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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.