It’s no secret that the cost of luxury cruises can induce “sticker shock” for the uninitiated. Per diems typically range from $300 per person to $800 per person on many luxury cruises. But when all of the value-added extras are factored in, the cost of luxury cruising is actually much less than the sticker price.
For example, Silversea Cruises just announced two new “Grand Voyages” for 2015. The 62-day “Circle South America” voyage and the 64-day “Southern Cross” voyage average out at about $400 per day per person. Both voyages, however, include numerous perks, including a complimentary luxury hotel stay and Bon Voyage dinner, a $2,000 onboard spending credit and more. When the value of those perks are considered, the per diems drop to around the $350 per person range.
And those perks are in addition to value-added extras that luxury cruises typically offer. One important perk that we experienced yesterday in Dubrovnik, Croatia: Four cruise ships were docked at the cruise terminal. Silversea offered complimentary shuttle service running every 30 minutes between Silver Spirit and the Old Town, a distance of about two miles. We grabbed a couple of complimentary bottles of water (always available on Silver Spirit just before you exit the gangway), beach towels just in case we wanted to swim, and boarded a bus with no waiting and just four others traveling with us.
Contrast that to the other ships docked at the terminal, one a premium cruise line and the other, upper-premium. For starters, outside the larger ship was a constant queue of what I counted to be more than 100 people waiting for their shuttle busses. Fortunately, the passengers were able to stand in shade as they waited.
In the city center, I talked to some of the other passengers who said they had paid $14 per person, each way, for the shuttle from their ship, which was docked beside of us at the terminal. That’s $56 total for the roundtrip. I’m not sure if their information was correct, but the point is that we paid nothing — and we did not have to stand in line or travel on a crowded bus.
When planning a cruise, luxury cruises should be given some thoughtful consideration to all that is included. Speaking from my experience this week and last on Silver Spirit from Piraeus (Athens), Greece to Venice, Italy, here’s what you can expect on a luxury cruise.
1. Inclusiveness. Luxury cruises are not all-inclusive but they include a lot more than big ship cruises, premium cruises and upper premium cruises (to see which ships fall under these categories, click on the links). On a luxury cruise, you’ll still pay for spa services, some speciality dining venues and shore excursions on most luxury lines, but you’ll also get a lot included in your cruise fare.
2. Gratuities included. Gratuities can run a few hundred dollars per week on cruises not in the luxury category.
3. Alcohol, soft drinks, speciality coffees included. You won’t see these on your account portfolio at the end of your cruise. Contents from the mini-bar in your stateroom or suite are also included, and you can even order a bottle of wine, champagne or spirits for your room.
4. Shuttle service between Silversea ships and the city centers.
5. Butler service in all categories of staterooms (only on Silversea).
6. Quality. Silver Spirit features quality throughout, but let’s take my suite bathroom as an example. It’s large and marbled, with expensive European bath amenities (Bvlgari and Ferragamo), plush bath towels and robes, a spacious shower and a tub. Quality permeates every aspect of Silver Spirit, from the stateroom to the dining experience, from the lounges to the spa, from embarkation to disembarkation — and even to the experiences ashore.
7. Service. Nearly all cruise lines can boast great service these days, but Silversea is distinguished (along with other luxury lines) by a staff that exceeds expectations. Silver Spirit staff greets us (and others) by name, they know our preferences. We never feel that we’re imposing. I told my son last night that Silversea only hired the best — that is to say people who were givers and truly enjoyed providing great service. On our cruise, we’ve enjoyed the service of waiters like Frederick, whose general outlook in life, he told us, is to see everybody happy. I’ve yet to see him without a smile on his face.
8. Spaciousness. Luxury ships feature higher space ratios than non-luxury ships. Space ratio is derived by dividing the amount of enclosed cubic feet (oddly, called tonnage) by the number of passengers. Take, for example, Silversea’s Silver Whisper and Silver Shadow, each with 28,258 tons (2,825,800 cubic feet) and carrying 382 guests. Dividing these numbers yields a space ratio of 74. Compare that to the world’s largest cruise ships, Allure and Oasis of the Seas, with space ratios of around 40. More space makes a vessel feel less crowded, and fewer passengers means less waiting in line. Silver Spirit, the largest vessel in Silversea’s fleet, has a space ratio of 67 when sailing full with 540 guests.
9. Staff-to-Guest ratio. Silversea, like most luxury lines, employs nearly one crew member to each guest. That means there is always someone there to service you.
10. Small Touches. One reader wrote us to say that she agreed with the added value of such things as shuttle service making luxury cruises appealing, but she noted other perks on Silversea, such as complimentary bottles of water to take with you ashore and cold hand/face towels to refresh you when returning to the ship. We really appreciated those cold towels after climbing 2,600 steps in Kotor on Monday.
These are just a few of the value-added extras that come with a luxury cruise on Silversea. There are lots more for Venetians (Silversea’s frequent cruisers), such as free laundry and pressing; complimentary newspapers delivered daily. complimentary dining in Le Champagne, the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea and more.
An avid traveler and an award-winning journalist, Ralph Grizzle produces articles, video and photos that are inspiring and informative, personal and passionate. A journalism graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ralph has specialized in travel writing for more than two decades. To read more cruise and port reviews by Ralph Grizzle, visit his website at www.avidcruiser.com