What's New in Luxury Cruising in Europe for 2024?

From a chairman’s cruise with travel industry icons to epicurean voyages, a new, razzle-dazzle, ultra-luxury ship and a spotlight on Fabergé, luxury cruise lines are ratcheting up their game this summer and beyond in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, too.

Hobnobbing Opportunities

One benefit of sailing on a luxury cruise line is typically to travel the globe with like-minded people who enjoy enrichment, destination immersion, and fine cuisine and wine. But sometimes, that guest mix includes an added “hobnobbing” bonus. For instance, Crystal recently announced a new date for its Crystal Chairmen’s Cruise, a change made given the geopolitical situation in the Red Sea area. So, what’s special?

During this 10-day voyage, departing from Venice, Italy, to Athens, Greece, on November 14, 2024, guests sailing on the 606-passenger Crystal Symphony will have the rare opportunity to sail alongside two travel industry titans. Both Manfredi Lefebvre, executive chairman, A&K Travel Group which owns Crystal, and Geoffrey Kent, founder and chairman emeritus, Abercrombie & Kent, will sail aboard.

Guests will engage with both executives through a series of special lectures, interactive discussions and exclusive meet and greets. For example, guests who attend a special lecture by Kent will hear his stories about his 60-plus years in the travel industry.

For another hobnobbing opportunity, luxury travelers might set sail on ultra-luxury Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-night “Spotlight on Fabergé” voyage. Departing July 1, 2024, the 744-passenger Seven Seas Grandeur will sail a port-intensive voyage from Civitavecchia (Rome) to Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Ports of call include Salerno, Taormina (Sicily) Italy; Valletta, Malta; Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Spain; and Marseilles and Nice (Villefranche), France. Guests can choose from up to 98 “included” shore excursions as part of their cruise fare. But what’s most interesting is that this voyage is a special Fabergé voyage, with a special guest sailing aboard. That’s Sarah Fabergé, the ship’s godmother and founding member of The Fabergé Heritage Council. She’s the great-granddaughter of the legendary artist-jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé.

Regent Seven Seas also is debuting many new maiden calls for its 2024-2025 voyage collection. Among them are these in northern Europe and the Mediterranean: Santander and Melilla, Spain; Heimaey and Djupivogur, Iceland; Maloy, Norway; Calais, France; Gozo, Malta; Ponza, Italy; and Limnos, Greece.

New Ships, New Voyages

Silversea will increase its Mediterranean presence for summer 2025 by offering 84 ultra-luxury voyages aboard six ships. Among them is the 728-passenger Silver Ray, a sister Nova-class ship to Silver Nova, which launched in 2023. Recently, that new ship floated out at Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany, so construction is now moving into the final stages. After interior outfitting and sea trials, Silver Ray will begin service with guests aboard in June 2024.

Silver Ray is the sixth addition to Silversea’s fleet in just three years. Both Nova-class ships are 40 percent more energy efficient than required international standards and regulations. In addition, guests will discover new Otium wellness experiences and amenities, plus the addition of the S.A.L.T. Chef’s Table.

For guests who may desire to travel this fall, at a time when crowds in Europe are typically less than in the peak summer season, Silver Ray will operate an 11-day voyage, departing October 1, 2024; the itinerary encompasses eight ports in Greek and Turkish destinations. In addition to robust destination immersion, this voyage gives travelers plenty of time in Istanbul, Türkiye, with an overnight stay, plus a relaxing sea day for onboard enrichment, a spa treatment or pool deck sunning. The new ship will reposition in winter, and then return to Europe for summer 2025, as well.

For those desiring to sail the Baltic region, Viking is offering a comprehensive, 15-day “Viking Homelands” sailing between Bergen, Norway, and Stockholm, Sweden in 2024, 2025 and 2026. Multiple ships, among them Viking Venus, Viking Sky, Viking Neptune and the line’s new Viking Vela (debuting later this year) will operate these ocean cruises that touch six countries.

