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Cruising in the Lap of Luxury

by Linda Coffman

In Search of "Luxury" Cruises

Lux-u-ry: choice or costly surroundings, possessions, etc.; providing great comfort; expensive. (Oxford Desk Dictionary)

Select a logo to learn more about luxury cruise lines

Crystal Cruises
Cunard Line

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Seabourn Cruise Line
SeaDream Yacht ClubSeaDream Yacht Club
Silversea Cruises
Windstar Cruises

Something about that definition bothers me in terms of cruise travel. It's far too broad. How does a "luxury" cruise differ from others? Aren't all cruises considered luxury travel?

It was clear during a discussion at Seatrade Passenger Shipping Convention that even leading cruise line executives can differ in their opinions—and definitions—of luxury. The President of Crystal Cruises, pointed out that diverse and far-flung destinations are an important component of the luxury experience. He was countered by former-Carnival President Bob Dickinson, whose opinion was that the unique qualities of the luxury cruise market are available on premium ships, for instance to those guests in suites. While it's true that two thirds of affluent passengers can be found on premium and mainstream cruise ships, the other third has found a top drawer segment that cannot be equaled. Even exotic itineraries and the presence of a private suite lounge and concierge service don't match the mood of a true luxury cruise. 

On a panel devoted to Upscale Products, the CEO of of Silversea Cruises, responded to those observations: "I just want to speak to one of the comments made one of my colleagues at the 'State of the Industry' address. It implied that from its inception, the luxury cruise segment has mainly distinguished itself by cornering the market on exotic destinations, and now that mass market lines had entered more exotic cruising arenas such as Europe and the Mediterranean, there will not be a need for an ultra-luxury cruise experience. I say, that if that were the case, you would only see Holiday Inns all over the world, instead of the wide array of fine hotels and five-star resort options currently availableespecially in exotic destinations. People do not want to compromise their lifestyle when they go on vacation. If they are sophisticated consumers used to six-star service and six-star food, they will continue to seek out ultra-luxury accommodations, services and experiences wherever in the world they are traveling."

Time and Space—The Essence of Luxury
Now, that makes sense, but let's dig a bit deeper. The Senior VP of Marketing and Sales for Seabourn Cruise Line stated that luxury cruise lines need to "exceed the expectations" of their guests. They expect an intimate experience and seek the time and a place to feel good with their spouse or significant other. They want to visit creative destinations, dine in new places, and to be pampered. 

Ah, pampering. But, don't all cruise lines do that? No, not this way. Upscale passengers demand a tailored, individual experience, one that includes individual treatment. It's all about service, service, and more service. Affluent clients don't merely go on vacation, they collect experiences. And one of those experiences is "not conveyor belt cruising," as the President & CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club put it. 

The design of upscale vessels—smaller, but with more space per passenger—creates a special ambiance. So does the presence of a higher number of staff members. In an atmosphere of quiet dignity, service is unobtrusive and refined. Special touches, like the more inclusive nature of most luxury cruises (eliminating the necessity to sign bar tabs and pass out gratuities), offer more value.

An elegant duo of Silversea ships

An elegant duo of Silversea ships

Is the value of a luxury cruise in your future? Granted, they come with a higher price tag... but what are your time and memories worth?


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