CruiseMates Newsletter

Comparing Similar European Cruises
by Paul Motter

Cruisemates says the best European cruise is a smaller ship sailing a port intensive itinerary. Why fly all the way to Europe just for the same onboard experience you can get sailing out of a U.S. port? You are there to see Europe and a cruise ship is the perfect conveyance.

Small ships are better because you get on and off faster. Security lines are shorter, restaurant service is generally faster, and it's always a shorter walker walk to your stateroom. Generally, while they have requisite internet access, they don't have as much in the way of production shows and night-life revelry. Who cares? Your goal is to spend each day exhausting yourself sightseeing, come "home" to a delicious meal, get to bed early and get ready for the next full day in a new location.

Let's compare two well-known small, deluxe cruise lines servicing Europe; Oceania Cruises vs. Azamara. What makes this comparison so compelling is that both lines sail virtually identical ships. The three Oceania and two Azamara ships all are former Renaissance Cruises R-class vessels. Each is 30,000 tons, 694 berths on Azamara, 700 on Oceania, 592 feet long, 83.5 feet wide. Eight of these ships were built from the same blueprint in rapid succession in France in the 1990s. The other three belong to Princess Cruises (Island, Pacific and Royal Princess).

These small ships feature very comfortable staterooms and four open-seating (anytime dining) restaurants. There is the main restaurant, an Italian eatery and steakhouse specialty restaurants, and a Lido-style buffet also open at dinner for fast meals. On Oceania, none of the restaurants ever carry an additional service charge. On Azamara they do carry an extra charge, but all guests get two night's dining in them at no cost, and suite passengers get three nights.

Europe is Calling  Experience amazing sites of Europe with a 5-night Royal Caribbean cruise starting from $449, or a 10-night cruise from only $899.
Royal Caribbean: 1-800-Royal Caribbean

In any case, on most nights the main dining room or Lido dining, which also has delightful al fresco dining on the stern of the ship, is satisfying enough to fill the bill.

And so, where are the differences? Well one big difference we noted is price. Azamara has been struggling to establish its identity since it began just two years ago and gets most of its passengers from Celebrity Cruises, as the smaller, yet upscale resort casual sister to that premium cruise line. Oceania has been operating for six years now and inherited its passenger base from the fervent following of Renaissance Cruises. The line has been a money maker practically since its first cruise.

So, with nearly identical ship designs and dining options, we compared two very similar itineraries on the same sail dates:

Oceania Nautica sailing 12-days from Athens to Istanbul on July 19, 2008:

  • Inside cabin: $3199
  • Oceanview: $3599
  • Veranda cabin: $4999

    You stay in Athens overnight, see Dubrovnik, Santorini, Delos, Ephesus and other ports, one day at sea.

    Azamara Quest, sailing 12-nights from Athens to Rome on July 19, 2008:

  • Inside cabin: $2149
  • Oceanview: $2199
  • Veranda cabin: $2799
  • (Penthouse: $4999)

    You visit Ephesus (overnight), Santorini, Sicily, Naples (overnight), Monaco, Florence/Pisa (overnight).

    For the same ship, general location and number of nights on board, Azamara seems a much better offer. Why? There is nothing wrong with Azamara. It is just vying for attention and trying to compete with low pricing. Here is another comparison:

    Oceania Nautica sailing 12-nights from Rome to Athens on August 12, 2008:

  • Inside cabin: $2899
  • Oceanview: $3199
  • Veranda cabin: $4299

    Rome to Portofino, Monaco, Florence, Amalfi, Naples (overnight), Sicily, Malta and Santorini. One day at sea.

    Azamara Quest sailing 14-nights from Athens to Rome on August 16, 2008:

  • Inside cabin: $1999
  • Oceanview: $2199
  • Veranda cabin: $2599
  • (Penthouse: $4999)

    You sail from Athens to Ephesus (overnight) Santorini, various Greek Isles, Sicily, Monaco, Naples and Florence (both overnight). Two extra days, one sea day. Some of the Greek Isle ports are obscure; Chios, Nauplion, Gythion, Itea, but consider those extra days. Once again, the Azamara seems to be the much better value.

    Most Oceania cabins do sell out early, because they are very adept at marketing early-booking incentives like free airfare or two-for-one pricing (such discounts are common in the deluxe and luxury end of the cruise market). Azamara, on the other hand, does not market quite so aggresively and appears to be competing solely on price.

    Conclusion: Azamara is definitely worth a try, especially for people who enjoy the class of ship for which Oceania Cruises is already well-known.

    gray hr

    new feature articles

    Cruising and All That Jazz
    Jazz Cruises hit a high note on the high seas with full-ship music cruise charters that fill the bill. blue arrows

    Project Genesis Innovates Cruising
    Royal Caribbean International will "bring the best of the land to sea" to their new class of ships, Project Genesis. blue arrows

    How to Bargain in Foreign Ports
    Souvenir sellers in foreign ports have different customs. How to get the most for your money without offending. blue arrows

    Save the Delta Queen Committee Needs Your Help!
    The Delta Queen is the last traditional steamboat carrying overnight passengers on America's inland waterways. Help keep her sailing! blue arrows

    gray hr
    Reader Contributed Cruise Reviews!
    We have thousands of cruise reviews written by people like you. This week's review:
    Pride of America by Magnolia Blossom: 33rd cruise, 9th on NCL, 1st on NCLA. I went on this cruise expecting awful food and service and was pleasantly surprised. I would gladly do it again.
    - - We also wants articles by aspiring travel writers. Get More information.
    gray hr

    read about cruisemate

    "Many sites that offer reviews are selling cruises, which raises questions about impartiality. An exceptions is CruiseMates."

    "The Web's best site for articles, advice, or chatting with Cruise People. Self-financed and run independently of the industry, so their opinions are impartial"

    blue arrows

  • Europe is Calling
    Experience amazing sites of Europe with a 5-night Royal Caribbean
    Cruise starting from $449
    10-night cruise from only $899.

    where the bargains are

    Last Minute Deals Looking for a deal? Check America's Vacation Center's last-minute cruise offers! Click for Details!
      Other HOT Deals...
    • From $999 pp
      Holland America Zuiderdam: 12- nts Barcelona to Venice with Overnights in Barcelona & Venice!.
    • From $219
      Last Minute Royal Caribbean Deals as low as $219 per person for Majesty to Mexico
    • From $359
      CruiseMates John Heald 2009 Bloggers Cruise! We've sold more than anyone! $75 credit.

    cruise news

    new cruisemate's cruises

    Check Our New CruiseMates Cruises!

    A 14-night transatlantic cruise.
    April 2008, from Florida to the Caribbean then to Europe including the Canary Islands, Spain, Florence Italy and ending in Rome - starting as low as $699 per person. This one is filling up fast!

    John Heald's Blogger Cruise 2
    Come and join all of John Heald's friends and the CruiseMates' family. Everyone is welcome on this cruise, and it's going to be a ball.

    Norwegian Jewel NY City to Miami
    Oct 28-Nov 9 2008 Ports of call: New York City; Samana; Aruba; Curacao; Belize City; Roatan; Miami and a Halloween Party too!


    Kiplinger's Magazine named CruiseMates to its
    Top 25 Best Value Travel Sites for 2006

    CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.