What the Descriptions Mean - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 (Berlitz Cruise Guide) (2016)

What the Descriptions Mean

Each of the following ship reviews is preceded by a panel providing basic data on the ship’s size and facilities. Here we explain how to interpret the categories.

Ship Size

Large resort ship: 2,001-6,500 passengers

Mid-size ship: 751-2,000 passengers

Small ship: 251-750 passengers

Boutique ship: 50-250 passengers


Designated as Standard, Premium, or Luxury, according to a general classification into which segment of the market the ship falls. This should help you choose the right size ship and cruise experience to fit your lifestyle.

Standard. The least expensive, offering the basic amenities, food, and service.

Premium. More expensive than Standard, has generally better food, service, facilities, and amenities, more attention to detail, and greater differentiation of suites (with butler service) than standard accommodation.

Luxury. More expensive than Premium or Standard, provides more personal comfort, space, open or one-seating dining, much better food (no processed items, more menu creativity, and everything made as freshly as possible), and highly trained staff.


A luxury breakfast aboard a Cunard ship.

Cunard Line

The oatmeal factor

One factor that I have found to be quite consistent across most ships is what I call the ‘Oatmeal Factor’: how various cruise ships provide a passenger with a basic item such as a bowl of oatmeal.

Standard. Hot oatmeal (supermarket brand oats) mixed with water, with little or no chance of obtaining tahini to add taste to the oatmeal. You get it from a soup tureen at the buffet, and put it into a plastic or inexpensive bowl yourself (or it may be served in the dining room by a waiter/waitress); it is eaten with plastic or basic canteen cutlery.

Premium. Hot oatmeal, water, salt, and a little olive oil; served in a higher-quality bowl, by a waiter or waitress, with hotel-quality (or better) cutlery. It’s possible that the ship will have tahini, to add taste and creaminess. It’s also possible that the waiter/waitress will ask if you’d like hot or cold milk with your oatmeal. There may even be a doily between the oatmeal bowl and base plate.

Luxury. Hot oatmeal (medium or large flakes), water, salt, tahini, a little (extra virgin) olive oil and nutmeg, with a dash of blended Scotch (whisky); served in a high-quality brand-name bowl (Versace), with base plate and doily, and Hepp- or Robbe & Berking-quality silverware. The waiter/waitress will ask if you’d like hot or cold milk with your oatmeal.

Incomparable. Hot Scottish (large flakes, hand-ground) oatmeal, water, sea salt, tahini, and nutmeg (grated at the table), high-quality cold-pressed olive oil and a layer of rare single-malt Scotch; served in small-production hand-made china, with base plate and doily, and sterling silver cutlery. The waiter/waitress will ask if you’d like hot or cold milk (or anything else) with your oatmeal.

Cruise line

The cruise line and the operator may be different if the company that owns the vessel does not routinely market and operate it. Tour operators often charter ships for their exclusive use (e.g., Thomson Cruises).

IMO numbers

Each ocean-going ship must have an IMO (International Maritime Organization) number clearly displayed on a ship’s hull. This was agreed after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington, DC, so that each ship can be clearly identified.

Entered service

Where two dates are given, the first is for the ship’s maiden passenger voyage, and the second is the date it began service for the current operator.


The type of propulsion is given (i.e., gas turbine, diesel, diesel-electric, nuclear, or steam turbine), together with the output (at 100 percent), expressed as kW (kilowatts) generated.


This heading refers to the number of propellers or fixed or azimuthing pods.

The favored drivers are now eco-friendly diesel-electric or diesel-mechanical propulsion systems that propel ships at speeds of up to 28 knots (32mph). Only Cunard Line’s QM2, with a top speed of more than 30 knots (34.8mph), is faster.

More than 60 cruise ships are now fitted with the pod propulsion system, first introduced to the industry in 1990. It resembles a huge outboard motor fitted below the waterline. It replaces the long-used conventional rudder, shaft, and propeller mechanisms, saves valuable machinery space, and makes stern thrusters redundant.

The pods are compact, self-contained units powered by internal electric propulsion motors. They are turned by the hydraulic motors of the steering gear, and can turn through 360 degrees (azimuthing). This allows even the largest ships to maneuver into smaller spaces without help from tugs.

Most ships have two pods, although some have three (Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas) or even four units (Queen Mary 2). Each pod weighs about 170 tons, but the four pods attached to Queen Mary 2 weigh 250 tons each - more than an empty Boeing 747 jumbo jet; two are fixed, two are of the azimuthing variety. Although they are at the stern, pods pull, rather than push, a ship through the water, thanks to their forward-facing propellers, and provide greater maneuverability.

Ships with pod propulsion systems should have no noticeable vibration or engine noise at the stern, unlike ships with conventional propulsion systems. Competing manufacturers have different names for their pod systems - examples: Azipod, Dolphin, Mermaid.

Some ships may be fitted with Becker rudders, i.e. one where the main body has a hinged, second part. This second, or aft, section can be pointed in a different direction from the main body, so that more control over waterflow can be achieved.

Passenger capacity

This is based on two lower beds/berths per cabin, plus all cabins for single occupancy.

Passenger space ratio (gross tonnage per passenger)

Achieved by dividing the gross tonnage by the number of passengers (lower bed capacity including single-occupancy cabins).

Crew to passenger ratio

Achieved by dividing the number of passengers by the number of crew (lower beds).

Cabin size range

From the smallest cabin to the largest suite (including ‘private’ balconies/verandas), these are provided in square feet and square meters, rounded up to the nearest whole number.

Wheelchair-accessible ratings

Cabins designed to accommodate passengers with limited mobility. There are four wheelchair accessibility ratings:

Best. The ship is recommended as being most suitable for wheelchair passengers.

Good. Reasonably accessible.

Fair. Moderately accessible.

None. The ship is not suitable.

Dedicated cinema

A ‘yes’ means that there is a separate cinema dedicated solely to showing large-screen movies throughout the day and during the evening. This is distinct from a showlounge that may be used to screen movies during the day (afternoon) and for live shows in the evening, or poolside screens.

About prices

Some price examples are given throughout the ship reviews (for massage, the cover price for ‘specialty’ restaurants, Internet access, or gratuities added to your onboard account, for example). Please note that these are provided only as a guideline and may have changed since publication. Always check with the cruise line, the onboard concession, or your travel provider for the latest prices.

Footnote to the silhouettes

You may wonder why we do not use color photos of ships, so I thought you might like to know that when the book was first published, I asked a charming lady named Susan Alpert to draw the ship silhouettes. She did a great job. However, she died of ovarian cancer at the age of 33. Afterward I decided to honor her memory by using hand-drawn silhouettes.