Top Shelf: Cruising’s Best Suites and Villas

 

The Royal Loft Suite aboard Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has an extended balcony with its own entertainment area and Jacuzzi.

 

Excess and Royal Caribbean go hand in hand—and Oasis of the Seas is the prime example. Suites aboard are as seminal as they are extravagant; none better than the bi-level, two-bedroom Royal Loft Suite. To see it is to forget it was fitted on a cruise ship. The 1,524 square feet of living space is supplemented by 834 square feet of balcony space. Note: This suite can be combined with an adjoining Crown Royal Suite for a whopping 3,026 square feet of indoor and outdoor space. Now that you’ve got enough room to land a jet, check out the amenities: we are talking double-height floor-to-ceiling windows, a private library, flat-screen TVs, a player baby grand piano, indoor and outdoor dining rooms and concierge service. Top Touch: The extended balcony has its own LCD TV, entertainment area and Jacuzzi.

Supplementing the Royal Loft Suite, Oasis of the Seas has 25 Crown Loft Suites, a Sky Loft Suite and a Crown Accessible Loft Suite with an elevator. Twenty-eight loft suites altogether, though Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ chairman and CEO, wishes they had built even more. Rest assured there are other great suites onboard, including a Royal Suite, Presidential Family Suite (wow factor: it sleeps 14 people) and six AquaTheater Suites, which have wrap-around balconies overlooking the Boardwalk, the AquaTheater and the ocean. Note: Guests booked in a Grand Suite or higher enjoy access to the Concierge Club, which includes complimentary business services and daily pre-dinner cocktail receptions. A concierge is also on hand to see to guest needs and special requests (think securing specialty restaurant reservations and booking shore excursions).

Oasis of the Seas’ suites represent a growing concept: achieving a luxury experience aboard, what’s considered, a non-luxury ship. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic falls under the same heading. The ship debuts in July and, like other NCL ships—Gem, Pearl, Jade, Jewel

—will have Courtyard Villa accommodations. These villas (46 in all) sleep five guests each and have all the creature comforts one would expect from a villa accommodation—flat-screen TVs, butler and concierge services and access to the Courtyard Villa complex and its private pool, cabanas, daybeds and gym.

But the gem aboard Epic will be the eight Deluxe Owner’s Suites. Each of these suites has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean, whirlpool, open-air balcony (note: some feature solariums) and butler and concierge services.

Great suites have become so important that some cruise lines are teaming up with name-brand retailers to help with design. Oceania Cruises’ top-line Owner’s Suites on Marina, which debuts next January, will have furnishings by Ralph Lauren Home. At 2,500 square feet apiece, the three Owner’s Suites will be some of the largest at sea. Upon entering, guests will be smack in the middle of a foyer, which looks like the vestibule of an estate home. Walls of inset Georgian wood paneling are finished in an ivory gloss. Top Touch: An ebony baby grand piano serves as the room’s focal point. We hear that it can be programmed to play guests’ favorite tunes.

The living and dining room area has a rich, clubby look. A 42-inch flat-screen TV mounted atop a nickel and mahogany entertainment center is another modern, but classic, touch.

The bedroom and bathroom are also striking. Walls are covered in cashmere, for one, while the centerpiece is a Bel Air mahogany bed. Across the room is the Ralph Lauren Highbridge desk. Note: Each Owner’s Suite will also have its very own workout room. An English-trained butler tops off the experience.

Last but not least, each Owner’s Suite will have a wrap-around deck with private Jacuzzi. Guests will also be able to watch a TV mounted on the wall outside. Not enough? Owner’s Suites guests will be able to arrange course-by-course in-room dining from any of Marina’s restaurants, which will include Jacques, a French bistro by famed chef Jacques Pepin (his first restaurant at sea).

 

 

Marina’s Owner’s Suite bedroom is decorated with Ralph Lauren Home furnishings.

 

Meanwhile, at the top end of the luxury chain, Seabourn and Silversea have, of late, debuted new suites of their own. Silver Spirit hit the high seas at the end of last year with a host of top accommodations—none finer than the two Owner’s Suites on Deck 8, each with large teak verandas and floor-to-ceiling glass doors. However, when we sailed in December, our Grand Suite, No. 801, made it difficult for us to believe that there were accommodations more luxe.

First, all six of the Grand Suites are at the front of the ship, allowing for great views. Top Draw: No doubt the expansive balcony, capable of accommodating about 15 guests for a dinner party or social gathering. Inside, there is a large living room/dining area, which even boasts an in-room caviar menu (think $500 for a 50-gram tin of Petrossian Beluga “Royal”).

 

 

A Wintergarden Suite aboard Seabourn Odyssey has a glass-enclosed solarium.

 

Top Service: An evening after dinner, we came back to a dimmed room and a candle-lit bathroom that had a rose-water filled bathtub. That’s not all. Our butler had plugged in an Elemis Aromapure contraption that filled the room with a sweet fragrance. We think this is the kind of experience to come back to after a fine meal.

Meanwhile, Seabourn Odyssey’s two Wintergarden Suites, Nos. 743 and 744, represent the ship’s most luxurious accommodations. (Note: Both can be converted to 1,397-square-foot Grand Wintergarden Suites by connecting to Room Nos. 745 and 746.) When connected, the suite boasts two verandas with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a glass-enclosed solarium with a tub and daybed, a whirlpool, dining for six, two bars and three flat-screen TVs. Can’t Wait: The Wintergarden Suites will be reprised on Seabourn Sojourn, debuting this summer, and, we are told, on Seabourn Quest, due for delivery in 2011.

 

 

Norwegian Epic, when it debuts in July, will have eight Deluxe Owner’s Suites to accompany 46 Courtyard Villas.

 

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