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Advice on our next cruise line please, we are looking for a different cruise experience from a mass line.


Mike981
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Would you please look at the items listed below and let me know what you think? We have cruise Carnival with our kids, Princess and Celebrity with friends and a couple of Celebrity trips with just the two of us. At the moment Celebrity is our first choice, but we are looking at something different, smaller and...not so salesy.
 

  • We are mid 50's
  • Not fond of the big production shows
  • Like smaller more intimate acts
  • Casual atmosphere and attire, friendly folks
  • Very good food (since food is subjective it doesn't have to be labled great or outstanding)
  • Very good service
  • We want to try a non mass market line, something smaller
  • Do not want snobby
  • Some option of nightlife
  • We are drinkers and use/need WiFi
  • Most likely cruise in the winter to the Caribbean, possibly the Mediterranean
  • Preferred length of cruise 8-11 days (if we did Mediterranean it would need to be a 7-8 days for pre and post hotels)
  • Cost less than $500 per day pp
  • Would be flying out of Minneapolis

 

Thank you in advance for your help, I hope I gave enough information to get things started.

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17 minutes ago, Mike981 said:

Would you please look at the items listed below and let me know what you think? We have cruise Carnival with our kids, Princess and Celebrity with friends and a couple of Celebrity trips with just the two of us. At the moment Celebrity is our first choice, but we are looking at something different, smaller and...not so salesy.
 

  • We are mid 50's
  • Not fond of the big production shows
  • Like smaller more intimate acts
  • Casual atmosphere and attire, friendly folks
  • Very good food (since food is subjective it doesn't have to be labled great or outstanding)
  • Very good service
  • We want to try a non mass market line, something smaller
  • Do not want snobby
  • Some option of nightlife
  • We are drinkers and use/need WiFi
  • Most likely cruise in the winter to the Caribbean, possibly the Mediterranean
  • Preferred length of cruise 8-11 days (if we did Mediterranean it would need to be a 7-8 days for pre and post hotels)
  • Cost less than $500 per day pp
  • Would be flying out of Minneapolis

 

Thank you in advance for your help, I hope I gave enough information to get things started.

No brainer here. Look at “ultra premium”Oceania:

 

Ships are <700 or <1200 passengers.


Cruise length you’re looking at - plenty of 50’s folks (Longer cruises = older demographic).

 

”Very Good” food? No. Excellent food? YES

(and specialty restaurants are no extra cost).

 

Flying to port? Airfare (or DIY Credit) included.


Service is impeccable (with great crew and space ratios as well as plush cabin amenities).

 

Varied entertainment w/o wannabe production shows. Great lecturers. String quartet daily throughout the ship.
 

Unlimited internet, beverages and choice of booze, tours or SBC all included.  


Many TAs who specialize in Oceania will share commissions with you.

 

Covid vaccinations/testing for ALL crew/passengers is mandatory.

 

Welcome aboard. 

Edited by Flatbush Flyer
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For nicer rooms (called suites) and all inclusive in terms of tips, drinks and internet, go with Seabourn.   The suites are larger than Oceania, with walk in closets and a large bathroom with two sinks and a separate bathtub and shower.    You can easily get a cruise on Seabourn for your price point.   Right now they are doing the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

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Viking is another line to check out.  There are many posts on the Viking Ocean portal that list all of the various advantages and amenities, so I won't repeat those here, but I think it might fit your criteria well.  After sailing RCI, Celebrity, Princess, Oceania, and Regent, Viking (both river and ocean) have become our preferred cruise line by a significant margin.  Good luck!  I'm sure you'll find something that fits your requirements.

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6 hours ago, Mike981 said:

Would you please look at the items listed below and let me know what you think? We have cruise Carnival with our kids, Princess and Celebrity with friends and a couple of Celebrity trips with just the two of us. At the moment Celebrity is our first choice, but we are looking at something different, smaller and...not so salesy.
 

