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I want to post a THANK YOU to all my readers, 6,200 read and discussed controversial about the controversial design of Le Nouveau FRANCE ... As a soothing I post this design idea of mine.

Luxury Cruise Trends - What's new and next in upscale cruising


There was a time when any cruise vacation was considered "luxury" in itself. That was in the day when women carried parasols, everyone dressed to the nines for embarkation and crowds gathered on the dock to wave bon voyage to the lucky passengers. Or bon voyage parties had been hosted on board, prior to sailing. It was the time when we had to go onboard a liner to get from Europe to another continent, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia or vice versa.
Luxury Cruise
The Regent Suite on SEVEN SEAS EXPORER, rendering! - courtsey REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES
It's also worth mentioning that many mainstream and small-ship cruise lines offer varying degrees of luxury. 
On mainstream lines, it might be intimate Chef's Tables serving gourmet dishes paired with wines, or exclusive suite sections that promise elite passengers upgraded cruise rooms, service and access to areas of the ship that are off-limits to anyone not booked into that category. For continental European cruisers not such an appealing experience. And being locked out from certain areas is creating some kind of frustration. On the other hand, the average continental European does not want to make the aquaintance with prancing "wanna-be´s". Therefore MSC CRUISES reduced its YACHT CLUB area.
Small-ship companies - like UN-CRUISE ADVENTURES - focus on unusual destination experiences (night snorkeling with Giant Pacific Manta rays or exploring Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park via skiff) and stick to low passenger numbers to improve service and lessen crowding. All those experiences translate into a superb voyage. UN-CRUISE is not a real luxury cruise company, but a typical sample for the "luxury of experience" cruise offers.
UN-CRUISE ADVENTURES is sailing mostly with second hand tonnage, updated and refurbished to their needs and standards.
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SAFARI ENDEAVOUR of UN-CRUISE  - courtsey UN-CRUISE ADVENTURES
What defines a luxury cruise today? The common denominators are space - a lot of!, excellent service and food&beverage, access to uncommon experiences and the ongoing pursuit to delight passengers in new ways.
For being top luxury the VIKING vessels have with 964 guests too many passengers on board. Compared to the crew number the ships are falling back the more. Nearly 1,000 guests on board a vessel is nothing else than a crowded mass market offer.
Luxury Cruises
Infinity pool on board VIKING STAR of VIKING OCEAN CRUISES - courtsey VIKING OCEAN CRUISES
We see new "luxury" cruise ships No discussion about luxury cruising is complete without a nod to the newest five-star ships that have recently debuted, as well as a few eagerly anticipated vessels that will start sailing in 2016 and beyond.
Luxury Cruises
VIKING SEA during her ichristening in London - courstsey Vitor Francisco
For cruisers who love more intimate ships, look to COMPAGNIE du PONANT's LE LYRIAL with a guest complement of just 264 passengers. Le Lyrial began sailing in April 2015 and is a sister ship to the line's LE BOREAL, L'AUSTRAL and LE SOLEAL. Each of these ships provide a personalized, "casually elegant" yacht-like experience with emphasis on exotic ports, fine French cuisine, but also customized "American cuisine", and pampering service. One of the major selling points of PONANT's ships is the fact that they can maneuver into smaller, more out-of-the-way ports of call. This leads to some interesting itineraries. LE LYRIAL can take you to Mljet in Croatia, Greece's Fiskardo, Deception Island in Antarctica, Madagascar's Nosi Komba as well as the atoll of Aldabra in the Seychelles. There are also some exceptional voyages along the Amalfi and Dalmatian coasts and the Adriatic and Aegean seas, as well as Antarctica and the southern tip of South Africa.
Luxury Cruises
LE BOREAL of COMPAGNIE du PONANT, the vessels of PONANT fly "le pavillon Francais" - courtsey COMPAGNIE du PONANT
Another highly anticipated ship that had its coming-out party this spring was the 930-passenger VIKING STAR, 228 mlength, 944 pax. This is the first ship from VIKING OCEAN CRUISES, a sister company to popular VIKING RIVER CRUISES, the line will add additional ships, Viking Sea, inaugurated in 2016, VIKING SKY in 2017, to its fleet in the coming years. These ships were purpose-built for destination-heavy itineraries in which the ship stays longer in certain ports, allowing for a more intimate exploration of the region. Inclusive fares cover free Wi-Fi, complimentary shore excursions (though there is also a menu of paid options), and beer and wine with lunch and dinner. VIKING STAR is a ship with a wraparound promenade deck, a fun snow grotto, 11 dining venues, a Nordic-style spa and two pools (one with a retractable roof, as well an infinity pool that is cantilevered off the stern). Just beware that the ship has no casino or kids' club facilities, as it is for adults only.
Luxury Cruises
