Premium Category Cruise Review
Premium cruises are a bit difficult to define, so let’s start at the beginning. People who follow the cruise industry with regularity know that cruise lines fall into specific categories that often (but not always) connote the quality and value of the on-board experience.
Big Ship cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean International and NCL – typically offer the lowest lead-in prices and the fewest added extras. Don’t expect free booze, upscale bath amenities or other perks, but don’t discount mass-market cruises either. They deliver pretty good value with often exceptionally low lead-in pricing.
Next are premium-category cruise lines, such as Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and some of the ships in Princess Cruises fleet. Typically, premium ships are smaller, carrying 2,000 or fewer passengers, which is why you may consider some of the Princess ships to belong in the Big Ship category. Space ratios on premium-category ships are greater, meaning that the ship will feel less crowded, than on big ships. You’ll get better bath amenities and other perks. Free booze? Forget about it on premium cruises.
Oceania Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises characterize themselves as upper premium. You’ll get a little more, such as speciality coffees at no charge, wine with dinner (on Azamara), gratuities (on Azamara) and a few other perks. Viking Ocean Cruises, on the other hand, has arguably created a new category between upper premium and luxury.
You will get free booze on luxury lines that operate small ships – Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and, since the spring of 2012, Crystal Cruises. You’ll also get larger staterooms, better bath amenities, even greater space ratios than on premium-category ships and pampering aplenty. You’ll typically pay more for a luxury cruise, but not always.
So where do premium-category ships fit in? They offer good value on a product that is slightly more upscale than what the big ships offer. As noted, you’ll feel the ship is less crowded than the big ships, but premium ships still fail to match the luxury lines for service and cuisine, although some are coming close. See Celebrity Solstice, A Formidable Competitor To The Luxury Lines? One Person’s Perspective: ‘Crystal Light’