For fans of Viking–and there are many–this recent announcement will be a welcome one. Your Read more →
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I have discovered a new European river cruise product that I’m excited to tell you about. A-ROSA, a company that has been around since 2005 and has 10 boats in service on the European rivers, is generally targeted at upscale German travelers, and last year expanded to the English[speaking market with 13 exclusive sailing for English speaking guests who can take advantage of some very special summer offers sailing the Rhine, Rhone, and Danube Rivers.
River cruising has taken off as one of the fastest growing segments in travel. The wonderful thing about this type of travel is that you can pack and unpack once while your floating boutique hotel takes you to amazing European cities. Most boats dock right in the heart of these Old World destinations. River cruising has become so popular that most cruises sell-out nearly a year in advance of departure. This is due to the amazing popularity, great value, and very limited capacity of these boats compared to large ocean going vessels. River cruise boats have anywhere from 150-200 guest capacity vs. large ocean going vessels with thousands of beds to fill.
What excites me most about A-ROSA is their offering of 7-day Rhine cruises in June 2013 with cruise-only rates starting at $2492pp (single supplements are waived on select departures), if you book by April 15th. It is an excellent all-inclusive river cruise offers!
Some of the A-ROSA “All Inclusive” differences are:
- Open bar (all day and all venues)
- All gratuities
- Airfare & transfers (optional)
- A-ROSA offers an air program offered from 10 major gateways)
- Complimentary shore cxcursions
- Exquisite cuisine that many have called the best in the industry
- Modern & stylish ships built 2005-2012 with chic staterooms averaging 156 sq. feet; 80% with French Balcony
- Room Service
- Complimentary use of bicycles
From many industry experts, I have heard the food is among the best–if not the best– on the rivers; this is a huge plus. There has been a huge plus for most new boats to add balconies, but honestly I think it is a bit silly. First, most boats spend little time actually cruising along the river for one to enjoy this privacy, the view is only dedicated to whatever side of the boat your cabin resides on, and most guests will go “up top” to the panorama deck for the best views during cruising time. Second, when the boats are docked, most tie up sided by side completely obscuring one’s view and privacy. A French balcony allows guests to open their sliding patio door and still enjoy fresh air weather permitting. A-ROSA also has a screen that can be pulled down to keep insects out–a nice touch for those wanting fresh air in their cabin.
A few other features about this type of cruise that are unique are as follows:
- Room Service is offered- almost all boats do not have this!
- A Rosa uses high-end German based Babor bath products for its guests
- The ship offers lively entertainment and creates a very social atmosphere
- A Rosa offers a walk in buffet kitchen for breakfast and lunch
- An exclusive gourmet wine-pairing dinner is offered for $75pp–it is over the top with wines based on the river, country and destination
- A Rosa offers family cabins on the lower river level deck (there is no dedicated kids program but children are not left out)
If you have not tried a river cruise, now is the time. If you want to experience something really special, A-ROSA has an exceptional product and offering, especially this summer on the Rhine!
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Celebrity Cruises has successfully introduced 5 amazing premium class vessels of the Solstice Class in just 4 years time. These ships have been heralded as among the best designed in recent maritime history. Celebrity Reflection was introduced this past summer in Europe and was the final of the five ship series. The big difference with the latter and likely my least favorite, is it has an added deck of cabins in the same basic guest space. It is a revenue managers dream but not necessarily a benefit to have several hundred more guests sharing the same space as her less populated predecessors.
I am a huge fan. I have sailed several times on this class of ship and will tell you they still are my favorite and best in class. They do not compare to the Holland America Vista Class which are more densely populated and have much smaller and less interesting public spaces.
Having returned from a 15-day Europe/Transatlantic Crossing on Celebrity Silhouette last December, I am more enamored with this lovely class of ships than ever and here is why.
