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October 25, Our ratings are based on our own independent inspections, reports from the thousands of members of The Royal Cruising Society, and the best quality evaluations from both the consumer and cruise industry trade press. Our standings and scores are updated on a bi-monthly basis to include new ships, on-board policies, and product enhancements. Cruise lines do not know when they are being inspected and we do not accept advertising or compensation in conjunction with our product ratings. All evaluations these originate from sources known to us. All are filtered for accuracy. There are some recent developments and trends that have not been widely reported in the press. In order to maintain pricing parity in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the larger, mass markets ships have been under enormous pressure to dramatically increase on-board revenues. Drinks are peddled at every turn. Many of the mass market lines are using flash frozen foodstuffs such as shore side prepared frozen submarine sandwich loaves and low quality hamburgers and hot dogs. Western European staff are being replaced with less expensive and less experienced Eastern European staff. We are seeing a significant increase in Russian staff aboard most of the mainstream lines. Not one of the five largest cruise lines includes drinks. All charge for bottled water and soda. Because cruise prices on the major lines and the low and mid-range budget categories have not changed significantly since , we are starting to see the clientele aboard many of these ships change. Some of the same people who used to travel by Greyhound are now traveling on cruise ships. This has caused some crew discontent. We are starting to see a myriad of unbundled extra fees for fuel surcharges, security, air taxes etc These extra fees are not added to the cruise prices shown in newspaper and magazine advertising. When one looks at the Luxury segment of the cruise industry it is clear that demanding guests will not tolerate cutbacks. In fact, the luxury segment seems to be in a constant state of upgrade in all areas including on-board services, food, and shore excursions. These two lines have forged a new cruise category, First Class rather than Deluxe, at a lower price point than their 5-star rivals while operating on a non-inclusive basis. Our strong recommendation is to take a serious look at sailing on one of the top ten lines at a discounted price rather than risk sailing a mega-ship with substandard service, institutional quality food, and up to 5, fellow passengers. The gap between mediocrity and luxury in the cruise industry is widening. New cruisers who are not prepared to pay that price ought to look at alternative vacation options to avoid sticker shock when they pay their final on-board bill. Finally, our Editors have seen a sea change in the manner in which the larger cruise lines and their small, deluxe distant cousins, handle passenger complaints and problems during the cruise. Because they may carry up to 40, passengers per week, the mega-lines must formalize their policies and responses to complaints. The cruise lines that make it to the Top Ten, have a more personalized, understanding, and more compassionate response to any negative issues that a guest may raise. Please note that cruisetruth. Only the opinions of professional reviewers appear in our evaluations including members of our certified CSI Cruise Ship Inspection Team. CSI inspectors pay full fare and have a history of cruise experience on competing luxury ships. Since its launch in This is a modern, highly evolved, unusually spacious ship that features some of the finest formal services at sea. Dining is an event and, on certain evenings, even the wait staff works in formalwear. Although we currently rank the Europa above her mid and small-ship US-based competitors, she is very definitely not for everyone. Service is top tier, food is the finest available, and the upscale traveler will notice the quality of the China, the perfection of the glasses, and the comfort of the lounges surrounding the single swimming pool. Lectures are cultural in nature and are offered in German. But that does not necessarily mean that American guests are not welcomed. That is because the Europa feels like a very private yacht with an unobtrusive staff. Smoking could be an issue for some. The Havana Cigar Lounge will be a plus for those so-inclined. She is about as smooth as an ocean-going vessel gets with a rather advanced pod propulsion system. The Europa 1 remains a mystery to most American cruisers. There are language issues and the fact is that only a handful of American travel agents have experienced this unique luxury product so it is not the first ship normally recommended. The new 40, GRT Europa 2 carries guests and is yacht-like in its design. They have achieved this by requiring English language course on an ongoing basis for even the lowest level crew member who might interact with guests. A glance around the dining room on the first night indicated any number of Americans who quickly learned that their German