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A Ship Within A Ship Concept VS A Luxury Ship

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The latest catch phrase in the cruise industry seems to be “a ship within a ship”. The phrase is used to describe more upscale cabin categories and amenities the cruise lines are trying to develop to attract those who are willing to pay extra for not only larger chunks of the real estate available in the ship’s suites, but for additional amenities as well.

Cunard Cruise Line has traditionally offered various “classes” of service to their guests, with separate dining rooms designated for only their top suite guests. So this philosophy is nothing new to them.

MSC cruises is the newest to join the movement with their newest “Yacht Club” category of suites. They describe these saying, “MSC Yacht Club allows guests to experience the best of both worlds – more personalized service and a private, intimate space while enjoying the full benefits of all the magnificent vessel has to offer”.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been using the philosophy on their ships since they began building ships specifically designed for their “Freestyle Cruising” concept; with their Courtyard Villa and Garden Villa Suites; supplying a private pool and Jacuzzi area, and sun decks for those suites that are separate from the public pool deck areas serving other passengers. They also offer concierge service to guests in those suites and butler service to the Garden Villa guests, as well as a dining area for breakfast and lunch designated for their use only, and reserved seating in the ship’s showrooms.

Celebrity Cruise Line has introduced Aqua-Spa cabins on their newest ship, the Solstice, where passengers in those cabins have access to facilities for those guests alone.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line is the “latest to the game”. Though they’ve had a dedicated Concierge Lounge for Suite guests to visit for continental breakfasts in the morning, and complimentary drinks and appetizers in the evenings for several years, as has Holland America. Recently Royal Caribbean has begun reserving deck sun-lounge chairs by their main pools, and reserved seating in their show rooms for passengers booked into their top suites.

There’s little doubt that amongst them, and other cruise lines I haven’t listed, they are making a concerted attempt to entice passengers to spend more on their higher priced suites by rewarding them with more “exclusive amenities“- not available to other passengers on the ship. And there’s no doubt for those who prefer the larger ship experience, while enjoying more dedicated service and the choice to use the more exclusive facilities on the ship, these initiatives will be an attraction.

But frankly these types of amenities have been available for some time on several luxury lines, which also add even more touches to the package to please their passengers.

The difference is on these lines the entire ship is the “exclusive area“, and in most cases, when factoring in all costs, the equivalent suites could actually cost you less to sail.

I recently completed a cruise on one such ship; Silversea’s Silver Shadow. The primary difference between the Silver Shadow and the cruise lines described above is the luxury and amenities are not limited to any particular area within the ship. On the Silver Shadow the exclusive luxury experience is carried throughout the ship.

To begin with there are no gratuities; from bow to stern the crew is there to serve you with no expectation beyond you’re satisfaction. Almost anything you want to drink, whether it’s champagne, wines, hard liquor, sodas, juices, bottled water, are also included in your cruise fare (with the exception being only the most premium of brands). In variety, quality, taste and presentation the food is the equivalent to that of any ship at sea.

Rather than pool deck areas with restricted access to non-suite guests, the entire pool deck exudes luxury, when the bar staff routinely know your name and your favourite drinks; the deck staff ask for your lunch orders from the grill, and deliver it to you hot, freshly prepared, cooked just the way you request it; and where the mood for the afternoon social hours is set by setting teak cocktail tables and slip-covered chairs into multiple small conversation pits.

And when a deck barbeque is held, it’s not just a routine buffet, but tables are set with fine linens, tableware, and stemware, and the buffet includes items like whole suckling pig being carved, and prawns the size of Toyotas are dished out to seafood lovers.

Though not the largest suites available at sea (that designation would go to Norwegian Cruise Line’s Garden Villas at 5200 Sq. Ft.) the top suites on the Silver Shadow are large enough to be comfortable, and comfortable enough to be luxurious. Butler service, offering such amenities as in-suite service of afternoon high tea, or dinner service, or helping you host an evening cocktail party at no additional expense to you, are touches you find on few other ships.

Video of one of the smaller Royal Suites on Silver Shadow (at over 1000 sq. ft.)

Certainly, if you’re not a “suite passenger” you’ll find both the “ship within a ship” suite set ups, and the luxury cruise ship suites to be overpriced to satisfy your desires… though no doubt either would make you wish for the day you could book them. But for those who normally do book suites on ships, I have to believe the luxury ship option should at least be carefully compared to the “ship within a ship” suites on the larger mass market and premium cruise lines.

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Comment from Mike M
Time April 10, 2009 at 8:04 am


The new “spaces” that cruise lines are now developing is an interesting concept and one I think a number of people will take advantage of but if I want that type of experience I will go for a luxury line instead of a mainstream ship and cruise line.

My wife and I had a tour of the Garden Villas and Courtyard on the Norwegian Jade. While the courtyard is quite nice and the cabins are good it isn’t something I would spend the money on unless I received an upgrade. I do love the NCL Suite amenities, especially breakfast and lunch in Cagney’s. This why I booked a suite on our last NCL cruise. Some guy did me a favor so I could get breakfast and lunch in Cagney’s when we did our Baltic cruise and we loved it so much that we booked an AC suite basically for that perk.

If I want basically the same feel as having a Courtyard Villa I could and would spend the same $4,000 p.p. to go on a RSSC, Seaborne or Silversea cruise. It would actually be a better deal since there is no tipping or charges for all but high end wines and spirits.

I do see this trend continuing and I see more of these types of “private areas for a fee” becoming more prevalent and incorporated into new and older ships over next few years.

Take care,

Comment from Bill
Time April 11, 2009 at 10:40 am

“ship within a ship”; much more marketable that “a return to steerage”, eh? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, but if you called it a “sticky flower”, how many would you sell.
Fortunately for my wallet, as a “people person” the most appealing class to me is the studio suite.

Comment from Elizabeth
Time August 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I will not sail on Cunard BECAUSE of the class system. I don’t need that to know who I am!

Comment from Kenneth Eden
Time January 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

Go to my posting in January2011 LUXURY ON A MASS MARKET SHIP, learn what CUNARD actually is all about. There is a reason Cunard has been around for over 172 years.

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