VENICE, in its entirety, is listed as a World Heritage Site, and is a popular stop on many cruises.
We say nothing beats a suite with terrific views for a “sail in” or “sail-away” from a “wow” destination. Seabourn Cruise Line’s global itineraries are highly eclectic. On March 23, 2015, Seabourn Odyssey sails a 32-day “India, Arabia and Egypt Adventure,” giving guests dramatic views of such iconic destinations as Phuket, Thailand; the Suez Canal; and whitewashed Santorini. Also in March 2015, Seabourn Sojourn sails a similar itinerary.
After taking in the tropical landscapes as either ship arrives in Phuket, guests can go ashore for lunch at The Breeze at Cape Yamu. We recommend a fresh salad of green papaya, pomelo, rose apples, radish, basil and mint with lime dressing, or Oysters Rockefeller with oysters, mushrooms, caramelized onions, gruyere and Mornay sauce. The wine list has an outstanding red, the Yamu Special Reserve Mas Neuf, rated 93+.
Back onboard, guests staying in the Odyssey-class vessels’ Signature Suite (Category SS) No. 700 or 701, all the way forward, have optimum exterior views from a 493-square-foot, wraparound balcony. Inside, guests will discover 859 square feet of living space including separate living room and bedroom, a dining area for four to six people, pantry with wet bar, guest bath and a master bathroom with whirlpool bathtub.
A second “top view” option is a Penthouse Spa Suite, Category PH, all the way forward on Deck 10 and above everything else on the ship. The PH suites are currently on Seabourn Quest, will be added to Seabourn Odyssey in May and to Seabourn Sojourn in 2015. This suite’s living room is separated from a roomy, 172-square-foot veranda by a wall of glass, so views are weather-proof, so to speak. At the indoor dining area, guests may enjoy dinner en suite while watching the outside action.
This suite also has a separate bedroom and master bathroom with large vanity, tub and shower. Most calming suite feature? An optional New Age spa music track can be played on the PH suites’ music system. When selecting a PH suite, it’s good to know 1015 to 1023 all have unobstructed views, while 1025 has a partially obstructed view.
When sailing into, out of, or in the case of the Suez Canal, through a destination, suite guests might grab the line-provided binoculars and head outside. It’s also fun to welcome newfound friends met onboard to the suite’s veranda to share the canal transit experience. The butler can arrange guest invitations. Cruisers will watch canal lock operations, and view rural life, small villages and Port Said’s city sights, including a spectacular mosque and historic lighthouse.
It’s easy to feel well-pampered in a two-bedroom Master Suite (Category MS) onboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ (www.rssc.com) Seven Seas Voyager. Configurations vary a bit by deck, but guests have an expansive living room, separate bedrooms with king-sized “Suite Slumber” bedding and multiple marble bathrooms.
On Seven Seas Voyager, those in the MS category on Deck 11 can spread out within 1,216 square feet of space. That includes an expansive living area, dining area, two bedrooms and 187-square-foot veranda accessed via floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Techie perks in Master Suites range from an interactive flat screen television to an iPad for guest use and iPod docking station.
The master bedroom has a huge bathroom with a soaking tub and separate shower, plus a large walk-in closet. The second bedroom has a smaller en-suite bath, plus there’s a guest bathroom accessible off the living room.
Master Suite guests enjoy a cocktail party onboard and concierge-level amenities. We say go for it: Ask for a spa treatment en suite, a private chat with the chef to discuss culinary desires, or make plans for a customized shore excursion. After a hot day of sightseeing ashore, the butler can also serve cool drinks—perhaps Regent’s signature champagne cocktails.
One iconic “sail in” destination for Regent Seven Seas guests is modern Dubai, the sparkling city of skyscrapers rising from the desert. As cruisers first spot the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, they’ll feel as though they’re Dorothy reaching the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz. Seven Seas Voyager calls at Dubai during a 20-night voyage from Singapore to Dubai on April 13, 2015.
Guests can sip coffee on their veranda and soak in the views before going ashore to hit the shops. Known as the Hong Kong of Arabia, Dubai has modern, duty-free shopping malls and traditional souks; jewelry, local crafts and designer fashions are good purchases. The Dubai Mall is home to such names as Adidas, Gucci, Bloomingdale’s, Galeries Lafayette, Nikon, and Tiffany and Co., among others. Nice Touch: “Hospitality” greeters in traditional garb greet guests.
