Cruising to Luxury

 

Silver Cloud, sailing near Portofino, Italy
Silver Cloud, shown here sailing near Portofino, Italy, is receiving a significant makeover this month.

 

Luxury means different things to different clients. It could be a traditional luxury line experience, or perhaps a high-end suite, special dining experience, travel to an amazing destination, or simply having more onboard space in which to move about. Heading into 2013, here is a sampling of pampering experiences to entice your clients. 

To the Ends of the Earth: If your client’s definition of luxury cruising is sailing to the ends of the earth, Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Boréal and Le Soléal offer a rare opportunity to cruise the Arctic and the North West Passage, the historic shipping route linking Europe and Asia. Ponant guests clad in red jackets might see musk oxen or Arctic foxes in Greenland, reindeer in Chukota, walruses and brown bears in Kamtchatka, puffins in Iceland or polar bears in Spitsbergen.

Ten Arctic itineraries operate between July and September 2013. Prices start at $4,116 per person double for an eight-day Iceland cruise on Le Boréal. A three-week itinerary on Le Soléal sails from Greenland to Russia; fares, including flights between Greenland, Russia and Paris, start at $15,523 per person double. 

Indulging in “Upmarket” Events: One unique luxury option is Azamara Club Cruises’ complimentary “Best of the Best” dinner; it is offered to no more than 20 guests staying in the 10 Owner’s Suites during every voyage. The library transforms into an elegant banquet venue, as guests enjoy champagne, listen to live music and chat with the ship’s captain, officers and staff. 

Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises offers complimentary ‘Best of the Best’ dinner to 20 guests staying in the Owner’s Suites during every voyage.

The special multicourse menu might include a chicken’s egg shell stuffed with caviar and salmon, and perhaps roasted veal rib-eye and foie gras. One favorite is an appetizer of marinated blue crab, lobster medallions and melon-orange dressing. Each course is paired with wine. The Chef’s Surprise dessert is a decadent white-and-dark chocolate tiramisu with chocolate vodka sauce.

If your clients aren’t able to step up to a suite, in 2013 Azamara will debut one complimentary, exclusive “AzAmazing Evening” event ashore for all guests on every voyage. The new program begins March 27 on Azamara Quest and May 15 on Azamara Journey. Guests who sail to the Baltic might enjoy a private ballet performance in St. Petersburg, Russia, while walking the red carpet and sipping champagne.

Just Me and My Ship: Some clients believe the ship itself is the ultimate luxury destination. Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 will operate 17 transatlantic voyages between May 2013 and January 2014. Beyond its typical seven-day voyages, the ship will debut two new eight-day crossings so guests have even more time onboard. 

Clients might listen to Cunard Insights lectures, stargaze in the planetarium, take a Royal Academy of Dramatic Art workshop or attend a Royal Nights-themed ball. Extended nine- and 10-day Crossings between New York and Hamburg are also available. 

New Culinary Option for Foodies: Celebrating its Dutch heritage, Holland America Line has debuted a new alternative dining option, “Taste of De Librije,” on Rotterdam. Occurring one time each cruise in Pinnacle Grill, the experience features the cuisine of Jonnie Boer, a three-star Michelin chef who operates De Librije Restaurant in Zwolle, the Netherlands.

His five-course menu begins with an amuse bouche of North Sea scallops, and guests then choose from three appetizers, two soups, four entrees and three desserts. Options include “Oysters on the Beach,” venison loin and beef tenderloin with bulgur wheat and smoked olive oil foam. Clients will savor vintages from the Lady De Librije collection. Cost is $69 per person including wine pairings and a surprise gift.

Slowing Down, Barging Along: Anyone seeking a laid-back European journey with a hefty culinary and wine focus might consider a barge vacation. Barges cover less geography than river cruise vessels but they are destination-immersive. Some including the eight-passenger Prosperite, which plies Burgundy waterways on six-night cruises, are also luxurious.

Prosperite plies Burgundy waterways
The eight-passenger barge Prosperite plies Burgundy waterways on six-night cruises.

 

Guests gather around the barge’s open kitchen and watch a master chef demonstrate techniques for homemade pastas and desserts. Multicourse onboard meals feature Continental cuisine with fresh, local ingredients and local vintages. Each cruise, 24 wines and 36 cheeses are introduced, and guests go shopping with the chef in colorful food markets. 

Accommodations include four 270-square-foot cabins, each with private bath. Fares include chauffeured transfers roundtrip from Paris, meals, wines with lunch and dinner, open bar, escorted excursions and bicycle usage. Full-boat Prosperite charters start at $45,900 or $5,700 per person. Ellen Sack, aka “The Barge Lady,” a broker of canal barge vacations, pays 10-12 percent commission and will help agents pick the right barge. Visit www.bargeladycruises.com

Gazing at the Northern Lights: During winter Norwegian coastal cruises deliver spectacular, natural light shows, well beyond the normal fjord cruise. Because of more active solar activity, 2012 and 2013 are expected to be stellar years for northern sky activity. The Aurora Borealis appears when the sun is low or even below the horizon. A Northern Lights display occurs when electrically charged solar particles, high in energy, enter the earth’s atmosphere in Arctic areas.

