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The Real Difference for a Luxury Cruise?

Last week, we did a blog about Regent Seven Seas, a luxury cruise line that has new entertainment, and it got us thinking about how "luxury" compares to "standard" in the cruise world…and by "standard" we mean the big cruise lines with the biggest ships and biggest passenger loads.

So we decided to do as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as we could. One cruise. Same general destination (Caribbean). Same type of cabin (balcony). Same month (November).

For your perusal, then, here is Regent Seven Seas' Navigator vs Royal Caribbean's mighty Oasis of the Seas, the biggest of the mainstream big ships…

Regent Seven Seas is essentially an all-inclusive cruise line. One price covers all, or pretty much all. The cruise we researched is on the Navigator, it's seven nights and it's going to the Western Caribbean, where it will make four port stops.

Price: $4,000.

The Oasis — biggest cruise ship in the world — cruise is also seven nights to the Caribbean, with three ports. Both cruises are to the Western Caribbean, although they have only one port in common. The items priced below for the Oasis are all included on the Navigator:

Balcony stateroom: $1,517
Return airfare: $400
Shore excursions (3): $300
Specialty restaurants: $90
Beverage package: $385
Taxes: $150
Airport transfers: $60
Gratuities: $84

We hasten to point out that this is not an exact science. For one thing, we based airfare on flights from the middle of the continent, Chicago. Obviously, that could vary by where you live, but Chicago is the most central departure point. For another, beverage packages vary, so we chose one that's middle-of-the-road. For another, Regent Seven Seas has smaller ships and higher ratios of staff-per-passenger.

So how much more is it worth for luxury.

The total of the Oasis of the Seas prices above is $2,996.

The difference is $1,004, or 25 per cent more.

What do you think?

Oasis of the SeasToday at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Splendor
7 nights
August 31, 2014
New York (return): Saint John (N.B.)
Inside: $549
Cost per day: $137
www.carnival.com

Energy Costs Impact Cruise Prices

It’s painful to pull up to the pump these days, even when you’re driving a cruise ship. The difference between people like us and the cruise lines is that we have no one to pay the fuel increase for us, and cruise companies do.

They call it a “fuel surcharge” and if you look at the fine print of your cruise documents you’ll discover — if you didn’t already know — that the surcharge is activated whenever the cruise company feels it should be. Fuel goes up, and you pay.

During the last round of dramatic increases in the cost of crude, some cruise companies activated the fuel surcharge for passengers who had already booked their cruises, and were forced to reimburse the passengers later. That led to the change in the wording of the contract that gives cruise lines the right to implement the surcharge whether you’ve booked or not.

Most of them stipulate it can be done once the price of crude oil reaches $65 or $70 a barrel. This week’s price climbed to more than $91 a barrel, and still there has been no action, at least on this side of the Atlantic. So what we have is a public relations situation…when can it be done without alienating you, the customer? Either that, or cruise lines bought their fuel as futures, paying up front for a guaranteed price that enables them to delay the inevitable.

Experts say that with the increased consumption in Asia and Latin American countries, the barrel price is headed for north of $100 in 2011, and perhaps as high as $150. It appears the only thing we can do to drive it back down is use less, which means more hybrid cars.

Unlike the last time this happened, the world’s automakers are ready, with families of electronic vehicles.

Meanwhile, has anybody heard of a hybrid cruise ship?

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