Going First Class - and then some!!

| Tuesday, 15 Jan. 2008

Cruise ship suites are more popular and opulent than ever. Here are the latest trends in suites from the newest cruise ships.

Back in the days of transatlantic ocean liners, most vessels, especially the larger ones, maintained several opulently appointed large suites for Royalty and the magnates of industry of the day. They did this because the ships were built and owned by the country that built them; the SS France for example.

Even the United States owned and operated an ocean liner for a few years, the SS United States, which is still docked in Philadelphia and today is owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines, though they do not any specific plans to refurbish it right now. This vessel, in its day, was the fastest liner on the ocean, able to travel an incredible 44 knots! That is close to the speed of a hovercraft today.

The practice of offering suites on cruise ships has carried over to today's vessels, but they are not reserved for royalty or chirfs of state any longer. They are available for anyone who can afford them, and while some of them are reasonable, there are some suites on modern cruise ships where you'd better combine your Amex gold card, you 401-K and that major inheritance you just received from your Aunt Agnes. The size and commensurate services found in the largest of today's mega-suites would suit the requirements of virtually any of the above royalty or today's super rich.

Why do these ships have these outrageously opulent and expensive suites? There might be a degree of "one upsmanship" on the part of the cruise lines, and they all seem to be participating in the game to an increasing degree. It's gotten to the point where anything less than 500 or 600 square feet isn't worth mentioning as a suite. These days, 1,000 sq. ft and up is becoming sonething of the standard. And surprisingly, these suites and their smaller counterparts are always among the first staterooms to sell out on a ship.

As most suites can be occupied by several guests, they could conceivably be affordable were an entire family (especially a large one) to book them. In a few cases though, an unlimited vacation budget would probably come recommended. Today, some of these suites are even duplexes! Let's look at some of the most magnificent examples of this growing phenomena.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Lines currently wins the prize for the largest individual suites. Their Garden Villas, which can reach a size of 5,750 square feet, are larger than a decently sized home. NCL refers to them as their "ship within a ship" concept and the Garden Villas offer all of the amenities of a large vessel but in an exclusive private setting. Guests can, if they choose, enjoy their own meals in their own dining room and be attended to by their own Butler. Should they become bored just lounging in their enormous living room, they can take a stroll through their private garden! Of course each of the three bedrooms have their own private bathroom. Following a grueling day of excursions or shopping; private sun beds, a hot tub and steam room await the exhausted Garden Villa guest.

See more pictures of NCL's Garden Villas here.

In their newest concept, NCL offers 10 luxurious staterooms in their Courtyard Garden Villa complex wherein all staterooms share a private courtyard replete with male and female steam rooms, lap pool, hot tub and even a small fitness area.

Royal Caribbean

RCCL's Freedom class ships (the Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas and next year, the Independence of the Seas) offer their Presidential Family Suite which can accommodate up to fourteen guests. With over two thousand square feet of indoor and outdoor space, these suites provide two master bedrooms, each with their own bath and a 30" flat screened TV. Two additional bedrooms have their own 23" Flat screened TV's and are served by two bathrooms with showers located in a common area. The spacious living room provides a well appointed entertainment center that features a 42" plasma TV and a sectional sofa that can sleep two. The enormous balcony features lounge chairs, a private whirlpool and wet bar. The balcony can also accommodate 14 guests dining alfresco.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruise's big draw is in it's Grand Suite, appropriately situated on the Grand Princess wherein in addition to all the other amenities, there's even a fireplace! Of course I don't know how often one would require use of a fireplace on a cruise to the Caribbean, South Pacific or the southern Mediterranean in the summer time, but what the heck, it sure creates a wonderful ambience.

Cunard

If you've ever wondered why Cunard's guest to space ratio is so large, this may serve as a sort of explanation. Their newborn, the Queen Victoria, offers four truly Grand Suites named after former well known transatlantic liners; Aquitania, Berengaria, Mauretania and Laconia. Ranging in size from 1,918 square feet to 2,131 square feet (about the size of my home) they offer every amenity for which Cunard has long been famous.

See our preview of the new Cunard Liner "Queen Victoria".

The Queen Mary 2's five Queen's Grill suites measure from 1,566 sq. ft. to 2,249 sq. ft. The novelty here (and the reason why I put the word "individual" into my explanation of NCL's largest suite) is that not only are the suites duplex, but all five can be combined into one gigantic and eye popping 9,000 square foot home! Even if you consider yourself upwardly mobile and on the proverbial "fast track", you still better board a rocket to success if you ever expect to enjoy such luxury in your young adult life. Even the four smaller suites overlooking the bow (796 to 1,194 Sq. Ft.) can be combined into one magnificent 3,980 sq. ft. mega-suite, certainly nothing to sneeze at in it's own right.

Other Luxury Cruise Lines

The above are just the mass market lines. Obviously the Premium Line Radisson Seven Seas and the ultimate luxury cruise lines Seabourn and Silversea have made upgrades and improvements as well, but the type of passengersthey target usually prefer anonymity and understated elegance as a matter of course.

If you actually must experience maybe one of the smaller examples I've mentioned, there's always the possibility of a 2nd mortgage - that is of course, if you've built up at least 95% in equity!

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity's newest ship, Solstice, set to debut in 2008, has an entire class of suites called AquaClass Suites. These suites, like NCL, are centered around a private courtyard just for these suites passengers. The courtyard has a swimming pool, hot tub, and cabanas for private massage therapy. All of the cabins on this ship were designed with the aid of a group of five select women Celebrity hired to give the accommodations the "women's touch."

What did these women say they wanted in a cruise ship cabin that they weren't getting? One thing is more space. Solstice's cabins on average are 15 percent larger than the average stateroom size on other Celebrity ships, but it should be noted that brings them in line with the size of many ships of other lines. Still, Celebrity claims the space is well utilized and the cabins feel much bigger than others.

Other additions include muted colors, foot supports in the showers for easy shaving of legs, more closet space with modular design capabilities, and more space under the bed for storage.

click on pictures below for larger images

 
Celebrity Suite   Celebrity Suite Bedroom

The women did not forget their men! Thus 32-inch flat screen TVs will be in every stateroom, with even larger sets in the suites. For families, they've developed an interlocking floor plan, with double sets of doors connecting adjacent cabins; families traveling together can open them up for increased space.

click on pictures below for larger images:These images come from the Celebrity Web site SLIDE SHOW about the ship.

 
Royal Suite Dining Area   Royal Suite Bedroom

The ultimate cabins for these women will be the AquaClass suites, which feature bathrooms with a fog-free mirror and a tall-jetted body wash shower. They can choose from an extensive menu of pillows, and another menu for aroma scents meant to relax, revive or re-energize. To provide guests with a multi-sensory experience, lavish AquaClass toiletries and refreshing daily teas, juices and bottled water round out the offering.

This is the part of a new feature on CruiseMates featuring articles contributed by our readers. We want your article submissions, and if we like them we will publish them. To submit an article to CruiseMates, please use our submission form.

 

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