Celebrity has created unique maritime architecture and beats its competitors for creating large open spaces with tons of natural light. Cabins are among the best laid out and decorated in the cruise industry for a premium class ship. The Molecular Bar is the sexiest martini bar on any ship! Celebrity has created a spectacular Lawn Club at sea with real grass and a fantastic new restaurant that makes you feel like you are at a golf country club. Service is always professional. Qsuine is an exceptional alternative dining venue and sets the bar for a contemporary dining experience. This class of ship rides very smoothly even in rough seas.
One never feels too crowded even during peak movement hours (dining and entertainment)
I like this ship and her sisters and favor them in the big ship market. Celebrity has managed to create a unique product and excels in the premium class market! Keep up the good work. I’m now on the Celebrity Millennium in Asia and am excited to see how the original Millennium Class ship looks and delivers now over a decade old and having been renovated in 2012 to bring her up to the standards of her newer Solstice Class fleetmates!
Happy Cruising – Tom
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Disney Cruise Line has expanded its cruise offerings into new cruise markets during the last year.
With its 4-ship fleet, Disney is tapping as many major cruise markets and dedicated its oldest ship, Disney Magic, seasonally into Galveston. They will be offering unique, 4, 6, 7, and 8-day cruises to the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean from this Gulf of Mexico Port!
I have always felt Disney offered a class-act cruise experience worth every penny they charge which is a premium above other brands.
After touring the Magic for a day while in port for a Galveston 7-Day Caribbean Cruise offer, these are my candid thoughts:
- No lines at the pier/terminal -great crowd control, organized, well decorated by Disney (the Carnival Triumph was adjacent to us and lines out the door and around the terminal!
- Each guest or family is introduced by the Disney Cast at embarkation like VIP’s. They keep the lobby fairly empty so it is more like a private yacht – very impressive!
- Cabins are HUGE- but beds need replacement and some decor needs updating. Bill said the ship is going out of service in the fall of 2013 for a 6 week complete makeover! Remember, the ship is 12- years old but has a timeless Art Deco interior.
- Fantastic kids area. Nobody does it like Disney-not even close!
- All soft-drinks, water, juice, and coffee/tea included at drink stations and during dining room meals-this is a big deal for families!
- Disney allows guests to bring their own alcohol or beverages onboard. I was shocked!
- Disney offers all of its companies first-run films and even has 3D in all theatres!
- They offer a Pirates of the Caribbean night on each cruise with an incredible fireworks display-it is amazing!
- The dine-around program to 3 restaurants is unique to Disney as guests and their servers move nightly to each theme restaurant.
- Guests with children at Late Dining can have an expedited meal provided for the kids and the staff then come to pick up the kids and take them to their children’s program. This is really clever!
- The Adults-Only area is exceptional for both lounges, entertainment, and pool area. It is a premium experience for sure!
This is a great choice for cruises sailing Galveston and NOW with revised programs offering 4,6,7, and 8 night itineraries. Rates for this ship are also less expensive than any other Disney product.
Oceania Cruises has done it once again. The new Riviera made her European debut in great style sailing from Monte Carlo on May 6th and ending in Venice on May 15th. This spectacular vessel is nearly a twin sister to the also new Marina which entered service in March of 2011. Oceania has become my favorite cruise line as it offers a supremely high-quality cruise vacation and a country club relaxed dress code!
Riviera is considered an Upper-Premium class ship by its owners and carries only 1,250 passengers at 65,000 tons, making her one of those special mid-sized ships that are so coveted by avid and experienced cruisers. This is a foodies’ cruise with the most extensive menus at sea. The price is mostly all-inclusive and includes the alternative restaurants bottled water, soft drinks, coffee drinks and so much more. All of this is done in such style and panache that honestly it reminded me more of a Crystal or Regent type of cruise! Yes, the quality is that high. There is more dedicated galley space on these medium sized ships than a liner of 125,000 tons. This alone is amazing and shows Oceania’s dedication to the dining venues. You can choose from the Grand Dining Room with extensive, changing daily menus , Red Ginger (Asian), Jacques (French), Toscana (Italian), Polo Grill (Steak House), the Terrace Café, and more. One cost exception onboard is the La Reserve venue with a multi course gourmet meal paired with lovely wines, selected and managed by Wine Spectator magazine. For the more health conscious – Canyon Ranch Spa club offerings are spectacular and a great and tasty choice.
