling out the best new or revitalized ships vs. the competition or anything else important to cruisers that you think is keeping a cruise line at the top of your consideration list.

 

Who do you think has responded to these trying times the best, and why?

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I would suspect it will be the higher end cruise lines.

 

The problem with your theories and the underlaying process, is you will still get the cruise line loyalists here. The people who think the world is coming to an end because their previous doesn't do this one thing anymore. You will still get the people with a grudge over something, particularly those that don't handle change well. Is change good, or bad? That's a related debate.

 

In the end, its still totally and overwhelmingly subjective. Just like the thread below about "bigger always best". What is "best"? Who has sailed on enough lines since Covid to make a relevant comparison?

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Just in case you're also looking at European River Cruises, Avalon still stands out for solid value.  They're part of Globus and fortunately weathered the last few years very well.  Avalon knows how to run a cruise ... they always did, and they've not changed a bit.  Some crew are a bit 'untested' but they get with the program quickly.  No faux luxury, just solid excellent cruises.  

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Ask me this again in 12 months time after I have been on my first cruise line other than Celebrity.

 

To be honest though, after doing 4 celebrity cruises, I would be struggling to find anything wrong with them. I mean I can nit pick over pointless little things, but that would be churlish.

 

Not sure how good food needs to be for some, but the food on celebrity was substantially better than I eat at home. Therefore it was awesome.

 

The luxury is beyond my requirements.

 

And the drinks package works a treat.

 

But like I said, I havent tried anyone else yet.

 

And I cant compare it to the good old days of the 1920s.

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10 hours ago, Shep_Proudfoot said:

In these post-Covid, inflationary times, which are anecdotally full of cutbacks, reduced food quality, surcharges, inconsistent service, hiked fares and exorbitant excursion charges, which cruise line(s) are still doing it “right”, or at least better than the competition? This could be maintaining good service, holding the line on food quality, staying a decent value, rolling out the best new or revitalized ships vs. the competition or anything else important to cruisers that you think is keeping a cruise line at the top of your consideration list.

 

Who do you think has responded to these trying times the best, and why?

 

I've done 11 cruises on four different cruise lines since the restart with several more scheduled.  I think all of them are doing most things right, at least as far as I'm concerned.  

 

Most of the standards that you, I, or anyone else could set are subjective, but one standard is much less subjective than the others - financial performance.  And here there's one standout - Royal Caribbean and its affiliated cruise lines.  I've been impressed by how often they can get near premium cabin prices for their newest ships - of which they've had quite a few.  I'm sure that's boosted their bottom line a lot.

 

Also, I think Royal, the cruise line, is as close to "all things to all people" as any cruise line.  They have enough fun stuff to do onboard.  Their crew is good enough.  Their food is good enough.  Their itineraries are varied enough and interesting enough.  Their ships are pretty enough inside and out.  And they have a fair variety of sizes of ships to please almost everyone.

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11 hours ago, DarrenM said:

... And I cant compare it to the good old days of the 1920s.

 

And speaking of the good old days, check out this recent Cruise Critic article:

 

10 Changes to the Cruise Industry That Made Things Better Than Before

 

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A lot of changes made were likely a long time coming and the startup provided cover to make the changes.  Of course some people are rattled by change so it is hard to rely on  reviews anymore.  The biggest issue I had was the unseasoned crew but that is working out as the new hires are gaining experience.
 

The lines used the time also to try to redefine themselves.  And that isn’t over.   
 

Finally the consumer is being a bit exuberant about travel.  
 

I think it is too early to say who is doing it well.  
 

For the consumer it is a good time to investigate other options outside of your normal favorites.  
 

 

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16 hours ago, DarrenM said:

Great article.

I am old enough to remember most of those things and they were not really all that bad.  Skeet shooting, off some ships, was fun and done quite safely.  Midnight buffets were a bit over the top, but quite popular and also fun.  Better and more varied entertainment?  That depends on the cruise line and ship.  HAL eliminated their Production Shows (apparently, they are no coming back on some ships)  and more recently got rid of the popular Lincoln Center Stage groups.  Princess also made some changes, such as eliminating their popular piano bar from the new build, Enchanted Princess.

 

Yes, many cruise lines have expanded their dining options, but at a price.  One venue on the very upscale new Explora Journeys cruise line cost us over $400 (per couple)..and that was on a luxury line that charges luxury prices.  Several other luxury lines also have high priced add-on venues.  On mass market lines, there can be over a dozen venues that charge substantial fees for what used to be included in cruises.  

