I’m sure this post will incite a few nasty messages so let me start by saying this is all my humble opinion. I’m not talking about anything other than our specific experiences. You might have the time of your life on the other side of cruising. That’s awesome. We’ve had a rash of bad luck so we altered course. Please allow me to explain:
As of this post we’ve sailed on the Norwegian Epic (4x), the Norwegian Escape (2x), the Norwegian Getaway (4x), The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas (2x), the Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas, the Celebrity Reflection and the Holland America Oosterdam. We currently have a trip planned on the NCL Getaway in March, the NCL Epic in April and the MSC Seaside in May. We’ve cruised quite a bit and plan to do so for a very long time. We’ve stayed in everything from an inside stateroom and typical balcony room, to spa suites, aft balconies, 1 bedroom penthouse suires and 2 bedroom family villas. We’ve done the $249 escape for the weekend trips and the significantly more expensive suite level trips and everything in between. We aren’t ambassador level or highest level cruisers on any lines. We are Platinum level at Norwegian. I’m only sharing this because it seems to be the normal – hey before you reject me wholly, I’ve actually done these things a few times before.
Back to my initial thought. It’s suite level or nothing at all for Stefanie and I. Why?
Stef and I work over 100 hours per week and we can’t afford a lousy vacation. We work hard, we play hard. Time is valuable and we simply don’t have the ability to go on a trip and stress out about things. We’re new to the suite level side of things. We tried the Haven for the first time on the Norwegian Escape last May (2017) for my birthday. Everything from the time we got on board to the time we left was a vastly different experience. Different than anything we’d ever been used to on a ship before. As of this post, we’ve sailed in the Haven three times. That’s three times that we’ve experienced the suite level of service that Norwegian Cruise line has to offer. Each time the experience was amazing. The food, service, etc. All beyond what you could imagine. Each trip was consistently great in all areas. Starting with:
It’s no joke that the two biggest cruising headaches are getting on and getting off the ship. It can be, and often is, a major stressor and something that can ruin a day / trip for some people. It’s absolute chaos and everyone seems to flood the elevators and the restaurants, etc. It feels like there is a trillion people on board and they are all where you want to be. The lines to check in can rival those of popular attractions like Space Mountain. We’ve been in situations where we’ve waited several hours to get through security, check in and get on the boat. This isn’t the case with suite level guests. Many cruise lines now have a priority security line in addition to a private line / area to check in and wait to go on board. It doesn’t stop there. When you check in regularly you’re told to just follow the signs and get your butt on board. Not in a suite level. Nope. In the Haven, for example, we were greeted by our concierge and escorted on to the ship and directly to our private lounge. They held elevators for us and the crew is so kind to you it’s crazy.
Obviously once you’re on board it’s all about the:
Most rooms on ships aren’t big. If you’ve stayed in an inside stateroom, you know what it feels like to sleep in a shoebox. The standard balcony rooms aren’t much better. There’s just not a lot of space. That’s where things change at the suite level.
After you’ve checked out your suite, it’s time for:
Oh the food. I look forward to bedtime in the Haven just so I can wake up to the most amazing breakfast ever.
What to do after a fine meal? Yep. Time to hit the:
So so good. The bartenders are kind, the drinks are well poured and the level of service is beyond expectation. On all three of our Haven trips the bartenders knew our names and our favorite drinks. They knew what drinks we preferred based on the time of day. They made it a point to make you feel important, well cared for.
Of course when we talk about rooms, food and bars it all comes down to stellar:
Like no other. They make you feel special. The service is so great we felt like we owned the boat. That’s just how they make you feel. They treat you with such kindness it’s unreal. Everyone knows our names. They know the food we like. They all know my allergies. They all know our favorite drinks and the times we like to drink them. We love the crew so much that we often spend our last day taking photos and giving hugs. We are treated so well it makes regular life difficult to manage.
There’s no level of service that compares to what you’ll get with your own:
Need a last minute reservation? Nothing available at your favorite restaurant? Need to book an excursion? Everything is taken care of for you, just ask.
Speaking of being taken care of. How about some mimosas by your private pool? That’s right, in addition to the amazing food, rooms and drinks, you’ve got unreal:
In the Haven on the Norwegian Epic, for example, you have a ton of amenities available to you including a private pool and courtyard, private sun deck and outdoor bar, private grill and outdoor bar, private restaurant and lounge, private upstairs lounge / game room and a private gym just to name a few.
Saving the best for last, it’s all about:
Exiting the ship can be even more insane than getting on board. You either join the early “Walk off” people, the guests who carry their own bags off the ship, or you wait for a time to be called. Most of the time you have carry off guests leaving late or just flooding the lines and that bleeds into the scheduled walk off times. On the big ships we’ve seen the line go from the front to the back of the ship and back to the middle to exit. We’ve seen people get unruly, cutting in line, lots of whining and complaining, you hear “nickel and diming” and “never again” so many times it’s unreal. On the Liberty they forced all guests who carried their own luggage to walk down two flights of stairs. No big deal for us. There was an elderly couple behind me who simply couldn’t move their luggage so I did it for them. This led to several other guests yelling and screaming. Completely unnecessary. All of this nonsense can last an hour, two or worse. All of this negativity and bad energy can ruin your vacation or at least feel like it until you get out of the situation. Nobody has time for this. Is this how you want to end your trip? Nope.
As Haven guests we were treated to a delicious breakfast and then privately escorted off of the ship by our concierge. It takes less than 10 minutes to exit the boat. On our last trip, we were off the ship, grabbed our bags, went through customs and were in our car in under 20 minutes. No stress. No hassle. The only negative you’re left with is an overwhelming sadness that you won’t have that level of service back at home or anywhere else for that matter.
So that’s why we love the suite level of service. We’re excited to try suites on other lines as well. Being treated this way, no stress, no hassles and you’re made to feel like you matter. I’ll take this over constant fighting, complaining and hordes of people any day.
Oh and before you think, must be nice. We aren’t rich. Find out how Stef books us on these amazing trips here.
We’re excited to try the Haven on the Norwegian Getaway in March. We’ve also got a Haven trip planned on the Epic in April and a Yacht Club trip booked on the MSC Seaside in May. Have you sailed in the Haven? How about in the Yacht Club on MSC? Perhaps another suite level on another cruise line? Let us know and share your thoughts below.
Sean Mullen is a Travel Filmmaker, Vlogger, VFX Artist, Brand Ambassador and the CEO & Lead Designer of Rampant Design, Inc. He is a 3 Time Emmy Award Winner and former Walt Disney World Monorail Pilot. Sean is married to the AMAZING Stef IRL.