Cabins are gorgeous and average 282 square feet. The bathrooms are improved over Marina with a repositioning of the shower, adjustable shower head, and usable bathtub shower area. The ship boasts more than 300 fundamental improvements over her sister ship, but Marina is still not to be missed. My penthouse measured some 422 square feet and was exceptionally designed. My Indian butler, Rozario, was trained in England and had perfect manners and was quite helpful for a number of requests I had during my 9-days onboard. The butler training onboard these ships is some of the best I have encountered. Décor in the suites rivals that of the highest end luxury ships in the cruise industry.
The Penthouses are some of the largest in the industry and Oceania’s top suites are unheralded in the cruise business at 1500-2500 square feet in size.
The ship offers a marvelous Bon Appetite Culinary Center where I made seafood paella (it is great fun), has an Artists’ Loft where those with art in their hearts can create, and an amazing Canyon Ranch Spa Club at Sea.
We were fortunate to visit Marseille and a trip to Avignon on the TGV which took only 34 minutes from the port. We also enjoyed a two day christening event in Barcelona with Celebrity Chef, Cat Cora, of the Food Network and Iron Chef fame, and then off to amazing Venice. Spring in Venice is the best time to experience this wonderful city. A post cruise two-day stay at world famous Cipriani Hotel was the frosting to a remarkable multi-layer cake vacation.
My hat is tipped once again to Oceania Cruises, Frank Del Rio and his team for making one of the greatest success stories in the cruise industry. Oceania Cruises will be my favorite for a long time to come. If you have sailed on those other premium lines, are tired of being nickel-and-dimed, fighting long lines, crowds, and facing inconsistent cruise experiences (yes this does happen), try Oceania. You too will discover one of the best quality and best kept secrets in travel!
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One of the fastest growing segments in travel is European river cruising. This is quite different from ocean travel and port hopping that the bigger ships offer worldwide. The big difference is these long (360-440 foot long) cigar looking boats ply the European Rivers and carry anywhere from 118-200 passengers depending on the line. As a matter of fact, this exciting form of river travel typically sells out nearly a year in advance due to the limited capacity of these small boat-ships and there just isn’t similar capacity comparing to those larger ocean-going vessels.
I was invited to attend the christening and preview of a different type of river boat-Scenic Cruises new 169-passenger Scenic Crystal. This 443 foot long, 4 deck vessel offers a nearly all-suite, all-inclusive experience.
Scenic Cruises is a division of Australian mega-luxury tour operator, Scenic Tours. This fast-growing highly respected company is equivalent to Tauck Tours in the USA and is wholly owned by 42 year old Aussie entrepreneur, Glen Moroney. He started tours not too long ago by operating bus tours to see Phantom of the Opera in Melbourne and saw the need for an upscale tour company-VOILA!
Moroney decided to build his own boats to his companies own specifications after successfully chartering lesser boats in the mid 2000 era and decided to build his own luxury vessel after a client pulled him aside on a chartered tour and told him that the boat they were on was not up to the Scenic Tours fine standards. Today, Scenic has 6 virtually identical luxury vessels with 82% of all suites having a true private balcony. These vessels carry 169 passengers but have exceptionally large cabins that average 205 square feet. The normal cabin is only 135-160 square feet. Scenic features a very clean and crew friendly experience onboard. The décor is more Scandinavian meets B&B Italia and not overdone by any means. The crew makes the experience very personal and the food quality is very high. Scenic even operates its own fleet of luxury coaches that follow the boats along the river to provide guests with a consistent quality experience along the way during the daily sightseeing tours! While onboard, the experience is virtually all-inclusive with all tips, sightseeing, meals, and most beverages included. NEW FOR 2013, all cabins on all soon to be 7 boats will have butlers with room service and will become truly all-inclusive with alcoholic beverages included too! WOW!
