Sailing on a six-star luxury cruise brings new meaning to the phrase, “The butler did it.” But instead of this being the answer to a murder mystery game, it will be the response to your partner’s questions such as, “Did you sprinkle rose petals in the bathtub?” and “Did you order champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries to the cabin?”
There are probably a lot of husbands taking credit for what butlers do on a six-star cruise.
Such special treatment is just one of the many features that sets luxury cruises apart from the rest of the fray. Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, the Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea are leaders of this gold-plated pack.
Accolades for these lines include top honours at Travel + Leisure World’s Best awards.
As well as a butler who will be your personal assistant and return books to the library, make spa reservations and shine your shoes, the crew-to-passenger ratios are the highest of the industry to offer top-notch service on every deck.
On Seabourn’s ship, the 450-passenger Sojourn, there are about 330 crew members — about one staff to 1.4 passengers. Since the space ratio is also about 71 tonnes per passenger, there are no lineups and you’ll wonder if the ship is half full.
Adam Snitzer, vice president of Seabourn, says, “What really attracts people is the yacht-like atmosphere. These are not typical cruises. There is an immediate sense that the experience is going to be more upscale, personalized and sophisticated.”
You’ll also be impressed by how quickly the crew learns your name and remembers details such as your favourite flavour of tea.
“We look for crew who are passionate about dedicated personalized service,” says Snitzer. “The bartender remembers what you like to drink and enjoys presenting it to you.”
The term all-inclusive is taken seriously with the six-star lines. Tips and alcohol are included in the cruise price. Since a bar bill is what usually brings the biggest sticker-shock to passengers, if you’re a heavy drinker, a six-star cruise could be less expensive than a five-star.
Regent also has Le Cordon Bleu chefs on board. Silversea offers cuisine inspired by the chefs of Relais & Châteaux. The Yachts of Seabourn’s cuisine is led by a celebrity chef.
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), outstanding service and amenities are major motivators for passengers, but what really excites luxury cruisers are the destinations. Europe, the South Pacific, Asia and world cruises rank highest in interest, as well as any new ports that are off-the-beaten wave.
The lines want the six-star experience to continue on shore, so they tend to avoid ports that will be deluged by the mass-market mega-ships. For example, some of Seabourn’s Caribbean cruises visit uncommon hideaways such as Prickly Pear Island, Tobago and Mayreau.
Regent’s India Ocean odyssey includes stops in Fujairah, UAE; Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore and Cochin, India; Mahé and Praslin, Seychelles; Port Louis, Mauritius; Pointe des Galets, Réunion and Richards Bay and Durban in South Africa.
Crystal’s Mediterranean and Black Sea cruises include Navplion and Katakolon in Greece; Yalta, Odessa and Sevastopol in the Ukraine and Nesebur in Bulgaria.
Silversea’s ship, the 540-passenger Silver Spirit sails world cruises that stops at Bali, Manila, Phuket, Kuala Lampur, Mumbai, Muskat, Aqaba and more.
Theme cruises are also popular and range from music to fashion. Special interests are enhanced by unique shore excursions — from special concert performances to VIP shopping tours in fashion capitals of the world.
Distinguished guest speakers are another hallmark. Crystal’s speakers include icons such as Barbara Walters and Buzz Aldrin as well as actors and athletes.
“Our passengers want to relax, but they also want to be enriched,” Brad Ball, director of media relations for Silversea says. “Their time is limited and they see the value in meeting someone they wouldn’t normally come in contact with, or being on a ship with someone who is notable. They want bragging rights from their trip, not only from the destinations they’ve seen, but for the people they meet.”
Snitzer says, “About 40 per cent of our guests are not North Americans. We have a large international clientele that makes for a great passenger experience.”
From the onboard programs to the destinations, CLIA reports that luxury cruises stacked up positively against the best restaurants in the world (75 per cent rated as “similar” to “much better”); the best hospitality service standards (94 per cent); the most luxurious accommodations (75 per cent); the most upscale spas (86 per cent); and the most exciting cultural, enrichment and entertainment activities available (86 per cent).
The median age of a luxury cruiser was 60 about 10 years ago but that’s changed significantly. It’s now 45 due to the availability of shorter cruises and more attractive prices.
But one thing hasn’t changed. It’s still best to leave the kids at home – so they don’t acquire a taste for caviar.
Written October 2011