Looking for an all-inclusive* vacation that doesn’t stay in one place? A cruise could be a great option for you. Pay up front and you’ll have your choice of several restaurants, a place on the sun deck and as many trivia games as you can handle. The one problem is that the cabins can be somewhat “cozy.” Need some more room? If so, you should investigate a cruise suite.
What Benefits Does a Cruise Suite Offer?
It’s important to know that every cruise line offers different suite benefits. In fact, even on the same ship, the benefits from a suite will vary.
Take this article as a general guide. If you want more details on a particular cruise, or cruising in general, please visit TravelZork Travel. We can check prices, offer additional benefits and more.
Although size is the biggest factor that people associate with suites, it’s not necessarily a huge upgrade. A typical cabin may be ~200 square feet, but suites start at 300-350 square feet. Think “studio suite” at a hotel, which is just a large room. Of course, there are others that exceed 2,000 square feet and have private hot tubs. It’s just a matter of how much you want to pay.
One of the biggest advantages to a suite is the ability to accommodate a 3rd and 4th person more easily. Obviously, the more space you have, the more comfortable it will be. But if you’re at the smaller end of the range, it’s still going to be tight with more than two people.
If a bigger cabin was the only cruise suite benefit, the cruise line wouldn’t generate much of a premium. That’s why ships are increasingly offering additional perks for their highest-paying customers. It’s not quite Rose versus Jack, but you get the point.
Not every cruise line offers the same benefits in a suite, but here is a bit of what you can look forward to.**
Your Suite’s Cabin Benefits
Regardless of size, your suite is going to come with additional benefits that aren’t available in regular cabins. They will be a mix of hard and soft benefits.
Obviously, more room means nicer amenities. You’ll have a much larger bathroom, possibly with a separate shower area. You’ll also likely have a bigger balcony with nicer furniture. The nicest suites on some ships, such as the Pinnacle Suite on Holland America, will have a private hot tub on the verandah. The bed may have premium linens and allow you your choice of pillows.
You won’t need to leave your cabin to eat, also. An increasing number of cruise lines are charging for minibars and room service, but you’ll probably get some freebies. It might be as simple as a one-time minibar setup, possibly with complimentary refills. You’ll likely get evening canapes or a fruit basket or two along the way. You won’t need to ask, since you’ll likely have a butler to take care of everything.
Forget room service charges. In fact, you’ll probably get additional options. Tea on your balcony? No problem. A delivery meal from the dining room, instead of the standard menu? Just ask.
Your Private Dining Room
Feel like leaving the cabin? I don’t blame you. But meal time, particularly dinner, can be chaotic in the main dining room. Most lines allow you to choose a fixed time or just show up. But even a fixed dining time can result in a long wait if the people before you are taking their time.
If you are staying in a suite, however, lines may never be a problem. You’ll probably have priority reservations, a separate dining area or possibly even your own separate dining room. For example, suite guests on Celebrity ships can eat at Luminae, an upscale restaurant, for any meal. There are never lines and the menu is more upscale. Service is personalized, and if what you want isn’t on the menu, they’ll find it for you. Princess isn’t quite as elegant, but suite guests get a private section of a main dining room. Again, there are enough tables to make sure that you’ll never need to wait in line. If you want a nice breakfast, you can take yours in a specialty restaurant.
But no matter what line you’re on, a cruise suite means that your dining will be much more flexible.
Need a Break from Crowds? Head to your own Deck
Sometimes, vacationing with a couple of thousand of your closest friends can be a bit stifling. So if you need a little time to yourself, you’ll have the opportunity. Or at least something close to it.
Private lounges have been so popular at hotels that the cruise lines have picked up on the concept. Virtually all mass brands have created lounges, which are usually open exclusively to suite guests. You’ll generally find lots of comfortable seating, snacks and concierges who can make various reservations for you. They can be a nice place to escape if you need some peace and quiet outside of your room.
Some cruise lines have taken the privacy concept to the next level with exclusive decks. For instance, Celebrity has “The Retreat,” open only to suite guests. You’ll have plenty of space, drink service where you’re sitting and can even get food delivered. Norwegian has an entire section of the ship available only to its “The Haven” guests. You’ll never have to leave your private area, with pools, bar service and even meal delivery available to these guests. On certain Norwegian ships, you’ll have a restaurant right in The Haven itself.
Norwegian’s The Haven is the most exclusive, and largest, of the “ship within a ship” concepts, but never having to worry about finding a deck chair is a huge perk on any ship.
Soft Benefits around the Ship
This is the area where suite benefits vary the most. Service will always be excellent and you’ll usually get the most experienced cabin stewards. But you’ll also get many of the following, as well:
- Priority embarkation and disembarkation. With the advent of e-ticketing, getting on and off the ship is no longer the multi-hour nightmare that it once was, but you’ll still save yourself some time on both ends. At disembarkation, you’ll likely have a private lounge to wait in.
- Priority tender. If the ship is too big to dock directly at the port, you’ll need to take a smaller boat in, known as a tender. Lines for these can get long, but suite guests often get to jump right to the front.
- Added in-suite amenities, such as a bathrobe or tote bag. Don’t take the bathrobe home with you unless you like added charges.
- Priority access at the customer service desk. This is a huge benefit on the last night, when everyone is arguing about their bills.
- Priority reservations for shows, private dining, shore excursions and anything else that requires a reservation.
- Upgraded bedding and bathroom amenities.
How Much Extra Will I Pay for a Cruise Suite?
Well, a lot, is the obvious answer. A suite is going to be multiples of what a standard inside or outside cabin would cost. Several cruise lines have tried to soften the blow by introducing “Concierge Class,” or something similar, but that generally comes with a few soft perks.
The price difference is going to depend on several factors, such as when you are cruising, the type of suite that you want and the amenities that are offered. But you should expected to pay a few thousand dollars more for the entry level suite. And remember, that’s per person, not per cabin. The 3rd and 4th person in a cabin are generally heavily discounted, but you’ll likely pay something.
Suite amenities will play the largest role. For instance, a Celebrity suite offers far more perks than a comparable suite on Princess. Thus, the price difference is going to be greater on Celebrity. You can look at it as a multiple of the cheapest cabin for easy math, but remember that inside cabins are often really cheap.
Where and when you go obviously matter as well although, for a popular cruise, every cabin will price at a premium, not just suites. In fact, certain suite classes can be the first to sell out. There are rarely more than a few largest suites on the ship, and you’ll pay ridiculous fares for those. Likewise, during school vacations, families often gobble up suites.
The Bottom Line to Suites on a Cruise
It’s no secret that the suites are the most expensive cabin on a ship. So what you need to determine is, are the extra perks worth it? One could argue that, on a cruise, not only is time equal to money, but so are convenience and space. If you want to spread out a bit and not have to worry about lines, fees and where you will eat, then a suite is a great option for you. There’s something to be said for not needing to fight for a beach chair.
*Cruise companies market their vacations as “all-inclusive” and, technically, you probably could take a cruise without any additional charges, outside of gratuities. But the industry has consolidated, and there are fewer freebies than ever. Drinks, specialty restaurants and even certain activities onboard will cost extra. A cruise suite can include many extras, but you’re still paying for them. It’s just folded into the price of the cruise.
**I’m going to focus on the mass market, e.g., Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Holland America. If you’re sailing on an ultra-luxury line, you’ll receive most of these perks in your ticket price.