  • We are mid 50's
  • Not fond of the big production shows
  • Like smaller more intimate acts
  • Casual atmosphere and attire, friendly folks
  • Very good food (since food is subjective it doesn't have to be labled great or outstanding)
  • Very good service
  • We want to try a non mass market line, something smaller
  • Do not want snobby
  • Some option of nightlife
  • We are drinkers and use/need WiFi
  • Most likely cruise in the winter to the Caribbean, possibly the Mediterranean
  • Preferred length of cruise 8-11 days (if we did Mediterranean it would need to be a 7-8 days for pre and post hotels)
  • Cost less than $500 per day pp
  • Would be flying out of Minneapolis

 

Thank you in advance for your help, I hope I gave enough information to get things started.

You have come close to specifying Azamara or Oceania.

 

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I would agree that Oceania, Azamara or Seabourn would be good options.  Of course you need to do some homework on itineraries and price out the options.  Seabourn is more of a luxury line then the other two but price and itinerary should probably rule.  Keep in mind that Seabourn is an all suite line while the other two lines have various ships with many (the old Renaissance ships) having average size cabins with small bathrooms.  On Seabourn your bathroom will have a full size tub, a separate glassed in shower, and double sinks.  Also keep in mind that Seabourn is truly all-inclusive (except for shore excursions).   

 

Hank

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We went through a similar exercise a few years ago, researching all the Luxury & Premium Lines, based on our fairly similar Statement of Requirements.

 

After reviewing all of them we short-listed to Viking & Oceania, both of which we researched extensively, especially here on the CC Boards. For us, Viking were the first choice and haven't regretted the decision. 

 

One of the key issues for us was how they handle "Formal Nights". We reviewed each cruise line's policy on "Formal Nights" then compared it to pax reports of what happens in practice. Similar to the mainstream Lines, I found that most of the luxury brands also had differences between what the cruise lines stated and pax reported. Viking have NO formal nights, as every evening is smart casual and in our experience, they do enforce the standards at dinner, which are a collared shirt (golf shirt or dress shirt) and no jeans.

 

Another couple of key factors for us is the lack of a casino, which we consider a waste of space, zero kids (other brands may not have many kids, but do accept them) and Viking's exceptional policy for bringing alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks aboard. They accept you bringing unlimited product aboard the ship. When cruising the World, you can bring onboard bottles of local wines and they will open and serve them to you at meals, with no corkage fees.  

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Your criteria are good as far as they go. The difficulty comes with deciding which items are more important than others, as there is no one "best" line for everyone. 

 

It's a simplification of course, but I generally tend to think as follows:

 

Azamara = better for those who are more focused on itinerary, long days (and frequent overnights) in ports, local tie-ins and special events onshore. (Not that the onboard experience isn't good as well but perhaps doesn't compare quite as well with some other lines...). Low key vibe. Entire fleet is older, smaller (~750 pax) ships -- well maintained but definitely smaller cabins in lower categories.

 

Oceania = known for their food throughout the industry; although taste is subjective it's clear that Oceania puts a lot of emphasis on this area and with multiple awards and mentions it is clearly a big focus. Has larger (newer) and smaller (older) ships but even the larger ones are not huge.  Some mixed reports on online vibe, service.  Just as a note: I find their options to be a bit confusing. Depending on the cruise and the TA you may find various items "included" but there is also usually a base fare that does not include any of them, so beware when booking if the price seems to good to be true.

 

Seabourn = more "all-inclusive" and "luxury" than Azamara or Oceania but also often with a higher price tag overall. If you're looking to pay upfront and have most things included (which does lead to, IMO, a very luxurious feeling), then you may want something more like Seabourn -- or other true luxury lines such as Crystal, Regent, Silversea, etc. Although some of those lines still have formal nights, many have done away with true formal evenings and make them optional if you don't want to dress up or feel that it's "stuffy"....

 

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I know @Flatbush Flyer tries to sell Oceania on every thread. I definitely wouldn't consider them to be "ultra premium". They are premium over mass market lines. But unfortunately they don't have as many inclusions as some of the true ultra premium lines. And they play the same pricing games as Celebrity. 

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10 minutes ago, sanger727 said:

....Oceania...... I definitely wouldn't consider them to be "ultra premium".