Newly opened mall shops include La Maison du Chocolat and the Nike Golf Store. For unusual souvenirs or gifts, we suggest the Camel Store, which sells soft camel and habibi toys as well as locally painted mugs and wooden dolls. Visitors also like the Dubai Mall for its ice skating rink, indoor theme park and aquarium, plus Burj Khalifa’s observation deck is nearby.
An unforgettable “sail in” experience is the transit through the narrow Dardanelles strait and into exotic Istanbul. Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity begins or ends several voyages here, including a 12-day “Mediterranean Mosaic” voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Istanbul on May 31.
The Bosporus buzzes with activity as cargo ships, ferries, sightseeing boats, cruise ships and small boats jockey for position. On exterior decks and verandas, guests gaze upon the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Dolmabahce Palace and Galata Tower.
Picture: Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity offers luxurious furnishing and facilities to cruisers staying in the Crystal Penthouse.
Cruisers staying in the Crystal Penthouse with Veranda (CP) suites might ask their butler to open the line-provided bottle of Cristal champagne as they relax on the private veranda’s teak furniture and admire the city scenes. These suites (1,345 square feet including veranda) are Crystal Serenity’s most spacious.
Inside, cruisers can spread out in a large living room with flat panel 3D TV and Bang & Olufsen sound system, as well as a nice dining area. Why not ask the butler to serve a private dinner here course-by-course, at least one or two nights a cruise? Another perk of this suite is the ability to order off the Silk Road and Prego alternative dining menus.
Created by Master Chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, Silk Road’s dishes are prepared onboard by Nobu-trained chefs. We’re partial to Silk Road’s appetizers including the broiled and butterflied Matsuhisa Shrimp served with Sevruga caviar, Shiitake mushrooms and Yuzu juice. Entree-wise, either the grilled Wagyu beef ribeye steak or the Nobu-style black cod are good choices. Can’t decide? Nobu Box is a sampler of popular dishes.
When it’s time for sleep, the Crystal Penthouse Suite’s separate bedroom can be configured either in a queen or two twins, all outfitted with soft duvets and Frette linens. Desire a relaxing soak with a view? Within the Deck 11 suite, the master bath has an oceanview whirlpool and separate shower.
Perks galore come with this suite. The butler is on call 24-7 to pack or unpack clothing, confirm dining and spa reservations, press garments and reserve Crystal Adventures excursions. Guests may also dine at an officer’s table upon request, and if operationally feasible, attend a private Captain’s Quarters Cocktail Party and take a private Bridge Tour hosted by the captain.
Those disembarking at Istanbul often take Crystal’s half-day excursion to view the Byzantine Hippodrome ruins, Obelisk of Theodosius and Serpentine Column. They also tour inside the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, which has operated as a church, mosque and now a museum. Next it’s on to the Grand Bazaar with 5,000 shops selling everything from curios to Turkish tea sets, from carpets to clothing. Strong bargaining is a “must.” While in Istanbul, we like to sample meze or such Turkish appetizers as mussels on a stick or a chickpeas dip. The country’s favorite snack is doner kebab, warm lamb sliced from a vertical spit.
Historic and modern London greets guests onboard Silversea Cruises’ Silver Cloud as the small ship navigates the Thames and docks adjacent to the H.M.S. Belfast near Tower Bridge. An 11-day Stockholm-to-Tower Bridge voyage departs July 24, while a nine-day Tower Bridge-to-Reykjavik cruise departs August 4. During 2015, multiple voyages include London, including 15-day roundtrips on July 19 and August 3.
We’d opt for the classic Owner’s Suite, essentially a stylish mid-ship apartment that’s available in a one-bedroom, 587-square-foot or two-bedroom 827-square-foot configuration; the latter is created by adding the adjoining Vista Suite. Port-side, a teak veranda connects to the Owner’s Suite via floor-to-ceiling glass doors. On a warm summer day, guests might lounge outdoors and toast to London with Silver Cloud’s signature drink, the Coral Reef, comprised of Plymouth Gin, St. Germain, Aperol and club soda with a lemon twist. Upon request, the butler will serve a five-course dinner here course-by-course.
Picture: Silver Cloud docks next to the H.M.S. Belfast near Tower Bridge while visiting historic and modern London.
We definitely could get comfortable in the living room, plus the adjoining suite’s separate sitting area is nice when two couples travel together. Bedrooms feature a queen or two twin beds with Pratesi linens and a pillow menu. Outfitted in marble, the Owner’s Suite bathroom has a full-sized bathtub and a separate rainforest shower.
