According to a recent Travel Leaders Group survey, 32.7 percent of agents are seeing more luxury cruise bookings today than they were a year ago. Experienced cruisers seem to navigate to luxury as they age and desire a bit more pampering. Other cruisers simply seek travel to more exotic destinations. Whatever the reason, here’s a sampling of luxury or upper premium options for those clients now seeking to “move on up.”
It’s the Silver Jubilee year for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and the line is marking its 25th anniversary with special events and activities on 25 voyages. These include: Seven Seas Mariner’s Amazon voyage on November 17, Alaska cruises on May 13, July 12 and August 23, and fall foliage cruise on October 27; Seven Seas Navigator’s Caribbean voyage on May 13, Panama Canal sailing on June 17, East Coast cruise on August 7, Atlantic Ocean crossing on October 17, and Hawaii cruise on December 11; Seven Seas Voyager’s Asian voyages on April 8 and December 5, Mediterranean voyages on June 11, June 28, July 8, August 20, September 19 and 28 and October 27; Seven Seas Explorer’s Mediterranean voyages on April 9 and 26 and October 4, 2017, northern Europe sailings on July 3 and August 21 and Atlantic crossing on November 24.
What’s planned? On one sea day, guests will enter the Compass Rose galley on red carpet to behold a sea-day lunch buffet of freshly baked bread, a turkey carving station, made-to-order pasta and other such hot dishes as local fresh fish, salmon, lamb curry and Zurich-style veal. Desserts will be presented inside the restaurant on a large decorative display table. Guests also will have celebratory wine, whiskey and cocktail tasting seminars featuring exclusive vintages and premier spirits. They’ll also receive a commemorative pin and can share favorite RSSC sailing moments via www.regent25.com. The line is also doubling its Ambassador Offer on these 25 voyages.
Thanks to Genting Hong Kong, Crystal Cruises is expanding into a luxury lifestyle and hospitality brand. It’s building six new river vessels, two polar-class expedition vessels, and three Crystal Exclusive Class ocean vessels that are part cruise ship, part consumer-owned Crystal Residences. In addition, the company now operates a Bombardier Global Express jet for private charter, plus Crystal AirCruises will launch with a new Boeing 777 in late summer. To showcase the “new Crystal,” Edie Rodriguez, chairman, CEO and president, Crystal Cruises, recently unveiled Crystal Living, a new artful in-suite book with stunning photography, onboard Crystal Serenity at PortMiami.
The 120-page book focuses on Crystal’s personal service, destinations and luxurious amenities, or what Rodriguez calls “ECO” — “exclusivity, customization and options.” Agents who want copies, perhaps as a gift for loyal guests or potential cruisers, can either visit Crystal’s trade website or talk to their Crystal sales contact.
Separately, Crystal said, oceanographic explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau will offer presentations for guests on Crystal Serenity’s May 24 “Hawaiian Havens” itinerary in the Pacific Ocean and the October 27 “Amazon Escape” voyage in the Caribbean and Atlantic. He’ll also talk to guests on Crystal Esprit’s November 19 West Indies voyage.
Seabourn recently christened the new 600-passenger Seabourn Encore, the first of two ships designed by hospitality design icon Adam Tihany. Compared with the line’s existing Odyssey-class vessels, the new ship has one additional deck and newly expanded public areas. Other new features include The Retreat, a sanctuary (for an added fee) where guests can relax in private cabanas, and Sushi, a new dining venue. The second Tihany-designed vessel, Seabourn Ovation, is under construction for a spring 2018 launch. Seabourn Encore is now operating Asia and Australia / New Zealand cruises.
The Retreat, on Seabourn Encore, is a sanctuary where guests can relax in private cabanas.
Through March 14, Seabourn’s “Signature Savings Event” provides value-adds and perks for many 2017 and 2018 cruises. Among the perks? Guests receive complimentary veranda suite upgrades, plus penthouse and premium suites come with a $1,000-per-suite shipboard credit. On Alaska voyages, guests receive $400-per-suite “Ventures by Seabourn” credit.
Silversea Cruises’ new 596-passenger Silver Muse, the luxury line’s largest ship, will launch in April, operate spring / summer Mediterranean cruises, and then head across the Atlantic. It will visit New York before navigating southward and through the Panama Canal on October 18, and ultimately South American itineraries.