You may want to do a bit of research:

You can start right here on CC whose editors have repeatedly referred to Oceania as  “Oceania is an ultra-premium line with smaller ships.” 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2837

 

In addition, many of us here on CC are familiar with a website that gathers competitive quotes for cruises. Here’s what it has to say:

We have also tabulated the ratings given to Ultra-Premium cruise ships in its reviews, and the results are below for the Ultra-Premium category:

Line Ship Rating
1. Azamara Club Cruises  Azamara Quest 4.83
2. Cunard Line Queen Victoria 4.59
3. Oceania Cruises Oceania Insignia 4.56
4. Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 4.44
5. Oceania Cruises Oceania Regatta 4.43
6. Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth 4.38
7. Oceania Cruises Oceania Marina 4.38
8. Oceania Cruises Oceania Nautica 4.37
9. Oceania Cruises Oceania Riviera 4.35
10. Azamara Club Cruises Azamara Journey 4.33
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21 minutes ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

You may want to do a bit of research:

You can start right here on CC whose editors have repeatedly referred to Oceania as  “Oceania is an ultra-premium line with smaller ships.” 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2837

 

In addition, many of us here on CC are familiar with a website that gathers competitive quotes for cruises. Here’s what it has to say:

We have also tabulated the ratings given to Ultra-Premium cruise ships in its reviews, and the results are below for the Ultra-Premium category:

Line Ship Rating
1. Azamara Club Cruises  Azamara Quest 4.83
2. Cunard Line Queen Victoria 4.59
3. Oceania Cruises Oceania Insignia 4.56
4. Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 4.44
5. Oceania Cruises Oceania Regatta 4.43
6. Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth 4.38
7. Oceania Cruises Oceania Marina 4.38
8. Oceania Cruises Oceania Nautica 4.37
9. Oceania Cruises Oceania Riviera 4.35
10. Azamara Club Cruises Azamara Journey 4.33


They may, and that’s up to them. They are trying to sell cruises.

 

but I wouldn’t consider a cruise line that doesn’t include alcoholic beverages, doesn’t include shore excursions, and doesn’t include gratuities ‘ultra premium’.

 

I’ve been to a lot of all inclusives that include more than Oceania. For much lower prices. Some prices on Oceania include some of these things. But at the end of the day they are playing price games as much as the mass market lines do. Not ultra premium in my book.

Edited by sanger727
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1 minute ago, sanger727 said:


They may, and that’s up to them. They are trying to sell cruises.

 

but I wouldn’t consider a cruise line that doesn’t include alcoholic beverages, doesn’t include shore excursions, and doesn’t include gratuities ‘ultra premium’.

In the grand scheme of reviews that sway some people’s choices, your opinion (or mine) doesn’t mean squat. 
But, Many other respected publications with travel reviews (e.g., Condé Naste Traveler) also consider O as ultra-premium to distinguish its quality (especially when it comes to food and service). US News and World Report even goes further and considers O as among the best “luxury lines.”

https://travel.usnews.com/cruises/best-cruise-lines/
So does Business Insider: 

http://www.businessinsider.com/best-luxury-cruise-lines-in-the-world-ranked%3famp

And let’s not bore folks with the accolades of Bon Appetit, Saveur, etc who all agree that O has the “Finest Cuisine at Sea.”™️
 

In any case, it’s not me who decided that O is “ultra-premium.” I just share the facts.

 

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10 hours ago, Hlitner said:

Also keep in mind that Seabourn is truly all-inclusive (except for shore excursions).   

I did not partake, but assume that spa services are also extra charge on Seabourn. They also have some ultra-expensive alcohol with a surcharge, you know, those $1000 a bottle things.

 

We were wowed by our cruise on the 450 passenger Seabourn Quest. I am perfectly content cruising Holland America, but Seabourn was a definite step up. It was surprisingly relaxing to order a drink or caviar without having to present my cruise card. Our only onboard expenses were for postcards and excursions. (Big bus tours were limited to 70% occupancy, my last minute reservation as the fortieth passenger triggered Seabourn to add a second coach.) While dining service is hectic on HAL, Seabourn waiters were frequently standing at the ready in the showroom and restaurants waiting for a cruiser to lift an eyebrow. No lines, no sales pitches, class all the way. Waiters were attentive without being intrusive.

 

Snobs? You can find them on any cruise line, see how long it takes for someone to mention their home in Palm Springs, Naples, or Newport or that they are staying in a penthouse suite. Didn't notice snobs on Seabourn and hit it off with an obviously wealthy dowager who could not have been more charming.