 

Free and Unreserved deck chairs?  That assumes you can even find one that is not being "saved."  And quite a few lines offer reserved chairs for a fee.  Even the luxury Seabourn has some expensive cabanas (which can cost about $200 a day).  Princess charges a substantial fee for reserved loungers in their "Retreat."

 

I do think one big improvement is that there are now cruise lines to fit just about any age and class.  Want a budget cruise?  You can find it on some lines.  Want to spend $2000 per person/day for a luxury experience?  No problem.   There is still much to love about the cruise industry, but I will admit to sometimes missing the "good ole days."

 

Hank

 

 

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46 minutes ago, Hlitner said:

 Princess also made some changes, such as eliminating their popular piano bar from the new build, Enchanted Princess.

 

Hank

 

NoOOOOoooooo.   I hope you don't mean they removed Crooners?  That would be insane.  

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2 hours ago, ldubs said:

 

NoOOOOoooooo.   I hope you don't mean they removed Crooners?  That would be insane.  

I did make a mistake as I was referring to the new Sky Princess (The Enchanted does have a Crooners).  On the Sky there is no Crooners...none...nada!  Take a look at the deck plan.  We have been on a few Princess cruises (over 30) and when we booked the Sky, we never looked at a deck plan.  Was quite a shock when we went looking for Crooners and it simply did not exist.  Bummer.

 

Hank

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On 6/11/2024 at 1:22 AM, DarrenM said:

Not sure how good food needs to be for some, but the food on celebrity was substantially better than I eat at home. Therefore it was awesome.

 

Oh, boy, now that's something 🙂 I'm no professional cook but I think well above average so my requirement in that regard is, well, a requirement 🙂

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7 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I am old enough to remember most of those things and they were not really all that bad.  Skeet shooting, off some ships, was fun and done quite safely.  Midnight buffets were a bit over the top, but quite popular and also fun.  Better and more varied entertainment?  That depends on the cruise line and ship.  HAL eliminated their Production Shows (apparently, they are no coming back on some ships)  and more recently got rid of the popular Lincoln Center Stage groups.  Princess also made some changes, such as eliminating their popular piano bar from the new build, Enchanted Princess.

 

Yes, many cruise lines have expanded their dining options, but at a price.  One venue on the very upscale new Explora Journeys cruise line cost us over $400 (per couple)..and that was on a luxury line that charges luxury prices.  Several other luxury lines also have high priced add-on venues.  On mass market lines, there can be over a dozen venues that charge substantial fees for what used to be included in cruises.  

 

Free and Unreserved deck chairs?  That assumes you can even find one that is not being "saved."  And quite a few lines offer reserved chairs for a fee.  Even the luxury Seabourn has some expensive cabanas (which can cost about $200 a day).  Princess charges a substantial fee for reserved loungers in their "Retreat."

 

I do think one big improvement is that there are now cruise lines to fit just about any age and class.  Want a budget cruise?  You can find it on some lines.  Want to spend $2000 per person/day for a luxury experience?  No problem.   There is still much to love about the cruise industry, but I will admit to sometimes missing the "good ole days."

 

Hank

 

 

Sorry but am I reading this right. You paid $400 dollars for a meal?

 

What on earth could you possibly eat thats worth $400 dollars for one meal?

 

Apologies if I have misread.

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1 hour ago, DarrenM said:

Another thing I find very peculiar is those wanting to hire Cabanas at extortionate prices.

 

Its a cruise ship right? We are all living in luxury for however many days we are on board.

 

Its just beyond me.

 

 

 

 

People have different desires.  None of this is a need nor is any of cruising an exercise in frugal behaviors.   I only object to items when they impose a hindrance to me. And that is why I like the fee for service or menu of options - those that others want they can pay for  and though my fare may subsidize their choices I am not forced to pay for it in full.  
 

As examples:  One I object to is the “included shore excursions “. I have taken those and they are generally 2 hour bus tours of little value except as a shuttle, Uber would have been cheaper. Another example is included alcohol, if you don’t drink that has no value yet it is included in the fare.

 

On the other hand I do pay for a few extravagances like private transfers, I would never haul my luggage through a train station yet others find adventure in that and even brag about it. 🤷‍♀️

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3 hours ago, DarrenM said:

Sorry but am I reading this right. You paid $400 dollars for a meal?

