Premium Versus Ultra-Luxury Cruise: Breaking Down the Difference

Sponsored by Silversea Cruises
by Kerry Tice
Premium Versus Ultra-Luxury Cruise: Breaking Down the Difference

Gastronomic excellence is what ultra-luxury cruise ships strive for when it comes to the dining experience onboard. Photo: Silversea Cruises

When one thinks about all-inclusive, ultra-luxury is typically not the next word that comes to mind. And yet when paired together, these two components can deliver a vacation experience like no other — and commissions that some only dream about. 
If your client is the type who likes to be pampered, is drawn to five-star hotels and doesn’t blink at paying top dollar for first-class experiences, then ultra-luxury cruising is for them. But, when choosing between premium and ultra-luxury, how can you differentiate the two? Here are some highlights of what defines an ultra-luxury cruise and why it’s a win-win for you and your customers. 

Size matters
There are so many reasons why small ship cruising is appealing. For one, while the ships may cater to small groups, the space certainly does not. Some travel agents refer to ultra-luxury cruise ships as “perfectly-sized” with their spacious staterooms and luxurious open spaces that lend themselves to intimate moments and camaraderie among friends — both old and new. Small ultra-luxury ships can also take you where others cannot go, visiting small secluded harbors or through narrow waterways into the heart of a city. 

In addition, the staff are able to provide more personalized service, which includes butlers to meet virtually every need and desire — often before you even ask. 

It’s all included — yes, all
Sure, ultra-luxury cruises cost top dollar, but what you get in return will keep them coming back for more, again and again. Imagine leaving a cruise without a bill or at the very least, very minimal out-of-pocket expenses? When these cruise lines say all-inclusive, they mean it. Everything from butler service, WiFi, room service, selected wines and premium spirits, most shore excursions, and of course, gratuities, are included — on top of the expected inclusions. 

“Most of my clients want luxury, and especially once they have experienced an ultra-luxury cruise, it is hard for them to go to anything less,” said Patti Steele, a Cruise Planners franchise owner in Plantation, Florida. 

Service, service, service
Most agents will tell you that service is what primarily sets an ultra-luxury cruise apart from a premium cruise. “The staff-to-guest ratio is the lowest in the industry on ultra-luxury cruise lines so they have the ability to provide personalized service to every client who comes onboard,” said Shelby Steudle, vice president of consumer marketing for Pavlus Travel and Cruise. 

Aside from the benefits afforded to the traveler, ultra-luxury service also means less work for the agent. “The all-inclusivity of an ultra-luxury cruise means less planning time for onboard extras than for a premium line. For example, if there is a butler or pre-cruise concierge to make all of the dinner reservations for the guests, this is not something that the agent will need to arrange for them,” said Theresa Scalzitti, vice president, sales and marketing for Cruise Planners corporate. 

Casual environments are the new normal
The trend away from glamming up in long gowns and tuxedos has made ultra-luxury small ship cruising that much more attractive to cruisers. Travel agents we spoke to said their clients prefer a more casual dress code, which makes for easier packing and less worry over what to wear and more time spent enjoying their special moments with family and friends. 

The food factor
Gastronomic excellence is what ultra-luxury cruise ships strive for when it comes to the dining experience onboard. From the diversity and freshness of the selections to the elegant presentation and the regional dishes and wines, travelers can expect meals that rival what is served in the most award-winning, off-shore restaurants. Furthermore, the choices are abundant, with a wide variety of specialty restaurants catering to a myriad of tastes. 

Show me the money
Commissions are a huge factor in separating premium from ultra-luxury cruise ships. “Ultra-luxury cruise lines are priced much higher than those in different categories so the commission made on just one sale is the equivalent to several sales in other cruise categories,” said Steudle. 

Bottom line is that items purchased on a premium cruise ship are not commissionable while ultra-luxury cruise pricing includes all of the extras. More money in the agent’s pocket and more value for the client is key to this sale. As one agent put it, “premium cruises just cannot offer all of the [inclusions] at their price point.” 

FROM THE SPONSOR:  Silversea Cruises, which is chaired by Manfredi Lefebvre d'Ovidio, is recognized as an innovator in the ultra-luxury cruise line industry, offering guests large-ship amenities aboard its intimate, all-suite vessels: Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Spirit and Silver Muse – all designed to offer an atmosphere of conviviality and casual elegance. With the inclusion of the expedition ships Silver Explorer, Silver Galapagos, Silver Discoverer, and with Silver Cloud recently joining the Expedition fleet, Silversea's itineraries encompass all seven continents and feature worldwide luxury cruises to the Mediterranean, Caribbean, both polar regions and hundreds of fascinating destinations in between. Silversea is also looking forward to the launch of two new ultra-luxury ships: Silver Moon is due to join the fleet in 2020, and Silver Dawn is scheduled to be delivered in late 2021. Both will be sister ships to flagship Silver Muse, maintaining the small-ship intimacy and spacious all-suite accommodations.
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