Ship Shape: What's on the Horizon for Luxury Cruise Lines

Crystal Endeavor will carry kayaks, 18 Zodiacs, one seven-guest submersible and two helicopters. Shown here is the rendering of the Marina. // Photo Provided By Crystal Cruises

We know that luxury travel advisors are working their tails off, coming to the rescue for their clients but we're sure you're still looking to stay up to date on the latest supplier developments for when we return to "business as usual." In fact, MMGY CEO Clayton Reid expects a recovery sooner than most. In the meantime, Luxury Travel Advisor will continue to post exciting news despite the COVID-19 pandemic consuming most of our time. Here are some things to look forward to in the cruise industry...

As 2020 progresses, Luxury Travel Advisor looks at the top developments on the horizon for four major, ultra-luxury, oceangoing cruise lines, plus new “threads” for many other upscale lines. 

Late last month, Regent Seven Seas Cruises welcomed its fifth ultra-luxury ship, the new 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor, into its fleet. Christened at PortMiami by godmother Christie Brinkley, supermodel and actress, this new ship, at press time, was sailing the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera with two Panama Canal crossings planned, before it planned to reposition to Europe for the summer season. Lavishly designed and outfitted, Seven Seas Splendor sports more than 500 crystal chandeliers, more than an acre’s worth of Italian marble and a $5 million curated art collection. It also has launched the line’s new Serene Spa & Wellness brand, created for this ship with exclusive treatments that use local ingredients and techniques, based on the ship’s sailing region. 

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When it comes to dining, guests have plenty of onboard choices, including Compass Rose, a large specialty restaurant; Pacific Rim, a Pan-Asian restaurant with a mythical dragon greeting guests; the savory Prime 7 steakhouse; Chartreuse, featuring classic French fare with a modern twist; and Sette Mari at La Veranda, specializing in Italian specialties and with over-water alcove seating. The new ship also has three bars and lounges, plus a new signature cocktail menu. New drinks are concocted from premium spirits, fresh ingredients, bitters, purees and reductions. We’d opt for the “Bon Soiree,” concocted with Woodford Reserve (small-batch Kentucky straight bourbon), Chambord and citrus bitters, served in a Coupe glass.

Culinary buffs can book more than a dozen new culinary classes at the ship’s Culinary Arts Kitchen, which has 18 hands-on, individual gourmet cooking stations. Among the new classes is “Treasures of the Aegean,” a Greek cooking class showcasing dishes from Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and Santorini; guests learn about local ingredients and Greek island cooking techniques and try out the recipes. 

Suite-wise, Seven Seas Splendor’s 14 different categories of suites range from 307 square feet for a Veranda Suite to a massive 4,443 square feet for the over-the-top Regent Suite. What’s special about that top suite? Most notably, the Regent Suite has a $200,000 Hästens Vividus custom hand-made mattress, so guests should get a good night’s sleep; plus, it has an in-suite spa retreat with a personal sauna, steam room and treatment area (with unlimited spa treatments). This top suite also has 270-degree bow views from a humongous wrap-around veranda, as well as a glass-enclosed solarium sitting area atop the bridge. Perks for guests staying here include first-class air tickets, service from a dedicated personal butler, plus a car with driver and guide for customized touring in every port. 

But wherever guests stay on either the new ship or other Regent ships, through March 31, guests in all suite categories can take advantage of a value-added offer, “Celebrate Luxury Perfected,” to honor the new ship’s arrival. Guests can receive up to $1,000 in onboard credit per suite on a variety of voyages in 2020 and 2021. 

Fleet-wide between 2021 and 2022, Regent Seven Seas will introduce 27 new ports of call, a record 116 overnight stays and first-time sailings for Seven Seas Splendor in northern Europe and the Baltic and for Seven Seas Explorer in Alaska. Guests can expect new immersive land programs, new shore excursions (such as new “Go Local” tours in Alaska) and access to newly announced UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan, Portugal, Italy and beyond. 