STERLING DESIGN designed the four new expedition cruise vessels for PONANT - courtsey SDI
For cruisers who love the mega-yacht experience, WINDSTAR CRUISES christened its second and third all-suite mega yachts: STAR BREEZE and STAR LEGEND. They join sister ship, STAR PRIDE. The line purchased these three yacht styled cruise vessels, built in the late 1980s, from SEABOURN, so if you loved those ships you may want to give them a try under WINDSTAR CRUISES´ flag. While the experience is more premium than luxury (you're paying for beverages instead of the more all-inclusive options on other lines), WINDSTAR CRUISES is upping its game by offering complimentary shore excursions on select Greece and Turkey sailings this season.
REGEENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES has long been a favorite with travelers who prefer an all-inclusive luxury experience. The company includes everything from air  travel and alcoholic beverages to Wi-Fi and shore excursions. In July 2016, the company launched the "all-suite", all-balcony, 750-passenger SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER, 224 m length, 750 pax, 552 crew ..., which REGENT says is "the world's most luxurious ship ever built" . What makes this elite Bling-Bling ship so special? For starters, the 360 m² / 3,875 square-foot, two-bedroom Regent Suite is the second suite at sea to have its own in-room spa "retreat," complete with a private sauna, steam room and treatment zone. The first to offer such luxury was EUROPA of HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES in 1999. The suite's other standout feature is a glass-enclosed outdoor sitting area called the Vista Garden that affords passengers unobstructed 270-degree views over the ship's bow. This showplace will be coveted by travelers wanting an experience they can brag about as well as individuals who need a large suite for entertaining purposes while onboard. The ship will also feature REGENT's (!) first dedicated culinary center, The Culinary Arts Kitchen, which will be outfitted with 18 cooking stations so participants can get hands-on training from onboard and guest chefs, a program copied from HAPAG-LLOYD ...
REGENT SUITE, 360 sqm of space ... "if you will shrink a bit it will be sufficient" - courtsey Cruise Deck Plans
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SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER - Source: Wikipedia
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE HOLDINGS Ltd. announced  March 31st, 2016 that it has reached an agreement with FINCANTIERI of Italy to construct a sister ship to SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER for its REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES brand for delivery in 2020, according to a prepared statement.
The new 54,000 GT vessel is scheduled for delivery in 2020, and will accomodate 738 passengers. I expect the same show effect, which is imaginating luxury as in SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER - a mass market luxury offer, a bit more exlusive tham Cloud 9 of CARNIVAL.
Luxury Cruises
Rendering of the Penthouse Suite of SEABOURN ENCORE - courtsey SEABOURN CRUISES
Also in the offing are SEABOURN CRUISES´ newest ships - SEABOURN ENCORE, 604 pax, and SEABOURN OVATION. SEABOURN ENCORE was introduced in the second half of 2016 while SEABOURN OVATION is expected to start sailing in 2018. The design is based on the line's popular Odyssey-class ships but the passenger count will be pumped up from 450 to 604. Adam D. Tihany, famed interior designer and architect, will reimagine the public and private guest spaces onboard the new ships.
SEABOURN claims itself as the top ultra-luxury cruise company, but can hardly fullfil that claim, as the vessels don´t fullfill the basics for the ultra-luxury service. Neither in crew-pax ratio, nor pax-ship ratio and lack the certain "kick" of finery and quality. But broshures are patiently and the marketing department is crying loud enough. SEABOURN is the typical offer those who need to brag.
Luxury Cruises
SILVER SPIRIT first of the new big luxury cruise vessels - Source: Wikipedia
Looking a bit further out, SILVERSEA was busy designing and building a new flagship, SILVER MUSE, which set sail in 2017. The luxury ship will cater to 596 guests. While SILVER MUSE will be based on some of the most popular aspects of SILVER SPIRIT, the cruise company is promising that the new ship is "setting new standards for shipbuilding in the ultra-luxury segment".
Luxury Cruises
SILVER MUSE, the double funnels give in the interior space for new room opportunities - courtsey SIVERSEA CRUISES
SILVER MUSE is right on-course in becoming a floating diamond of gastronomy. Her eight signature restaurants, plus multi-faceted culinary concepts offer a completely unsurpassed dining choice at sea. A separate focus is given over to SILVER MUSES´ culinary experience, underlining her world-class chefs and eight exclusive restaurants. Designer eateries such as the elite seafood and grill Atlantide, or the Asian-fused Indochine seamlessly espouse more bespoke venues, including the Japanese teppan Kabuki, the informal Italian bistro Regina Margherita or the intimate entertainment setting of Silver Note. Silversea classics such as Hot Rocks and La Terrazza are revisited and given a modern approach whilst firm favourite La Dame remains the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea. Wherever you might dine, expect magical evenings with extraordinary gourmet cuisine aboard.
