High-end Cruises—Worth The Money?
Photos by Bob Ecker
You’re treated like royalty by everyone at the airport and the dock. Check in is friendly, fast, easy and effortless and there certainly aren't hordes of passengers jostling in line. A glass of champagne is presented as your hand luggage is whisked away and immediately you discover that this isn't going to be an ordinary cruise. Welcome to luxury cruising. Many people yearn for this kind of experience but balk at the price. Indeed, luxury cruising is more expensive than the humbler, mammoth cruise ships, but when you examine the differences, cruising on a luxury, all-inclusive line is more of a value than you'd think.
I recently experienced a voyage on the Silversea Spirit, and along with uber-lux lines like Crystal, Regent and Seabourn, Silversea sports the all-inclusive moniker. Almost everything aboard is included with the price. That means (virtually) all dining, all drinks, (virtually) all alcohol, all entertainment and all gratuities. The lines vary but generally some shore excursions, internet fees, spa and beauty treatments, some higher end dining experiences, premium liquors and wines and onboard gambling are not included. But believe me; most of us can have a fantastic time with what’s provided. The absence of tipping and check signing alone is a huge bonus; shipboard staffs are well trained and paid and really don't work for tips. It makes traveling so much more enjoyable and as I'm sure many of you have realized, a cruise ship bar bill can add up to hundreds of dollars per person, per cruise. Plus, if the Silversea’s ample complimentary wine list doesn't satisfy, just ask—the friendly sommeliers will find other good wines for you at no charge. I tested them repeatedly on this point and they passed every time.
“I loved the days at sea the best,” said Jean Blakley of Orlando Florida, traveling on Silversea with her husband John. “We also like the all inclusive—you don't have to sign for this and that.” Blackley took in all of the shipboard activities that Silversea could offer including bingo, dancing, the Jordan Winery food pairing demonstration, matinee films and afternoon tea.
Qualitatively, higher end cruise ships, like the Silver Spirit, provide customers with a considerably higher class of accommodations, professional butler service and efficient staff (the customer to staff ratio is one to one) and frankly a higher level of fellow passengers. Another important attribute of lux line cruising is sailing aboard intimate vessels which have the ability to dock at smaller ports and get right into cities. Try that with a giant mega-ship. This means quicker ingress and egress from your port, which allows more time for exploring and less tendering—making the port-of-call experience more rewarding.
“I love it, absolutely love it,” said Marcie Cadou or Atlanta, Georgia. “We’re frequent floaters—this is our sixth cruise with Silversea and the level of service, level of ships, décor and cuisine is top notch.”
Trust me, when you're dining at Silversea’s fine Italian restaurant, La Terrazza, (ask for the gnocchi, they will whip it up for you even if not on that night’s menu) tasting the various courses, sitting outside to enjoy the view and toasting new friends with one of the many excellent wines on offer, you'll be glad you tried a luxury line. It’s something new—and definitely worth the money.