According to many travel industry experts, cruises remain among the top vacation choices in the grab bag of options open to prospective travelers. As a result, the industry—fully aware of the steady and reliable profit performance that cruises bring—constantly ups the ante by unveiling menus that literally change by the season. This winter and into 2013 brings choices that are as intriguing as they are varied.
A highly anticipated new generation of vessels will take to the water as early as next year, with three lines (Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Lines) leaving their wakes along new routes. Overall, cruise companies are offering more options and calling on more ports than in previous seasons.
It’s upscale cruising, however, that is making terrific headway in the industry with a handful of companies like Crystal Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises embodying the concept of luxury cruises with new routes, unique shore excursions and ship facelifts.
Consequently, travel agents specializing in high-end sales generally are looking forward to the coming months, which promise an uptick in such bookings.
According to Leah Bergner of Coastline Travel Advisors, a high-end Virtuoso company based in Garden Grove, CA, “Multi-generational travel is on the rise” due to the fact that the “60-plus group that traditionally has booked upscale cruises has introduced their children to the luxury market.”
Bergner adds that once a travel agent has experienced booking high-end venues “it’s difficult to go back to the mass market” due to the profits and excitement that selling such cruises bring. She adds that the more popular cruises booked by Coastline are to the Amazon, Antarctic, Bali, Panama and the Norwegian fjords.
Her favorite destinations?
“By far, they would be Australia, New Zealand and Asia with Crystal Cruises,” she reveals.
from wellness to culinary delights
In fact, Crystal Cruises is venturing into the holistic realm in Australia. Luxury travelers can rejuvenate, reduce stress, improve balance and get motivated in 2013 on board the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony’s first cruise of the year.
Called Experiences of Discovery, it begins in southern Australia on Jan. 5, with the Melbourne to Brisbane segment featuring onboard complimentary health and wellness classes and seminars led by experts.
“Multi-generational travel is on the rise [due to the fact that the] 60-plus group that traditionally has booked upscale cruises has introduced their children to the luxury market.”
— Leah Bergner, Coastline Travel Advisors, a Virtuoso company
“A Crystal vacation,” says Chris Corrigall, Crystal’s entertainment manager, “is already one of the best ways to relax and refresh, and adding motivational onboard programming to these beautiful and active destinations seems like the perfect way to help travelers recover from the holidays and support a wellness focus for the year ahead.”
Fares for the 12-day all-inclusive voyage start at $2,730 pp dbl. A similarly priced Caribbean cruise focusing on self-improvement sets sail on Jan. 4 from Miami on the Crystal Serenity, while an Asian version from Bali to Singapore begins Feb. 23.
For foodies, Crystal Symphony has two new 12-day itineraries: Australia/New Zealand departing Jan. 17 and Australia/Bali leaving Feb. 11. Passengers will be able to take part in complimentary cooking lessons, hands-on recipe instruction, wine tasting, cocktail-mixing classes, and special dinner menus that all showcase the area’s unique gastronomic specialties. All-inclusive starting prices are $3,520 and $3,890, respectively, pp dbl. Three additional Wine & Food-themed voyages are also scheduled for May, July, and November 2013 in other regions.
Your clients will be sailing aboard a newly spruced up ship, as this past summer the 461-stateroom Crystal Symphony completed a 2-week extreme makeover. The redo, which the line calls a “chic redesign,” touched the major public spaces, including the Avenue Saloon, Palm Court lounge, Galaxy showroom, Hollywood Theatre, Bridge Lounge, Fantasia and Waves “junior cruisers” areas, and the Tender Landing/passenger boarding area. One of the most spectacular highlights of the makeover is what the line is calling the world’s first self-contained, free-standing living wall at sea.
Designed for an al fresco area in the ship’s Deck 11 Trident Grill, the unique living wall uses a varied and diverse selection of indoor plants to display a world map.
This marks the culmination of a $65 million, 5-year plan to redesign every room aboard the ship. Other touches included “do not disturb” doorbell systems to all staterooms, as well as new cordless digital telephones. And for clients with deep pockets, point them to the 982-sq.-ft Suites, with expanded living space and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Meanwhile, after a successful and much-lauded inaugural European season that began in May after a gala christening ceremony in Barcelona, Oceania Cruises—which was selected as the “Best Premium/Contemporary Cruise Line” by Virtuoso—will send its new ship, the 1,250-passenger Riviera, to ply Caribbean waters.
It arrives in Miami on Nov. 29 for her inaugural winter season and will undertake five Caribbean voyages on 12 departure dates. Along its Caribbean routes, the cruises will visit sun-drenched beaches, natural wonders and sample the diverse cultures of the region.