All cabins and suites have balconies. SLIVER MUSE was designed to offer guests a bespoke design, with master craftsmanship, "all-suite" accommodation and unprecedented outdoor comfort.
Luxury Cruises
SEABOURN ENCORE, the new "über" luxury vessel, as SEABOURN states - courtsey SEABOURN
SEABOURN and SILVERSEA, comaptibale? They both begin with the letter “S,” and they’re both big contenders in the luxury cruise segment. Of course, we’re talking about Seabourn and Silversea.
To the casual observer, these two lines may appear to be a lot alike. After all, both operate all-inclusive (we’ll get back to that in a moment) vessels, each carrying a max or fewer than 600 guests.
Service and hardware on both vessels will make you feel like royalty, or quite like. But with nearly or more than 600 other luxury travellers on board, it is sometimes a bit crowded. Especially when there is less crew than passengers ... It can happen, that you have to wait for an ordered drink. Or the steward looks a bit stressed. But you’ll enter an elegant environment where the word “no” is hardly ever uttered, unless you hear it from the person you’re traveling with ...
Complimentary champagne pours as freely as water, and you’ll never sign a check when you belly up to the bar for a cocktail. Dining? It is as elegant as it gets. Lines or queues? Are you joking?
Despite their similarities, in fact, over the years SEABOURN and SILVERSEA have built larger and larger vessels, though they are still tiny by mass market industry standards, however, SEABOURN and SILVERSEA have marked differences. Here are a few differentiating factors for each:
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SEABOURN QUEST and SILVER WIND anchored of Saint Tropez - © Ralph Grizzle
SEABOURN
Operates the industry’s youngest fleet of luxury cruise vessels, all having been built after 2009.
SEABOURN’s new vessels each carry 604 guests max.
SEABOURN’s service staff is largely European, with a smattering of South Africans.
SEABOURN’s vessels feature marinas at the stern that lower into the sea for water sports activities from the aft of the vessel. Say "aft” or "stern" for “back” if you want to be taken seriously when on board.
SEABOURN operates expeditions in Antarctica.
SEABOURN has Nordic influences, in both ship design and in its heritage.
Owned by CARNIVAL CORPORATION, SEABOURN is part of a large family of companies. And here is the knack, the supply chain for the whole group makes it it not really easy for the deluxe quality needed for food&beverage. The beverage f.e. can be found in wholesale stores, even Walmart ...
SILVERSEA
Operates nine vessels, SILVER Cloud and SILVER Wind built in 1994 and 1995 respectively; SILVER Shadow and SILVER Whisper, built in 2000 and 2001 respectively; SILVER Spirit, built in 2009 and the brand new flagship – SILVER Muse built in 2017. 
SILVER CLOUD and SILVER WIND, 296 guests; SILVER SHADOW and SILVER WHISPERR, 382; SILVER SPIRIT, 540, and the largest ship in the fleat SILVER MUSE, 596 guests.
SILVERSEA also operates three expedition vessels, primarily in the polar regions and the Galapagos: SILVER EXPLORER - former PRINCE ALBERT II. ex WORLD DISCOVERER, SILVER DISCOVERER and SILVER GALAPAGOS.
SILVERSEA features butlers throughout its fleet for all categories of staterooms and suites.
Service staff is primarily Asian, including many Philipinos and Indians.
SILVERSEA is family owned, it is the family Lefebvre, Mrs Lefebvre is the heir of the Vlassov empire, SILVERSEA headquartered in Monaco.
The company, and its vessels, have an Italian heritage, evident in officers, food (think homemade pastas) and, of course, coffee served on board.
And despite its mostly Asian service crew, the hospitlity concept is European.
Both companies feature smaller to large accommodations on their ships, multiple dining venues and five-star service. Both companies feature generous space ratios on their ships (meaning more space per guest).
Normally overlooked or not mentioned, for what reason ever, in any Anglo-Saxon luxury review, or comparision is HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES, the inventors of the hotel at sea, top of the notch service and food&beverage quality, despite the French companies, and the inventors of our modern cruise industry - HAPAG´s then CEO Albert Ballin organized the first luxury cruise into the Orient in 1891 on board the top luxury Northatlantic liner AUGUSTE VISTORIA.
The BERLITZ top rated cruise vessels are the EUROPA and EUROPA 2 of the inventor of modern cruising. A heritage that HAPAG-LLOYD is highlighting with its new company logo.
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HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES´ new logo, the cruise company is a subsidiary of TUI GROUP and has only the name in common with the container shipping
No question, 500-passenger Europa 2 is a quite well-designed ship. Its contemporary look, museum-quality art and contemporary furnishings make it feel more like a deluxe European boutique hotel than a cruise vessel. Hamburg based HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES aimed for a resort ambience with this ship, to cast a wider net, beyond veteran cruisers.
