Like most things in life, you get what you pay for on a cruise. But sometimes you can have the best of both worlds – even if, in the case of what are called premium ships, you often pay a little more to get a lot.

  1. From the moment you step onboard, you can feel the quality and attention to detail. Many premium lines pride themselves on having a certain atmosphere, such as a Mediterranean ambience, with friendly, multilingual crew. Others offer a more casual, resort-style feel with an unhurried setting that allows for easy mingling and socialising at bars and pool decks. Then there’s always the question of more space in cabins: bigger, ocean-view staterooms, often with a balcony. On most premium lines towels are changed daily and bed linen every second day.
  2. Ships in this category will have great facilities and plenty of space per passenger. This includes enough sunbeds on swimming pool decks and a casual bar serving ice-cream, fresh fruit juices and cold beers, as well as deck space for dance, group stretch exercises or aerobic classes. Most ships have paddle tennis courts, table tennis, miniature golf, rock-climbing walls, teen havens and a nursery. For grandma and grandpa and those wanting a more sedentary holiday, a good library with a wide assortment of board games, plus card and bridge games are often available. Poolside movies with free popcorn are big attractions for family gatherings after dinner. Premium lines also offer well-appointed spas with experienced masseuses who use quality massage oils and beauty products.
  3. Most premium lines offer good service with a smile as a crucial part of their ambience. Crew staff make a point of remembering your name and the type of coffee or eggs you like for breakfast. Others will try to seat you at your favourite table wherever possible at meal times. At the ship’s many bars, staff will serve your usual tipple with a smile and look after you when you go on shore excursions. They are likely to be on deck with a cold drink and cold towel to welcome you back if it’s is a hot day. Service is fast and friendly.
  4. While premium lines offer many food options from fast-food hamburgers for kids to proper grown-up meals in main dining restaurants, some focus more on quantity than quality. However, you can choose to dine well if you pay a little extra to eat at specialty restaurants, from fusion Asian food to upmarket grill rooms for juicy and tender steaks. This could range from an additional US$30 per person to get your teeth into a rather juicy filet mignon from Nebraska to US$25 per person for a taste of modern Japanese fusion gourmet dishes. There are some elegant lines – especially those frequented by older couples and affluent retirees who prefer to enjoy their meals in an leisurely setting – that offer dining options with a good choice of gourmet food, all served with charming service. There is also a wider and better selection of premium champagne, wine, beer and cocktails.
  5. Premium resort ships take pride in offering plenty of Broadway-style cabarets, comedy shows and musicals in glitzy, colour-rich surrounds. Some have newly refurbished state-of-the-art-theatres, equipped with sophisticated high-tech lighting and special effects. There are often two shows, one for the early diners and the later show for those who like to party into the wee hours of the night. There is also a choice of karaoke lounges, bars with a small dance floor, champagne bars with live bands and discos manned by a cool DJ for passengers who fancy showing off their latest moves. The main lobby of most ships is often the grandest foyer. Some have a resident all-lady orchestra playing classical favourites, while others offer aerial acrobatic shows when the ship’s captain hosts a welcome cocktail party.

Lines to try: MSC Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises World Cruising.