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Seven Seas Explorer's attractive open decks (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Seven Seas Explorer's attractive open decks (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

6 Luxury Cruise Myths, Busted

Seven Seas Explorer's attractive open decks (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Seven Seas Explorer's attractive open decks (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Contributor
Gwen Pratesi

Last updated
Feb 29, 2024

Read time
7 min read

If you’re considering splurging on a luxury cruise but can’t decide if it’s the right vacation for you, what’s your hesitation? With yacht-style ships sailing to dreamy destinations around the world and posh amenities like personalized butler service and free-flowing Champagne, who wouldn’t want to take a luxury cruise vacation?

Maybe you have preconceived notions that luxury cruise ships are stuffy, the food is too fancy, the people are retired and old or you’ll be bored. And all of that could have been true years ago – but not now.

We’re here to debunk some of the most common luxury cruise myths so you can feel confident when booking your once-in-a-lifetime luxury cruise vacation.

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Myth: Luxury Cruise Passengers Are Old

Scenic Eclipse II in Greenland (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
Scenic Eclipse II in Greenland (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

Truth: While most cruises still attract a significant number of individuals 60 and older, Millennials (ages 28 to 43) and Gen-X travelers (ages 44 to 59) now make up more than 50% of the passengers on board cruise ships.

Well-heeled younger travelers are increasingly interested in luxury cruises that offer meaningful travel experiences focused on history, culture and wildlife – and less partying. For example, luxury expeditions to Antarctica attract passengers of all ages, with the majority between 45 and 65 years old.

You’ll also find multigenerational families with grandparents traveling with their children and grandkids. Cruise lines, like Cunard and Crystal, allow children as young as six months on board their ships, depending on the voyage.

Other lines offer programming for kids and teens. Regent Seven Seas’ Club Mariner Youth Program keeps younger cruisers (ages 5 to 17) busy with specialized activities, movie nights and more. Explora Journeys also welcomes children on board with interconnecting suites for families and the Nautilus Club, which is designed for kids and teenagers.

The kids club aboard Crystal Symphony (Photo: Jason Leppert)
The kids club aboard Crystal Symphony (Photo: Jason Leppert)

Bridgett Quinn Webber, a cruise consultant with Cruise Specialists, told us that on a recent cruise aboard Explora Journeys, many passengers were in their 30s and 40s. She explained, “The ability to work from ships with upgraded internet is definitely driving this.

Additionally, those in their 30s and 40s want to spend their money wisely and get a good value for it. I know that when I’m spending my vacation dollars, I want an upgraded experience, even if it means going on fewer trips during the year.”

Myth: Luxury Cruise Food Will Be Too Fancy

Silversea's SALT program focuses on local food, onboard and ashore.  (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Silversea's SALT program focuses on local food, onboard and ashore. (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Truth: Yes, you can have fancy food if you want it, including Michelin-starred chef-curated menus and destination-focused dining like Silversea's S.A.L.T. program, but there are also casual dining options on board luxury ships. You can even order a burger and fries, chicken wings or pizza if you’ve got a hankering for fast food.

And when it comes to cocktails, you don’t have to be fancy there either. Sometimes, an icy cold brew will do, especially when grabbing a quick lunch outdoors at the pool grill.

Some guests prefer dining in the buffet-style venue for most meals, rather than going to the upscale specialty dining venues that serve gourmet cuisine with multi-course tasting menus or international fare.

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Raw bar at Emporium Marketplace on Explora I (Photo/Kerry Spencer)
Raw bar at Emporium Marketplace on Explora I (Photo/Kerry Spencer)

Several passengers aboard Explora I, the first ship from the new luxury brand Explora Journeys, said they went to the Emporium Marketplace nearly every evening since there were so many excellent choices, like fresh pasta dishes, sushi, stir fries and a raw bar.

If you just want a steak and a baked potato, you can have that, too, as most ships offer a grilled steak every evening in the main restaurant. You can also make a reservation at the onboard steakhouse if you want a bit of fancy one evening on your cruise.

Myth: I’ll Have to Dress Up on a Luxury Cruise

Steakhouse at the Verandah (Photo: Cunard)
Steakhouse at the Verandah (Photo: Cunard)

Truth: You can dress up if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. The dress code on board luxury ships is more relaxed than it used to be, with most passengers opting for casual clothing during the days (sundresses or shorts with polo shirts or t-shirts) and elegant casual attire in the evenings (think: resort wear).

For special evenings, such as the captain’s cocktail party, women often wear cocktail dresses and men don suits. If you’re on an extended cruise, such as a grand voyage or world cruise, consider bringing an evening gown or a tuxedo as there will be several formal evenings on the ship. But if you prefer wearing a little black dress or a suit that’s easier to pack, that’s fine, too.

Myth: Luxury Cruises Are Too Expensive. I Just Can’t Afford One!