EUROPA 2, the 11-deck, max 525 pax and 370 crew vessel, 225 meter length, launched in 2013, was refreshed in dry dock 2015, marks a radical departure for  HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES. It is less formal and more family oriented than EUROPA, the company's flagship luxury vessel. EUROPA 2 also aims to attract English speaking cruisers from beyond its German speaking base. Unlike EUROPA, all voyages on EUROPA 2 are bilingual, with virtually everyone from servers to cabin stewards and lecturers able to speak English or provide translation.
EUROPA 2, pax-crew ratio 1,4, pax space ratio 77,5, average price per day € 1,116.00
EUROPA 2 is sleek, featuring high ceilings, dramatic cylinder-shaped light fixtures and generously sized windows in its spacious lobby bar/reception area. However, other public areas are more intimate than grand, and EUROPA 2 doesn't feel crowded. HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES says the ship boasts the industry's highest ratio of public space per passenger. No fighting over deck chairs or a seat at the bar. Cabins, called "suites," all have balconies and all bathrooms are fitted with separate tubs and showers.
Expense isn't spared. The ship features high-quality materials, silver-leaf ceilings, wide corridors and hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers. The Serenissima Italian restaurant is the only place where polished marble is used. Steel and limestone are incorporated throughout. Top German brands of tableware and deck furniture delight those with worldly tastes. The ship's nearly 900 pieces of original art are noteworthy, including works by Damien Hirst and David Hockney, as well as those of lesser-known contemporary artists especially designed for EUROPA 2.
Ship highlights include four specialty restaurants included in the cruise cost, a bar boasting the largest collection of gin at sea, complimentary caviar nights and seven family-friendly connecting cabins, with kids' quarters stocked with toys. The Ocean Spa is a destination unto itself, with four sauna and steam rooms that are free to use, a relaxation area facing the sea, beauty salon, well-equipped workout area and a hideaway outdoor lounge area with whirlpool tub on Deck 11.
If you want to swing the cooking spoon, book a cooking course at the MIELE Cooking School. Here the Tarragon's chef - the French specialty restaurant on board - shows his students the cuisine of the different destinations of the EUROPA 2. The cooking classes take place in the morning and can be booked as an alternative to a country trip. Participation costs € 80.00 per person, including accompanying wines, cooking apron and recipes.
EUROPA 2 is distinguished by the high quality of personnel who interact with the public. Save for room stewards, the majority are young and from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES says they are paid above-average salaries for the cruise industry. Despite these crewmembers are from the crewing agency SEACHEFS. I chatted with many with university or hotel school degrees who were out to see the world, and conversations ranged far beyond the typical "Where are you from?" cruise-ship banter. Reception staffers are friendly, truly bilingual and smart, able to competently deal with problems such as Wi-Fi access. A server at the Yacht Club restaurant walked over to offer my friend an English-language newspaper, unasked.
HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES hopes international luxury travelers will make up more than 10 percent of EUROPA 2's passenger base, which now is just 7 percent non-German-speaking. You likely will hear little English spoken by passengers, though many can converse with you. English is the first foreign language taught at school in Germany, Austria and Switzland. Don't expect a party atmosphere unless a festive group is aboard.
There's no dress code, but passengers are usually smartly attired. Think upscale resort casual for daytime - and I mean outfits that cost thousands of dollars, from names such as Brioni, Boss, Bogner, Prada, Gucci and Escada. (Ralph Lauren sportswear is considered low-end here, and the ship's boutique stopped carrying it.) The one or the other Haute Couture may take your breath, when spotting. There are no formal nights or captain's dinners. Evenings bring out expensive slacks and knee-length dresses for women, and sports jackets for men. The occasional cocktail dress is OK, but tuxedos or gowns are out of place on Europa 2. You can leave the ties and sequins at home.
With its emphasis on anticipatory service, elegant surroundings, intriguing itineraries around the globe and commitment to offering English-speaking travelers close to the same experience as its core German passengers, EUROPA 2 is a strong player in the high-end cruising lineup.
If you seek laid-back luxury, EUROPA 2 offers a superb cruise experience - especially for those who like to mingle with those from another culture.
The onboard currency is Euro / € . Gratuities are included in all fares, but there are extra lines for them on bar and spa bills. Some passengers tip the hard-working cabin stewards extra at their discretion. Room-service waiters clearly appreciated a couple of Euros or Dollars per order.