The Scenic Crystal is unique in the fleet with its “Space Ship” appearance and Exclusive “Scenic Sun Lounge” wherein all balcony cabins can become enclosed with a sliding glass partition that can be quickly raised or lowered by the push of a button creating a solarium or open balcony at the guests’ whim or due to a weather change.
Cabins/suites are downright spacious with large slumber beds, a pillow menu, room service, amazing butler service, large bathroom and an amazing shower with its own mood lighting… The greatest feature was the innovative interactive Apple TV complete with complimentary internet and fast internet-I might add. Most other boats and competitors ask guest to go to an internet “corner” to use computers and are not connected like this amazing technological wonder. Internet was FREE everywhere and it worked great! My butler, Andréa, was a dream and brought my personally made pot of coffee with six espresso shots and delicious 2 chocolate croissants daily at 7am and was a welcome wake-up call each day.
The meals onboard were delicious. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style with an option to order entrees from a daily menu. Dinner is served along with the buffet used for extensive salad bar, sushi, and desserts. The preparation was gorgeous. Scenic also offers a River Café in the main lounge that offers a variety of “to-go” items throughout the day and was akin to a luxury Bistro. There are coffee and tea stations, and a complimentary reservation based superb Italian optional dining room called Portobello’s.
Cruising along the European rivers is unique and offers extensive sightseeing options. The days can be quite long if one opts to take all the exciting tour options as I did. My days were full of superbly guided tours to the old cities of Germany and France. This type of cruising is quite special as you have choices for full historical sightseeing, visits to private homes or winery’s, and on every trip Scenic offers at least one evening tour of a spectacular German Castle with a tour, cocktail party, and gala dinner with excellent music or opera provided. All of this is included in your price! The boat offers bicycles for a nice ride if you have free time, and even GPS self-guided tours for those not wanting a guided experience for self-exploration. You can even have a massage or work out in the small but well equipped fitness center onboard!
I loved this experience as it was intimate, offered a unique experience in the heart of Europe, gave a personal and warm travel experience with NO LINES, and was like traveling on a yacht…
My cruise ran from convenient Rudesheim (near Frankfurt) in Germany and ended in Basel, Switzerland. I headed home from Zurich after spending the night at the remarkable Dolder Grand Hotel. Now this is a ultra-luxury and very special hotel set in the foothills about Zurich with the Alps in the near distance!
This cruise is scenic, interesting, historical, and offers a wonderful alternative to ocean going vessels. The prices are a bit higher than normal cruises but remember it is all-inclusive and yacht like. This is no Royal Caribbean or Holland America type of travel experience. It is very special with rates averaging $350pp a day+.
I was fortunate to see some of the other competitors and while there are some good river companies, I suggest you look at Scenic, Tauck Tours, Uniworld, and AMA Waterways only. The others PALE by comparison! If you are going to take this trip, take a river cruise with the BEST!
Happy River Cruising!
Photos: © Tom Baker | CruiseCenter
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In a world of hundreds of cruise choices, bargains, and confusion among cruise line brands, one cruise line stands out above the rest.
Disney Cruise Line has launched a pair of amazing 130,000 ton, 4000 passengers, longer than 4 football fields, and 14 decks high. The twins Disney Dream (launched last year), and Disney Fantasy (launched in 2012), are the grand liners built for the 21st century with a touch of yesteryear!
I was fortunate to spend three days on the new Disney Fantasy during a preview cruise to top producing travel professionals and the jury was easily reflected in the accolades from all passengers I spoke with that this company offers the BEST contemporary or premium cruise experience…period! It’s not just for families with kids and grandkids but is a line suited for anyone looking for a true high quality 5-Star experience.
I would recommend this line to anyone seeking fun and quality.