 

What on earth could you possibly eat thats worth $400 dollars for one meal?

 

Apologies if I have misread.

Yep.  On the new Explora Journey 1, which is a luxury cruise ship known for its fine cuisine, they have a small venue called Anthology.  That restaurant is generally used to showcase a Michelin starred chef who is either cooking or has trained the onboard staff.  On our cruise, the Michelin Chef was Emma Bengsston who currently reigns as the Chef at the NYC Michelin 2* restaurant, Aquavit.  

 

Since "Chef Emma" was aboard and doing the cooking (in a galley that can be viewed through a glass wall) we decided to book that venue.  As I recall it was about $195 per person (which included wine pairing).  The evening, we went to dinner, there were only 8 dinners in the venue and Chef Emma actually came to all the tables to chat.   We talked to her about getting a reservation at her NYC restaurant, which she admitted was very difficult (one must book about 1 month in advance).  Chef Emma is the only North American female chef to have earned 2 Michelin stars.  And dinner was quite good with 7 courses.

 

Keep in mind that dinner, with wine, in Aquavit would cost significantly more than $400 (per couple) so, in a way, the deal on EJ1 was a "bargain."  Restaurant prices have truly gone through the roof.  In NYC, a simple pizza and beer can easily cost more than $50.  Dinner in the top Michelin starred venues can go over $1000 per couple (a lot more if one selects an expensive bottle of wine).

 

Speaking of EJ1, I should explain a little about that new ship.  She carried up to 900 passengers (on our voyages there were only about 450 onboard) on an all suite vessel.  The ship has no main dining room, but rather has 4 separate restaurants (each with their own galley and staff) plus a high-end Lido and that small Anthology venue.  When I say high-end Lido, consider that if we wanted grilled lobster we had our choice of what kind of lobster.  The raw seafood bar had oysters on the half-shell, cracked crab claws, huge shrimp, etc.  Their sushi restaurant had 2 sushi chefs preparing items to order.  It is a very interesting new cruise line (wholly owned by the MSC folks) with its 2nd (of 6) ships soon having its maiden voyage.

 

Hank

 

Hank

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2 hours ago, Mary229 said:

People have different desires.  None of this is a need nor is any of cruising an exercise in frugal behaviors.   I only object to items when they impose a hindrance to me. And that is why I like the fee for service or menu of options - those that others want they can pay for  and though my fare may subsidize their choices I am not forced to pay for it in full.  
 

As examples:  One I object to is the “included shore excursions “. I have taken those and they are generally 2 hour bus tours of little value except as a shuttle, Uber would have been cheaper. Another example is included alcohol, if you don’t drink that has no value yet it is included in the fare.

 

On the other hand I do pay for a few extravagances like private transfers, I would never haul my luggage through a train station yet others find adventure in that and even brag about it. 🤷‍♀️

Yep I’m the one who loves the train to transfer. The adventure especially in Europe is something I look forward to. I’m a solo traveller and the idea of sitting for 2 hours in the back of a car alone is not my ideal start to a vacation.

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1 minute ago, SoloAlaska said:

Yep I’m the one who loves the train to transfer. The adventure especially in Europe is something I look forward to. I’m a solo traveller and the idea of sitting for 2 hours in the back of a car alone is not my ideal start to a vacation.

Completely understand but it never takes 2 hours to get from the airport to the hotel unless I request a city overview tour to get my bearings. 

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21 minutes ago, SoloAlaska said:

Yep I’m the one who loves the train to transfer. The adventure especially in Europe is something I look forward to. I’m a solo traveller and the idea of sitting for 2 hours in the back of a car alone is not my ideal start to a vacation.

Not sure it is wise to paint transfers with a broad brush.  While a train/transfer is a good option in some ports, it is not a great option in others.  One (of many) great advantages to independent travel is the ability to be flexible.  For example, since DW and I travel with plenty of luggage (usually two 50 pound pieces plus two carry-on back packs), using the train to transfer in Rome (to Civitavecchia) is not our favorite options.  Consider one must generally get a taxi to get to the train station (usually Termini) and the local/regional trains to Civitavecchia leave on a very distant track, which means a very long hike through Termini.  One then needs to lift the luggage onto the train, find a storage spot (usually at the end of a car) and than must be vigilant because of luggage thieves.   Once at Civitavecchia, you must pray that the sole elevator is functioning (not always the case) as you must get across a track to the main station.  You then need to either find a waiting taxi or use the shuttle bus.  This also can involve changing to a different bus to get to your actual pier.  All this with more than 150 pounds of baggage?