More highlights? Look for the line’s first Black Sea sailings since 2014 with calls in Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine, as well as a return to the Seychelles, Mauritius and Réunion in the Indian Ocean. One new voyage to Antarctica will sail near Deception Island, Paradise Bay and Half Moon Island, plus Regent Seven Seas will introduce three new Grand Voyages; one will combine northern Europe and the Mediterranean on Seven Seas Splendor

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020 is Crystal Cruises, well-known to luxury travelers for the oceangoing Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. The line’s big news this year, though, is the August 10 maiden voyage from Tokyo of the new 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, Crystal Expedition Cruises’ first expedition ship, a PC-6 rated, all-veranda suite vessel. 

Polar region travel certainly is growing in popularity across the globe, with Virtuoso recently citing “Cold is Hot” as a top global cruising trend. Schedules extending through 2023 are up online for Crystal Expedition Cruises. Its voyages are split into three types — Remote Expedition, Cultural Discovery or Destinations Exploration. Crystal Endeavor will call at Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica via the Ross Sea (rare for an expedition vessel), the Arctic, Russian Far East, Northeast Passage, western Africa coast and many more remote spots. 

The rendering of the Palm Court on Crystal Endeavor. Here guests will enjoy Afternoon Tea, 
lectures and presentations by day, and cocktails, dancing and entertainment by night. // Photo provided by Crystal Cruises

Each voyage will sail with a 25-person expedition team that, varying by voyage, could include polar scientists, geologists, marine biologists, wildlife experts, culture / heritage notables and others. They’ll lead expeditions and lecture in the ship’s Crystal Cove, a gathering lounge / bar for cocktails and entertainment, too. For guests with an exploring bent, Crystal Endeavor will carry kayaks, 18 Zodiacs, one seven-guest submersible and two Alana Airbus H135 helicopters. During warm weather expeditions, guests can also use snorkeling gear and stand-up paddle boards. What’s nifty? Imagery from the underwater world will be transmitted back to the ship from a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV); it will appear on guests’ in-suite TVs and the Cove’s LED screen.

But this ship will exude ultra-luxury, so guests can also expect roomy public spaces, a full-service spa and salon and six dining venues, including Michelin-inspired dining at Master Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Umi Uma & Sushi Bar. Crystal Endeavor’s all-veranda suites will have king-sized beds, heated storage (for drying parkas) and pampering butler service. One service plus? The onboard guest-to-crew ratio will be an impressive one-to-one. 

Largest and most lavish of all suites is the 1,290-square-foot Expedition Suite (EX category), a combination of Expedition Penthouse and a Deluxe Suite; it has two bedrooms, spacious living and dining areas with butler prep space and a veranda. Another good high-end option is the 1,130-square-foot Owner’s Suite (OS category), a two-bedroom suite, also with a dedicated dining area and butler’s prep space. In all suite categories, Crystal Endeavor’s guests will have spa-like bathrooms with heated floors, plus the latest technology in their suites, including streaming interactive TVs and bed-side iPads.

Separately, within the classic fleet, Crystal has developed three enticing shoreside programs for the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix, a Formula One race this May in Monte Carlo. One option is a VIP program that allows cruisers to view both the qualifying day and main race day from the Belvedere Terrace of the Automobile Club of Monaco. A second “Grandstand Silver Package” offers access to both race days with reserved seating and a pit visit, while the third option is the ultimate grandstand experience on race day, with reserved seats in Grandstand K near the start / finish line. The line also plans future voyages to take guests to Monte Carlo during race time. Among them is a 12-day “Grand Prix Riviera Gateway” cruise from Rome to Barcelona on Crystal Symphony, departing May 18, 2021. 

On the upcoming World Cruise front, Crystal’s 2021 World Cruise, “Ancient Dynasties & World Wonders” will set sail for 139 days from Miami to London on Crystal Serenity. Also, on that ship, the 2022 World Cruise will offer five embarkation and disembarkation options ranging from 86 to 116 nights. Among the many voyage “focuses” is a “Polynesia and South Pacific” segment from Hawaii to Tonga, with 12 days at sea, and an “Exploration of the Black Sea” coastal focus, including overnights in Istanbul and Monte Carlo and calls in Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and along the Italian Riviera. 

