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Battle of the premium ships: Who should you sail with?

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It’s the most hotly contested segment of big ship cruising. Lines like Celebrity Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, and Princess are all launching new ships with amazing new experiences to tempt one of the largest groups of passengers.

Australia’s 2023/4 season will see Resilient Lady and Celebrity Edge both about to have their debuts here. Norwegian is promoting its credentials as the choice for Europe with its new Prima class of ships.

Come February 2024, new mega ship Sun Princess will also be circling the Mediterranean.

Whether you’re hoping to join the fun of Edge and Resilient Lady’s opening Australian seasons or head across to Europe to test out Viva or Sun Princess, here’s what you need to know about choosing your ship.

On price, Celebrity Edge offers amazing value at $179 a night, while Resilient Lady comes out at the top of the list at $529.40 per night.

Battle for premium cruise lines
The battle is hotting up between premium cruise lines.

The numbers 

Resilient Lady

Resilient Lady takes in 2700 passengers and 1150 crew This gives a crew-to-passenger ratio of 2.3. The vessel has 110,000 gross tonnage and 13 decks.

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge has room for 2918 passengers and 1320 crew. This gives the ship a 2.2 crew-to-passenger ratio. Celebrity Edge has 129,500 gross tonnage and 16 decks.

Norwegian Viva 

Norwegian Viva packs in 3099 passengers at max capacity, as well as 1506 crew. This equals a 2.1 passenger-to-crew ratio. The ship comes out to 143,535 gross tonnage with 15 decks.

Sun Princess

The Sun Princess has a massive 4300 passengers, with 1592 crew members. This comes out to a 2.7 passenger-to-crew ratio. The ship has 175,500 gross tonnage and 21 decks.

Food and drink

Resilient Lady 

Virgin Voyages has over 20 eateries onboard. Unlike traditional cruise lines, they have made a concerted effort to steer away from dining halls and buffets. 

Another key difference between Virgin Voyages’ food and beverage offerings includes no shared galleys so each venue has its own kitchen, staff, chef, and servers.

One of their highlight destinations is The Wake. Designed to mimic a classic New York Madison Avenue steakhouse, some of the sample dishes on the menu include roasted bone marrow, with a 12-ounce New York Strip. All of course, washed down with a martini. Then there is Razzle Dazzle which serves a mix of naughty and nice food – so you can have your whole roasted heirloom cauliflower and eat your razzle cake too. 

Unlike some of the other premium cruise lines, all dining options are included in your cruise fare. 

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge has 29 unique food and beverage experiences, with Michelin-starred chefs curating the culinary experience. There are eight dining options included in your base fare. These vary from the seaside Eden Cafe to the Mediterranean cuisine at Cyprus Restaurant and the French specials at Normandie. 

There’s also Luminae, exclusively for suites guests, and Blu, exclusively for AquaClass passengers.

There’s an all-day room service from 11 am, with a USD$10 fee per order.

There are a range of specialty dining options including Fine Cut Steakhouse and Le Grand Bistro. However, the most famous offering is the Magic Carpet, an extension of the ship suspended five stories above the ocean.

Aged rib eye from Eden on Celebrity Cruises.

Norwegian Viva

Norwegian Viva and Norwegian Prima have different main dining rooms set up, compared to older NCL ships. Rather than nightly rotating menus, the main dining rooms now have a set menu. There are two dining rooms, both now featuring a build-your-own-pasta section.

There is a range of new restaurants exclusive to Prima and Viva. These include Palomar, serving Mediterranean seafood, Hasuki, a new Hibachi restaurant, and Nama, serving upscale sushi and sashimi. The above are all specialty dining.

However, the ship will also be the Indulge Food Hall, with 11 different options of which the majority are included in your fare. 

Other specialty restaurants include Le Bistro, Food Republic, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and more. 

Norwegian Viva has 19 bars and lounges, with plenty of nightlife as well as hideaway spots. Highlights include the outdoor Soleil Bar and sustainable craft cocktails at the Metropolitan.

Sun Princess

Included in your dining with Sun Princess are the three-story Horizon dining room, the international cafe, and the world-fresh marketplace. The Horizon dining room is a brand-new, three-story dining venue, with each deck having its own cuisine and personality.

Princess favourites like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have also had makeovers.

