|Norwegian Epic Deluxe Owner’s Suite living room lives up to its name as a luxe option.|
For some, an over-the-top, pampered voyage may be a stretch, based on career demands or a family situation. One option is to book an upscale suite on a contemporary or premium line— enjoying a taste of luxury, coupled with big-ship amenities, including nightlife, gaming, waterparks and entertainment. While many lines give suite guests access to an exclusive lounge or special spa perks, two contemporary lines have taken that even further by introducing robust “ship-within-a-ship” enclaves of luxury.
Akin to a boutique hotel, these key-card-only accessible retreats have multiple upscale suites, private corridors, exclusive pools, lounges and even, in one case, a private restaurant.
|MSC YACHT CLUB lounges offer prime views over the water.|
MSC Cruises’ version of this affluent concept is the MSC Yacht Club, which encompasses 71 suites each on MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia. Launching in May 2012, the line’s new Divina will field a club of 69 suites.
Norwegian Cruise Line began offering “ship-within-a-ship” hideaways in 2005. It now brands these chic suite complexes as The Haven. Norwegian Epic’s is the largest with 60 suites inside The Haven and 15 other suites outside that also have retreat access. These complexes on Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Jade and Norwegian Jewel each have up to 18 suites. In addition, Norwegian will introduce the concept on two yet-unnamed “Project Breakaway” vessels, launching in 2013 and 2014.
The “ship-within-a-ship” concept’s appeal clearly hinges on a differentiated onboard experience that is decidedly upscale. Simply put, this isn’t a standard contemporary line experience. A good source for trade-related questions about the MSC Yacht Club is Joe Proto ([email protected]), vice president of business development.
With MSC Yacht Club, a team of butlers will assist at boarding, help with unpacking, and serve Traditional English Tea en-suite with teas, cakes, pastries and sandwiches. Complimentary wine and cocktails also are on tap in the club’s Top Sail Lounge; this is the spot for gorgeous panoramic views, particularly at sunset.
The club’s One Pool area is a quiet getaway area with private pool, solarium and two whirlpools; butlers serve refreshments poolside. Activity ideas? Stop by the club’s 24-hour concierge if you’d like reserved seats at the ship’s theater or to set up a private party in your suite. Top Tip: For affluent guests who want to party in public, the Liquid Disco reserves a Privé VIP area for club members.
|Norwegian Epic courtyard villas have an exclusive, super-private vibe.|
From the club’s main floor, there is easy, private access to the MSC Aurea Spa. Specialty treatments include a fourhanded Balinese massage and a Q-Frequency radio frequency treatment, designed to tone tissues and treat wrinkles. Afterward, pop into the spa bar and request “The Dragon’s Heart,” a blended smoothie of green apple, pear, melon, peach and orange juice.
When it comes to dining, club guests have sizable choices including 24-hour room service; complimentary pastries and appetizers at the Top Sail Lounge; dining in a reserved section of the main restaurant; and complimentary dining at either L’Etoile on MSC Fantasia or L’Olivo on MSC Splendida. At L’Etoile, a typical dinner line-up might include flambéed shellfish bisque, champagne risotto and rack of lamb in a pistachio crust, topped off with raspberry crème brulee.
MSC’s Yacht Club accommodations include Royal, Family and Deluxe Yacht Club suites. Top Pick: The Royal Suite is bathed in vibrant blue-and-gold tones. Its living room has a nifty bar area and large private veranda. The bedroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows create an open-air feel, and the marble bath has double sinks, a large spa bathtub and separate shower.
Freestyle in Style
The beauty of the ship-within-a-ship concept surfaces as soon as you enter The Haven on any Norwegian ship. The aura definitely changes as you shut out the frenetic energy of NCL’s public areas. The Haven’s open-air courtyard sports a private pool, sundeck, hot tub and fitness room. On one recent Norwegian Epic voyage, only one or two guests were spotted sunning or swimming. During off-peak hours, you may find yourself blissfully alone at the pool.
If you’re seeking space to spread out, The Haven on Norwegian’s Jewel-class ships have huge three-bedroom Garden Villas. Encompassing a mind-boggling 5,000-plus square feet, they’re essentially floating condominiums. Brightly colored, these villas have such “wow” features as a baby grand piano, panoramic windows and a private garden with hot tub. One smart option for two or three like-minded couples is to book one Garden Villa. It’s a way to experience a high-end suite that you might not otherwise consider. These suites book up fast, so reserve well in advance.
Delivering a trendy residential feel, The Haven on Norwegian Epic is the largest complex of this kind afloat. It spans two private decks atop the ship. With a wraparound balcony, the Owner’s Suite has an elegantly appointed living room and dining area, floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom, and a bath with oversized soaking tub, separate shower and double sinks.
Norwegian is enhancing the experience in The Haven by expanding butler service to 24 hours and having butlers trained and certified by the International Institute of Modern Butlers. If you dine en-suite, you’ll also now enjoy white tablecloth service, and at the pool, they’ve recently added a Courtyard valet. Plenty of other perks elevate The Haven experience including priority tender boarding, which allows you to go ashore more easily on port days.
On Epic, signature cocktails are concocted in The Haven’s lounge. One refreshing choice is a Classic Lemon Drop, made with vodka, triple sec and fresh lemon juice. The intimate Haven Restaurant with silk chandeliers and pearl drapes is a charmer; check out the glass sculptures and leather appointments. Recommended for an entree is the butter roasted sea bass with mussels and lobster fennel sauce.
While these contemporary ships aren’t considered luxury products, they have activities not found on many luxury ships. What’s clear is that their “ship-within-a-ship” enclaves may be a good first step for those trying out a cruise vacation and seeking a touch of affluent travel.