We say sailing the Mediterranean on a luxury liner is the way to go—and when only the best will do, Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com), Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com), Seabourn Cruise Line (www.seabourn.com), and Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) eschew the ordinary by serving up top-drawer options for high-end indulgence both on board and on shore. Ports of call incorporate all the swank spots you’d expect, and more often than not, include Lisbon, Monte-Carlo and Rome (Civitavecchia), where amazing, un-peopled experiences are ready to be planned for your jaded travelers.
Here are our recommendations for clients hitting these ports: When in Rome, it’s highly recommended that art lovers sign up for a private showing of the Pamphilj family’s collection of some of Europe’s most important works inside the Galleria Doria Pamphilj at the family palace (www.doria pamphilj.it). Another excellent option is a private candlelight visit to the Sistine Chapel and Pope’s Chapel, thanks to Charles FitzRoy ([email protected]). Intrepid shoppers should check out Sergio di Cori at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, where they’ll find soft-as-butter leather gloves in every color imaginable; for the well-heeled, it’s Dal Co’ on Via Vittoria for stunning handmade shoes.
The swank De La Ville InterContinental is favorably positioned atop Rome’s Spanish Steps. Try to book Presidential Suite 840, with its own rooftop terrace. For VIP arrangements, contact General Manager Luigi De Rosa (39-06-6784213). Private touring of the exclusive once-in-a-lifetime kind can be arranged by Head Concierge Nicola Oddis (39-06-67331).
In Portugal, contemporary art lovers should head for the all-night Way of Arts fetes held every month at the home of art dealer Goncalo Leandro in Estoril, which is a quick trip north of Lisbon (351-21-468-41-72). For seeing Lisbon’s best sights, Sunny Tours offers tailor-made private excursions using a fleet of chauffeured luxury cars (www.sunnytourspt.com). Shopaholics should visit Principe Real on Rua da Escola Politécnica for luscious, albeit pricey linens. Literally fit for a king, European royal houses consider this their local linen shop. Antiques aficionados should stop in at Manuel Henriques de Carvalho on Rua da Escola Politécnica, which is filled with 17th-century collectibles. A top-notch hotel choice here is the Lapa Palace. Book the Tower Room, with its own private, open-air tower for top-dollar views. For VIP arrangements, contact General Manager Sandro Fabris (351-21-3949449). For spectacular private activities such a breathtaking panoramic flight by helicopter over Guincho and Cape Roca topped off with an at-your-feet sweep over the mountains of Sintra, contact Head Concierge Nelson Silva (351-21-2949494).
When in Monaco, consider the never-advertised private dinners in the Hôtel de Paris’ famous wine cellar (said to be the largest in the world). To arrange with at least one month’s notice, contact Nadia Barbati (377-92-16-28-25). For the best diamonds, the by-appointment-only with Giorgio Musolesi at the Institut de Gemmologie de Monaco at Impasse de la Fontaine is a best bet (377-97-70-82-29). Cigar connoisseurs will be happy to know that Davidoff has recently set up shop on Avenue des Spélugues (Le Métropole Shopping Center 17; tel. (377) 97-77-55-66). An excellent, luxe option for overnights is the recently reopened Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo. With interiors by Jacques Garcia (he of Hotel Costes fame) the stunning Golden Square Suite, with sweeping front row views of the Cote d’Azur from the enormous terrace, is the room of choice.
For the Grand Prix (May 19-22) and Yacht Show (September 21-24), guests staying in the suite will enjoy unparalleled views of the action below from the terrace. For VIP arrangements, contact General Manager Jean-Claude Messant (377-93-15-15-09). For whisking guests by private helicopter to the Nice Airport upon departure, contact Serge Mandina, the hotel’s acting head concierge (377-93-15-15-85).
For those who delight in lavish drive times straight from the docks, look no further than Exotic Car Rental (www.exoticarexpress.com), Carey International (www.internationalchauffeuredservices.com) or Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) for renting Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches and Mercedes convertibles, or chauffeur-driven limos in Lisbon, Rome and Monte-Carlo.
Two notable new trends on the luxury cruise lines sailing the Mediterranean: stepped up concierge services through innovative programs with specialized personnel to handle even the most daunting of tasks, and advance reservations not just for shore excursions but for spa appointments and/or dinner reservations.
On Radisson’s Voyager, blissful spa treatments can be found inside the Carita Spa—and by year’s end, it will be possible to book treatments and dinner reservations online. A new program (which will feature a toll-free number for you and your client) begins rolling out in May, in which well-informed travel concierges will quickly get their hands on the latest inside scoop using a formidable list of contacts for excellent doings for even your pickiest clients.
Both Crystal Serenity and Symphony’s Crystal Spa offers great treatments, but a favorite among the elite is the Ceremony of Earth package, which includes nearly a full day of head-to-toe pampering. Guests who have paid in full six months in advance, and penthouse guests upon their full payment, can make advance spa reservations on the website by clicking “Pre-Reservations.”
For those booking larger suites on Silversea’s Silver Cloud, the Mandara Spa’s staff will happily come calling to pamper and indulge. They’ve also made sure personal fitness trainers are available. All guests can now book treatments on the website up to 60 days out by clicking “My Voyage.”
Pampering inside the Spa at Seabourn on Seabourn’s Spirit and Legend is top-of-the-line. Spa and dinner reservations are booked on board, but because average capacities can be less than 200, it’s not problematic. They’ve recently introduced the “Personal Shopper” cities including Monte-Carlo, Rome and Lisbon, where guests are met dockside by local experts who then whisk them away in private cars.
A more intimate Mediterranean cruise worth mentioning is one with Valef Yachts (www.valefyachts.com), though itineraries only include sailing the more than 4,000 gorgeous Greek Islands.Valef’s deck-to-deck pampering on 400 yachts is not limited to charters (from two to 85 guests). They also offer more than 100 scheduled itineraries (from 19 to 49 guests), all with the same beck-and-call service found on the chartered sailaways. Of course, clients who prefer the privacy of a charter will get to choose their favorite stops at their own pace—all the while being lavished with indulgent and incredibly personalized service. When it comes to personalized service for bookings, contact the company’s chairman, Bill Lefakinis, or his wife, Kathy (800-223-3845).