Heading into 2020, Silversea Cruises plans to introduce not just one but two snazzy new ultra-luxury ships. An all-suite sister to Silver Muse, the new 596-guest Silver Moon, will join Silversea’s classic oceangoing fleet this summer and begin sailing the Mediterranean. Then it will cross to the Americas in November and operate voyages to Central America and the Caribbean, before circumnavigating South America and visiting 20 countries between January 7 and March 17, 2021. Starting in July, the much smaller, 100-guest Silver Origin, a new expedition vessel, will begin sailing Galapagos Islands’ voyages year-round, replacing Silver Discoverer there.

Look for Silver Moon to be christened in Trieste, Italy on August 5 by Gaia Gaja, known as the “Queen of Barbaresco.” Deeply rooted in Italian culinary and wine traditions, Gaja is her family’s fifth generation to own and manage the Gaja winery, producing fine Italian wines since 1859 in the small Italian town of Barbaresco. Her background dovetails nicely with the debut of Silversea’s new Sea and Land Taste (S.A.L.T.) program launching on Silver Moon. That new program will help guests “travel deeper” into a destination by elevating the food and wine experience. New onboard spaces will include the S.A.L.T Lab, S.A.L.T. Bar and S.A.L.T Kitchen, and Silver Moon’s guests can expect new “local tastes” gastronomic experiences, cooking classes, expert presentations, a guest research area and much more.  

Silversea’s 100-guest Silver Origin is a new expedition vessel, which will begin sailing year-round Galapagos Islands’ voyages from July. Shown here is the rendering of its Grand Suite. // Photo provided by Silversea Cruises

On Silver Moon, guests will notice redesigns of the Dolce Vita lounge, Connoisseur’s Corner, Pool Deck, and the Spa and Fitness Center, as well as space / design changes at the Kaiseki restaurant and La Dame, the latter of which will gain new Lalique crystal panels and a Lalique wine selection, too. Top digs? We’d choose the Owner’s Suite, a stylish apartment that can be reserved either in a one-bedroom configuration of 947 square feet to 1,055 square feet, including the veranda, or a two-bedroom complex encompassing 1,281 square feet to 1,389 square feet, including the veranda. The one-bedroom has a separate living room, bedroom with spacious master bathroom (with a separate tub, shower and dual sinks), while the two-bedroom adds the adjacent suite, a good option for two couples traveling together or a family group.

Eco-friendly in design, Silver Origin will couple an expedition product with pure luxury. Guests can expect butler service for all suites and very high crew-to-guest and Zodiac-to-guest ratios. Public spaces designed by HBA Miami will reflect the Galapagos’ natural environment, but also offer bright, colorful motifs and regional accent materials. Onboard “expeditionary” spaces will range from Basecamp, home to a large, interactive digital wall, where guests can access destination pictures, videos, excursion previews and scientific presentations, to the Explorer Lounge (the place for briefings and lectures) with a large video wall and wide HD screens in different seating areas. 

Suite design is by GEM — Design for Cruise Ships, the same team that created the suites on Silver Muse. Silver Origin’s top suite category is the Owner’s Suite with panoramic views, but every suite has a private balcony and certain suites have an innovative Horizon Balcony, convertible from a closed floor-to-ceiling window to an open-air viewing area. A first for Silversea: Select suite categories will have an ocean-view bathtub, as well as an ocean-view shower accessible from the balcony. 

The Silver Moon’s new S.A.L.T. program will help guests “travel deeper” into a destination by elevating the food and wine experience. // Photo by Silversea Cruises / Lucia Griggi

The new Silver Origin’s construction was possible through the line’s 67 percent ownership by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which had another shipyard slot after delivery of the new Celebrity CruisesFlora, a Galapagos expedition ship launched last year. Separately, Silversea recently announced a new 59-day “Grand Voyage Mediterranean 2021” to 17 countries, sailing September 8, 2021 on the newly refurbished 388-passenger Silver Shadow. In Korcula, Croatia, guests can view a traditional sword dance, while in Odessa, Russia, they’ll listen to an operatic performance, savor canapés and sip champagne at the city’s opera house.

