Cruise Companies: Mainstream, Premium, Deluxe or Luxury (Part 5)

| March 16, 2009

The cruise industry slots each cruise company into one of four categories. Here are the definition and occupants of each category.

Oceania has three 30,000-ton ships. They are perfect ships for world travel, with the focus on almost daily destinations, great food at night and a comfortable bed. Shipboard activities other than dining and a little dancing are limited - this not a "sexy legs contest" cruise line. Nor will it feature speakers like Bill Moyers or other renowned cultural icons.

Dinner is open seating in any of four restaurants, none carrying a service charge. The main dining room is open seating nightly. There is a steakhouse grill and an Italian Trattoria both requiring reservations. The food is very good, especially in the special restaurants. A casual dining buffet is also offered nightly with al fresco seating.

The staterooms are smaller than average but very comfortable. The bedding is excellent. The focus on unusual destinations with long stays in port. Shore tours are extensive but many people make their own tour arrangements.

Azamara Cruises Azamara has the same vessels as Oceania Cruises (also acquired from the defunct Renaissance Cruises) but the d�cor has been invigorated and the service has been enhanced in the style of parent company Celebrity Cruises. The line is very similar to Oceana described above. The pricing is competitive and so it is recommended that one look at both lines when considering a deluxe-style cruise.

Princess Cruises (two ships) The third line with these small former R-ships is Princess. The line uses the ships for more exotic and longer cruises. Their restaurants have been changed to the Princess names but are still a grill and an Italian restaurant (Sabatini's as on the other Princess ships). The two ships are the Tahitian and the Pacific Princess.

LUXURY CRUISE COMPANIES In alphabetical order: The cruise companies that CruiseMates puts into the luxury category are Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, SeaDream Yacht Club and Silversea Cruises. Meanwhile, three other lines also deserve honorable mention, because they appeal to many of the same people. These lines are Cunard, Oceania Cruises and Windstar. They all have distinguishing characteristics that set them apart from the mainstream cruise market.

The differences among these cruise lines are as varied as the entire spectrum of cruising. For example, Crystal's 68,000-ton Crystal Serenity is larger than some mass market ships. But with only 1,080 passengers it also has a very favorable space to passenger ratio, meaning that even though it is a big ship, it never feels crowded. At the other end of the scale is SeaDream Yacht Club, whose entire fleet of two boutique ships -- at 108 passengers each -- is smaller than almost any cruise ship you can name.

For further information we recommend reading the extensive luxury cruising section at CruiseMates.

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