Since Silver Cloud often overnights in London, many guests go ashore. Good to know is that the Shore Concierge can secure show tickets for West End theaters. For club action, Whisky Mist, a Scottish-themed club in the Hilton Hotel, is newly renovated and a celebrity hot spot. DJ music pulsates as club goers dance amid décor of armor suits, coats of arms, whisky barrels and even a mountain stag. The signature Whisky Mist cocktail is infused with amber and honey, plus drinks are served in pewter and steel or leather and horn cups.
During the day, first-time London visitors can tour the Tower of London with a colorfully dressed Yeoman Warder. Others will find fun ideas at the Tower’s online site for their return visit—perhaps learning about “Royal Beasts,” the exotic menagerie kept here in past centuries, or a “Coins and Kings” exhibition at the original Mint site. At nearby Tower Bridge, travelers often walk across the top of the span and learn how the Victorian-era drawbridge works.
What’s new for luxury cruisers in London? The city’s first Shangri-La hotel opens later this year on the upper floors of the London Bridge Tower, one of Europe’s tallest buildings. Cruisers sailing on Silversea in 2015 can consider a pre- or post-stay here, while day visitors might head to the hotel’s Gong bar, the highest in London. Open now is “The View from the Shard” observation platform on floors 68 to 72.
If palatial luxury is desired, we suggest the Owner’s Suites on Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Marina. Guests relax amid Ralph Lauren Home furnishings and what we’d characterize as a rich, clubby and sophisticated design by S.B. Long Interiors of Greenwich, CT.
The three Owner’s Suites on both ships each measure more than 2,000 square feet and span the ship’s beam. Upon entering the foyer, guests are wowed by the music room with a baby grand piano. Beyond are a large living room, master bedroom with a king bed, master bath and guest bath, verandas, indoor and outdoor whirlpool spas and other creature comforts.
Picture: Oceania Cruises lets users have unobstructed 180-degree views from the balcony of the Owner’s Suite.
Oceania’s South Pacific voyages offer stunning views of aqua-blue waters, reefs brimming with marine life, white and black sand beaches and volcanic mountains. Marina sails a 10-day “Pacific Dreams” voyage roundtrip from Papeete, Tahiti, on January 4, 2015, as well as other South Pacific voyages. Fortunately, the Owner’s Suite veranda offers 180-degree views so guests have unobstructed views of Port de Plaisance and the busy Papeete Harbor.
Upon check-in, we’d head ashore to the port’s tourist office to pick up brochures and ask questions. Recommended is a stroll through Le Marche, the farmer’s market, to peruse fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and browse crafts, souvenirs and shell necklaces. Not far from Papeete is Point Venus’ lighthouse and black sand beach; it’s the spot where Captain Cook made astronomical observations of Venus. Golf anyone? The Olivier Breaud International Golf Course offers 18 holes of play atop a former cotton plantation.
Back in Papeete, Owner’s Suite guests have a veranda perch for the “sail-away.” They can enjoy a welcome bottle of champagne, fresh fruit and canapés, while the butler unpacks their suitcases. We’d suggest ordering a Silver Trident wine from the Napa, CA, vineyard of Oceania Cruises co-founder Bob Binder.
Owner’s Suites’ guests also have access to the exclusive Executive Lounge, staffed by a concierge, as well as the Canyon Ranch SpaClub’s private spa terrace. These suite guests are able to make online reservations for specialty restaurants and shore excursions. In addition, Oceania provides them with a laptop computer and iPad for use onboard.
The best luxury suites with verandas are limited in number. They often sell out fast. So it’s advantageous to book early, sail later and look forward to fantastic views.
Sailing the Grand Canal
Starting in late fall, Italian authorities plan to limit cruise ship access to the ecologically fragile Venetian Lagoon. Mega-ships will be banned and other large ships limited by certain rules. But small ships of less than 40,000 tons will sail the Grand Canal as normal. So those onboard Azamara Club Cruises, Compagnie du Ponant, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Voyages to Antiquity, Windstar Cruises and other small ships will continue to enjoy close-up views of St. Mark’s Square.
For example, SeaDream II operates a 10-day voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Venice on June 6, 2015. It’s yachting, not cruising, so typically all guests will head to the top deck for the scenic “sail in.” We’d reserve the 447-square-foot Owner’s Suite with a living and dining area, guest half bath, separate master bedroom with queen bed and master bathroom with massage shower, separate soaking tub and gorgeous sea views.