 

A couple of 11 day Sojourn sailings in November meet your price requirements.

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1 hour ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

 and service). US News and World Report even goes further and considers O as among the best “luxury lines.”

https://travel.usnews.com/cruises/best-cruise-lines/

 

 

In other words, "among the best" and still second to last. Scoring behind crystal, viking, azamara, and regent. 

 

Which is a rating supported by tripsavvy 

 

The 8 Best Luxury Cruise Lines of 2021 (tripsavvy.com)

 

and Conde Nast Traveler

 

The Best Cruise Lines in the World: 2020 Readers' Choice Awards | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)

 

So, good. Not great. certainly not "ultra" anything. Better than mass markets but not as good as true ultra luxury like regent.

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3 hours ago, Flatbush Flyer said:

You may want to do a bit of research:

You can start right here on CC whose editors have repeatedly referred to Oceania as  “Oceania is an ultra-premium line with smaller ships.” 

https://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2837

 

In addition, many of us here on CC are familiar with a website that gathers competitive quotes for cruises. Here’s what it has to say:

We have also tabulated the ratings given to Ultra-Premium cruise ships in its reviews, and the results are below for the Ultra-Premium category:

Line Ship Rating
1. Azamara Club Cruises  Azamara Quest 4.83
2. Cunard Line Queen Victoria 4.59
3. Oceania Cruises Oceania Insignia 4.56
4. Cunard Line Queen Mary 2 4.44
5. Oceania Cruises Oceania Regatta 4.43
6. Cunard Line Queen Elizabeth 4.38
7. Oceania Cruises Oceania Marina 4.38
8. Oceania Cruises Oceania Nautica 4.37
9. Oceania Cruises Oceania Riviera 4.35
10. Azamara Club Cruises Azamara Journey 4.33

 

So it seems to me that "ultra Premium" is the same as "Premium" -- for I wouldn't consider any mass market lines to be "Premium".

 

I think the difficulty many have with your post is that it seems to set Oceania in a category by itself which -- the above post makes clear -- isn't the case.

 

Frankly I'm a bit surprised to see Cunard represented in this category -- also that Viking is not represented.

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1 hour ago, sanger727 said:

 

In other words, "among the best" and still second to last. Scoring behind crystal, viking, azamara, and regent. 

 

Which is a rating supported by tripsavvy 

 

The 8 Best Luxury Cruise Lines of 2021 (tripsavvy.com)

 

and Conde Nast Traveler

 

The Best Cruise Lines in the World: 2020 Readers' Choice Awards | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)

 

So, good. Not great. certainly not "ultra" anything. Better than mass markets but not as good as true ultra luxury like regent.

Nice try at twisting the original point. Without adding my own evaluation, I corrected your nonprofessional misstatement with published citations to the contrary.

 

In any case, should we assume we won’t be seeing you on any Oceania cruises in the future?

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1 hour ago, cruisemom42 said:

 

So it seems to me that "ultra Premium" is the same as "Premium" -- for I wouldn't consider any mass market lines to be "Premium".

 

I think the difficulty many have with your post is that it seems to set Oceania in a category by itself which -- the above post makes clear -- isn't the case.

 

Frankly I'm a bit surprised to see Cunard represented in this category -- also that Viking is not represented.

As with any ratings based on website user input, it would never pass muster as any kind of true research study. But, hearing any particular cruise line continuously mentioned as “whatever” from survey to survey or review to review does offer anecdotal evidence that invites further scrutiny.

Different folks with different travel experiences, preferences/desires, expectations and means will never agree on a “best” anything. For our circumstances (and the aforementioned criteria), we prefer Oceania (as do many many folks who pretty much cruise only with them). It’s the “entire package” that’s appealing to us.  And I always have to pay kudos to FDR, who designed a cruise line aimed at a very specific demographic comprised of accomplished people who, in general, are well traveled, decorous and who have worked hard for their money.

 

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5 hours ago, cruisemom42 said:

special events onshore.