Disney built these ships at a cost of some $780 million each and apparently sent in its Imagineers to add, enhance, and make the ship a true Disney product with no expense spared and the added costs have not been shared with the public. Once onboard, you’ll experience the fine detail of workmanship, technology, and quality. It does not get any better.
Disney Cruises are significantly more expensive than many other ships and I have heard many qualms from clients about that as to how can they sell their cruises for that compared to other lines. I think the prices they charge are worth every penny. Disney gives that much more.
It’s about the perfect service, fine dining, much larger accommodations than virtually all other cruise lines, sublime entertainment options, and a ship dedicated to superlative decor, design, and add-in Disney’s Magic! I left this preview cruise and gave the ship a perfect 10 out of 10 rating!
I was overwhelmed by the amazing options for kids of all ages, adult only areas and entertainment options, as well as Disney’s Magical entertainment options.
Check out my photo link of interior and exterior photos taken during the cruise:
This is a ship that one could spend a week on and still not be able to complete all the entertainment options. Some of my highlights were as follows:
• Seamless transfers to and from the airport to the port with complete luggage delivery including airline bag check-in;
• Perfect embarkation and splendid pier facilities in Port Canaveral;
• A ship with immaculate decor and interior design;
• Broadway class entertainment that rivals the best of the best;
• The largest standard cabins at sea-an best decorated with a bathroom and a half configuration! Cabins average 268 square feet;
• Incredibly friendly and well-trained international staff that love being working for Disney;
•Spectacular fireworks display and Pirates of the Caribbean outdoor show & deck party;
• First run movies in 3D or Dolby 7.1 sound, live ABC and ESPN feed, and the best large screen TV on deck showing Disney movies and entertainment;
• The Aqua-Duck “water-coaster” that traverses some 765 feet above and around the ship-really great FUN;
• Spectacular dining entertainment each night in the three progressive theme main dining rooms;
• Upscale adults only sun decks, pools, and bar nightclub areas;
•Disney’s Private Island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas offers a perfect beach day for all guests with un-ending options of things to do!
All-in-all, this product works well for everyone. If you are an adult and have tried other lines, come to Disney Cruise line. It will exceed your expectations. If you are a family, come to Disney Cruise lines as the whole family will be royally treated and entertained. It isn’t a ship with screaming or unruly kids. I think Disney maintains dignity and its programs are so superb, they entertain kids of all ages so well, that there is no added time for trouble as experienced on other ships.
I am ready to go back.
HAPPY CRUISING !
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Celebrity Cruises has nearly completed the extensive refurbishment (long, long overdue) of its spectacular Millennium Class ships built a decade ago. This fleet of four nearly identical sister-ships include the Millennium, Infinity, Constellation, and Summit. When these remarkable 90,000 ton, 2100 passenger ships were built, they were the “pinnacle” of premium class ships, spacious, and in many ways ahead of all competition at the time. But with nearly a decade of service behind them, they began o grow a little older, tired, and lacked the luster that they once were famous for!
In 2009, Celebrity Cruises introduced a new larger class of ships that were an advent of the Millennium Class and these were called Solstice Class. These ships like her predecessors are the modern marvel of the industry and significantly larger at 122,000 tons and carrying 2800 passengers. Celebrity suddenly had a serious quagmire on their hands. They had a fleet with great disparity in age, look, and feel. Unfortunately, the downturn in the economy and free money were not readily available to refurbish the ships of old.
Reviews on public web sites became very critical of the older Millennium Class ships as they became faded beauties of yesteryear and prices for these once great ships plummeted against the NEWER and wildly popular solstice Class ships that set the ground for new Modern Luxury cruising.
I too, was highly critical of Celebrity Cruises for not announcing a fast-track refurbishment of this fleet but now that is nearly complete. Constellation, Infinity, Summit, and very soon-Millennium will complete a total “Solsticization” with nearly $30 million invested in each ship to renew and refresh them back to the standard of being nearly brand new but once again highly competitive and glamorous.
