There is an interesting article in the New York Times that seems to imply that the cruise lines are trending back toward the old “class” system of First, Second and Steerage that existed in the days of the Titanic.
The article seems to be implying that the reason someone would choose an “elite” class of cabin is so that they “don’t have to mingle with the masses.” I feel like the author is only about 1/2 right. In some cases, the cruisers might choose the upgraded cabins to retreat from the rest of the world, but I think the majority of cruiser choose cruising vacations for the social aspect of cruising and choose upgraded cabin classes so that they can receive a bit of extra pampering that goes with these cabins.
The other half of the equation is that the cruises are also trying to maximize profits. If the cruise line can sell a little something extra to their customers that really doesn’t cost the cruise line much more to produce, then they have a great profit center.
One other point that I think this article failed to address is that there are cruise lines that are not all about buffets and fighting to find a spot in the pool. Princess has both huge mass market types of ship, and smaller more intimate types of ships that offer a more exclusive experience. Regent has smaller all suite ships that offer a more upscale, all inclusive cruise experience than what one would find on a Royal Caribbean or Carnival Ship. Both of these companies, Carnival and Royal Caribean, the market leaders, also own more upscale lines like Holland America (Carnival Corp), Celebrity, and Azamara (RCCL). These lines offer a more sophisticated experience than what’s offered on the large mass market ships, but at a price that is some where between mass market and luxury. Often the need for a more sophisticated, upscale experience, that still offers plenty of opportunity for fun social interaction, can be met with cruise on one of these lines.
The bottom line is, that there is a demand for a more intimate sophisticated cruise experience, but I don’t think that the main cause of the demand is snobbery or anti social feelings.