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Are Luxury Cruises Worth The Extra Cost?

Mainstream cruises, especially the ones run on large ships by the major companies, tend to be pretty affordable these days with prices starting around $100 a day for inside cabins. Luxury cruises, on the other hand, cater to a different crowd, and prices can be $1,000 or more per day.

As with flying first class on an airplane, the difference in price between standard and luxury is a big one. Expect to pay far more than double the price. The real question is do you get double (or more) the value?

Honestly, this is going to depend on you. Some people fly first class just to get away from the common folk and perks like larger seats and free alcoholic beverages are just that: perks. The perks aren't the main reason that expensive seat is chosen. Others choose first class because they really enjoy those comfortable seats and those perks, and they can afford the higher price tag.

Cruising is a bit like that. Luxury cruises have a lot of nice perks that you won't find on mainstream ships, even in the higher priced suites, but dollar for dollar the extra cost may not be exactly in sync with what you get.

Before giving a rundown of what you can expect on a luxury cruise, I want to make sure you realize that I'm talking about the real luxury ships here. "Luxury" is a word thrown around a lot, and many of the mainstream cruise lines may claim they offer a luxury vacation. In truth, there are only about 16 ships that specialize in delivering the luxury cruise experience. (Visit this list of luxury cruise ships to find out which ones make the grade.)

Now, here's what you can expect on those ships:

--Champagne at embarkation
--A high Passenger Space Ratio (lots of room on ship for each cruiser)
--A high Crew to Passenger Ratio (almost as many service people as there are cruisers)
--Crewmembers that anticipate your needs and don't say "no" or "that's impossible"
--Excellent food with excellent presentation and variety
--Tables for two in the dining rooms
--Qualified sommeliers who know their wines
--A nice selection of high-end wines and premium spirits
--More overnight port stays
--No lines anywhere
--No obnoxious background music (or music at all) in public rooms and halls
--Tips included in the fare
--Luxury personal toiletries

Depending on the cruise line, you may also find some of the following:

--Wine provided with dinner (no cost)
--Teak lounge chairs
--Extensive room service menus
--The ability to have a special dinner set up on deck with all the service of private dining
--Fold-down platforms at the stern of the ship where jet skis, snorkeling gear, kayaks, etc. are provided
--Embarkation and disembarkation at your pace in a relaxed environment
--Hand-written notes from cabin stewardesses

One of the biggest differences between luxury cruise ships and larger mainstream ships is the overall ambiance. People often compare the mainstream ships to Las Vegas, with its constant entertainment venues, casinos, and the option to party all night. On luxury cruises, the object is more often to relax (no loud music banging in the background) and enjoy the company of your companions while seeing the world.

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