Silver Moon docked in Roatan, Honduras (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Silver Moon docked in Roatan, Honduras (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Truth: You might be surprised how affordable a luxury cruise is when you compare it to what it costs on board a larger ship with a mainstream cruise line. Advertised cruise fares start with the base fare for an inside cabin for big, mainstream ships. The price goes up from there, including stateroom upgrades, specialty dining, beverage packages, excursions, Wi-Fi, gratuities and other expenses.

If you're already booking a balcony or a suite on a big mainstream ship, chances are good you can afford a luxury cruise -- particularly to destinations like the Caribbean, where luxury cruise prices can be attractively low.

So, while luxury cruise fares seem unreasonably expensive initially, consider what you’re getting for the price. Most luxury cruises are all-inclusive, so you won’t have the additional costs associated with sailing on a larger vessel.

A Panoramic Veranda stateroom aboard Seabourn Venture (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
A Panoramic Veranda stateroom aboard Seabourn Venture (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

What you will have are luxurious suite accommodations, most with private verandas; complimentary meals, including specialty dining venues; a premium beverage package with fine wines and spirits; a higher crew-to-passenger ratio with attentive, personalized service; some included shore excursions; onboard enrichment programs and lectures; free Wi-Fi; all gratuities and even your own butler to indulge your every cruise whim. And don’t forget the free-flowing Champagne.

Some luxury cruise prices also include airfare (business class for some voyages), private airport transfers and other upscale amenities.

For the best deals, look for special 2-for-1 pricing with lines like Regent Seven Seas and off-season or shoulder-season fares in your destination. Some of the best promotions are available during Wave Season, January to March.

With an upward trend in solo cruisers (especially among young women), you’ll find staterooms priced with solo travelers in mind (if you’re traveling alone), like those offered by Crystal and Atlas Ocean Voyages. You’ll also be able to take advantage of waived or reduced single supplements on select voyages, too, so keep an eye out for cruise deals!

Myth: Luxury Cruises Won’t Have Active Excursions

A Zodiac landing in Greenland with Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)
A Zodiac landing in Greenland with Scenic Eclipse II (Photo/Chris Gray Faust)

Truth: I must admit it. When I think of cruise ship excursions, what comes to mind is a group of older folks being led around by a guide carrying an oversized wooden lollipop in some European city. That says it all. Boring and not active – with lots of slow-paced “panoramic” excursions by bus or on foot to museums, cathedrals and touristy places for lunch.

Yes, there are those tours, but there’s also so much more.

Passengers explore Seymour Norte Island in the Galapagos (Photo: Aaron Saunders)
Passengers explore Seymour Norte Island in the Galapagos (Photo: Aaron Saunders)

Are you going to the Galapagos? Try hiking over some of those slick rocks trying to avoid stepping on the iguanas or jumping ship from the Zodiac to go snorkeling with giant spotted eagle rays and blacktip sharks in the Pacific Ocean. You can also swim with the Galapagos fur seals who love to play with snorkelers and divers.

If you’re in Alaska, take a flightseeing tour by helicopter where you’ll land on a glacier and go mushing with a team of sled dogs. If you're in the Arctic or Antarctic, go for a hike -- even luxury expedition cruises are properly active.

Jeep Off-Roading Experience in Ketchikan, Alaska
Jeep Off-Roading Experience in Ketchikan, Alaska (Photo: Marilyn Borth)

You’ll also find plenty of active outdoor adventures in many destinations that include hiking, biking, ziplining, kayaking and other watersports – even on luxury cruise lines, which make a point of catering to guests of all activity levels. And, on a luxury cruise, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, the shore excursion staff can generally help you arrange a tour to meet your needs.

Myth: Luxury Cruises Are Stuffy

Caviar in the Surf by Seabourn (Photo: Seabourn)
Caviar in the Surf by Seabourn (Photo: Seabourn)

Truth: The onboard experience is what you make it. If you want late-night fun spent dancing or having after-dinner drinks, you’ll find other guests who want to party after hours, too. Azamara and Windstar have lively ship-wide parties that entertain cruisers throughout the evening with barbecue buffets, entertainment and dancing.

If you’re sailing on one of Ponant’s Explorers’ ships, check out the super cool underwater venue, Blue Eye, a multi-sensory lounge that’s the only one of its kind in the world. Did I mention Champagne? Lumiére Champagne Bar will be your bar of choice if a glass of bubbly is your preferred beverage while cruising on board one of their Scenic’s discovery yachts, Scenic Eclipse I and Scenic Eclipse II.

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Le Commandant Charcot. (Photo: Nicolas Dubreuil)
Le Commandant Charcot. (Photo: Nicolas Dubreuil)

You’ll also find that most people on luxury ships are very friendly and engaging, despite what you may have thought. If you’re traveling alone, other guests will converse with you at the bar or dinner. You’ll also make new friends at lunch, by the pool or heading out on excursions.

But if you want a little stuffy, go for it. After all, you are on a luxury cruise. Regent Seven Seas’ Connoisseur Club attracts fine cigar and cognac aficionados late in the evenings with its clubby atmosphere, cozy leather armchairs and witty conversations. If you’re into that sort of thing, it’s an excellent way to while away an evening at sea.

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