Americans who sail on luxury lines might be put off by the fact that alcohol is not included (save for beer in complimentary mini-bars and spirits in mini-bars of higher-level quarters). Except for a welcome bottle of French Champagne, bubbly at the breakfast buffet and some drinks offered at shipboard fetes, you will pay for cocktails and wine at meals. (However, the line recently introduced an onboard beverage credit of up to 200 euros in free drinks, depending on cruise length.) There's also a charge for water and soft drinks consumed outside your stateroom.
Airfare and pre- and post-cruise stays are not included, but can be arranged. Those who book flights through Hapag-Lloyd get shuttled to and from the ship. Shore excursions cost extra.
Luxury Cruises
CRYSTAL SERENITY - courtsey CRYSTAL CRUISES
CRYSTAL is also looking to the future and plans to build three new "CRYSTAL Exclusive Class" ships, with the first expected to make its maiden voyage in late 2018. The 1,000 passenger, all-suite, all-balcony ships will have polar ice class ratings, presumably to facilitate Arctic and Antarctic itineraries. While these ships have capacity for about the same number of cruisers as CRYSTAL SYMPHONY, 922 guests, and CRYSTAL SERENITY, 1,070 guests, the intended new-builds will be much larger - Each will be at 100,000 GT, with 1,000 passengers, while CRYSTAL SYMPHONY has 51,044 GT. The extra space is to be paired with a one-to-one crew-to-passenger ratio. Interestingly, the line will also sell 48 Crystal Residences on the top deck of these ships. Similar to THE WORLD OF RESIDENSEA. The homes will share a private reception area, as well as a restaurant and other facilities. Residence floor plans range from 55m² / 600 sqf to 371n² / 4,000 sqf.
New luxury cruise brands are emerging, and CRYSTAL has stunned the cruising world by announcing not just new ships, but two new cruise brands. CRYSTAL YACHT CRUISES launched in December 2015, and voyages aboard CRYSTAL ESPRIT, a 62-passenger yacht, are on sale. Through early 2018, the ship - formerly STAR CRUISES' MEGASTAR TAURUS (originally built as one of two sister ships, LADY DIANA and LADY SARAH) - is sailing routes in the Seychelles and in the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and a series of round trip and point-to-point voyages from Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Venice, Italy. The all-suite yacht is stocked with everything you expect from a luxury charter yacht: water toys, including a two-passenger submarine (yes, I said submarine!), four 10-passenger Zodiacs for excursions and a 12 passenger 9,7m / 32 ft yacht tender. CRYSTAL ESPRIT is also outfitted with scuba and snorkeling gear, fishing equipment, personal watercrafts, kayaks, wakeboards and water skis.
With the announcement of CRYSTAL YACHT CRUISES there came an announcement about the most luxurious expedition cruise yacht, the CRYSTAL ENDEAVOR project. CRYSTAL now owned by Chinese-Malaysian group GENTING purchased for its vast future programs a number of German shipbuilders, the LLOYD WERFT in Bremerhaven, and two yards in East Germany in Wismar and Stralsund.
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CRYSTAL ESPRIT - courtsey CRSTAL YACHT CRUISES
In addition, the line launched CRYSTAL RIVER CRUISES with two new 70-suite ships that debuted in March 2017. The twin riverboats will offer 23 m² / 250 sqf cabins (plus two 46 m² / 500 sqf Penthouse Suites) and a higher space-to-passenger ratio than its competitors. Amenities include a Palm Court with a dance floor and glass-domed roof, fitness center and spa, a yacht tender for private touring, and active gear - including both manual and electric bikes and Segway electric scooters - for independent exploration in port.
CRYSTAL inaugurated further its fly service, as well own airplanes for luxury air-cruises. Such luxury air-cruises are offered too by HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES.
Luxury Cruises
AZAMARA JOURNEY prior to its drydock in 2016 - courtsey AZAMRA CLUB CRUISES
Ship upgrades While everyone loves a brand new ship, don't miss out on existing luxury vessels that have recently undergone upgrades and dry docks. SEABOURN made it a point to add penthouse spa suites ranging from 48 m² / 516 sqf to 50m² / 538 sqf to its ODYSSEY Class ships, with SEABOURN SOJOURN getting four such new suites right above the spa. Call-out features include the 16m² / 172 sqf balconies, which afford fantastic views over the ship's stern, as well as a living/dining area that seats four, a separate bedroom, bath with tub and floor-to-ceiling windows onto the balcony.
In 2016, AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES invested in both its ships - AZAMARA JOURNEY and AZAMARA QUEST - as they had entered dry dock for major upgrades. New venues and public spaces had been installed, alongside technology updates that will provide passengers with best-of-class service. The bow-to-stern upgrades freshened all staterooms and suites with a new color palette of muted earth tones plus double vanities and rain showers in bathrooms. Further new dining options - a wine and tapas bar, an alfresco Asian restaurant and open-air Chef's Grill - had been installed, and The Sanctum Spa new has an outdoor treatment area. Enhancements are also being made to the AZAMARA Guest App that helps travelers manage all details of their voyage via shipwide Wi-Fi. AZAMARA JOURNEY went into dry dock in the Bahamas in January 2016 while AZAMARA QUEST received its upgrades in Singapore in April 2016.
