Have you ever considered making the jump from mainstream mega-ship cruising to a more intimate luxury option? Although luxury cruising is certainly no small investment, there is a lot of value when you consider the inclusions and the overall experience.
Last fall I had the opportunity to experience Seabourn - the ultra-luxury, all-inclusive cruise line. My husband and I carefully selected an itinerary that intrigued us which embarked in Barcelona, ended in Civitavecchia (Rome), and took us along the French Riviera. We sailed in the middle of October which was a true delight with fantastic weather without the crowds.
Aboard one of the brands’ seven luxury cruise ships, we boarded the stunning Ovation. We fell in love with the small ship cruising style! Here are 5 reasons why I loved it and why you may too!
Reason #1 - Extraordinary Service
Service is the number one thing that sets luxury lines like Seabourn apart from other mass-market and premium lines. Being onboard a ship that had 450 guests and 435 crew members, the ratio was essentially 1:1. Seabourn really makes your feel special. Crew members get to know you, you get to know them. We witnessed several return guests being welcomed back on board by their favorite staff! They learned our wine pairing preferences and usually drink orders, and many times we were greeted by our names.
One prime example of the service level was when we arrived at the airport in Barcelona. Our flight arrived around 6:30 am, but we were not supposed to embark until 2 pm. That meant we had a whole day to figure out what we were to do. I had not planned anything since I knew we would have luggage and figured we would need to find a place to store it.
However, to my surprise, when we found the Seabourn representative upon landing, they provided us with a letter that stated our private transfer would be arriving shortly to take us to a 5-star hotel in the Gothic quarter, where a complimentary breakfast had been arranged. The hotel would store our bags, and at 1:30 pm, another transfer would pick us up and take us to the port. I mean WOW! Talk about some pre-cruise pampering! It was so unexpected, and yet incredibly helpful. So instead of wasting the day, we were able to explore Barcelona! This set the tone for the rest of the cruise where we wanted for nothing.
Reason #2 - No line or crowds
If you have cruised before on mass market or premium cruise lines, you will understand the process it takes to embark and disembark. Getting thousands of passengers on and off the ship is not an easy task. Embarkation is all about waiting around for your group to be called, where you just turn a corner and get stuck in another amusement park line to actually walk on board. It is common to have to wait for your group to be called for tenders, and the very annoying lines at the buffets and even restaurants.
Because of the number of passengers onboard Seabourn and other luxury cruise lines, waiting wasn’t a part of the experience. Just look at the embarkation area….there was NO line. From the time we dropped off our bags to the time we stepped foot onto the ship had to have been 5 mins in total. I wish I would have timed it!
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Reason #3 – Less Traveled Itineraries
With smaller ships, comes the natural ability to dock in smaller ports that the bigger ships can’t or don’t do. Big cities are great and all as they offer lots of sightseeing opportunities, but it is the smaller cities in Europe that I have fallen in love with the most. The true charm of the area comes out more. On this itinerary we stopped in places like Sete, France, Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Palamos, Spain.
On luxury lines, you can expect more exclusive ports and in a growing trend, you can even find itineraries that overnight in popular destinations so you can immerse yourself, even more, both day and night. You’ll be able to enjoy the very popular ports at off hours when the city isn’t overrun with tourists from the mega-ships.
Reason #4 – All-inclusive
When people come to me for their mass market cruises, I have to have a talk with them about what is and is not included. So much is not included and must be accounted for when considering your budget. Sodas, gratuities, wifi, excursions, room service….the list goes on.
Being nickeled and dimed will take the fun out of vacation very quickly.
A stark difference with luxury lines is their more inclusive pricing models. While each luxury line will vary, on Seabourn we loved what was included as a standard. There was no extra charge for wifi (if you have ever had to buy an internet plan at sea…these are not cheap!). I loved being able to stay in touch with my kids back home with the grandparents during our vacation.
Alcoholic and specialty drinks were at no extra charge. Throughout the day, you could get premium alcohol and specialty drinks including my favorite – affogato. With only a few exceptions if you have expensive tastes, there was no additional charge and no daily limit or dollar amount per drink you needed to monitor.
The food on Seabourn was top-notch. We found ourselves returning to the ship for lunch along with many others (remember the quick embarkation/debarkation? That made this possible) before heading back out to the ports for more exploration. The food was that good!
Reason #5 – Luxurious cabins
Just because luxury cruise ships carry fewer passengers, they don’t sacrifice amenities – they actually enhance them. They provide a different environment to cruise that you will love – and it’s the same amenities but better…you have more space to enjoy. The lead-in category cabin is the Verandah Suite on board the Ovation. There are no interior cabins on this ship and no ocean views. Every suite had a spacious verandah that we were able to enjoy.
We were in a V1 category cabin (the lead in category) which has between 246-302 square feet of space PLUS a verandah that measures between 68 & 83 square feet. A total space of 314 – 385 sq ft! Compare this to other popular premium lines, this is 46% more space!
Because our suite was incredibly spacious, we had room for a walk-in closet AND a bathroom that had a double vanity and separate shower and tub! That’s right, we had a full bathtub in our cabin.
The added space allowed us to really enjoy one of our favorite things to do on cruises - eating breakfast in our cabin. We had a nice size table and two comfortable chairs where the staff would set up our food. When they delivered it to our room, they set out the white tablecloth with all of the table settings. It could not have been better!
Are you ready to cruise luxuriously?
Whether you are looking for a cruise that provides a more intimate setting, one that serves amazing food, or unique itineraries, there is a luxury line that is right for you.
Connect with a luxury travel expert for your next vacation and experience what it means to really travel luxuriously. I guarantee you will love it!