Port calls will also showcase multiple ancient cultures via calls in Istanbul, Turkey; Malta; Athens and Santorini, Greece; Tunisia to see the ruins of Carthage; and many Italian ports. Guests will also go ashore in Spain, Portugal, Morocco and the Canary Islands. For added value, Silversea is also offering all Grand Voyage Mediterranean 2021 guests the following: roundtrip economy-class air, $1,000 per guest onboard credit, exclusive shoreside events, overnight pre-voyage accommodation, luggage service, complimentary laundry service, a visa package, complimentary Wi-Fi and private transfers. 

Another new ultra-luxury vessel, Seabourn’s 264-passenger Seabourn Venture, the line’s first purpose-built expedition ship, will debut in June 2021. Hospitality design icon Adam D. Tihany is creating all indoor and outdoor guest spaces, including suites, lounges, dining venues, the spa and fitness area, outdoor deck areas and the popular Seabourn Square multi-purpose space. A second, yet-to-be-named sister expedition vessel will debut in spring 2022.

Seabourn Venture’s guests can have the closest access to water for marine and eco-views by heading to the foredeck outside the Bow Lounge on Deck 6. Luxury Travel Advisor can’t wait to see the “Constellation Lounge,” located up high and far forward with 270-degree views. Sporting star-focused décor and carpeting, it should be a comfortable, “cocooning” space for guests to have optimum views of scenery and wildlife. For explorations beyond the ship, guests can head out with double sea kayaks, mountain bikes and e-bikes, along with 24 Zodiacs and two submarines.

For accommodations, we’d reserve a pampering Penthouse Spa Suite, which has all Penthouse Suite amenities, additional “Spa & Wellness with Dr. Andrew Weil” amenities, including a selection of teas and fresh juices, and, most notably, provides easy access to onboard spa and wellness facilities. Top suites onboard are the Deck 7 Owner’s Suites, No. 700 and No. 701, with more than 1,023 square feet of total space, including a 484-square-foot veranda. 

During its maiden season in northern Europe and the Arctic, Seabourn Venture will operate 10- to 15-day voyages to Norway’s Svalbard and the North Cape, Iceland, Greenland, and the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in Nunavut. We like the large number of maiden calls, including Scoresby Sound, Greenland within the world’s largest and longest fjord system and Sermilik Fjord in southeastern Greenland with icebergs that flow from multiple glaciers at its head into the Denmark Strait. Along Svalbard, if conditions permit, the ship also will sail along the North Polar ice cap, home to polar bears, whales, seals and rare Arctic birds. 

During a maiden call at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, the Northwest Passage’s eastern entry point, guests can possibly spot narwhals and beluga whales, not to mention millions of nesting birds at Bylot Island. In October 2021, Seabourn Venture then will sail south to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. One new locale is the Pio XI Glacier in the Chilean Fjords; it’s the only Patagonia glacier that’s growing not shrinking. At Puerto Natales, Chile, active guests can opt to climb Dorotea Hill, heading for a look-out where they possibly could spot nesting condors. 

The Colonnade is the new dining venue on Seabourn Venture. The space designed by Adam D. Tihany takes inspiration from the wooden hulls of historic maritime design. // Photo provided by Seabourn Cruise Line

Starting in late 2021, Seabourn Venture will visit Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands for 11- to 22-day sailings during Antarctica’s “summer season.” Depending on weather / anchorage positions, Seabourn Venture could call at remote Saunders Island, the site of Port Egmont, the first British settlement in the Falklands established in 1765, as well as at remote Steeple Jason Island, home to the Earth’s largest colony of black-browed albatrosses. At West Point Island, guests could meet the Napiers, the isle’s only residents (whose great uncle established a farm there in 1879).

Since getting to the wilderness isn’t always easy, on select Arctic and Antarctica itineraries, Seabourn’s guests will fly into a designated city with an included hotel overnight stay and charter air to the embarkation port the following day, as well as having a charter flight upon disembarkation to connect with a larger airport for the flight home. This is offered for Seabourn Venture’s voyages embarking / disembarking in Longyearbyen, Norway with air to / from Oslo; Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, with air to / from Reykjavík, Iceland; and Ushuaia, Argentina, with air to / from Buenos Aires.  