Late last year, Silversea also completed a major renovation of Silver Whisper, with new carpeting now installed in all guest suites. Cruisers will also find new wall treatments and rejuvenated wood flooring in the restaurants, Connoisseur’s Corner, Panorama Lounge, spa and beauty salon. The Restaurant and La Terrazza have newly upholstered chairs, and the Observation Lounge has a new marble-topped bar, new wood display cases, and new wood paneling and wood accents. The pool deck has two new whirlpools and the jogging and spa decks boast new synthetic turf.
The renovation completes the third phase of a $170 million fleet-refurbishment program. Silver Discoverer and Silver Wind received makeovers earlier in 2016, and Silver Cloud is scheduled for a late 2017 refurbishment, which will include converting the vessel to an ice-class expedition ship.
During spring 2018, SeaDream Yacht Club plans 24 Caribbean mega-yacht voyages on the 112-passenger SeaDream I and SeaDream II. Because of the two vessels’ small size, it can enter small harbors, drop guests at off-the-beaten-path beaches, and visit such secluded ports as Saba and Culebrita, Puerto Rico. Embarkation and debarkation are planned at larger ports with sizable flight options, such as San Juan, Puerto Rico and Bridgetown, Barbados.
The vessels also carry their own water toys, complimentary for guest use, including stand-up paddleboards and wave runners, all available from the vessel’s aft marina. Additionally, a highlight of every Caribbean voyage is “Champagne and Caviar Splash,” a decadent beachside barbecue served on china.
Azamara Club Cruises has new “Stay Longer. Experience More” branding. Larry Pimentel, Azamara’s president and CEO, reports the line is shifting from simply enabling guests to immerse themselves in the destination to focusing on more than 1,000 new and existing destination experiences and guest choices, as well as one-to-one human interaction, so look for more people-to-people and cultural experiences, and local food and beverage opportunities.
Azamara’s three branding pillars are now immersive itineraries, “Cruise Global, Connect Local” land programs and boutique hotels at sea. For example, as part of “Cruise Global, Connect Local,” the line has new “Nights Local” experiences for theater, a local pub or cultural program, or “Meet Local,” in which guests chat with local residents in their homes, farms and villas.
Azamara also has scheduled more than 250 overnight and late-night stays (8 p.m. or later) this year; about half of all port calls offer a nighttime experience. Plus, its expanded portfolio of world events includes the Monaco Grand Prix, the World Cup, British Open and Venice’s Redentore Feast. New wine- and yoga-themed sailings and “Country Intensive Voyages” will also debut.
SeaDream provides water sports experiences from the vessel’s aft marina.
Epicures will likely love Oceania Cruises’ new evening tapas menus in the Terrace Café. The 14 different tapas menus will feature more than five-dozen small plate dishes. Guests can sample crostini, fruit- and vegetable-based salads, rolls, fresh fish, seafood tapas, crudités and other small dishes artfully presented in tasting spoons and verrines. These are in addition to the Terrace Café’s regular dishes.
Through March 31, Oceania is offering numerous Wave Season offers for all 2017-18 cruises; these include airfare and free unlimited Internet along with a choice of either eight free shore excursions, a free house beverage package or up to $800 in shipboard credit. Also, the line is offering a $99 premium economy air upgrade for a limited time. For Alaska sailings, two adults can bring third and fourth guests (17 years or younger) at no charge.
In January, Viking Ocean Cruises took delivery of its third oceangoing ship, the 930-passenger Viking Sky. The ship departed Civitavecchia (Rome) for spring itineraries in the eastern and western Mediterranean on February 25. On June 22, Viking Sky will be christened under Norway’s “midnight sun” in Tromso, honoring the line’s Norwegian heritage, before sailing Scandinavia and Baltic itineraries.
For Wave Season, Cunard Line has “Upgrades on Us” for bookings through February 28 on select Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth sailings. Those booking Grills Suites can receive a free upgrade and free drinks. Windstar Cruises’ 212-passenger Star Legend will sail to Arabia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia on new 10- to 18-day itineraries between October 2017 and April 2018, while Ponant is adding four new luxury expedition yachts; two will sail in summer 2018, the others the following summer.
Also, Scenic has cut steel for its first luxury oceangoing vessel, the 228-passenger Scenic Eclipse, to be launched in 2018 with 114 all-veranda suites. And Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 will add new In2Balance programming, starting this March. On select cruises, renowned coaches and trainers will present innovative training methods, Far East relaxation techniques and nutritional science findings.