What Does A ‘Luxury Cruise’ Mean?

Seabourn Luxury

In regular life, the term ‘Luxury’ does not have a fixed definition, it is a very subjective term. It is occasionally used in sales to ‘promote a product, regardless of the actual quality of the product.

As for cruising: just being on-board any ship, having your bed made, your meals cooked and served to you, could be regarded as luxury for many.

However from a cruise industry perspective, there are clear definitions of ‘quality’, without any debate. The cruise industry grades of product are: budget, standard, premium and luxury.

An example of the grades are below:


CMV, Marella


P&O, Princess, Costa, NCL, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, Fred Olsen,


Oceania, Azamara, Celebrity, Cunard


Seabourne, Crystal, Silversea, Regent, Hapag-Lloyd and SeaDream.

But What Is The Difference Between The Products?

Luxury ships have much higher passenger to staff ratio, so the standard of service should be better. A ‘standard’ cruise product might have a ratio of 1 staff member to every 3 passengers, a ‘luxury’ product may have 2 – 1 or even 1-1.

Premium and Luxury ships normally carry less passengers and have more space per passenger than ‘standard’ cruise ships. For example the QM2 accommodates half the number of passengers than some similar sized ‘standard’ ships do. They are simply more spacious/less crowded.

The standard cabin size on-board a ‘luxury’ ship is normally bigger than those on-board a ‘standard’ ship. Some ships only have spacious suites.

Luxury ships often have smaller dining rooms, holding less passengers than standard ones. They might also  have just one sitting too . The food should be better as it can be cooked fresh and go straight from pan-to-plate. On a standard ship with a dining room holding say 1,500 passengers, or more, much of the food has to be pre-prepared, plated well in advance and possibly re-heated.

Premium and Luxury lines spend more per passenger on their food-ingredients than standard cruise lines do. I once read that Celebrity spend twice that of RCI. Delicacies Caviar and Lobster etc. will be more commonplace on a luxury line.

Extra’s like fine wines and excursions may be included in the Luxury fare. Even a personal butler.

High quality soft furnishings and bed linen, along with fine glass and marble is often used on-board the luxury ships.

Luxury ships tend to be smaller than ‘standard’ ones. Terms like ‘intimate’  often still applies to luxury ships, even the new ones.

A ‘standard’ experience (Source unknown)


Not surprisingly, the fares tend to go up as you work down my list from budget to Luxury. However there are factors which can confuse the whole issue.

‘Ship-within-a-ship’ features such as ‘NCL’s Haven’ or MSC’s ‘Yacht Club’, confuse the grading’s as does Cunard’s Grill class etc. These are luxury staterooms with additional luxury facilities, like a private pool and private restaurants, for example, often on a standard grade ship.

Another area for confusion is the fare. You might just get a cheaper fare on a Celebrity (premium) ship than a Royal Caribbean (standard) ship’s fare.

New ships, whatever the grade, often command higher fares in their first season or two. Passengers pay more for the ‘newness’ and ‘novelty’.


You normally pay a lot more for a ‘luxury’ cruise, but the standards on-board should be higher, by design.

I do accept that some people might be uncomfortable with overt opulence. Over the top décor and full-on service might offend. Some people will  prefer a beer with their ‘pie and mash’ to l’escargot and a glass of Moët & Chandon. Those are all a matter of preference.  However ‘luxury’ is definable, when it come to cruise products.