The definitive guide to luxury cruises
By Gary Buchanan | 19 Apr 2012
If ever there was a word that’s been overused in cruising over recent years, it is ‘luxury’. This commonplace adjective now seems to precede every utterance of ‘cruise’. At sea, luxury comes in various guises from ultra-casual to über-formal, and black tie is no longer the arbiter of good taste and fine living.
At the beginning of the year Celebrity Cruises introduced a new marketing mantra called ‘Modern Luxury’ to showcase the company’s contemporary attributes, which differentiates it from traditional cruising. According to Celebrity, “the new key principles are built around matching and exceeding the aspirations of guests via an innovative and young fleet, distinctive and exquisitely presented cuisine, personalised service and the range of activities and experiences available on board.”
So intrigued was I by this new moniker I joined Celebrity Eclipse on a seven-night Caribbean cruise to see just what ‘Modern Luxury’ was all about. This much-acclaimed ‘Solstice-Class’ vessel has already proved popular with British cruisers during the summer months when it undertakes a series of cruises from Southampton to the Baltic States, Norway, and Mediterranean.
Luxury is certainly synonymous with suites on board this 2,850-passenger ship. Top of the range are two Penthouse Suites which come in at an impressive 1,291 square feet with a 385 sq ft veranda. Then there are eight generous Royal Suites measuring 590 sq ft with 153 sq ft verandas; 12 comfy Celebrity Suites at 394 sq ft with 105 sq ft verandas; and 16 Sky Suites offering 300 sq ft of space with 79 sq ft verandas.
My Celebrity Suite on Deck 11 ticked all the right boxes. Catering to my every whim and caprice were an amiable steward and an omnipresent butler who served afternoon tea in my private sanctuary, brought cocktails when I desired and ensured the fridge was well-stocked with soft drinks. I also had access to the private Concierge Club and could indulge in a continental breakfast served in the privacy of the Tuscan Grill.
This halcyon world of ‘Modern Luxury’ came into its own with the Speciality Dining options. I soon came to imagine I was living in an unstructured, sybaritic environment – one where I could choose my dining preferences to suit my mood. The sophisticated ambiance of Murano offered exquisite French cuisine with commensurate levels of service; the Tuscan Grill showcased a contemporary take on culinary classics from Italy; while the ‘uniquely unordinary’ experience that is Qsine was a feast for the gustatory senses. On other nights I was happy with the formality of the gala dinners, yet enjoyed the freedom of keeping my own schedule thanks to ‘Celebrity Select Dining’ in the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room.
It is often said that the sin of luxury is not in the thing itself but in failing to appreciate it. The unstructured lifestyle aboard Celebrity Eclipse offered a fusion of captivating decadence and artistic modishness; it was like a perfectly balanced wine – understated and elegant. If this is ‘modern luxury’, then bring it on.
Celebrity Cruises has a reputation for conceiving a distinctive experience that’s high on the luxury quotient. With the launch of Celebrity Reflection in October the tag-line of modern luxury will be taken to even greater heights.
This, the last in a series of five Solstice-Class ships, will boast a 1,623 sq ft, two-bedroom Reflection Suite with a 194 sq ft veranda, not to mention a sea-view bathroom extending out over the edge of the ship. There will also be five Signature Suites measuring 441 sq ft. Access to this aerie, forward on Deck 14, will be by a private entrance and there will be a sun deck area for the exclusive use of suite guests. In addition, 34 AquaClass Suites will allow guests the option to enjoy healthy options from the Spa Cuisine menu featured in the en vogue restaurant Blu.
Celebrity Cruises is not the only cruise line which is pioneering this new form of luxury, there are a handful of others which are redefining what we mean by luxury, featuring some phenomenal attributes. Oceania Cruises’ wonderfully elegant new sister-ships, Marina and the recently launched Riviera, offer their guests personal confirmation that they’re sailing in superior style.
Offering their take on ‘Modern Luxury’ these two 1,258-passenger ships have three Owner’s Suites that are unprecedented in maritime design, having appointments from the renowned Ralph Lauren Home Collection. With unimpeded views overlooking the bow, the eight Vista Suites and twelve Oceania Suites have been conceptualized by celebrated New York designer Dakota Jackson. His signature design elements such as the use of extremely exotic woods capture the quintessence of these suites, taking restrained yet luscious taste to another level; less Art Deco, more smart deco.
With the recent refurbishments of Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, these ultra-deluxe ships offer a refined beauty that cannot be understated. Interior designer Keith Rushbrook best summarises the transformation of these ships’ penthouses, “We wanted modern classic elegance. We wanted Fifth Avenue – crème de la crème New York – inspired living that people love and look forward to spending time in.”
At 10,700-tonnes, Le Boréal and L’Austral are the new flagships yachts of the only French-registered cruise company, Compagnie du Ponant. Conveying just 264 passengers, these vessels, with their streamlined superstructure painted in the most unusual colour of taupe, are perfect examples of sleek, maritime architecture. Both are as recherché as they are chic and in their unique way exude a Gallic take on modern luxury.
Throughout the cruise industry today there are some supreme examples of flawless ‘luxe’. Not long ago, private verandas were a novelty; today a clutch of visionary companies are creating peerless touchstones in cruise design where plush suites are coupled with à la mode dining. Modernity and luxury make good companions at sea.
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