What’s special? Cruise guests will discover more in Scandinavia as they’ll have overnight stays in Stockholm, Sweden, and Oslo and Bergen, Norway. They’ll also go ashore in charming Ålborg, Denmark, and Gdansk, Poland, and visit such storied cities as Berlin, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Mother Nature is a big attraction, too, as guests will admire the majestic Norwegian fjords from the ship’s outside decks and interior spaces too.

Cuisine and Connectivity

Chef Eric Barale and Chef Alexis Quaretti
Oceania Cruises has appointed Chef Eric Barale and Chef Alexis Quaretti as its new executive culinary directors. (Oceania Cruises )

Also new this year is much on the culinary scene. Just announced, foodie-focused Oceania Cruises has appointed two Master Chefs of France, Chef Alexis Quaretti and Chef Eric Barale, as its new executive culinary directors. Both have been inducted into the Maitres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious culinary organization.

With the new 1,200-passenger Allura launching in 2025, Oceania will operate a fleet of eight ships with a growing portfolio of more than 40 restaurants constantly circulating the globe. The two chefs will succeed Jacques Pepin, legendary chef and founding father of Oceania Cruises’ strong culinary focus. However, Pepin will continue as an executive culinary advisor. He and Oceania will also continue their philanthropic work undertaken by The Jacques Pepin Foundation. Oceania Cruises has been a key partner and supporter of that foundation since its inception.

Explora Journeys, the luxury lifestyle ocean travel brand of the MSC Group, has a new partnership with Chef Claude Le Tohic, a chef-partner of O’ by Claude Le Tohic in San Francisco. He’s known for his modern French cuisine. Now through June 2024, guests can enjoy Chef Le Tohic’s new curated culinary experience at Anthology on the 461-suite Explora I. He’s the third guest chef to curate menus at Anthology.

Starting out in northern France, he honed his skills at many culinary hot spots including Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand, where he earned three Michelin stars. Guests can savor Chef Le Tohic’s newly curated Anthology offerings this spring as the ship cruises in the Western Hemisphere, crosses the Atlantic and then reaches the Mediterranean.

Anthology menu highlights include cannelloni of scallop with an extravagance of black truffles, Parmesan foam and pastoral salad, or his signature A5 Japanese Wagyu vegetables bouquet with black garlic condiment. One “Grand Journey to Moroccan Medinas, Moorish Forts and Modern Mercados” sailing of Explora I from Arrecife (Lanzarote), Spain, to Barcelona, departs June 12, 2024.

Another ultra-luxury line, Seabourn has also debuted the new Solis, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, on two ships this year with two others getting the venue by late spring. They replace Thomas Keller’s eateries. But while cuisine is important to guests, so is connectivity. In the past, the cruise industry’s ships often didn’t have fast, reliable connectivity. But that’s changing fast.

Based on a positive experience by guests on Seabourn’s two expedition ships in 2023, the line has now equipped all vessels in its fleet with next-generation Wi-Fi connectivity. That comes via SpaceX’s Starlink, the leader in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology. Seabourn cites faster service, better connectivity and more reliable Wi-Fi as benefits of the new Starlink service.

Fitness and Wellness

Increasingly, active travelers seeking new options can work up a sweat and maintain their fitness regimen on an oceangoing cruise. Azamara’s curated shore excursions include some enticing fitness options. For example, on the 702-passenger Azamara Journey’s nine-night “Croatia Intensive Voyage” from Athens (Piraeus), Greece, to Venice (Chioggia), Italy, on July 13, 2024, Azamara guests can hike along the dramatic canyons and cliffs of Paklenica National Park in Zadar, Croatia.

In another fitness-focused option, luxury travelers can bike along the Alvor Estuary’s lagoons in the fishing village of Portimão, Portugal. That unfolds on Azamara Quest’s 10-Night “Spain Intensive Voyage” departing from Lisbon, Portugal, to Barcelona, Spain, on September 11, 2024. Onboard, the Sanctum Spa and Fitness Center offers a full range of fitness classes too, as well as pampering spa treatments. Guests can stay active on board with workout classes including Pilates, yoga and indoor cycling.

These are just a few of the many cruising highlights this year and in 2025. Premium lines also have many new European options as well, including new ships such as Princess Cruises’ 4,300-passenger Sun Princess, which just set sail last month.

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