In the luxury end of cruising I see a new focus on experimental travel. While some cruise lines are putting the finishing touches on new vessels and dry-dock improvements, SILVERSEA and upscale brand OCEANIA are turning their focus to uncommon experiences. Overnight in ports is becoming a trend, as well new arrival (later) times and departure (next day) in ports is hip with these operators, that will enjoy the guests.
Luxury Cruises
RIVIERA, one of the two 1,250 pax "newbuilts" of OCEANIA CRUISES - courtsey OCEANIA CRUISES
SILVERSEA has put an emphasis on programming some pretty spectacular voyages for its luxury expedition ships. Consider the new Shackleton Centenary voyages that will be offered aboard SILVER EXPLORER throughout 2015 and 2016. The itinerary takes you on an 18-night exploration of Antarctica in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of Ernest Shackleton's Endurance expedition. This roundtrip out of Ushuaia calls on the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. If you're a birder, consider one of SILVERSEA's ornithology expedition voyages to Alaska or the Galapagos - available on SILVER EXPLORER, SILVER GALAPAGOS and SILVER DISCOVERER. And if you're the type that wants to cruise on one of the line's traditional luxury ships, you'll love the fact that SILVERSEA is including shore excursions and Wi-Fi on all Mediterranean cruises this year.
OCEANIA CRUISES is generally considered more of an upscale line than true luxury, depite its own marketing, but foodies everywhere agree that the company brings a lot to the table - especially with its new Culinary Discovery Tours for select European voyages on MARINA and RIVIERA. The voyages give passengers the chance to interact with well-known regional culinary experts, explore local markets, restaurants, vineyards and cooking schools; and receive personalized instruction in the ship's hands-on cooking school, The Culinary Center.
Luxury Cruises
NORWEGIAN ESCAPE, rendering of The Haven Courtyard, the secluded "First Class" - NOREWGIAN CRUISE LINE
Luxury big-ship options are on many mass-market ships. Mass market companies are embracing luxury by offering exclusive areas of the ship to elite passengers booked into top-level staterooms and suites. The VIP-only, formerly called First Class, areas may include high-end restaurants, concierge lounges, private pool/sun decks and even fitness centers.
NORWEGIAN ESCAPE is NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE's started its sailing in fall of 2015, and it offers multiple levels of service and experience via The Haven, which it calls a "signature luxury ship-within-a-ship complex." The all-suite accommodations were specifically designed with options for couples, families and multigenerational groups. The two-deck, gated-access retreat on Decks 17 and 18 features a private, upgraded restaurant with outdoor terrace, lounge, courtyard area with retractable roof, pool, two whirlpools plus a sauna, spa treatment rooms and sun deck - all exclusively for passengers booked into The Haven hideaway. NORWEGIAN offers Haven guests priority embarkation and disembarkation, butler and concierge services, gourmet treats delivered each evening to their suite, and more. Accommodations range from the 120m² / 1,300 sqf Haven Deluxe Owner's Suite to 53m² / 572 sqf Owner's Suites.
CELEBRITY CRUISES, another upscale mass market brand, is also crafting more personalized experiences via its new Suite Class initiative. To that end, the line is rolling out a special restaurant called Luminae that will only be available to suite passengers. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served and each menu item will only be available once during a 14-night cruise. Unique "from scratch" meals will feature locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Luminae will be available on all ships with the exception of CELEBRITY XPEDITION. What else is different about Suite Class? Passengers in CELEBRITY Suites, Signature Suites, Royal Suites, Penthouse Suites and Reflection Suites also have exclusive access to Michael's Club Meanwhile, Royal Suite, Penthouse Suite and Reflection Suite guests receive complimentary benefits such as free premium beverage packages, unlimited complimentary specialty dining, unlimited Internet access and a complimentary minibar stocked with beer, soda and water daily.
While ROYAL CARIBBEAN,  cruise ships are known as family-friendly ships with innovative entertainment options, the line recently came to the table with a new exclusive amenity for top-tier loyalty program members and high-end suite passengers aboard OASIS and QANTUM Class ships: Coastal Kitchen. This complimentary restaurant - serving breakfast, lunch and dinner - features fusion gourmet California-Mediterranean cuisine, healthy fare made with fresh ingredients. Lunch and dinner entrees are offered with a selection of California wines. With menu items like serrano ham-wrapped dates with manchego cheese, an array of gourmet flatbreads, roasted rack of lamb with orzo and homemade basil pesto, and salted caramel pudding, you might decide to take all of your meals at Coastal Kitchen. You must be a Pinnacle member or be staying in a Grand Suite-category cabin or higher aboard any OASIS or QUANTUM Class ship in order to dine at Coastal Kitchen.