Fast-moving lights can be yellow-green, green or reddish-violet. For clients who want the “bragging rights,” Hurtigruten offers Northern Lights cruises as do Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

Loyalty Has its Perks: It’s a fact. Cruisers who sail once become repeaters. Upper premium Oceania Cruises has sweetened its Oceania Club loyalty program by adding complimentary air deviation fee waivers and savings perks for Internet, shore excursions, beverage packages and logo merchandise. A new Blue membership level allows guests to earn rewards as quickly as their first cruise.

Other perks include onboard recognition, membership-level pins, exclusive Oceania Club cocktail receptions and member-only offers. Higher loyalty levels include free cruises, free Canyon Ranch SpaClub treatments, and rewards that include both shipboard credits and prepaid gratuities. 

Relishing the Luxury of Space: Sometimes, luxury translates into personal space, privacy and accessibility. On Voyages to Antiquity, 40-60 solo cruisers sail each voyage in search of historically focused itineraries and antiquities visits. So the line has increased dedicated single cabins to 26, or 12 percent of inventory. 

Dedicated single cabins encompass multiple categories from inside cabins to deluxe outside staterooms with a balcony. After dedicated single cabins are filled, solo-friendly supplements are available in double-occupancy cabins and categories.

Stop and Smell the Roses: Ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises will offer “La Dolce Vita,” a new garden-and-floral-design-themed Mediterranean voyage on Crystal Serenity from Barcelona to Venice on April 21, 2013. For example, from Monte Carlo, guests will explore French, Spanish and English garden designs and take a lesson in cooking with flowers.

Onboard, Paul Pryke, a celebrity floral designer, and Sybil Sylvester, founder of Wildflower Designs, will put up workshops and presentations. Crystal also has a second garden-and-floral-themed voyage from Los Angeles to New York on May 6 with garden visits in Charleston, SC, Florida, Costa Rica, and the Caribbean.

More Luxurious Digs: Ultra-luxury Silversea CruisesSilver Cloud emerges from drydock this month with suites, public spaces and dining venues renovated and refreshed. New lobby decor features warm earth tones, and that visual effect carries through corridors, staircases and public spaces with new carpets, wall treatments and art. The Bar, in contrast, has cooler teal, brown and beige shades. 

Le Champagne boasts a new entrance design, new backlit wine displays, a redesigned seating layout and new wood flooring, fabrics and window treatments. La Terrazza has emerged with a remodeled buffet area and new banquettes and more tables for two. The restaurant has new chair fabrics, new window treatments and reconditioned hardwood flooring.

Silver Cloud’s Pool Bar and Grill area is now The Grill, a new outdoor restaurant with more seats and an overhead awning; guests may cook prime meats and fresh seafood on heated volcanic rocks, right at their table. 

Within the suites, sofas and chairs have new fabrics, and Silversea has replaced carpets, headboards, curtains and outside veranda furniture. Suites have new Pratesi sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers and custom-made mattresses. Bathrooms come with new flooring, marble appointments and either a new bath-and-shower combination or new walk-in, glass-enclosed rain forest shower with sitting area. 

Owner’s Suites and Grand Suites have a modern wet-room bath configuration with a new rain forest shower separate from the bathtub.

Royal Caribbean International’s Grandeur of the Seas also has emerged from a $48 million revitalization. Sailing the Caribbean this winter, it begins year-round service from Baltimore in April 2013. 

Expect a Royal Babies and Tots Nursery, eight restaurants, digital signage, new entertainment and a large outdoor video screen. Staterooms and suites have been renovated and updated too. Clients can expect new bathrooms, flat-panel TVs, and new bedding, furniture, carpeting and upholstery.

Everything New is Hot Stuff: For clients who love to be the first to see anything new at sea, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway launches in late April 2013 with the first-ever salt room at sea; it has a dramatic, relaxing grotto setting in the Mandara Spa. Popular in top spas around the world, salt room therapy is reputed to alleviate some respiratory and skin ailments, strengthen the immune system, promote better sleep and have a positive impact on lung function. 

Elsewhere in the industry, the new Royal Princess launches in 2013 with innovative entertainment for Princess Cruises guests. Most notably, the ship’s top deck will become the scene of a night-time water and light show. The island area between the two pools will transform into a stage with a sophisticated lighting and sound system, while a computerized fountain with 85 water jets will shoot the spray 33 feet into the night sky.

Early Bookers Get the Perks: For its November 2013 to May 2014 “Winter Collection,” Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering two-for-one fares; free air; a complimentary one-night, post-cruise luxury hotel package; and bonus savings of up to $15,000 per suite when booked by December 31, 2012. Voyages sail to South America, Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, the Caribbean and Alaska

On these voyages, Regent debuts three new ports, five Grand Voyages with exclusive amenities, and offers on pre- and post-cruise land programs. For example, in March 2013, the 700-guest, all-suite, all-balcony Seven Seas Mariner heads to the Mediterranean with a crossing from Rio de Janeiro to Barcelona and exotic maiden calls in Dakar, Senegal and Tangier, Morocco.

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