The Definition of a Luxury Cruise

The title of this article might seem like the slogan of a luxury cruise line, perhaps appearing in a context such as this: Eternity Cruises, the definition of a luxury cruise. (Eternity Cruises is not actually a company – it just sounds like the type of name a luxury cruise line might have.) However, we are after the literal definition of “luxury cruise.” What exactly qualifies a cruise as “luxurious?” Is there any reason for a non-luxury cruise line to pretend as if it is a luxury cruise line? What, in short, is a luxury cruise?

Diving into the definition of “luxury” might seem like a mere semantic exercise of little importance. While we concede this is a semantic exercise – what else could defining a word be? – we don’t believe it’s of little importance for at least two reasons. The first is broad and philosophical: words matter, and language is good and beautiful essentially to the extent that it is precise and meaningful. When a word can mean everything, it ceases to mean anything. (The inverse of this phrase is also true, a point we made in connection to the quite different matter of the definition of a worm on our website devoted to worms.) The second reason we think the definition of a luxury cruise is important is because it will probably influence your cruise vacation decisions. A company that calls itself a luxury cruise line may draw you to it because of the first-rate service it claims to have or it might repel you because you think you can’t afford to take one. In either case, it’s good to know what constitutes a luxury cruise.

That said, is there really any way to definitively declare one cruise line luxurious and another not? Definitively, probably not, but fortunately cruise lines, or at least the major cruise lines, have a fairly strong incentive to accurately categorize themselves for reasons related to what has already been said; there is little reason to deceive people about the nature of the cruise they are taking. All the major luxury cruise lines – Silversea Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, and Azamara Club Cruises – go after a very small segment of the market. They tend to have smaller ships with fewer rooms and they cost a lot more to book than regular cruises. They are clearly targeting themselves to elite individuals (financially speaking) who want a high-end cruise experience and can afford it. A luxury cruise is an expensive cruise. So, luxury cruise lines aren’t afraid to attach what is essentially a synonym for “expensive” to their cruise offerings – the people they are going after are prepared to pay these higher prices. For this same reason, “regular” cruise lines wouldn’t want to pretend their cruises are luxury cruises. They are offering a different product to different people.

As a final, related point, it is also basically impossible to deceive people about the nature of the cruises they are taking because they’ll obviously be aware of the price of the cruise they are taking, and they’ll also almost certainly be aware of what other cruises cost. If a cruise line is charging twice as much as most other companies, they better be offering a vastly superior experience – one that is highly personalized and involves fine dining experiences, upscale spa treatments, and similar such things. Often luxury cruise lines also offer many things for free. (Regent Seven Seas Cruises, for instance, is almost entirely all-inclusive.) If they do not offer this sort of experience, word will get out and no one will cruise with them again. So, once more, there is really no reason for a cruise line to deceptively market itself as a luxury cruise line.

So, the definition of a luxury cruise is basically “any cruise offered by a self-declared luxury cruise line.” The issue becomes a little more nebulous when dealing with companies that describe themselves in a way that implies a luxury cruise experience – they might say something like “you’ll feel pampered from the moment you step on board” – but never actually use the word “luxury.” In these instances, a company is probably avoiding the word on purpose, meaning that they do not think of themselves as a luxury cruise line. Basically, luxury cruise lines are one thing and regular cruise lines are another, and neither party has a clear motivation to blur the distinction between the two categories.

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