To me these VIP areas are an attempt of the mass marketeers to rise their revenue above the "normal" level they gain from the "normal" cruise passenger. In average the cruise price is US$ 1,35,00 (including the luxury brands!), but they need US$ 1,780,00 per passenger to achiev a pre tax revenue of US$ 265,00 ...
Having experienced these VIP offers, I met a number of passengers who I would name "wanna-be´s".
NORWEGIAN CRUISE COMPANY´s intended purpose built top luxury cruise vessel - courtsey NORWEGIAN CRUISE COMPANY
Another new cruise line plans to enter the industry as NORWEGIAN CRUISE COMPANY intends to start operations in 2019 with a purpose-built ultra-luxury 180 passenger ship. Initial plans call for the building up to six ships between 2019 and 2020. The brand and product messaging: an ultra-luxury adventure cruise line that will offer the experience of a mega yacht. The vessels will be ready for polar operation.
The project planning started last year, according to Ulf Henrick Wynnsdale, CEO. "The research we have seen in the market points toward smaller ships," he told. "It will be a more adventurous product, and at the same time, the ultra-luxury part of that segment doesn’t have a lot of capacity."
Is NORWEGIAN CRUISE COMPANY the undisclosed buyer that ordered a ship at VARD earlier this month? (Vard is currently building expedition ships for both PONANT and HAPAG-LLOYD at its Norway and Romania facilities. Vard is majority owned by Fincantieri. Developed in close cooperation with the customer, the luxury vessel will be about 145 meters long and 20 meters wide, according to a release, with accommodation for 220 passengers. The hull of the vessel will be built by VARD’s shipyard in Tulcea, Romania. Delivery is scheduled from one of VARD’s Norwegian yards in 2019.)
"No, that’s not us," said Ulf Henrick Wynnsdale, adding that other shipyards had enough available capacity to build for deliveries in 2019 and 2020. The company has already signed a number of letters of intent with various entities.
"We want to have flexibility to go anywhere, and when you are building a ship, adding polar class is not that big of a deal," Ulf Henrick Wynnsdale said. "It’s very early in the project. Our itineraries will be including the polar regions where we see demand."
The luxury vessels will have 90 suites, starting at 36m² each. Ulf Henrick Wynnsdale added he sees the SCENIC ECLIPSE as the closest competitor.
The company is based in Oslo and is already putting together an operation in Miami.
Another new competitor in the luxury cruise business is RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION. I once wrote, being new in the cruise market, you have to be outstanding, and these three new cruise vessels for RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL COMPANY, L.L.C. There is NO other chance for a newcomer in this megalodon driven industry, as to be totally contrary to what these mass market tourist ventures are offering - e.g. VIRGIN VOYAGES or now RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION.
Luxury Cruises
Designers rendering of the coming RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION - courtsey RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION
RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION created by Douglas Prothero and Lars M. Calsen, Maritime and The RITZ-CARLTON, the hotel brand is implementing the project in collaboration with OAKTREE CAPITAL MANGEMENT, L.P. And has a long-term charter contract. The concept of The RITZ-CARLTON YACHT COLLECTION is a unique part of a luxury hotel chain transferred into the cruise industry. The first of three luxurious yachts is expected to be launched in early 2019. Building site will be in Vigo, Spain, as I just learned. This makes MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL the only company in the luxury travel industry to offer exclusive travel experiences both on land and on water.
It is at first sight surprising that deluxe cruise vessels are built for the expedition cruise companies. But with a second view it is THE core market for luxury, as this market is per se higher priced. Another point is, these vessels are "easier" to construct and finance. The revenue will come earlier for investors as with a big luxury vessel.
The mass market companies try it with their "First Class" installments getting a share of the bullish luxury market ... and this targeted group is steadily growing! In 2016 we had over 25 mio High Net Worth Individuals worldwide. Since the finance crisis originating in the US housing market with its Sub Prime credits, and exported worldwide by an administration bare of marco economic knowledge. In the wake of this crisis the millionaires group was and is growing ...
The "normal" real rich is not willing to mingle with "commoners" on board of mass market cruise vessels, where their "First Class" is "flodded" by those who need it to be seen as "rich". But the real rich want to be among themsselves, with like minded of their own.