Upscale Cruise Tidbits

Starting in January 2022, the new Viking Expeditions will sail to Antarctica, the Arctic and North America’s Great Lakes on the new 378-passenger, PC-6-rated Viking Octantis; sister Viking Polaris will follow in August 2022. Innovative in design, The Hangar, the in-ship marina, will launch small excursion craft via an 85-foot slipway. Accommodations will all have a Nordic Balcony, a sunroom converting to an al fresco viewing platform. Most spacious is the 1,223-square-foot Owner’s Suite with living room, six-seat dining table, bedroom, bathroom and large, private garden with traditional Norwegian badestamp (wood-sided hot tub). 

For the first time in more than a decade, SeaDream Yacht Club will return to the Port of Palm Beach, FL, as SeaDream II will operate several voyages from there in January 2022. Also, for the first time, SeaDream’s two mega-yachts will sail to The Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. Seventeen new ports will include destinations in the U.S.V.I., B.V.I., Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and other islands.  

The Owner’s Suite (below) will be the most spacious accommodation on Viking Expeditions’ new PC-6 rated Viking Octantis. // Photo provided by Viking Expeditions

Upscale Oceania Cruises has unveiled its “2022 Around the World In 180 Days” voyage, departing from Los Angeles on January 6, 2022. The 698-passenger Insignia will encircle the globe, calling at 91 ports and spending 19 overnights in port cities. The route includes the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa and northern Europe. Highlights include a 12-day, nine-port Japan immersion and visits to lesser-known western African ports. Guests also will have options to visit dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Expanding its World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnership, Azamara has unveiled new “People to Planet” voyages and excursions. Six South African conservation-themed voyages will operate in early 2021 with onboard WWF programming about sustainable agriculture, conservation champion wine farms, water resources, wildlife and other topics. WWF experts will host trivia sessions and an interactive Chef’s table with South Africa themed dishes. Also, Azamara’s new “People to Planet” excursions will launch this fall.  

Best-selling author Annie Barrows will sail on Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2 for a four-night Bruges and Guernsey voyage roundtrip from Southampton, England, on May 20. She’ll lecture about her experiences co-writing (with her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer) “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” a novel set in Guernsey post-World War II. In May, celebrations in Guernsey will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of Nazi occupation. 

Windstar Cruises’ flagship, the 342-passenger Wind Surf, has a new nautically decorated “Officer’s Suite,” behind the bridge in a “crew only” area. Added during the ship’s recent drydock, this 242-square-foot suite is the only public accommodation in the officers’ quarters; it offers a bedroom, full bath with whirlpool tub and living room with wide-screen TV. Top perk? Guests can hobnob with the captain, chief officer, hotel manager and chief engineer. 

Ponant’s 2020 Quintessential Collection includes a recently added “Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th Birthday in Northern Europe” sailing on September 8. During sea days on the 184-passenger Le Dumont-d’Urville, guests will listen to chamber musicians performing an all-Beethoven repertoire curated by Michael Parloff, former principal flutist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. They’ll also listen to an onboard concert during a Kiel Canal transit and enjoy a private performance in Amsterdam’s 17th-century Westerkerk.

The Officer’s Suite (here) on Windstar’s Wind Surf offers 242 square feet of space and is found behind the bridge in a “crew only” area. // Photo provided by Windstar Cruises

The new, all-inclusive Atlas Ocean Voyages, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, will launch in mid-2021 with the 196-passenger World Navigator, the first of its five new ships. It’s expected to target upscale North American travelers or so-called “barefoot millionaires” by offering a casual, pampering onboard product with some adventurous shoreside options, such as an excursion to eerie Chernobyl, Ukraine (site of the 1986 nuclear accident) and overnight “glamping” in the Israeli desert. 

In February, TUI AG announced that it would sell ultra-luxury Hapag-Lloyd Cruises to TUI Cruises, a joint partnership of TUI AG and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) with the goal of expanding within the luxury and expedition cruise segments. Valued at about $1.3 billion, the deal is expected to finalize this summer.

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