Magazine article Insight on the News

Cruise Lines Pilot Luxurious New Course

Magazine article Insight on the News

Cruise Lines Pilot Luxurious New Course

Article excerpt

Sumptuous cruise ships excel in pampering guests, appealing to sophisticated travelers whose first priority is service. Some sail with almost as many crew members as passengers.

We're unlikely to see the likes of luxury liners of bygone days, such as the Normandie, the queen of the French Line's fleet of floating palaces. Her appointments included two 15-room suites with private decks, music rooms with pianos and dining rooms with warming kitchens -- truly the epitome of seagoing luxury.

Today, ultraluxurious cruise ships are more like posh private yachts than ocean liners. Their lure is a combination of superb service and cuisine, spacious all-suite accommodations and private verandas. In a word, they are civilized. It is not surprising most of the ships enjoy a high percentage of repeat guests, with some approaching 70 percent.

Though there is no fixed criteria by which to rate the various lines or the ships, most in the know agree that the newest entry to the market, Italian-owned Silversea Cruises of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arguably is the world's best luxury-cruise company. Since the introduction of Silversea's twin ships, the line has been credited with setting a plethora of new standards by which all others now are measured.

Think of Limoges china, European crystal stemware, Christofle silverware, Frette linen and cuisine supervised by the Cordon Bleu school with the famed Relais Gourmands of the Relais & Chateaux association. Passengers who want to don formal attire on formal nights always can enjoy a casually elegant dinner by candlelight in their cabins.

"Our ships were built to cater to today's savvy affluent traveler" declares William Smith, president and chief operating officer of Silversea. "The very best of cruise-ship design was incorporated into them -- luxurious suites, a single-seating gourmet restaurant [and] an elaborate show lounge featuring entertainment not found on most small luxury vessels. Our all-inclusive pricing, by far the most comprehensive in the industry, represents true value for even the wealthiest traveler. But the true secret to our success must be attributed to the staff and crew of each ship. Their attention to detail and genuine hospitality create an atmosphere of warmth and welcome that keeps our guests returning again and again."

Each of the two original Silversea ships -- Silver Wind and Silver Cloud, christened in 1994 -- are 514 feet long and capable of carrying a maximum of 296 guests. The ships boast an awesome crew-to-passenger ratio of 1.5-to-1. As might be expected, the larger Silver Shadow carries the unabashed opulence to even greater extremes. Seventy-five percent of its all-suite accommodations feature a private teak veranda, certainly the ship's signature, while the remainder have the sea framed by a 5-foot-wide panoramic window.

Each luxurious suite vaunts a marble bath, a full-size tub and a walk-in closet. The beds, convertible from twin to queen, come with scads of down pillows. Plush terry robes hang at the ready. There's a sitting area with a desk, a dressing table with built-in hair dryer, an entertainment center with remote-controlled satellite television and videocassette recorder, a direct-dial telephone and individual climate control. In addition, a refrigerator and cocktail cabinet are stocked continuously with one's preferences, from champagne to mineral water, always without additional charge. Fresh flowers and personalized stationery also are offered. And last, but certainly not least, a diligent, attentive suite steward keeps the bowl of fresh fruit replenished, as well as the Bulgari soaps and other amenities, including fresh oversize towels in an ever-ready supply.

Silversea's all-inclusive policy is just that. Other cruise companies claim to offer one all-inclusive fare, but Silversea's covers virtually every detail, including gratuities and port charges, taxes, wines and spirits everywhere throughout the ship; round-trip airfare from most major gateway cities; precruise deluxe hotel accommodations with breakfast; and transfers from the airport to the hotel, the hotel to the ship and the ship to the airport at the conclusion of the tour. …

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