 

For us, in this situation, we are OK paying for a private transfer (although the current cost is approaching 150 Euros).    The situation in Barcelona also is favorable to using a taxi (or private transfer) to get to the proper terminal.

 

And what do you do in a port like Monte Carlo?  The train station is some distance (the other side of town) from the port and local bus connections are not very good if one has luggage (it is a long walk from the nearest bus stop to the pier).  We could go on, for an hour, with descriptions of many ports (around the world) where a train transfer is not an efficient or reasonable option...especially for cruisers with luggage.

 

Hank

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1 hour ago, Hlitner said:

Not sure it is wise to paint transfers with a broad brush.  While a train/transfer is a good option in some ports, it is not a great option in others.  One (of many) great advantages to independent travel is the ability to be flexible.  For example, since DW and I travel with plenty of luggage (usually two 50 pound pieces plus two carry-on back packs), using the train to transfer in Rome (to Civitavecchia) is not our favorite options.  Consider one must generally get a taxi to get to the train station (usually Termini) and the local/regional trains to Civitavecchia leave on a very distant track, which means a very long hike through Termini.  One then needs to lift the luggage onto the train, find a storage spot (usually at the end of a car) and than must be vigilant because of luggage thieves.   Once at Civitavecchia, you must pray that the sole elevator is functioning (not always the case) as you must get across a track to the main station.  You then need to either find a waiting taxi or use the shuttle bus.  This also can involve changing to a different bus to get to your actual pier.  All this with more than 150 pounds of baggage?

 

For us, in this situation, we are OK paying for a private transfer (although the current cost is approaching 150 Euros).    The situation in Barcelona also is favorable to using a taxi (or private transfer) to get to the proper terminal.

 

And what do you do in a port like Monte Carlo?  The train station is some distance (the other side of town) from the port and local bus connections are not very good if one has luggage (it is a long walk from the nearest bus stop to the pier).  We could go on, for an hour, with descriptions of many ports (around the world) where a train transfer is not an efficient or reasonable option...especially for cruisers with luggage.

 

Hank

This why I like traveling with one suitcase and a small backpack at most. I fly in a day or two early and go into Rome by train. I stay near termini and the next morning take the express train to Civi. There was a line of taxis that were the same price as the shuttle waiting in Civi and brought us right to the ship. It was a great way to get to the ship for me. If you struggle with the amount of luggage you bring then a private transfer is the right choice for you. When traveling with a lot of luggage the train can be grind. I do it when going to Germany on business with a total of over 320lb between two of us. I’ve hauled it all up stairs multiple times and walked long distances, this is why I work out. 50lb farmers carries are practice for carrying luggage.

 

i completely agree some ports a train transfer isn’t suited but for some it works. You just have to do your research and figure out what works for you. Civi and Southampton I’m happy by train with a taxi for the final bit. Maybe in 40 years that will change but for now I’m fit and solo and love the adventure.

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1 hour ago, Mary229 said:

Completely understand but it never takes 2 hours to get from the airport to the hotel unless I request a city overview tour to get my bearings. 

There are several ports that are 2 hours from a major international airport. For example the flights I can take to Anchorage get me into town later in the day so I’ll stay in the city that night and take a transfer the next morning in order to board the ship. That’s a 2h20 drive assuming no construction delays or stops to enjoy the view.
 

Anchorage to Seward or Whittier

London to Southampton

Paris to Le Havre


Rome to Civi is less than 2 hours but takes well over an hour by car still. 

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13 hours ago, Hlitner said:

I did make a mistake as I was referring to the new Sky Princess (The Enchanted does have a Crooners).  On the Sky there is no Crooners...none...nada!  Take a look at the deck plan.  We have been on a few Princess cruises (over 30) and when we booked the Sky, we never looked at a deck plan.  Was quite a shock when we went looking for Crooners and it simply did not exist.  Bummer.

 

Hank

 

Thanks.  Enchanted is our current Princess favorite.    Eliminating a popular venue like Crooners is a big departure from the Princess template.   I hope it works for them.   

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