Confused about cruise ship ratings?

Here’s a guide to help you understand them

You’re booking a cruise for the first time in your life and suddenly faced with a bewildering array of cruise ships with different star ratings.

Of course it stands to reason that a six-star cruise ship is better than a three-star cruise ship but in what way?

And what do you get for your money when you book a substantially more expensive holiday with a six-star rating rather than a ‘value-for-money’ four-star cruise for the family?

Cruises are assessed on a number of star rating points which include food quality and service, crew attitude and standard, range and condition of amenities, décor, layout, family focus and children’s entertainment, itinerary and extras such as wellness spas, jogging tracks and educational, ‘betterment’ programmes.

It’s also worth noting that your experience and consequent critical rating of a cruise ship is subjective – whether or not it is a six star or a four star ship.


Six Stars ******

Six stars guarantee a luxury holiday – the crème de la crème of cruise holidays.

You can expect the cabins to be well-designed, larger than average, and equipped with DVD players, separate seating areas, and luxury bathrooms. Most cabins should have private balconies.

It goes without saying that the cuisine will be like that of a top restaurant in a major city or ‘top notch’ as Cruise Critic notes. Main restaurant venues will be open seating and alternative restaurants will offer something really different and not charge an entry fee.  Most drinks are included in the price also.

Also, the spa and fitness facilities, theatres and public lounges should be the sort you’d find in a boutique, luxury hotel anywhere in the world.

And the itineraries should incorporate both high profile, mainstream destinations, and some exotic off- the- beaten track destinations too.

Above all, it’s the level of service that counts. It should be unobtrusive but always there and anticipating every need from every staff member –dining room waiters, cabin attendant and cruise staff.

Silversea, Radisson, Seabourn and Crystal all fall into the six star category.


Five Stars *****

Five stars are still not to be sniffed at – they are often run by luxury or premium cruise lines with gourmet cuisine, great service and lovely amenities, such as spas and theatres.

You will be able to book a standard cabin or at a cost, a larger, more lavish cabin, which will obviously have all the bells and whistles.

Butler service will be available for the more expensive cabins and concierges for all cabins. Restaurants may be open seating or you may be assigned a set dining time and the same table every night.

Some ships will have excellent and innovative children’s programmes.

However, there may be some inconsistency in service delivery and quality of cuisine, itineraries will incorporate mainstream destinations only and, because it’s a big ship be prepared for queues and crowds.

Cruise lines with five-star ratings include Holland America Line, Windstar Cruises, Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Paul Gauguin Cruises.


Four Stars ****

This is still a good value-for- money cruise holiday for families with great kids’ programmes, spa and fitness facilities and mainstream itineraries.

It will probably be a large ship but in good condition, and average-size cabins, usually with verandahs. But the cabins will have all the usual necessities with hair dryers, decent storage and functional, but not fancy, bathrooms.

Dining, like a five star cruise ship, will be either/or open seating or set dining times. Sometimes you will get a choice and other specialty restaurants will be available with an additional charge.

Four-star cruise lines include MSC Cruises, Disney, Royal Caribbean International, P & O Cruises and Carnival Cruises.


Three Stars ***

This cruise ship will have many similarities to four-star ships but the ship will probably be a bit older and tired even though it may belong to a mainstream cruise line.

The trouble is, although it’s cheaper, and you saved money, your cabin and other facilities such as the gym and spa are likely to be small, you’ll spend a lot of time in queues and the food may not sometimes be that great.

But don’t dismiss this option altogether.

Although these ships are often smaller than the industry norm, you can often feel a more cosy and personal atmosphere, and you will get to know the staff better and vice versa.

Ships in the three-star category include P & O Cruises, Voyages of Discovery, Un-cruise Adventures and Costa Cruises.


Two Stars **

These are often small ships going to out-of-the-way places, where ports of call are more important to a passenger than luxurious facilities.

They generally offer the best value because of this – you will get a clean and basic cabin with decent food. The service may be good, maybe not.

But the ship will usually have an outdoor pool and an exercise room and some public lounges –  but don’t expect elegant, new décor.

Cruise ships with two stars include American Cruise Lines.


One Star *

We couldn’t find any ships with this star rating!

As one cruise ship critic said: “We’re glad to say we’ve yet to sail on a ship this bad!”


Thanks to Rachel Struges


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