This rebuild is quite a remake as you will see from the USA Today photographs taken of Celebrity Constellation last summer and some from Infinity late last fall. Celebrity has added all the popular venues from its newest ships that include, the Ice Martini Bar, Wine bar, Qusine alternative Restaurant, Bistro on Five alternative dining venue, Café Al Baccio, added a new Apple I-Computer Lounge, to name just a few. All furnishings were changed or refurbished as well as all carpets, walls and art refreshed. Every cabin received updated bedding, décor, carpets, flat panel interactive televisions, and the ships mechanical systems were upgraded and overhauled… The biggest change for Celebrity Infinity, Summit, and soon for Millennium is the addition of Aqua Class cabins and BLU its exclusive BLU restaurant. This venue has been wildly successful on the Solstice Class ships and gives an added class of accommodation and dining unique to Celebrity Cruises!
All of this amazing work was done during a short couple of weeks in a shipyard using the ships crew plus, thousands of professional craftsmen working around the clock to make this transformation take place.
Today, Celebrity has a wonderful fleet of highly consistent ships that do embody its slogan MODERN LUXURY. While overdue, I sigh in relief knowing that I can recommend the older ships with great aplomb and wish them success into their second decade of passenger service
Have you been on a Celebrity ship that has been ‘Solsticized?’ Tell us what you thought. Also remember to click here and give us your review.
While the Costa Concordia tragedy is still unfolding and the total story is yet to be told, I wanted to share my own shock and horror of seeing this disaster unfold over the past several days. After 200 plus cruises, I could not fathom anything of this nature happening understanding the stringent regulations the cruise industry is held to and their own standards of safety protection put in place to ensure this type of disaster could not unfold.
While the activity of the Costa Concordia’s Captain appears to have made many grave errors, perhaps the only good thing he may have done was beach the ship to keep the ship from completely sinking in deeper water and allowing the guests close proximity to the local port for easier evacuation. I will not comment yet on this major concern until all the facts are in place but it appears, rogue behavior (human error) by the ships Captain, created this disaster.
After nearly 45 years of traveling by ship, this horrendous incident is a first for me but let me share some information about the cruise industry with you.
During the last 10 years – nearly 100 million passengers took cruise vacations – 6 safety related deaths took place during that time until Costa Concordia.
The cruise industry still remains the safest mode of transportation. While there have been other “fender benders” over the years, mostly due to wind activity while docking or un-docking, this industry has a stellar reputation and loss of life has been virtually non-existent.
All guests who embark on a ship are required to partake in a lifeboat safety drill within 24 hours. In the US, this takes place at sailing time due to US Coast guard regulations. Upon embarkation, every ships cabin TV plays the safety video regardless of where the ship is, has complete safety instructions posted on the back of a cabin door, and generally a complete lifeboat drill is held.
The fact that chaos ensued on Costa Concordia is not shocking to me due to the nature of the ships initial accident, loosing power (except for emergency power which did kick in although it is low-level lighting) beaching, turning on its side due to that beaching, the fact the lifeboats on one side were inoperable due to the heavy listing, the lack of instruction for the 500 who had just embarked the ship only a few hours earlier, and the mutual fear factor shared by everyone including the ships crew as this happened so quickly. I believe based on the hull damage caused by the lengthy hole doomed this ship from the initial impact.
The nature of the ship turning so quickly on its side was likely due to the beaching and the laws of physics for a vessel to be in such shallow water.
Do I Think Cruising Is Unsafe?
NO! I think most cruise lines including Costa generally uphold a very high standard of safety, comply with stringent SOLAS (Safety Of Life AT Sea), local coast guard, and all maritime organizations rules. These ships are constantly monitored and crew training takes place continuously. This event was the result of human error and very poor judgment by the ships Captain.
What Would I Do To Assist My Own Safety On My Next Cruise?
