These VIP ‘ships within ships’ are the ultimate way to cruise

Competition is heating up on the high seas, with exclusive ultra-luxe retreats the latest battleground.

By Chris Ashton, May 29 2024
These VIP ‘ships within ships’ are the ultimate way to cruise

‘Bigger, better and more spectacular’ has long been the mantra for many cruise lines. But, while certainly resulting in some jaw-dropping ships, that style of cruising doesn’t float every boat. Some travellers crave a more intimate experience.

To that end, a growing fleet of cruise lines are now introducing VIP havens, or ‘ships within ships’, that give travellers the best of both worlds on one vessel. 

The Haven sundeck on Norwegian Viva.
The Haven sundeck on Norwegian Viva.

MSC’s Yacht Club and The Haven from Norwegian Cruise Line are both excellent examples, each one unlocking exclusive restaurants, pools and a cavalcade of extra benefits, with the option to still enjoy the high-octane thrills of the wider ship, if you so desire.

And they aren’t the only ones worth embarking on. 

Cunard: Queens Grill

British cruise line Cunard is used to giving passengers the royal treatment. While that could be a by-product of members of the Royal Family sailing with it over the decades, it’s actually because its top tier suite class is known as ‘Queens Grill’.

The Grills Lounge on Cunard's new Queen Anne.
The Grills Lounge on Cunard's new Queen Anne.

Naturally, every guest in this class is treated like a monarch, with a private lounge bar and a reserved table at Queens Grill restaurant (yours exclusively for breakfast, lunch and dinner) just two of the top-line enhancements.

Queens Grill, where you can enjoy multi-course dining for every meal.
Queens Grill, where you can enjoy multi-course dining for every meal.

Add to these a fully-stocked minibar plus two bottles of wine or spirits of your choosing, a bottle of champagne on arrival, daily pre-dinner canapés, and fresh flowers to have your cabin smelling with a country estate, and you get an idea of what awaits.

Princess Cruises: Sanctuary Collection

As its moniker suggests, Sanctuary Collection from Princess Cruises is an escape home to an adults-only club replete with pool, jacuzzis and lounges to relax and soak up the live music.

Sanctuary Club welcomes guests aged 16 and over.
Sanctuary Club welcomes guests aged 16 and over.

Debuting on Sun Princess from October 2024, Sanctuary Collection also comes loaded with ‘Princess Premier’ benefits, which include a Premier Beverage Package, unlimited Starlink and 5G for up to four devices, and two nights of speciality dining.

Wakeview Terrace is one of Sun Princess’ standout hangouts.
Wakeview Terrace is one of Sun Princess’ standout hangouts.

Reserved seating at the Princess Theatre is also on the list, as well as boutique fitness classes, ‘Green Lane’ express boarding, and unlimited prix fixe meals (multi-course meals usually attracting a fee) at casual restaurants.

Norwegian Cruise Lines: The Haven

A premium enclave home to the ship’s largest suites, private elevators, personal concierge and 24-hour butler service designed to cater to your every need? That’s Norwegian Cruise Line’s The Haven to a tee, and its benefits extend far beyond these too.

Cabins within The Haven are the pinnacle of NCL’s offering.
Cabins within The Haven are the pinnacle of NCL’s offering.

The experience begins with personal escort onto the ship (as well as on/off at each port), leads to a cocktail party with the ship’s officers, encompasses daily breakfast, lunch and dinner at The Haven Restaurant – and more.

The Haven Bar is the social hub of the retreat.
The Haven Bar is the social hub of the retreat.

Given Norwegian’s ships are home to waterslides and race tracks, you’ll likely venture out to explore. For that eventuality, a mobile phone is provided for use on the ship, making it easy to connect with loved ones no matter where you are.

Celebrity Cruises: The Retreat

Self-described as ‘the most elevated experience at sea’, The Retreat from Celebrity Cruises is all about personalisation and choice, with butler service (now just a quick app message away) and a destination expert to help get the most out of your experience.

Live the suite life on Celebrity.
Live the suite life on Celebrity.

Complementing this are full in-suite breakfast, lunch and dinner service, plus the option to dine at the dedicated Luminae restaurant. You also receive an unlimited premium drink package.

This private restaurant serves delectable dishes you won't find anywhere else on board.
This private restaurant serves delectable dishes you won't find anywhere else on board.

Recent enhancements have made The Retreat even better too, including fresh signature dishes from French chef Daniel Boulud at Luminae, plus a shore excursion departure lounge just for suite guests.

MSC Cruises: Yacht Club

The name ‘yacht club’ likely conjures images of boat shoes and blazers, and while it’s true you will spy quite a few of those onboard, there’s much more to MSC’s Yacht Club.

Butler service is available round the clock.
Butler service is available round the clock.

For starters, this all-inclusive offering comes with a Premium Extra drinks package to ensure your glass is never empty, unlimited dining at the Yacht Club restaurant, and a personalised minibar stocked with juices, soft drinks, water and beer.

Access to the Thermal Suite in MSC's Aurea Spa is also part of the deal.
Access to the Thermal Suite in MSC's Aurea Spa is also part of the deal.

In addition are 24-hour butler service and a dedicated concierge, daily canapés, and even a tailored onboard shopping session outside of regular hours.

Regardless which line or VIP sanctuary you choose though, one thing for certain is it won’t be your last cruise. For that eventuality, here are some of the lavish options worth trying next.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2018

Total posts 24

Have stayed in the retreat on Celebrity and it was worth it with upmarket dining dedicated staff and separate pool and cabanas away from the crowds.


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