While mainstream cruises add-on-costs grow, luxury cruise lines are going increasingly all-inclusive, covering everything from gratuities to airfare. The last hold out, Crystal Cruises, recently announced it’s going all-inclusive, too.
A lot has been written lately about all the add-on costs of cruising. The larger the ship, the more opportunities lines have to help cruisers part with their money. Reviewers tend to be particularly harsh on cruise lines that have a lot of add-ons, for everything from ice cream to specialty coffee drinks, not to mention some restaurants, shore excursions and myriad other activities. Certainly, cruise-ship add-on costs are growing much faster than any other part of the cruise experience, even as fares haven’t risen much in the past ten years. The mainstream cruise experience has never been all-inclusive and most cruisers know to budget for tips for staff, alcoholic drinks, and shore excursions. But there has always been an exception to this rule, the luxury cruise.
Luxury Cruise Lowdown
You pay dearly for one of these cruises, but you do get your money’s worth. With larger staff-to-passenger ratios and sometimes smaller ships, you’re ensured better service and a more personalized experience. Food is generally cooked to order on these lines, and the house wines are more up-market than on the mainstream ships; top-shelf liquor is poured in all bars, and champagne flows freely; on certain occasions, caviar is still available. Passengers also tend to be a bit older on average than those on mainstream ships. The luxury cruise experience has always been more inclusive than most mainstream cruises.
Choose Your Cruise with Fodor’s Luxury Line Reviews
- Seabourn Cruise Line
- SeaDream Yacht Club
- Silversea Cruises
- Oceania Cruises
- Regent Seven Seas Cruises
- Crystal Cruises
Comparing the Costs & New Crystal Cruises Policy
Among the top luxury lines, Seabourn Cruise Line, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Silversea Cruises are almost entirely all-inclusive—even extending to a no-tipping policy; Seabourn offers certain free experiences on shore but stops short on offering free shore excursions in all destinations. Oceania Cruises offers mostly all-inclusive pricing but does add on gratuities. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is perhaps the most inclusive of all the luxury lines; cruises include almost all alcoholic drinks, tips, airport transfers, and even shore excursions. Many of these lines offer air-inclusive deals throughout the year, but Regent includes round-trip air for all its cruises.
And most recently, Crystal Cruises has jumped on the all-inclusive bandwagon, making it the last of the major luxury lines to do so. On Tuesday, March 22, Crystal announced that it, too, would be expanding its inclusions starting in March 2012. The line announced that it would be adding "complimentary fine wines and premium spirits throughout the ship, open bar service in all lounges, and pre-paid gratuities for housekeeping, bar and dining staff. The complimentary gratuity amenity also includes Penthouse butler service as well as service in all of Crystal’s fine specialty restaurants and sushi bar." This is a big step for Crystal, which was one of the few remaining luxury lines that did not offer a fully inclusive experience, and it extends to round-trip air from most major U.S. airports and airport-to-ship transfers.