Luxury Cruise Bargains (Part 2)

| December 12, 2008

The luxury cruise line incentive offerings during this economic downturn makes them competitive with mainstream cruise lines.

The luxury category in the cruise industry usually means smaller ships (under 1,000 passengers), more crew per passenger (generally a 1-to-2 ratio or better), and many amenities included in the cruise price such as gourmet food, liquor and gratuities. The next step down in cruising is the premium category, which usually includes Holland America, Celebrity and Princess. These premium ships hold 2,000 to 3,200 passengers, and alcohol and gratuities are charged separately. The food is above average, but if you want truly gourmet food you must reserve a table in an alternative dining spot which will carry a cover charge.

To be more specific, Silversea ships generally hold about 300 passengers and have plenty of staff to take care of you. There is nothing on a Silversea ship for which you will go wanting -- e.g., room service will bring you an order of caviar and champagne at no extra charge. On a premium ship, that would likely cost you over $100.

Comparing Luxury to Premium I am looking online at a premium cruise ship that also has a Baltic cruise this coming summer season. The luxury Silversea cruise is seven nights, while the premium cruise is 12. The top suite on the premium ship, priced at $3,549 per person, is 251 sq. ft. and has the same amenities as the Silversea minimum category listed above. To be fair, we broke the price down to a "per night" basis.

For similar suites, we are looking at $457 a night for Silversea and $295 on the premium ship.

However, on this premium ship you pay separately for drinks and gratuities. I recently sailed on this premium line, and a beer cost $7.20 a bottle after you add the 15% service charge. A bottle of wine with dinner started at $70, and many were over $100. Add in a pre-dinner cocktail plus an extra bottle of wine with dinner, and you could easily run up a charge of $120 per person for dinner on the premium ship. On Silversea, of course, a second bottle of wine will be brought to you at no extra charge.

For the best food on the premium cruise line you must make reservations in a specialty restaurant, which will cost you $30 per person, per night. On Silversea, the regular dining room food is Relais and Chateaux -- a highly respected name for the best gourmet food and hotels in France.

Premium ship gratuities generally cost $12 per person per day plus the 15% service charge on almost everything you buy. Figure about $20 a day per person for gratuities, conservatively.

On the smaller Silversea ship, with better service, unlimited gourmet food and beverages, you are paying $457 per night:

$ 457 Suite $ 0 Alcohol (and more if you want -- a pre-dinner champagne and after dinner cognac) $ 0 Premium Dining $ 0 Gratuities

Adding up all the premium priced gourmet cuisine, plus additional beverage and service charges on the 2,500-passenger premium ship, you could pay $457 per night: The same amount as the luxury ship.

$ 295 Suite $ 10 Pre-Dinner Cocktail (inc. 15% service charge) $ 100 Alcohol (one bottle wine inc. 15% service charge) $ 35 Premium Dining (inc. 15% service charge) $ 17 Gratuities

So it will cost exactly the same on the premium ship as the luxury one! Admittedly, this is a "splurge night" on this premium ship -- but wouldn't you like to splurge every night? You can on the luxury cruise line. You can splurge as much as you want and it never costs you more. You can have your dinner en cabine every night if you wish.

Continue Article >> Luxury Cruise Bargains (Part 3)

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