- Watch the cabin TV video showing what to do in the event of an emergency-this usually plays all day on the first day of a cruise and is already playing when you enter your cabin
- Review the safety details behind the cabin door that give detailed instructions on what to do in the event of a disaster
- Ask my room steward where the closes evacuation route or staircase is nearest my cabin to ensure I knew where to go
- Attend and listen carefully to the ships safety drill
- Relax and enjoy my cruise as will most all 17 million who will choose to take this exciting vacation!
In the meantime, my thoughts go to those who were lost in this tragedy as well as anyone who endured the agony and fear during this unnecessary tragedy. I know that safety rules will be once again revisited and perhaps changed in the immediate future.
The best and those who need help of 2011 are simply subjective to my own personal experiences and those taken from the many cruise passengers who have booked with me during the 2011 year. I won’t mince words and hold back as honesty is the best policy for a travel professional who must decipher the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yes, all three coexist in the fantasy world of cruise travel. By saying “needing help”, creates a fear that the cruise line is not good. This simply isn’t the case. It just demonstrates an area wherein a particular cruise line did not deliver up to par in 2011.
Crystal Cruises – The Best
Consistently the best luxury brand across the board and rates the highest among guests year after year. This cruise line should be the model of the cruise industry while having two older ships. Crystal continuously refurbishes, polishes, and delivers the best all-around luxury product…period!
Silversea Cruises – Needing Help
The onboard service continues to be erratic according to sailed guests. It varies from ship-to-ship and sailing. I would hope this issue had rhyme or reason but it appears to be a moving target. Polish that service Silversea and you will have a complete winner as your ships are beautiful, unique, and provide superb cuisine.
Oceania Cruises – The Best
Ocean delivers the best in class with its mid-sized 700-1200 passenger ships that offer excellent food, service, and value. It’s itineraries are superb and country club casual dress code-creates a winner for sophisticated travelers looking for the perfect ambiance. This line consistently delivers a wonderful and innovative product.
Celebrity Cruises and Holland America – Needing Help
Both suffer from inconsistent fleets of ships in need of refurbishment and repair. While Celebrity is refurbishing its older ships in a fast track move ( several years overdue), these older ships have been overshadowed and neglected as the new and spectacular Solstice Class ships emerged over the past few years. Celebrity, however, continues to be a brilliant cruise line, innovative, and has the best maritime architecture in the premium sector of the cruise industry. I suspect Celebrity will overshadow its main competitor Holland America in 2012 with a “finally” refreshed fleet of ships.
Holland America has done a mixed job of refurbishing its fleet of elegant mid-sized ships. It appears that the Signature of Excellence 2.0 initiative slowed exponentially in 2011 and guests have returned commenting on how this fleet of popular ships suffers from mismatched décor and partial refurbishment. The word tired comes to mind and is often mentioned by returning guests. While HAL delivers superb onboard value, excellent service, and cuisine, it needs to continue to tend to its fleet a bit more lavishly. This line could out shadow all of its competition as the true winner as is it has the makings of perfection with its brilliant fleet of mid-sized ships –just finish the upgrades properly Holland America.
Norwegian Cruise Line – The Best
This line is often overshadowed but giants Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, and Carnival but has been the comeback kid re-inventing itself over and over. The Norwegian Epic although widely criticized for its innovative bathrooms has been a hallmark of the cruise industry in 2011. Its older ships have been upgraded and include the best dining options, spectacular entertainment, and staying true to its ever popular Freestyle dining. The Haven, a series of unique exceptional suites offers a luxury cruise experience and services not offered by the other contemporary brands.
MSC – Needing Help
This new and exciting cruise line with beautiful new spotless ships continues to suffer from inconsistent food and service. It has become the bottom barrel price point in North America and it makes no sense to me why MSC cannot pull itself up by its boot straps and deliver a truly great product. They have an award winning formula but seem to be caught in the doldrums of fine tuning its product. Come on MSC, take heed and deliver! The MSC Yacht Club is one winning piece delivering a unique all-inclusive luxury product on three of its largest ships. This product offers superb value and service and overshadows the experience found throughout the rest of the ships.
