Why you should book a luxury cruise holiday
With every conceivable extra included in the fare, a luxury cruise could be better value than you imagined - and more enjoyable than you ever dreamed
You get what you pay for, they say, and that’s never more true than when you’re booking a cruise.
But while a voyage that costs more than £1,000 per person may seem extravagant, something interesting happens when you commit to pay a bit extra.
While lower-priced lines may promise you an all-inclusive cruise, when you look into the small print, you could find that you’ll be saddled with extra costs for drinks, speciality dining, wi-fi and excursions.
This simply doesn’t happen on most luxury cruises, where all-inclusive really does mean all-inclusive. So pay more upfront and it’s possible that your money will actually stretch further.
You’ll also get to enjoy all that’s great about luxury cruising, from Michelin-starred dining to champagne on tap and the joy of sailing on smaller ships with more staff. In fact, whether you’re taking an ocean or a river cruise, as soon as you step on board you’ll be transported to what feels like the ultimate five-star hotel.
‘The value a luxury cruise represents is so much more than what is included in the cost – although that in itself is quite significant,’ says Edwina Lonsdale, MD of luxury travel specialist Mundy Cruising.
‘It’s not just the generous inclusions you’ll get; the space and attentive service you’ll enjoy on a luxury ship is second to none. And when you’ve paid ahead, knowing that everything is taken care of means you can relax and enjoy every moment of your cruise.’
What’s more, by booking your trip through an experienced luxury cruise agent or looking out for sales and special offers from the key luxury cruise lines, you may find this style of cruising is cheaper than you thought. So read on to discover why paying a bit more could be one of the best financial decisions you’ll make all year.
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The Extra Factor
Most luxury cruise lines are now fully inclusive and some even include unlimited excursions in the price of your ticket, so you literally won’t have to pay a penny from the moment you step onboard until the moment you leave.
But these generous perks – which often include your own butler, champagne and the chance to dine at restaurants created by Michelin-starred chefs – are not the only way in which luxury cruises offer exceptional value.
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Coupled with all these amazing perks, you’ll also experience the benefits of having fewer passengers and more staff on board. There will be lots of space for everyone, pools and gyms will be quieter, and you’ll be enjoying some of the world’s most opulent and beautifully designed interiors.
‘Uniworld’s guests are looking for value as much as anyone,’ says Chris Townson, UK managing director of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises. ‘Once on board, they really appreciate all the incredible inclusions that come with their overall package, in terms of both quality and quantity.’
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Bernard Carter is senior vice president and European MD of Oceania Cruises, another luxury line that includes many extras in its fares. ‘For discerning travellers, a luxury voyage with Oceania Cruises offers exceptional value,’ he says.
‘When you consider how much is included in the cost of your cruise holiday – such as a round-trip airfare, port shuttle service, complimentary speciality restaurants, fitness classes, wi-fi, soft drinks and speciality coffees and teas – the value is undeniable.
'We also offer customers the option of our inclusive OLife Choice, which gives guests a range of benefits including up to eight free shore excursions, a generous beverage package and up to $800 onboard credit per stateroom.’
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One of the most generous luxury lines is Regent Seven Seas Cruises, which includes pretty much everything you could think of in its fares.
‘When you realise that five-star meals, an unlimited drinks package, return flights, chauffeur transfers, gratuities, shore excursions, valet laundry and a butler are included in the price of your ticket, it’s easy to see the benefits of booking a cruise with us,' says Graham Sadler, Managing Director of Regent Seven Seas Cruises UK.
‘Yes, you’ll pay more but it’s a truly unrivalled experience.’ Sadler also cites the amazing staff-to-guest ratio on all Regent cruises (no ship carries more than 750 guests) as a great reason for paying more for your cruise.
Which brings us to another benefit of luxury cruising – one that, in this post-Covid world, is almost beyond price. ‘Now, more than ever,’ Sadler adds, ‘luxury means space, and our guests get to experience this ultimate in luxury travel as standard.’
Luxe on the River
When it comes to inclusions, luxury river lines are no less generous than their oceangoing counterparts.
‘Everything you need for a fantastic luxury river cruise experience is in our up-front booking prices,’ says Katja Hildebrandt, head of product at Riviera Travel.
‘This means it’s easy to budget for your holiday, as the price will cover costs including flights, transfers, tours with expert guides and full board.
'It comprises eight guided tours and visits, including tours of Porto and Salamanca, dinner at a traditional Portuguese quinta and visits to Castelo Rodrigo, Mateus Palace Gardens and Lamego. Return flights, transfers and all meals are also part of the fare.’
One of the most compelling reasons for splashing out on a luxury cruise is the chance to explore exotic and difficult- to-reach destinations.
Because luxury ships are smaller than mainstream vessels, their captains often drop anchor in destinations off the beaten track where you can enjoy a day of diving and snorkelling from the side of your ship.
And if you’re the adventurous type, look out for smaller yacht-style luxury lines such as Star Clippers and SeaDream Yacht Club, who will take you to some of the world’s most remote and desirable locations.
Luxury lines also put exceptional planning into their excursions, and in a world where authentic adventures and sustainability are key, many of the trips they offer give incredible insight into the destinations you’re visiting.
Making memories is another aspect of cruising where the luxury lines excel, offering money-can’t-buy exclusive experiences that you simply can’t get as an independent traveller.
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One great example of this is Uniworld’s unique after-hours tour of St Mark’s Basilica, offered to guests on the line’s popular Venice cruise. ‘As well as offering amazing excursions, we take our contribution to the destinations we visit incredibly seriously,’ says Uniworld boss Chris Townson.
‘All our cruises include local, environmental and community-based experiences, supporting smaller suppliers to ensure that our guests have a positive social and economic impact on the communities and environments through which we travel.’
Oceania Cruises’ Bernard Carter is equally proud of his line’s shore excursion programme, explaining that the line works hard to ensure all its onshore experiences capture the true essence of each location.
‘Oceania’s shore excursions allow guests to discover the best of the local culture, history, cuisine and natural wonders,’ he says, ‘and our smaller ships allow us to explore boutique, lesser-known destinations across the world.’
Oceania’s new 2023 Europe and North America Collection of voyages also features up to 50 per cent more time in port than you would normally get with a premium or family cruise line – yet another way in which the true luxury lines add value.
Wining and Dining
One of the greatest benefits of a luxury cruise is the access it gives you to some truly world-class dining experiences, without having to pay a penny on top of your upfront cruise fare.
Seabourn offers guests the chance to dine at restaurants designed by Michelin- starred chefs including Thomas Keller. And look out for Regent Seven Seas Cruises collection of ‘Spotlight Voyages’, which are specially designed to appeal to culinary and wine enthusiasts.
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Elsewhere in the luxury market, Oceania Cruises lays claim to offering ‘the finest cuisine at sea’, with a special emphasis on providing their guests with authentic flavours of the destinations they are visiting, via gourmet restaurants and immersive culinary classes.
And if you also enjoy a tipple, you’ll find that luxury lines offer the finest champagnes and spirits, served in style by experts. You don’t have to pay extra and you don’t have to count the cost because there’s no bill at the end – it’s all part of the service.
As Uniworld’s Chris Townson says: ‘We offer a huge variety of premium wines, beers, spirits and champagnes to our guests and they are available at any time of the day or night.’ Cheers to that!
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