Pluck a book from the shelf, curl up on the couch, and call for some caviar canapés, or hop into your private plunge pool with a bottle of champagne. Until now, indulgent experiences like these have been hard to orchestrate on cruise ships, where space is ever at a premium. But that’s changing, as new ships hit the water with sophisticated designs — and pampering services to match. By Janice Wald Henderson
The resemblance to high-end hotels and residences is no coincidence: these elevated offerings aim to attract travellers who may be contemplating their first ocean or river getaway. “We want you to feel as comfortable as you do at home, while getting closer to the beauty of nature,” says Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn.
These luxury cruise lines are changing the game
When Seabourn designed its first expedition ship, the 264-passenger Venture, the cruise company took cues from the elegance of luxury ski resorts. Designer Adam Tihany, who also worked on the Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, went for high drama: striking wood-panelled staterooms, tactile details like cashmere throws, and floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the ever-changing vistas. The ship’s two-storey Wintergarden suites are among the most elaborate accommodations at sea, with Duxiana Axion beds and hideaway TVs in the bedrooms and, in the living areas, Bang & Olufsen audio technology and well-stocked wet bars.
Viking Cruises took a more personal approach when creating its exclusive Owner’s suites, curating private libraries and wine collections for guests who book the 1,448-square-foot accommodations. (There’s one on each of the line’s seven ocean ships.) In addition, each has an ocean-view sauna; a water vapour fireplace, which uses mist and lights instead of open flames; and a 12-seat boardroom for hosting catered dinner parties or meetings.
Staterooms on Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, the newest ships from the luxury cruise line Silversea, come with foyers and powder rooms that lend a residential feel, along with walk-in closets, hot tubs, double vanities, and personalised mini-bars. Among the most spacious options are the Grand suites, which have massive wraparound balconies with lounge chairs overlooking the bow.
Larger ships, too, are doubling down on service and design. Set to debut in August 2022, the 3,215-passenger Prima from Norwegian will be the first of six new vessels to include a refreshed version of the Haven, a ship-within-a-ship concept the line introduced in 2011. Staterooms in that part of the ship are larger and have exclusive facilities, including a restaurant, pool, and outdoor spa.
Designed by Italian architect Piero Lissoni — the wiz behind Shanghai’s stylish Middle House hotel— Haven suites are packed with statement pieces like curvy chairs and oval nightstands with lipstick-red tops. The upgrades are part of a greater evolution for Norwegian, says president and CEO Harry Sommer: “We were pioneers of residential-style living at sea, and we’ve upped the ante with Norwegian Prima.”
British designer Kelly Hoppen took cues from the laid-back indulgences of home when she created the first Edge villas inside the Retreat area aboard the Celebrity Edge, which launched in 2018. Each of the 940-square-foot, two-storey accommodations combines neutral interiors with bright pops of colour and has a private plunge pool and double-height floor-to-ceiling windows. The newest ship in the cruise line’s Edge series, the Beyond, will also have six of these eye-catching suites.
MSC Cruises has stepped up the luxury quotient with its Yacht Club, a VIP section available across the line’s four Seaside-class ships. Another ship-within-a-ship concept, it offers larger suites that come with verandas and round-the-clock butler service. Yacht Club passengers also have access to a dedicated pool, solarium, restaurant, and lounge.
Even river ships, typically known for more modest cabins, are starting to roll out luxurious accommodations. For Viking’s first American riverboat, the 193-stateroom Mississippi, the luxury cruise line customised its class of Explorer suites, which range from 657 to 1,024 square feet and include wraparound terraces. The ship — which will also have an infinity plunge pool, a promenade deck that encircles the ship, and three restaurants — will make its inaugural sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul, Minnesota, this June.
(This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com)