Small Ship Cruises
- Calgary Luxury Living Magazine (1600 words) - Winter 2004/2005
There used to be a cheesy, old television show called the Love Boat, where the crew would take on the problems of each passenger on their cruise ship, usually with initial failure, followed by unbounded success. Mayhem would ensue. Doc would engage in amorous pursuits. Isaac the bartender would pour rum and solve problems Kofi Annan would shy away from. Gopher would try some convoluted scheme. Captain Stubing would wear a smile that told of a dark, unknown interior. In any event, for a 730 passenger ship, they did pretty well every week!
Today’s story is the real life saga of two cruise lines. The “boats” are smaller. The crew, though blessed with an incredible knack for solving dilemmas, knows well enough to give its guests peace and quiet. The ambiance is unmatched.
First, though, a primer on cruise vacations. The days of canasta and shuffleboard before turning in at 9pm are long gone. Today’s cruise lines are essentially floating hotels, with all sorts of marvelous luxuries and amenities to choose from. They are also home to a vast array of restaurants, children’s activities, fitness opportunities and entertainment options. Most cruises are not all-inclusive (as your credit card will find out afterwards), but pricing is reasonable - particularly if you hit the happy hours, and choice is the word of the day. Many of these glistening vessels have more decks than your average hotel has floors and from a size perspective, they are gigantic, often housing thousands of sun seekers on each voyage. The popularity of cruising is also on the rise as it offers a low key, satisfying vacation that moves you around to various ports of call throughout the world.
This narrative will not speak of these types of cruises.
Instead we are going to explore two of the finest ocean-going experiences imaginable. There are two cruise lines in operation who specialize in more intimate gatherings - The Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea. Both are universally recognized as the finest small ship sailing lines available on the known world. Each has been lavishly praised by journalists and travel writers around the planet for their attention to the finest detail as well as their commitment to service. Our earlier comment about their fleet being comprised of “boats” is a sad understatement.
The Yachts of Seabourn
First, we bring you the Yachts of Seabourn. The company, founded in 1987 started out with three luxury cruise yachts, the Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend. Each of them accommodates no more than 208 people, so with a staff of 160 people, that means a lot of one to one pampering. More recently, two other casual luxury yachts were put into service. The Seabourn Goddesses, I & II, were built as intimate cruising yachts that hold no more than 116 passengers. “No Tie – No Tux” is the name of the game here and the experience is truly a cozy one. In fact, on all the Seabourn vessels, the mood is decidedly personal. Common denominators for all the ships include spaciousness & elegance, impeccable service, single-seating dining with extraordinary cuisine, exciting itineraries, a no tipping policy, and complimentary wines at lunch and dinner. Add to this, the size of your suite, a husky 277 square feet or more, and the result is an intimate cruise experience with the right amount of personal space. All in all, a great combination!
The groovy part about these smaller vessels is that they can go into places that the large ships cannot. Try shoe-horning a ship three football fields long into the ports at Greece’s Corfu or Portofino, Italy and you can see what we mean! Seabourn does indeed go to all of the famous ports of call. They just can offer a lot more choice.
If you are cut from adventurous cloth and have time to burn, the larger of the ships mentioned can also offer a 102 day around-the-world tour that must be seen to be believed. Be prepared to traverse the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Twenty-five countries in the lap of luxury. Excursions on-shore are arranged by the staff, including a brand new golf program that brings you to the finest courses, with tee times set and golf pros awaiting your arrival to familiarize you with the track you will be playing
As far as the ships themselves go, they are tres elegant and well stocked with everything the wonting traveller could desire. A menu comprised of over 200 recipes, created by celebrity chef Charlie Palmer caters to all tastes. Seabourn’s Dress Circle implies the best seats in the house and, on these intimate ships, you will enjoy luminaries from the arenas of music, theater, film, television, literature, history, geography, politics, journalism and food and wine. It is again, an intimate experience that is very interactive. The casino presents its obvious charms and the shipboard spa, featuring world-renowned Steiner Leisure Spa Products, energizes guests with everything from aerobics to herbal wraps. The ship’s marina is also a most unique site, where water sports of all kinds are available, wherever the anchor is dropped!
Seabourn is an experience that brings people back, with most of its guests attracted by word of mouth. The people on board know of the finer things in life, are generally philanthropic and thrive on experiencing travel on a high level. Once you experience this type of cruise travel, we venture to guess that you will want to try it many times again!
In the same vein as the Yachts of Seabourn, we find Silversea. This magnificent cruise line was founded in 1994 and again features the smaller ship experience that is so far removed from conventional cruise ships. In this fleet, there are four vessels – Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper. Though not quite as small as the Yachts (the ships accommodate between 296 and 388 guests), the atmosphere is still a most intimate one to enjoy your vacation! One could term it as relaxing and inviting, like that of a fine private home. The signature rooms very much echo that thought, too. The Vista rooms are 240 or 287 square feet in size, depending on the ship, however as the class of room goes up, so too does the size. The mid-range Silver suites vary from 541 to 701 square feet, while the Grand Suite ranges from 1314 to 1435 square feet, comparative in size to that private home we referred to a couple of reads ago!
In terms of staff, there is almost a one-to-one ratio here with the guests, resulting in unparalleled service. The distinctive European style of Silversea brings out the best and the partnerships this cruise line has struck with acclaimed companies, noted for their quality products, presents a high end experience that is unequaled anywhere!
Names such as Loro Piana, Acqua di Parma, Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano, Relais & Châteaux – Relais Gourmands and Davidoff are testament to the thought put into providing guests with the experience of a lifetime.
In keeping with this standard of elegance and sophistication, Silversea just recently announced that actress, model and author, Isabella Rossellini has just been named as the cruise line’s first-ever Ambassador and will be appearing in promotions worldwide. Class personified.
All suites are ocean view and most have private teak verandas from which you can watch the world go by… literally! Silversea cruising removes the worry. All meals, wines, spirits and gratuities are already included in the price. The Venetian Society has also been set up for returning guests to take advantage of members-only benefits and privileges.
One interesting option with Silversea is the Personalized Voyage program. On this program guests can choose the length of voyage, embarking and disembarking from your choice of a wide selection of ports worldwide.
All in all, Silversea is regarded as the Cadillac of cruise lines with no detail overlooked. Like the Yachts of Seabourn, it caters to the sophisticated traveller, who only expects the best for their dollar. Vacationers leave home to see and do something out of the ordinary. We promise you, that this is certainly beyond anything considered ordinary!
The experience of travelling across the ocean into exotic and historical ports is one that has been steeped in romance for a hundred years or more and this form of travel has never been bigger than it is today. Theme cruises are everywhere and there are as many types of seafaring vessels out there as there are ideas of how to put people on them.
These small ship cruises are indeed, something special. Take the amenities of a large cruise ship, bring the quality of product to the highest level, provide guests with a non-congested setting that has just that right amount of structure and house them in rooms that are stylish and catered to at every whim and have we got an option for you! … a couple of them, in fact. Add to this the fact that you will be visiting the finest ports in the world and experiencing new cultures far removed from your own and you can hopefully extract yourself from the thought of Calgary about to be socked in to winter, with jackets unfurling from closets. A world experience is only a phone call away.
The Love Boat was way ahead of its time two decades
ago and Captain Stubing today would likely still be wearing that odd smile.
This time, though it would be with unbridled pride in how much better
the concept of personalized cruising has become. The cheesiness is gone.
The class has arrived. The china is being positioned on the tables as
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