There are also Prix Fine dining three-course meals for USD$15 at venues like O’Malley’s Irish Pub and Kai Sushi. This fee will also apply to Princess favorite Alfredo’s.

More info is expected on dining venues before the ship sets sail in 2024.

Accommodation  

Resilient Lady 

There are six levels of cabins on Resilient Lady. The interesting part about Virgin Voyages is WiFi is part of the package. This is an offering not many premium cruise lines include. The three basic cabin types include the Insider (Interior with no window), Sea View (a cabin with a porthole window), and Sea Terrace (a balcony with a hammock). There are also Rock Star Quarters which have Agents (butlers) at your beck and call, marble calf bathrooms, and premium amenities. 

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge immediately stands out with its staterooms, at about 200 square feet for inside rooms, and starting at around 244 square feet for oceanview rooms. 

The categories increase into ocean view rooms, veranda rooms, and infinite veranda rooms. The infinite veranda rooms include options for singles, offering a more premium option for solo travellers.

The infinite verandas aren’t true balconies, but rather floor-to-ceiling windows that can open halfway. This allows you to get the balcony experience for less money but doesn’t offer outdoor seating.

There are also 146 Sky Suites. In these, the bed faces the balcony so you can wake up to ocean views. There’s also a dedicated living space, shower bathtub, and balconies.

Norwegian Viva

Norwegian Viva notably has 73 solo cabins, These nine square metre cabins can save money for the solo traveller. While a little tight, they still have the premium cruising amenities you’d expect plus access to a special studio lounge.

Inside cabins range from 15 to 24 square metres and oceanview cabins range from 17 square metres for two, to to family ocean view rooms up to 34 square metres for family oceanview cabins for four. 

As you go up the other categories include balcony, club balcony suites, suites, and The Haven. Suites are where you start to see a big upgrade in space, with most available suites around 40 square metres. For the more luxurious side, guests can go to The Haven. Here, rooms go all the way up to the 195 square metre luxurious owner’s suite.

The idyllic Infinity Pool at The Haven.

Sun Princess

Sun Princess interior staterooms average about 13 square metres. Each room has a flat-panel television, closet, cotton linen and bathroom amenities. Premium oceanview cabins rise up to about 20 square metres, as well as of course adding a look out to the ocean.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Signature Sky Suite. This massive 117 square metre room has every amenity and luxury you would think. From complimentary fine wine tasting to a private bungalow, your stay will be a picture of luxury.

A Cabana Suite on Sun Princess.

Entertainment 

Resilient Lady 

Virgin Voyages prides itself on bringing a different brand of entertainment than you might be used to, even on a premium cruise ship. The cruise line takes advantage of its adults-only policy to offer activities more catered for adults.

Now-established Virgin favourites like Duel Reality, a modern and acrobatic twist on Romeo and Juliet and DANCESHOWPARTYANYTHING, a music video style dance show, will be returning on Resilient Lady. 

One new ship is Persephone. An original House of Yes concept, this show re-examines the famous Greek myth with a rock-n-roll edge. 

Also on Resilient Lady is Lola’s Library. This after-hours literary-based show brings together dance, acrobatics, and comedy for three ‘chapters’ of madness.

There are plenty of thereof other innovative and adult-focused entertainment options onboard, each different than you’ve come to expect on a cruise.

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge has award-winning shows and nightlife. The Celebrity Edge theatre is extremely high-tech, with four large stage areas. 

Shows pack-in contemporary music, with chart-topping artists’ hits featuring heavily. 

For more of a late-night disco feel, guests can head to The Club. There will be a nightclub feel as well as high-energy shows.

Eden is a beautiful, open-air entertainment space, which plays host to a variety of entertainment. 

The ship also has a rooftop garden that is generally hosting live music.

Celebrity Edge has award-winning shows.

Norwegian Viva

Viva’s headline-grabbing entertainment option is the arrival of the Broadway musical Beetlejuice. Having already been a Broadway hit, the show will now be playing for guests on Viva.

Viva will also be home to ‘Icons’. This show is a concert experience paying an ode to famous vocalists of different eras. From Dolly Parton to Lady Gaga a full choir and orchestra will bring their music to life at sea.

The ship also has Vibe Beach Club. This oasis is hidden at the top of the ship, with a pool, ocean views, DJs, drinks, and more.

