One of the newer trends in cruising – especially as modern ships get bigger – is the ability for cruise lines to offer wider accommodations choices, which naturally attract higher fares but in return, offer much higher amenities of a standard similar to that of a boutique hotel.

Perhaps as a tactic to highlight the exclusive nature of these upper-class cabin categories, cruise lines are promoting these as being something of a ‘ship within a ship’ or an exclusive part of the ship accessible only to occupants and any fellow guests they choose to invite in.

If your budget allows you to book in these exclusive enclaves onboard, perks on offer are varied and extensive. From butler service to private hot tubs & exclusive restaurants, these elite areas offer it all to a privileged few. But which cruise lines offer the chance to live like the other half and what benefits come with them? We’ve taken a look at some of the best.

MSC Yacht Club

The private MSC Yacht Club pool area aboard MSC Preziosa.
The private MSC Yacht Club pool area aboard MSC Preziosa.

As one of the pioneers of the ‘ship within a ship’ concept, MSC Cruises unveiled the exciting MSC Yacht Club onboard MSC Fantasia – once one of the biggest ships for the line – in 2008.

Accessible via key card, guests with rights to this section can enjoy a bar with 270-degree ocean views, a private restaurant offering both traditional and modern European cuisine and an ultra-exclusive Yacht Club pool deck. Guests are treated like celebrities by a team of butlers – to whom no request is seemingly too small.

MSC Yacht Club guests are afforded exclusive access to tender boats in ports where needed, even ahead of those booking shore excursions onboard. Yacht Club residents are escorted to a tender reserved exclusively for them.

One perk of the MSC Yacht Club is access to a private lounge with amazing views.
One perk of the MSC Yacht Club is access to a private lounge with amazing views.

Speaking of shore excursions, Yacht Club guests also aren’t expected to settle for the options typically provided by the cruise line. A dedicated destination concierge is on hand, offering personalised tours exclusively for these elite guests, with customised options curated to suit the tastes of each guest.

Shore tours are not the only thing capable of being moulded to suit discerning tastes. Lovers of spa treatments have access to a wider selection not available to those outside. To retain the privacy and exclusivity of the Yacht Club, a private elevator links with the spa. In fact, guests get whisked away to the spa area without actually encountering any others.

There’s more. Guests also have exclusive access to the ship’s duty free boutiques and retail outlets, with private out-of-hours shopping experiences exclusively for the Yacht Club. These extra opening hours allow guests to enjoy some retail therapy unheeded. It’s something of a cruise industry first, with jewellers also on hand to facilitate exclusive jewellery viewing and purchasing parties in the privacy and comfort of your suite.

Norwegian Cruise Lines – The Haven

The private pool area on Norwegian Escape.
The private pool area on Norwegian Escape.

On the debut later this year of Norwegian Cruise Line in Australia comes the first access to The Haven by local travellers sailing from Sydney. The ship – one of the first to debut the concept – features a number of suites which open up to a central private pool oasis.

Manned by a private round-the-clock concierge and butlers, superior services are all included for guests staying in The Haven, such as priority access to dining venues and entertainment all part and parcel. Those really wanting to escape completely will find the butler more than happy to unpack your luggage or just to pour champagne on demand.

The Haven private restaurant aboard Norwegian Breakaway.

Norwegian Jewel’s Haven is also home to the largest suite cruising Australian waters, in the form of the mammoth three-bedroom Garden Villa providing close to 500 square metres of space to up to eight occupants.

This suite includes its own private hot tub, four bathrooms and an alfresco dining area.

The Owners Suite on Norwegian Gem.

Some ships in the Norwegian fleet feature additional perks such as exclusive restaurants and lounges open only to guests of The Haven. On all ships, guests enjoying The Haven receive an invitation to a private cocktail party with the Captain and officers.

Princess Cruises – Club Class

Unlike the first two, Princess’ exclusive class doesn’t actually feature its own exclusive area on the ship. It does however provide its guests with a stack of additional benefits and perks.

