We know there’s a cruise for everyone – from megaships with morning-till-night entertainment to boutique luxury yachts where butlers pour champagne and polish your sunglasses.
Now, however, the world’s biggest ships are giving over more decks to private spaces. These ‘ships within ships’ come with a multitude of perks from sumptuous suites, 24/7 butler and concierge services, ‘jump the queue’ check-ins, private restaurants, bars and lounge areas plus priority theatre bookings and direct access along private corridors to spas.
Suites in these retreats are selling out fast as passengers opt for a taste of the high life on the high seas.
JOIN THE CLUB
This round-up looks at what it means to be a VIP on some of the world’s biggest cruise ships. Above, MSC Cruises Yacht Club guests are welcomed by their private butler
A Swarovski crystal staircase links the glamorous two-deck MSC Yacht Clubs on MSC’s newest ships.
Each comes with its own lounge and bar, dining room, sun deck and pool with a cocktail bar. Guests arrive at the cruise terminal to be met by their private butler at the Yacht Club embarkation desk and then accompanied to their sanctuary.
MSC Yacht Club areas have 95 suites including interior, deluxe, duplex and royal suites – and they have become best-sellers, often snapped up first when cruises become available. Direct access to the Thermal Suite in the MSC Aurea spa is a big attraction.
Top perk: The club-only restaurant with 270-degree panoramic views at the front of the ship.
Book it: Seven-night ‘Northern Europe’ cruise on MSC Euribia, staying in a Yacht Club interior cabin, departs from Southampton on January 26, from £1,519 pp (msccruises.co.uk, 0203 426 3010).
Passengers enjoy access to an exclusive sun deck when they opt for a suite in The Haven section of Norwegian cruise line ships. Above is the sun deck on Norwegian Prima
Passengers who book into The Haven section of Norwegian cruise line ships have access to an exclusive deck with a sun terrace and suites with complimentary movies. Free mobile phones are provided for use onboard ship.
The top-of-the range suite is a 6,694 sq ft three-bedroom villa for eight with living room, outdoor terraces, hot tub and dining area – available on Norwegian Viva, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Star and Norwegian Jewel.
Top perk: The private sun deck with a hot tub with butler service.
Book it: Seven-day ‘Caribbean: Barbados, Antigua & St. Lucia’ cruises in a Haven stateroom on the new ship, Norwegian Viva, departing from San Juan in Puerto Rico on January 14, from £2,501 pp (ncl.com, 0333 2412319).
LIFE IS SUITE
As shown in this rendering, the three-storey Ultimate Family Townhouse on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas has a slide, karaoke and a private patio
After huge demand on Wonder of the Seas, Royal Caribbean has doubled the size of its ‘Suite Neighbourhood’ on the new 5,610-passenger Icon of the Seas, filling four decks with 52 suites and a multi-level sun deck.
The Neighbourhoods are popular with multi-generational families – kids’ clubs and a huge waterpark proving a big hit with youngsters. There are also private pools, hot tubs, and two restaurants for Suite Neighbourhood-only passengers.
Top perk: The three-storey Ultimate Family Townhouse has a slide (for adults and kids), karaoke and a private patio.
Book it: Seven-night ‘Eastern Caribbean & Perfect Day’ cruises on Icon of the Seas staying in a junior suite from £3,906 pp, departing from Miami on September 7; seven nights in the Ultimate Family Townhouse from £65,000 per sailing (royalcaribbean.com, 0344 4934005).
Cutting edge: Celebrity Cruises’ Edge rooftop garden for cruise passengers who like exclusive ‘extras’
Above is one of the ‘top-grade’ Iconic Suites on Celebrity Edge. Guests can expect a good night’s sleep on cashmere mattresses
Guests who book Celebrity Cruises’ Edge Series ships’ suites have access to The Retreat sundeck where attendants bring drinks and snacks to private cabanas.
They can also dine in Luminae, a restaurant serving dishes created by award-winning chef Daniel Boulud. All 1,892 sq ft top-grade Iconic suites with a 689 sq ft terrace are above the ship’s bridge and guests can expect a good night’s sleep on cashmere mattresses.
Top perk: In-cabin Peloton exercise bikes.
Book it: Nine-night ‘Italian Riviera & France’ Barcelona round-trips depart on April 27 from £1,490 pp (celebritycruises.co.uk, 0800 2404286).
Above is the exclusive restaurant on Sun Princess, a new ship from Princess Cruises, that will be available to guests in the Signature Collection suites
Sun Princess, the much-awaited new ship from Princess Cruises, launches on February 8 with a Signature Collection of 50 suites with access to a private lounge, restaurant and area in the adults-only Sanctuary on the sun deck.
Top perk: Priority shore excursion reservations.
Book it: Seven-day ‘Mediterranean with Greek Isles & Turkey’ cruises from Rome on August 10 from £2,599 pp (princess.com, 0344 3388670).
Holland America Line’s Pinnacle Class ships feature Neptune Suites with hot tubs, teak verandas and double-aspect views. The Pinnacle Suite, the top cabin, is a whopping 1,290 ft.
Guests can join the Neptune Lounge cocktail party and eat in the Club Orange private dining venue.
Top perk: Complimentary laundry, ironing and dry cleaning.
Book it: Seven-day ‘Alaska Inside Passage’ roundtrip on Koningsdam, from Vancouver, departs from May 18. Neptune Suite prices from £3,379 pp (hollandamerica.com, 0344 3388605).
WHAT WE SAY…
Prices for these ‘private enclave’ areas are usually excellent value when they offer so many perks.
Fares can be at least half those of traditional, smaller luxury cruise ships such as Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Silversea and Seabourn.
Some modern ships are so enormous that some passengers might fear getting lost – but now there are intimate hideaways which could boost their appeal.