Comparing cruise values

By Linda Beuret
This item appears on page 14 of the July 2018 issue.

I would like to assure world traveler Albert Podell, whose letter “Longtime Traveler’s Reactions to His First Cruise” appeared in the May 2018 issue (page 24), that not all cruises are equal.

Naturally, there are variously priced cruises, and the one my husband, Peter, and I recently took, on a route similar to the one Mr. Podell took, was quite different than his cruise, on which, he wrote, “there was a relentless, never-ending selling atmosphere aboard the ship, including repeated public-address announcements exhorting us to buy stuff.”

Mr. Podell cruised with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL).* Peter and I were with Regent Seven Seas Cruises (Miami, FL; 844/876-6809, www.rssc.com) aboard the Seven Seas Mariner. Our cruise, titled “Rhythms Under the Sun,” took place Jan. 23-Feb. 13, 2018. We started in Lima, Peru, and ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

On our cruise, as on Mr. Podell’s NCL cruise, Regent did not have assigned dining times or locations. We were able to visit any of four restaurants on board at the times of our choosing.

In addition, all gratuities and shore excursions were included in the basic price. With what was called a two-for-one plan, cabins for our 21-night cruise (which, unlike Mr. Podell’s, was not a repositioning cruise) started at $16,000 for two, which also included international airfare in economy (Los Angeles-Lima and Buenos Aires-Los Angeles). On the Mariner, we had a very middle-level cabin at $18,000.

Our cabin was 40 square meters, with a bath, king-sized bed, walk-in closet, small sofa, coffee table, desk and balcony. I chose the port side for our cabin so that we were always facing the land of South America as we went south and then east around the tip of the continent to Argentina and northward.

There were a large number of included excursions at each port and an opportunity to sign up for them three months before sailing.

All alcoholic beverages were, likewise, included except for premium wines. A couple different bartenders told us, when we commented on this nicety, that they hated working on other cruise lines that charged per drink, as they were urged to “hustle drinks” at all times to earn money for the ship.

As for the selling of souvenir items, I was never in the small boutique on board, nor did I hear one announcement about purchasing anything.

There was an office on board where you could make an appointment with a Regent salesperson and discuss a future cruise. This was not promoted or announced; people sought her out to find out info, and, of course, ifyou booked a cruise while on board, you got a discount of $2,000 to $3,000 on it. Passengers lined up to hear from her what the next year-and-a-half schedule would be before it was announced to the public!

I believe the quality of the ship, the personnel and the hassle-free experience was worth every cent! This was our fourth Regent cruise.

I believe other cruise lines (such as Silversea Cruises and Seabourn Cruise Line) have the same policies, and, no doubt, others do as well.

LINDA BEURET

Santa Barbara, CA

*Mr. Podell took back-to-back cruises aboard the “Norwegian Sun,” taking a 16-day, 15-night cruise from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Valpara√≠so (a 1½-hour drive from Santiago, inland), Chile, followed by a 21-day, 20-night cruise to San Francisco.

So that readers can make some comparisons between the costs of Ms. Beuret’s Regent Seven Seas cruise and Mr. Podell’s cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line (866/234-7350, www.ncl.com), we’re printing this additional information from Mr. Podell.

He wrote, “I booked my passage about eight months ahead and was rewarded with one of those cabins designed for the disabled that was slightly larger than the others in my row and the farthest back from the bow ofall the cabins on the fifth deck, a position which somewhat minimizes the effect of the ship’s pitch-and-roll motion.

“NCL was having a two-for-one special, which, for the 16-day cruise, April 10-25, 2017, enabled me to book a stateroom with a large picture window for $8,146 (tax included). The shore excursions, if I wanted to take one on each day we were in a port, could run an additional $1,400 a person, total.

“Ten days before the cruise commenced, Norwegian announced that the daily service charges were being raised from $13.50 to $13.99 per person per day for passengers in any category up to a Mini-Suite stateroom. For me and my girlfriend, the service charges added an extra $420 to the cost of our 16-day cruise.

“The fare was similar for the 21-day cruise from Valpara√≠so to San Francisco, immediately following and in the same cabin, April 25-May 15, only the daily service charges added $560. Any optional shore excursions were, again, an additional expense.

“International airfare also cost extra.”

Lastly, it is noteworthy that the back-to-back NCL cruises were repositioning cruises, where the ship moves from one seasonal location to another.

As Mr. Podell noted, “When consumers purchase a cabin aboard a ship going on a repositioning cruise, the fare is generally lower because the route might not be very popular. This was particularly true of the cruise I took, with our ship traveling from Buenos Aires down to and around the tip of South America in April, the start of winter far down below the equator, when cold weather, stormy seas and overcast skies prevailed.”