There are a handful of Web sites I visit every day for fun and edification. One such site is Cruise Critic’s forums, specifically the “luxury” board. Messageboards are kind of passé nowadays. They were more popular in the days before Facebook, when that was how people hung out and communicated. In some ways, I kind of miss forums, so I get a dose of them on Cruise Critic, which probably serves an older demographic anyway.
Bill and I have been on nine cruises to date. One was a short mass market cruise on Royal Caribbean. The rest could be considered “luxury cruises”, although some people on Cruise Critic’s luxury boards would be loathe to consider them that. There are some real snobs on that board!
Take, for instance, a recent topic that came up on the luxury forum. Someone wanted to know which “luxury” line is the least “stuffy”. The original poster wants to take a luxury cruise to celebrate her daughter’s 21st birthday. Besides herself and her daughter, the party would include her husband, her 80 year old mother, and her daughter’s boyfriend. Knowing that luxury lines tend to attract older people with money and less desire for gimmicks like Wave Riders, climbing walls, and waterslides, the poster worries that the luxury lines will be too stodgy.
She got lots of responses from the peanut gallery, with a few folks daring to mention lines that aren’t considered “luxury” by a core component of regular posters on that board. The luxury lines, according to the self-appointed experts are: Seabourn, Silversea, Regent, and Crystal. However, I happen to know for a fact that there are other lines out there that are considered luxury… they just don’t cater to North Americans as much as the big four do, nor do they go to as many exotic locations. For instance, Bill and I have done five Hebridean Island Cruises. That line, which is truly all inclusive once you’ve paid your fare, mostly sails in Scotland with occasional forays into France and Norway. The cool kids on Cruise Critic probably wouldn’t consider it a luxury line, even though Queen Elizabeth has sailed it twice.
Ditto to SeaDream Yacht Club, which goes to more places than Hebridean does, offers excellent service, and is mostly all inclusive. It’s usually considered a luxury line, but not to the resident snobs on the luxury board, who have their own standard criteria for what’s luxurious and what isn’t. They’re more concerned about thread counts and square footage than excellent, sincerely delivered service and included amenities.
Bill and I like to relax when we cruise. That’s why we don’t bother with mainstream cruise lines. We don’t like huge crowds, long lines, or shitloads of kids running around yelling, pooping in the hot tubs,and hogging deck chairs. We also appreciate all inclusive fares because they allow us to forget about how much the trip is costing. On Hebridean Island Cruises, we truly don’t have to worry. We have never so much as handed over a credit card when we’ve boarded, nor have we ever gotten a bill at the end of the cruise. On SeaDream and Royal Caribbean, we’ve had to settle large bills at the close of the cruise, and I would imagine it would be the same on other cruise lines.
I once got into a mild argument with one of the worst snob offenders on Cruise Critic. She has a favorite line she cheerleads for, and I find her so obnoxious that I actually avoid that line because I don’t want to run into her when I’m supposed to be relaxing. This lady will argue to the death about the definition of luxury, and apparently her opinion is the only correct one. Sure enough, she was active on the thread about which “luxury” line was the least stodgy. She pipes up quite loudly and insistently whenever anyone dares to mention Windstar, Azamara, or Oceania– considered to be “premium” lines rather than “luxury”.
There’s another poster who chastised someone for suggesting “luxury” upgrades on mainstream lines. When the person came back and confronted the guy, saying that maybe the OP was looking for alternatives, he said “… she shouldn’t be posting on the [LUXURY] board.” God forbid someone who knows about luxury cruising and mainstream cruising might present alternatives that don’t fit with the big four “luxury” lines… luxury, that is, according to a few self-appointed North American based experts.
What is especially funny to me is that the original poster moved on after a couple of posts, but the thread continued with people arguing about what constitutes luxury and whether or not other lines– not considered luxury by the “experts”– should be allowed to be discussed. When the OP came back and reported that she’d chosen a Crystal cruise, the conversation deteriorated into what should be considered appropriate attire after 6:00pm. Apparently Crystal isn’t strict enough about the dress code and their Brazilian restaurant is “horrible”.
I don’t know why I keep reading that board, especially since reading about the recent forced quarantine on the Diamond Princess has me a little leery of booking another cruise anytime soon. What those poor folks have endured for the past few weeks is just horrible. It must have truly sucked for those who were in an inside cabin. How they managed not to freak out from boredom, I’ll never know. What a nightmare. I just read that two Japanese passengers who were on that cruise died. Between that quarantine drama and the Costa Concordia running aground disaster from a few years ago, I can state that a mass market cruise doesn’t appeal to me at all.
And now, having watched shows like Below Deck and personally experienced snooty behavior and disasters on cruises, I’m beginning to wonder if even cruising on a luxury ship still appeals… I do want to do a barge cruise sometime, though. I think our next water based trip will be on a barge in France. But the lovely thing about barge cruises is that you can get off and walk or ride a bike and keep up with the vessel.