Beginning at embarkation, guests receive preferred check-in and priority security lines. This express path through the terminal ensures guests can complete the formalities, be on the ship and enjoying their suite as quickly as possible.

A Club Class Mini-Suite, featuring the new Princess Luxury bed.
A Club Class Mini-Suite, featuring the new Princess Luxury bed.

Upon arrival to each Club Class Suite and Mini Suite, guests will find a half bottle of white or red wine waiting for them, in addition to the standard bottle of champagne normally received by those in suites. Daily in-room canapés are also delivered for you to enjoy as you get ready for your evening’s activity. Upgraded Club Class bathrobes give you something plush and luxurious to wear while getting ready.

Outside of the suite, the evening continues with access to the exclusive Club Class Dining Room, where special “Crafted by Curtis Stone” menus have been created for guests.

At the end of the cruise, the perks continue as disembarking the vessel sees Club Class guests enjoy a priority lounge, a choice of time to leave and preferred gangway access.

Celebrity Cruises – Suite Class

Luminae is a private restaurant open only to guests staying in suites on Celebrity Cruises.
Luminae is a private restaurant open only to guests staying in suites on Celebrity Cruises.

Premium line Celebrity Cruises has taken a renewed focus to the way in which guests enjoy the luxurious suites found on its ships, recently launching the aptly named “Suite Class”.

Guests have at their disposal the services of a personal butler who will complete virtually any task. A private restaurant, Luminae, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and will cater to any of your culinary needs.

The menu features the modern eclectic cuisine for which Celebrity is renowned, with service another step above. All guests booked in Suite Class accommodations also receive complimentary unlimited speciality dining, enabling them to sample venues such as ‘“Blu” for health conscious cuisine or “Tuscan Grill” for Italian family style cooking.

Suite class guests also receive access to Michael’s Club, arguably one of the most exclusive lounges at sea. The decadent space offers a formal setting for you to enjoy a post-dinner aperitif or pre-dinner cocktail. Pay close attention to the art on display in Michael’s Club, with the space on every ship featuring millions of dollars worth of sublime masterpieces.

Michael's Club provides a refined setting for drinks pre or post dinner.
Michael’s Club provides a refined setting for drinks pre or post dinner.

Cunard – Queens Grill

Arguably the most exclusive suites and staterooms on a mainstream cruise line, Queens Grill accommodations are exactly as they sound – luxury fit for royalty.

Famed for the traditional White Star Service emblematic of first class on the Titanic, Queens Grill guests have every little detail taken care of. From hand decorated cakes and cucumber sandwiches served at afternoon tea to carefully curated wine pairings with dinner, everything is overseen by the best of the best among Cunard’s crew.

The Queens Grill Restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2
The Queens Grill Restaurant aboard Queen Mary 2

Should nothing on the extensive menu take your fancy, simply mention this to the team who will endeavour to create whatever you wish, with most requests happily accommodated.

Other highlights at your beck and call include exclusive Queens Grill boxes to enjoy the show in the main theatre, private sun decks with a pool and jacuzzi away from the masses and a spectacular dining venue on each ship, intimate but also anonymous to ensure your privacy at the same time.

The elevated boxes reserved for guests in Queens Grill accommodations aboard Queen Victoria.
The elevated boxes reserved for guests in Queens Grill accommodations aboard Queen Victoria.

A pillow menu boasting over ten different choices ensures a good nights rest is had by every Queens Grill guest, while the king size mattresses are hand woven with silk to ensure you only lay on the finest of fibres.

An in-suite whirlpool tub ensures you are appropriately relaxed prior to sleeping. This is backed up by amenities from famed British brand Penhaligon’s, which works to provide an aromatic journey for your nostrils and a rejuvenating experience for your skin.

Have you enjoyed the ‘ship within a ship’ before? What did you think?