wait-staff spoke quite passable English. Those who favor the Peninsular or Mandarin Oriental style will appreciate the decor aboard Europa 2. Think soft, rather calming colors and lots of limestone and steel fabrication. Given the off-tourist routes this line cruises, tourism infrastructure is sometimes primitive. Bus tours and on-board lectures are in German but earphone real-time translation devices are available and seem to do an adequate job. Cabins are generally superior to those of other ships in the five-star category. There are no interior cabins at all and all standard cabins feature balconies, and comfortable seating areas. Staff standards are the highest you can encounter at sea. Issues will be dealt with immediately and the high-end, primarily German clientele, does not suffer fools or poor service lightly. The staff to guest ratios are the highest at sea as is public space. There are many luxurious sitting and lounging areas around the ship and even a sold out sailing will appear to be half-empty. The Europa, with only sixty more guests than a Seabourn ship, has a truly excellent and comfortable Main Dining Room and four specialty restaurants. Of the specialty restaurants, only the Sushi dining area receives some negative comments. As on Europa 1, dinner is a two to three-hour affair so most guests make their unlimited, advance reservations early. There are enough tables for two in all venues. The menu changes daily in the main restaurant. There is never any rush as all restaurants operate on a single sitting basis. Special meals can be ordered with 24 hours notice. Tipping is neither required or expected and they actually mean it. Since its launch and the steps taken to cater to more of a non-German clientele, we are recommending Europa 2 as a much better option for most American guests than the comparatively staid Europa 1. Dress aboard Europa 2 is, shall we say, Euro-chic, but not in a necessarily Italian way. Guests are well dressed but there is no formalwear. Women will be most comfortable in pants ensembles and blazers while men tend to wear jackets with open shirts to dinner. This world-class ship, number one in the world for many reasons, fails in one major area of concern to potential cruisers. There are areas of the dining rooms and lounge areas, too many of them, that are set aside for smokers. True, our German is rusty, but we found the classical entertainment to be just right after such elegant dining experiences. One thing you should include in your review is the manner in which the largest German clientele wants to interact, in English, with the Americans and the Brits on-board. It was as easy to start a conversation on this ship as it was on any of our previous cruises on Silverseas and Crystal, and that really surprised us. We would go again for the food and the white-gloved service. You only need to be aboard for five minutes when you realize this is beyond the typical five-star cruise line notion of true luxury. Very pleased that you are giving them their due. The smoking in the Jazzclub and other lounges was a negative but that was far outweighed by the positives. We were pleasantly surprised that American guests were treated at least as politely as European guests. My husband said he felt like we were privileged guests at the best German private country club. Perhaps we should not tell anyone about this ship. It is already hard enough to book passage. The dress thing was fine. Yes, the folks on-board seem to like getting dressed up. But you never felt like they were showing off their jewelry as we have on some of the American ships. A lot of the Germans and Austrians described the ship as a luxury yacht, a feeling we could well understand. If this is indeed the best cruise line afloat, why is the insulation between cabins so poor? We could hear snippets of conversation on one side of us and a crying child on the other side. We spoke to the Purser who assured us that none of the staterooms had any better insulation. They tried on board, but you should not sail this ship unless you really want to spend two weeks in a German resort that floats. The Guest Mariner and Voyager have hit the sweet spot of available space and amenities to match. The Navigator, at guests, is ideal for those seeking a more intimate experience. Regent now includes a complimentary luxury pre-cruise hotel stay before each cruise. Guests have the option of taking an on-board credit if they choose to pass on the hotel night. This makes Regent the current leader in terms of inclusions but consumers are always advised to utilize our recommended costing formula to evaluate true value versus marketing hype. Drinks are included, along with wines. Gratuities are not expected and all of the ships linens have been upgraded. These are, hands down, the most comfortable and spacious lower-category categories in the luxury market. When considering Regent for families, it is important to note that the Mariner does not have connecting rooms. Navigator only has two. If planning to do laundry onboard, bring fabric sheets, no fabric softner provided.
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