Cruising in the Suite Life - the best staterooms on the ship
The cruise industry is mostly an open society (I would have said democratic, but this is an election year and I didn't want to rile anyone): The price you pay traditionally determined the size of the room you occupy, but not much else. Yes, there are exceptions like the assignment of dining rooms on Cunard's Queens based on cabin category, and the new breed of special rooms for concierge and above levels on some lines.
But overall, other than your own private space, the rest of the ship and all of its facilities are open to everyone. So a common question among cruisers is, "Are suites worth the extra money?" I can't answer that for everyone, but if you are looking for larger spaces and balconies, suites may be the answer. If outside space is not a priority and you have no problem with regular sized rooms, suites may not be worth the extra money. If you're a family of four, such as the friends I recently traveled with, a suite may be better than a regular quad.
When my parents cruised, money was an issue. They went for the lower-priced rooms on the premise that they weren't in cabin that often, and they could then afford a somewhat better cruise line. Since the in-cabin amenities back then were nowhere near what they are today, it was a logical approach. Today, in addition to the question of paying for a better room on the same ship, luxury lines sometimes have some very affordable pricing available, especially with advance-booking discounts. With all the extras these lines include (e.g., tipping and beverages – alcoholic or not), it pays to compare prices.
The Suite Life
Many cruise lines are now enticing suite guests with amenities that make an upgrade very appealing. Here are examples of what some mainstream lines are offering (beyond just the larger size of the room):
Carnival's Suite and Penthouse Suite guests all enjoy special VIP check-in; a wet bar; refrigerator; entertainment/sitting area with sofa, armchairs and coffee table; large vanity/dressing table with sink; VCR; three large closets and whirlpool bath.
Holland America is outfitting all Penthouse and Deluxe Verandah rooms with duvets, fully stocked mini-bars, personalized stationary and a VCR or DVD player with access to a well-stocked library. This is in addition to lots of enhancements being made as part of the line's Signature of Excellence program.
Norwegian Cruise Line offers its top suite guests a starter set of liquor/soda/water, butler and concierge service, CD and DVD library, upgraded linens and bath amenities, personalized stationary, unpacking and packing service, a personal computer with printer and a whole lot more.
Princess offers its suite guests complimentary Internet access, dry cleaning and laundry. There's also priority embarkation, early disembarkation in tender ports, special toiletries, flowers, starter liquor/soft drink/water set-ups and the choice of various afternoon canapés.
Royal Caribbean offers guests in its top accommodations duvets, robes and slippers for on-board use and special bath amenities. Suite attendants have fewer rooms to handle so service for each is better. On Voyager- and Radiance-class ships, there is concierge service and a special lounge as well.
Luxury Has Its Privileges
Here are a couple of examples of what some lines are doing to satisfy those discriminating guests who like a touch of luxury:
Cunard's new Queen Mary has some special treats in store for its Grill Class guests including prebooking for Canyon Ranch treatments, a concierge lounge, Frette linens, priority reservations for specialty restaurants, and private (but not free) shore excursions. Queen's Grill guests get even more, including a private sundeck/Jacuzzi and Xbox Entertainment Systems.
Radisson Seven Seas has an all-suite, all balcony design so everyone on board really is a "suite" guest. But the top-level accommodations get even more, such as upgraded bar set-ups, complimentary cocktail parties, better robes and towels, a 4-Parts Manicure Set (that one intrigues me), automatic VIP status and personalized stationary.
To Suite or Not to Suite
It's still pretty much true that what you get is what you pay for. Everyone has different priorities. Study the different lines and categories to see what the array of increased room size and varying amenities can do to enhance your experience.
If you have any comments or questions on this subject, please e-mail .