Free internet WiFi Finally, I have noticed a very welcome trend: free Wi-Fi on certain cruise lines and itineraries. "Newcomer" VIKING OCEAN CRUISES offers free, unlimited Internet to everyone on board. REGENT SEVEN SEAS provides only top-tier suite passengers with unlimited access, while Concierge and Penthouse guests receive a block of 500 minutes for free. Since October 2015, OCEANIA CRUISES offers free Internet to its suite and concierge-level cabins, while CRYSTAL CRUISES offers up to 60 minutes of access per day to members of its CRYSTAL Society loyalty program. AZAMARA CLUB CRUISES offers 235 complimentary minutes to suite passengers. SILVERSEA CRUISES offers free Internet on a great number of its Mediterranean voyages this year; passengers get two free hours of access per day, or unlimited access if booked into a Medallion or higher suite. This is a trend I hope continues to roll out across all cruise lines in the future.


Discovery Deluxe - CRYSTAL CRUISES first-ever expedition mega yacht CRYSTAL ENDEAVOR


Expedition Cruises - HAPAG-LLOYD CRUISES gets two new expedition ships


REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES - SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER - the most luxurious cruise vessel?


GENTING Holding, Hongkong, mit CRYSTAL CRUISES - auf dem Weg zum integrierten Konzern


Discovery Deluxe - SCENIC ECLIPSE


Luxus auf großen Schiffen


Cruise on the most luxurious ship of the world, with Picasso and BlingBling


Luxury cruises and luxury travel


Discovery Deluxe - DAMEN presents it first expedition vessel SEAXPLORER


Luxurious discovery in French Polynesia with PAUL GAUGUIN


SEABOURN and the brand new SEABOURN ENCORE


Deluxe - The Best Luxury Cruise Ships


RITZ-CARLTON is building three luxury cruise vessels

 

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