Challenges Ahead for 2012
The cruise industry will likely suffer from continued lower price points in 2012 as the world economy continues to languish. The problem is that many lines have indeed cut back and in some cases significantly. While it might be partially acceptable to do so, the problem seems to be that overall delivery by most lines varies from ship-to ship as the customer experience is sometimes impaired by continuous push for onboard revenue, possible cut backs in food, staff, and some services. These are noticeable to avid cruisers who travel frequently and remember every item that is cut back. I suggest the cruise industry stay true to its promises in the brochures which do unfortunately over-glamorize the experience that is actually delivered. This applies to all three cruise categories.
Nonetheless, cruising offers a brilliant vacation and one that cannot be matched value for dollar ashore. Congratulations to the winners and the best to those needing some help.
What is your favorite cruise line and why? Which ones do you think need the most help? You can comment by hitting the reply link at the top of this post.
Celebrity Cruises has just launched a marketing campaign called ‘Modern Luxury’ as the tag-line for its fleet of premium class 5-star rated ships.
Is this luxury? I would argue the semantics of this. I think marketing today over promises categorically by many brands but this new campaign might be pushing the envelope. Modern Luxury, according to Celebrity Cruises, is equating the superb décor of many (not all) of its ships and the overall experience to that of driving an Audi. The new ad campaign by this prestigious brand shows old guard luxury and new guard luxury – where it believes it fits.
The fact remains True Luxury exists in today’s cruising World with all-suite, mostly all-inclusive ships that offer travel experiences in the $350-$1000+ per person a day. Luxury ships offer experiences for 200-700 passengers with no lines, no nickel-and-diming, and exclusive travel experiences. Celebrity offers a fantastic cruise experience but most of its 7-day cruises offer lead-in rates for far less than $100pp a day. At this price point this is not luxury but rather mass market…sorry, it’s a fact! I found a 10-day Mediterranean Cruises on Equinox from $869pp and 7-day Caribbean Cruises on Summit from $529pp. This is mass-market pricing and fits most of today’s average traveler’s budget. This is a GREAT VALUE – just not luxury!
Louis Vuitton does not offer fire sale or reduced prices to its clientele. It has a standard and price point that keeps it exclusive-it is luxury. Celebrity ships carry 2000-3000 passengers per ship. How does that equate to Modern Luxury? Celebrity Cruises is FAR from all-inclusive – you pay for everything extra onboard other than most meals, accommodations, and entertainment. How is this Modern Luxury? I’m not beating them over the head but debating an important point of differentiation and perhaps overselling!
The true LUXURY (5-6 star rated) cruise lines in today’s cruise market include: Crystal, Regent, Seabourn, and Silversea (there are some other smaller players but these are the main players).
The true PREMIUM (4-5 star rated) cruise lines in today’s cruise market include:Oceania, Azamara, Cunard, Celebrity, and Holland America
The true MASS-MARKET Contemporary (3-4 star rated) cruise lines in today’s cruise market include: Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, MSC, and Carnival
Don’t get me wrong. I love Celebrity ships and think the soon-to-be five Solstice Class ships are BEST IN CLASS – but, in the 5-star premium market. Having exceptional décor and amazing marine architecture doe not make luxury – even Modern Luxury.
Even Oceania Cruises (a line that says unabashedly that it is a high premium class experience) offers smaller ships than Celebrity with a capacity of 700-1200 passengers, offers airfare, pre-hotel stay in Europe, local port transfers, unlimited alternative dining, bottled water, soft drinks, and all coffee drinks and juices included. This line does not call itself Luxury yet, it includes more value.
This is just a point of differentiation between brands.
I don’t want today’s cruise consumer to be completely confused. Celebrity is a GREAT BRAND, has a GREAT REPUTATION, and is a LEADER in the 5-Star premium cruise experience. It’s Solstice Class ships are luxurious in décor and offer a very fine cruise experience but, it is not a luxury travel experience.
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