Major mainstream cruise lines have all recently introduced new ships, the 4000 plus passenger mega-ships. The Bliss from Norwegian Cruises, the Symphony of the Seas (the largest ship in the world) from Royal Caribbean, and the Horizon from Carnival, among a few. They are the "hottest" thing in cruising, especially for those who see cruise ships as their vacation destination.
What's the attraction? Exciting new amenities - race tracks, laser tag, water parks with unbelievable crazy slides, zip lines, new foodie venues including breweries and restaurants galore. And the list goes on.
These mega-ships may not be your normal type of cruise or vacation, especially for those who prefer the intimacy of a small ship experience. There may be times, however, where a big ship experience is the best option for the group traveling, for example a multi-generational family or groups with a wide variety of budgets and interests.
The secret? You can get a similar small ship luxury experience on a big ship. Here's how:
BOOK YOURSELF INTO SPECIAL ACCESS ONLY CATEGORIES
Think of this as a resort within a resort. Tucked away on the upper decks, away from the crowds, are suites, dining venues, pools and sun decks reserved for guests who are in specific, upgraded suite categories. Guests have access to all of the ship's amenities, and when its time to "get away", these special accommodations don't disappointment.
Check out Norwegian's The Haven to get an idea of what you can expect.
Photos courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line
UPGRADE TO A SUITE
Suite category staterooms are more spacious, comfortable and come with more amenities, similar to the luxury lines. Upgrade to a standard suite, or even better, a spa category and get pampered with special amenities and unlimited access to the thermal spas. Heavenly (and quiet).
The new ships also have spacious family cabins, with multiple bedrooms and a sitting area. Check out the Ultimate Family suite on the Symphony of the Seas - a two story stateroom with a wrap around balcony and in-suite slide. No waiting in line for the slide here!
Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean
DINE IN ALTERNATE RESTAURANTS
The main dining rooms are the primary dining venues, and thus will be crowded. Specialty dining venues (available for most culinary interests, from steak and seafood to Asian, Indian and Italian) are small and intimate, not as rushed and quieter. Dining is an experience versus a meal, as the menus are truly gourmet. Meals are made to order, unlike the main dining venues that prepare dishes in advance for the larger groups.
Some specialty restaurants that normally have a surcharge may serve complimentary breakfast. This is a perfect alternative to the normally crowded breakfast buffets.
And don't forget about room service if you just need to be alone.
Photos courtesy of Royal Caribbean
FIND SECRET SPOTS
All ships have "hidden gems". You just need to explore a bit to find them. And when you find them, keep mum (or just tell your closest friends)!
Sometimes it will be a hidden corner in one of the lounges, an out of the way spot on the sun deck, or a venue that is used only during certain times. Check out the back of the ship too. Quite often you'll find benches or other seating areas in quiet public areas in the back of the ship.
FIND THE LIBRARY
Game rooms can become crowded, but I always find plenty of space in the library. With so many activities to choose from, sitting and listening to music or reading a book falls to the bottom of the list for most people, leaving a nice quiet space for the rest of us.
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Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder