What’s the Difference Between Luxury Cruises & Mass Cruises?

Almost all cruise holidays are unsustainable mass tourism. But a very small handful of cruises offer something different, something genuinely luxurious for the explorer in you.

Just about every cruise is advertised as luxury. They’re not. So what are the differences between the very best and the rest?

Unnecessary Amenities vs Necessary Service

Quark’s new Ultramarine, a specialist polar vessel

Big cruise ships have over the top amenities because passengers don’t get off. Viking Cruises added artificial snow rooms to their ships. How sad. And unsustainable. If you want snow, cruise to a place where nature provides the snow.

Big cruise ships with thousands of passengers are like floating theme parks, trying to offer everything. On small ships with less than 100 passengers the focus is on quality. You might not have a water slide or a snow room, you have personal service instead.

Less Passengers Means Better Off-Boat Experiences

Imagine how long it takes for 5000 passengers to disembark, then pass customs and immigration. All cruises can advertise amazing activities, but it’s only the small luxury cruise ships where you enjoy an itinerary of unique experiences.

Like sea kayaking with seals, a market-to-table cooking class in a small Italian town, or taking a helicopter to a hiking expedition on the Greenland Ice Sheet.

This camp out on the Arctic Tundra is an example of what’s possible on smaller vessels

Interesting Itineraries to Less Explored Places

The highlight of any cruise is where the ship can take you. Big cruise ships can only dock in big ports, so they typically connect places you can visit by air. Smaller ships can take you to destinations that are inaccessible by air or even by road.

This is why we like Ponant. Their small vessels sail to unknown explorer destinations. Like ten days around the Cook and Society islands in the South Pacific, cruising from western Australia to Indonesia, exploring fjords in the Arctic Circle and the coast of Alaska.

With Ponant it’s not about what you do on board, it’s about where you go

Expedition Style vs Tick-List Inflexible Schedule

Of course the smaller most luxurious vessels offer better accommodation and dining. But you could also pay a premium for the best category of stateroom on a larger, mass-market cruise. We recommend avoiding this and we don’t offer any level of cabin on any large vessel.

Bigger ships must stick to schedule. But if you go on a cruise with Quark Expeditions, it is a genuine expedition, the captain adapting the itinerary based on the conditions and wildlife sightings. It’s not just about better accommodation, it’s the explorer’s experience.

Quark’s expeditions are flexible, so the experience changes based on opportunities and wildlife sightings

Luxury Yachts & Private Cruises

A few operators have ships that mimic a private yacht feel, with pampering service and fine dining, just with other guests. For example, Ponant’s French yacht Le Ponant takes 32 passengers across 16 staterooms and suites. The Four Seasons Explorer Yacht offers a honeymoon-style experience around the Maldives.

For complete privacy the option is obvious. Charter a private yacht, like Esmeralda of the Seas in the French Riviera or Khalilah based in Italy. When chartering a yacht the differences between the very best and the rest are similar to cruises. It’s not just how a boat looks, it’s the quality of service and where the boat is able to take you. These ultimate private yacht experiences will inspire you.

Le Ponant yacht

Ready to Cruise?

A cruise holiday is not for everybody. But a select few operators do deliver genuine five-star luxury. Our favourites are Ponant and Quark. They offer interesting and comfortable small-scale expeditions to unique destinations. We’ll guide you through the options, from small-scale cruising around New Zealand to a private yacht in the Mediterranean.

Let’s plan your next holidays

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