For Azamara when I saw the visit to Ephesus - was it an after dinner musical program - I almost fainted 🙂

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4 hours ago, sanger727 said:


They

 

4 hours ago, sanger727 said:

 

…I wouldn’t consider a cruise line that doesn’t include alcoholic beverages, doesn’t include shore excursions, and doesn’t include gratuities ‘ultra premium’.

 

I’ve been to a lot of all inclusives that include more than Oceania. For much lower prices. …

Because a number of cruisers are either non-drinkers or light drinkers, paying for a few drinks makes a lot more sense to them than paying a higher fare because it will include drinks.  That sort of inclusive pricing is very much how the likes of NCL market themselves.

 

It is absurd to insist that a la carte pricing automatically downgrades a line.

 

It is also silly to compare AI’s inclusions and pricing with that of a cruise line.

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1 hour ago, navybankerteacher said:

 

Because a number of cruisers are either non-drinkers or light drinkers, paying for a few drinks makes a lot more sense to them than paying a higher fare because it will include drinks.  That sort of inclusive pricing is very much how the likes of NCL market themselves.

 

It is absurd to insist that a la carte pricing automatically downgrades a line.

 

It is also silly to compare AI’s inclusions and pricing with that of a cruise line.


thats your opinion. Not being constantly charged fees at every corner is a a cornerstone of ‘luxury’ for me. One of the best ‘luxury’ vacations I’ve taken was at a couples resort. I wouldn’t consider them ultra premium, but certainly premium in the AI world. All the restaurants and drinks were inclusive. They set up the minibar daily for free and customized to your preferences (even if you don’t drink there’s a variety of juices, sodas, snacks, etc). Several excursions were included. No gratuities and they were very vocal that the staff were paid and forbidden from accepting gratuities. For me that stands out much higher than at the advertised rate I get just the room; at a higher rate I can have shore excursions OR drinks OR gratuities.

 

how I look at it is that I’m paying money for an elevated experience. Not that X% of the price is for drinks I’m not drinking or shore excursions I’m not taking.

Edited by sanger727
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4 hours ago, whogo said:

Didn't notice snobs on Seabourn

 

I have not sailed on either Seabourn or Silverseas.  But, I have been following (and participating when appropriate) on both of the cruise lines CC Message Boards.  (I am "shopping".)  I have detected nothing like that type of people on either message boards.  They seem to put their pants on the same way I do.  

 

When I booked my MSC Yacht Club cruise, I was wondering what I would experience in this regard.  I met very pleasant people who invited me, as a solo cruiser, to join them for dinner, drinks, etc.  There was no ostentation.  

 

Occasionally on a HAL cruise, such individuals have been observed and they "stick out like a sore thumb".  

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5 hours ago, sanger727 said:

 

In other words, "among the best" and still second to last. Scoring behind crystal, viking, azamara, and regent. 

 

Which is a rating supported by tripsavvy 

 

The 8 Best Luxury Cruise Lines of 2021 (tripsavvy.com)

 

and Conde Nast Traveler

 

The Best Cruise Lines in the World: 2020 Readers' Choice Awards | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)

 

So, good. Not great. certainly not "ultra" anything. Better than mass markets but not as good as true ultra luxury like regent.

 

Here is another ranking from Travel & Leisure, based on scores from actual pax. Oceania did improve 2 places from last year, but they are still 6th, just above Cunard, HAL and Costa. 

 

https://www.travelandleisure.com/worlds-best/large-ocean-cruise-ships

 

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3 hours ago, rkacruiser said:

 

I have not sailed on either Seabourn or Silverseas.  But, I have been following (and participating when appropriate) on both of the cruise lines CC Message Boards.  (I am "shopping".)  I have detected nothing like that type of people on either message boards.  They seem to put their pants on the same way I do.  

 

When I booked my MSC Yacht Club cruise, I was wondering what I would experience in this regard.  I met very pleasant people who invited me, as a solo cruiser, to join them for dinner, drinks, etc.  There was no ostentation.  

 

Occasionally on a HAL cruise, such individuals have been observed and they "stick out like a sore thumb".  

 

I think the vast majority of hard working, well mannered, accomplished folk are not obsessed with high social status and would avoid snobs like the plague.  I've also observed (and been cornered) by a few.  But  only a few, thankfully.  

   

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