Posted by: cruise2 | 14 November, 2011

Berlitz Guide to Cruising 2012

by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People writing in cybercruises.com

The latest edition of the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” by Douglas Ward has just arrived. A mammoth tome, as usual since the huge growth of cruising has taken place, it has still managed to slim itself down this year, from 722 pages to 690.
Now in its 27th year of publication, one of the more interesting points about this issue is that Oceania Cruises’ new Marina has joined the top ten mid-size cruise ships (600-1600 berths) in terms of points, with her score score of 1701 being exceeded only by Crystal Serenity at 1717 and tied by Crystal Symphony, all of which have been awarded five stars.

This means that Marina has also joined Hapag-Loyd’s Europa, scoring 1852 and alone in the five-stars-plus category and top of the tops since she was first introduced, and a small number of other ships at the top of the league, rating a very creditable number 18 out of the 285 ships scored this year. In the small ship category (200-600 guests) all ten top ships scored above 1750 and in the boutique category (50-200) five out of ten scored above 1701. In the large ship category, only Queen Mary 2 achieved five stars for its Grill Class, at 1702.

At 1701, Marina has even outscored Regent’s Seven Seas Voyager (1654) and Seven Seas Mariner (1651), which ironically puts those all-inclusive ships into the four-stars-plus category while the extra tariff Marina receives a full five stars. Her 1651 compares well with 1611-12 scored by Celebrity’s four “Solstice” class ships. Indeed, the Marina outscores the Seven Seas Voyager in every category except entertainment, where she falls just one point short of the Voyager.

One peculiarity brought out by the guide is how fully fifteen of the eighteen best luxury ships according to Ward, or more than 80%, have names that begin with the letter “S” – is there something a psychologist is not telling us here? The only ships in this category that don’t begin with “S” are  Europa and the two Crystal ships.

In the “Daily Telegraph’s” Saturday Travel Section this weekend, Ward named his personal favourite top ten as Europa, SeaDream I and SeaDream II, Seabourn Quest, Odyssey and Sojourn, Silver Spirit, Hanseatic, Sea Cloud and Marina. There she is again. Indeed, in his article in The Telegraph, Ward says about Marina: “Larger than all the other ships at the top of the charts, Marina is a ship with some splendid design features and some of the largest suites at sea, with ‘country house’ décor that could easily feature in a glossy magazine. A stunning wrought-iron and Lalique horseshoe-shaped staircase is the focal point of the ship’s finely outfitted interior, while only the very best linens and fabrics have been provided.”

Back to the Berlitz Guide, also new this year is Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, whose Grill Class scored her 1690, for four-stars-plus, exceeding slightly Queen Victoria’s 1671. And new to the top ten boutique ships this year is Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Bremen, scoring 1553, well up from 1461 last year.  Bremen went up in points in all categories, but particularly in cruise experience, where she was up 14%, and food, where she gained 5%. By comparison her five-star fleetmate Hanseatic scored 1746, for five stars.

Also new this year, in big ships, Celebrity Silhouette at 1612 and Disney Dream at 1555, both at four-stars-plus, Mein Schiff 2 at 1548, Allure of the Seas at 1528, Queen Elizabeth (Britannia Class), at 1493, AidaSol at 1490 and Costa Favolosa at 1447, all at four-stars. In the mid-size category, there was notable improvement in the scores of Azamara Quest (1562 as against 1466) and Azamara Journey (1561, up from 1465), which took both ships from four stars into four-stars-plus since they were rebranded as Azamara Club Cruises.

Newly rated Adonia came close at 1540, but scored just four stars. In small ships, Seabourn Quest came in with a score of 1787 for a solid five-star rating. while French twins L’Austral and Le Boréal came in at 1543 each, for four-star status, and Aegean Odyssey scored 1341 for a three-stars-plus.

One surprise, however, is that a ship called Hamburg that is not sailing yet scored 1398 points for three-stars-plus. That ship is still sailing today as  Columbus for Hapag-Lloyd and will have a complete change of crew when new operators Plantours take her over in six months time, so we fail to see how Berlitz managed to score her in advance. Perhaps more deserving of a “Not Yet Rated” score we should think. In the same way, two other ships, Spirit of Oceanus, now trading as Sea Spirit, and Clelia II, now trading as Orion II, seem to have come through their changes of identity with identical scores of 1222 and 1402, respectively, after a change of ownership and areas of operation.

All in all, however, the “Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships” is well worth the money and answers many of the questions the cruise lines, or even some cruise agents, won’t answer.

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