No. of Recommendations: 5
While cruise ships/lines come in a wide variety of models, I sore of group ocean-going, English speaking ships into a series of tranches - largely aligned by cruise line (of course with exceptions, like the Prinsendam). While there are numerous one-offs found in small cruise lines, I think the following covers the vast majority of berths:

At the top of the food chain are lines like Regent (who includes all booze, gratuities, Wi-Fi and at least one excursion per port), Seabourn, Silver Sea and Crystal (whose ships are more mid-sized). These lines generally charge in excess of $650 per person per day and include all amenities and sometimes many excursions. Standard cabins tend to be spacious.

The next group, I think of as "luxury-lite", which consists of Oceania, Azamara and Viking Ocean. Depending on how the booking was made (and at what price), as well as tier of loyalty program, these include most amenities, but generally not free booze and sometimes a selection of excursions. They generally cost in excess of $300 a day for a standard cabin.

The next group includes lines like Holland America, Princess, Cunard and Celebrity, which cost somewhat less and charge for most amenities.

Then come lines like MSC, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian where one can expect to pay for amenities, have small cabins, etc. in return for prices which might be as low as sub-$100 a person per day.

It's hard to justify "you get what you pay for" in a world when excursions are generally clonable for a fraction of what ships charge and when the up-charge for included booze competes with the wholesale cost of a couple of cocktails, a pair of beers and a couple of glasses of wine (assuming you are not intent on drinking yourself into a stupor) having a wholesale cost of about $15. That said, there IS a difference in the food, the service, the proximity small ships can dock to the destination, etc. which makes for a better experience - and can help justify the price difference.

It's parallel to the initial idea behind the OP, that choosing an appropriate hotel (sometimes at a higher cost) can "make" the experience - in a world where most hotels do not differentiate enough to matter (regardless of what they charge).

Jeff
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