There’s also a comedy club the Improv at Sea, rock bar Syd Norman’s Pour House, and game-show style Press Your Luck live.

Sun Princess

While not all details have been announced, there’s plenty to look forward to for Sun Princess’ entertainment. 

Guess will enjoy movies, live sports games, and concerts under the stars at the open-air amphitheater. Or for a more energetic option, there’ll always be a range of bars with music and dancing each night.

The theatre will put on a range of original musical productions, including Broadway classics and original shows. 

Sun Princess will always have a beer and wine festival twice during each cruise of more than seven days. Here, open-air displays

Activities/facilities 

Resilient Lady 

While the entertainment steals the headlines, there’s plenty else to do on Resilient Lady. Jennifer Lopez serves as the lifestyle officer, leaving her mark on the ship’s lifestyle and wellness offerings.

For starters, the ship has extensive fitness and spa facilities. All gym classes are included, ranging from HIIT workouts, yoga, and guided meditations, and even continue offshore, with curated fitness hikes. The ship also has a complete jogging track.

The redemption spa is home to comprehensive wellness facilities. There’s a mud room, salt room, steam room, plunge pools, heated marble benches, and more. If you’d like to extend your wellness to appearance, there’s a salon, barber, and even tattoo parlour. 

You can also fill your days with anything from hanging at the beach club to karaoke or lazing by the pool.

Celebrity Edge

Celebrity Edge has a significant focus on wellness that you often find in premium cruising. For its Australian visit, Edge has teamed up with Grown Alchemist for a range of spa treatments and products. Edge also has the SEA Thermal Suite, which has eight distinctive therapeutic experiences like a salt room, steam room, crystalarium, and more. 

The onboard fitness centre is also decked out with up-to-date and on-trend technologies and classes. You’ll find high-intensity interval training, spin, and bungee fit classes. The technogym is fitted out with Peloton equipment and more, as well as floor-to-ceiling windows for your workout.

There’s also daily yoga and pilates you can join in on.

There’s always plenty else happening throughout the day and night like trivia and games, and a large, dedicated kids club offering.

Norwegian Viva

Like other NCL ships, Viva is designed for family fun. There’s mini-golf, darts, go-karting, water parks, pools, a fitness centre and more. There’s also The Drop and the Rush for thrillseekers who want to try the fastest slides at sea.

The activities go on with the virtual world of Galaxy Pavillion, Viva Theatre and Club, sports at The Stadium, the casino and more.

The huge Mandara Spa has extensive facilities for treatments. Within you’ll find two detoxifying saunas, state-of-the-art pools, a two-story waterfall, and more. 

The infinity beach on Viva.

Sun Princess

There’ll always be plenty happening on the Sun Princess. The ship’s exclusive partnership with Discovery Communications allows for special stargazing on the top deck. Plus a series of speakers on discovery topics.

The piazza-style grand Atrium will be the hub of the ship. Musicians, acrobats, and chefs will perform throughout the cruise, framed by the multi-stary, marble-furnished atrium.

Princess also has its Festivals of the World. From Oktoberfest to Rio’s Carnival, these gala events inject culture and festivities into the onboard experience.

There are also a variety of sports courts, pools and hot tubs, and art galleries to fill up your day.

The verdict

What ship you should try out will always come down to what you’re looking for. If family fun with a splash of upscale living is what you’re after, go for Norwegian Viva.

For something, slightly more upscale with more of a wellness and dining focus go for Celebrity Edge.

If you’re looking for a cruise with fewer families, but still want to keep the price down, go for Sun Princess.

For an adults-only, non-traditional cruise experience, you can’t go past Resilient Lady.

Price points for premium cruising

A 10-night sailing with Resilient Lady from Melbourne, exploring Sydney and New Zealand starts at $5294.22. This comes to $529.4 per night.

An 11-night Celebrity Edge cruise from Sydney to New Zealand, starts from $1970 per person. This comes to $179 per night.

A nine-night Grand Mediterranean sailing on Sun Princess starts from $2063. This equates to $229 per night.

A nine-night Mediterranean sailing on Viva starts from $3832. This comes out to $425 per night. Although notable, it currently includes a beverage package, some specialty dining, WiFi, and shore excursion credits.

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