In the world of cruising, many options range from mass-market family ships to ultra-luxury small ships. Every cruiser has their favorite line and will sing its praises to anyone who will listen.
Luxury cruising vastly differs from mass-market lines, which focus on getting as many people on a ship as possible. Luxury cruise lines like Regent Seven Seas Cruises or the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection focus on experiences in the ports while providing an exceptional onboard experience to their guests.
Keep reading if you’ve wondered if a luxury cruise is worth it. I’ll explore the critical differences between luxury and mass-market lines so you can make an informed decision.
Size of the ships
The size of the ships is one of the most apparent differences between a luxury cruise and a mass-market cruise. Luxury ships are dwarfed by their mass-market counterparts, clocking in around half the gross tonnage of even the smallest premium options.
A smaller ship has many advantages for the affluent traveler, with the ability to call on smaller ports that larger ships couldn’t dream of visiting. This also opens the world to luxury travelers with more authentic experiences, given that luxury ships hold fewer than 1,000 passengers (with many holding fewer than 500 passengers).
Another advantage of a smaller ship is getting to know your fellow travelers. I’ve made many life-long friendships on ships, with the most memorable experiences being on smaller ships.
Because luxury cruise lines have more options for ports of call, they can visit exotic destinations. Aurora Expeditions is one of the most notable brands with their purpose-built fleet to visit Antarctica.
Paul Gauguin visits the islands of Tahiti, French Polynesia, Fiji, and other destinations in the South Pacific. For those who love to cruise, a luxury line is the best way to visit these locations because many of these islands can only be reached with small ships.
Celebrity Cruises has a purpose-built luxury ship for the Galapagos, offering an intimate experience of the destination while maintaining the onboard luxury that you’d expect of a luxury ship.
Level of Service
The level of service on a luxury ship far exceeds what you would expect on a mass-market line. The crew-to-passenger ratio is close to 1:1 on many luxury brands, even when they’re sailing at 100% occupancy.
Many luxury ships provide a personal touch that gives every passenger a dedicated butler to pamper you while on vacation and care for your every need. Mass-market lines have picked up on this need with their “ship within a ship” concept (such as The Retreat on Celebrity Cruises), with suites offering dedicated service and space on the ship.
Luxury brands also hire the best crew. These crew members have earned their stripes and know how to go above and beyond for every passenger. They’ve spent years already in their role on other ships, so running into someone who is learning the ropes won’t derail your vacation.
More is Included
It’s no secret that a luxury brand costs more, but more is included in the total price of the voyage.
For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises includes the cost of roundtrip flights (in business class for intercontinental flights), airport transfers, shore excursions, gratuities, laundry, beverages, and nearly everything else that you would spend money on while on a mass-market line.
Whenever I’ve done a cost breakdown between a premium line and a luxury line with all the necessary inclusions, the cost per night is a better value on the luxury option. Once you add in the difference in the level of service, you’ll be entering a whole new world of travel.
For a December 2023 Caribbean Sailing out of Miami
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Cruise Fare for two adults in an entry-level suite