by Linda Coffman
In Search of
choice or costly surroundings, possessions, etc.; providing
great comfort; expensive. (Oxford Desk Dictionary)
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
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 available—especially
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
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.
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?