Beginning in late-November, Riviera will set off on an 11-day cruise ($5,844 to $26,244) from Miami to Puerto Rico, anchoring in St. John’s, Antigua, Bridgetown, Barbados and other islands. In December, January, February and March, it will offer a 10-day roundtrip voyage ($5,700 to $24,300) from Miami to Honduras, visiting Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
For its Christmas sailing, Riviera offers a 14-day roundtrip journey ($11,488 to $35,488) from Miami to Puerto Rico that anchors at various ports, including Oceania’s maiden visit to St. Vincent.
According to Kunal S. Kamlani, Oceania’s president, the ship is one of the most modern and luxurious vessels today. “Since her introduction, Riviera has been praised for her beautiful design, exceptional cuisine and outstanding service, consistently surpassing expectations,” he says.
Riviera features six gourmet restaurants, a Canyon Ranch spa, salon and wellness facilities, hands-on Artist Loft enrichment center for budding artists, the Bon Appetit Culinary Center and various outlets for entertainment. And new for 2013 are exclusive discounts on Internet usage plan and complimentary iPad available on board.
Most unique are the cruise line’s shore excursions that complement the onboard offerings. For example, the Culinary Discovery Tours combine hands-on classroom learning in the Bon Appetit Culinary Center with visits to local food markets. In Tortola, for example, the Culinary Discovery Tour includes a visit to Good Moon Farm, an organic oasis of plants and crops where the planting is orchestrated around the lunar cycle. And as part of its Artist Loft collection, the line offers the unique Art of Antigua shore excursion that takes guests to two art galleries dedicated to local artists.
a peek at new itineraries
Regent Seven Seas Cruises, named “Best Luxury Cruise Line” by Virtuoso—is offering new 2013 itineraries, new land programs and extended overnight stays from Rio de Janeiro to Dubai.
The Seven Seas Voyager, for instance, sails off on its 21-night Red Sea Odyssey departing Nov. 12, 2013, from Istanbul to Dubai, offering extended overnight stays in Jerusalem, Luxor and Dubai and up to 62 free shore excursions. Fares start at $11,999. Meanwhile, the new 15-night South American Symphony aboard the Seven Seas Mariner, departing from Buenos Aires on Dec. 20, 2013, and visiting Montevideo and Punta del Este in Uruguay; Rio Grande, Porto Belo and Santos in Brazil, before ending in Rio de Janeiro, offers 43 complimentary shore excursions. Rates start at $8,999. New land programs are being offered everywhere from Athens to Barcelona, Monte Carlo and Lima, allowing guests to tack on to their pre- and post-cruise with excursions that have them exploring the Temple of Apollo in Greece or climbing Machu Picchu in Peru.
Not one to rest on its laurels is Silversea Cruises, offering 10 new destinations on Silversea’s schedule for 2013—Soller de Majorca, Spain; Sabang (Pulau Weh), Indonesia; Port Arthur, Australia; Klaipeda, Lithuania; Saaremaa, Estonia; Baie-Comeau (Quebec), Canada; Chios, Greece; Portsmouth, Dominica; Fanning Island, Kiribati; and Fukuoka, Japan—on a variety of itineraries. For instance, travelers interested in visiting Sabang can hop aboard Silver Whisper’s March 8 departure from Singapore cruising along Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, the Maldives and Mauritius for 16 days. Silver Wind’s 9-day Rome to Barcelona itinerary stops in Corsica, France; Livorno, Italy; and Monte Carlo, as well as Ibiza, Valencia and now Soller de Majorca, all in Spain.
Paul Gauguin Cruises, too, has added to its lineup with a 10-night Tahiti hotel and cruise package that includes a 3-night stay at the InterContinental Tahiti Resort & Spa. The cruise on the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin—which completed a $7 million renovation in January of this year—sails from Papeete, Tahiti and visits Raiatea and Taha’a with overnights in Bora Bora and Moorea. Highlights include a day on Motu Mahana, the line’s private islet, and complimentary use of the line’s private white sand beach in Bora Bora. Sailings are from January to October, with rates starting at $4,270 pp, dependent on sail date.
The line’s other vessel, the 90-passenger Tere Moana, sets sail on her maiden voyage under the Paul Gauguin Cruises banner after completing a major renovation including new furnishings and updated public areas.
The ship’s maiden voyage will take her cruising through the French West Indies, and from April to November, the Tere Moana will be plying European waters.
Crystal Cruises: (888) 722-0021; crystalcruises.com
Oceania Cruises: (800) 531-5619; oceaniacruises.com
Paul Gauguin Cruises: (800) 848-6172; pgcruises.com
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: (800) 285-1835; rssc.com
Silversea Cruises: (877) 276-6816; silversea.com