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High life on the high seas

Ultra-luxury cruise operators are going the extra nautical mile for their guests


HOSPITALITY MATTERS: Ms Siaw says luxury cruises allow their guests to customise their lodging and dining arrangements.

NOW BOARDING: (Above) Silver Shadow; in 2017 and 2018, there will be 26 Silversea cruises calling at Singapore.

NOW BOARDING: (Above) Silver Shadow; in 2017 and 2018, there will be 26 Silversea cruises calling at Singapore.

SHIPSHAPE SERVICE: Seabourn Encore; a Seabourn ship is like a private club where members share expansive open decks and inviting social spaces.

FOR those who want to pamper themselves while getting away from it all, a luxury cruise is one sure way to do just that. Caviar, Dom Perignon champagne, personalised butler service and haute cuisine are all to be had on board these floating luxury palaces for the wealthy.

Mary Bond, editor of Seatrade Cruise Review, says: "Luxury in cruise ships comes in various forms and sizes these days. While small intimate vessels used to be associated with luxury cruising, as vessels have become larger, the 'ship within a ship' concept has seen many of the mega vessels designating inclusive zones with keyed access featuring larger suites, private pools and lounges, such as MSC Cruises' Yacht Club."

For example, the MSC Splendida has a total of 1,673 cabins. Of these, 71 suites are in the Yacht Club which has its own concierge reception, 24-hour butler service, private lounge, pool deck and bar. The idea behind the shipin- ship concept is that the luxury traveller not only has access to the extensive array of recreation and entertainment options available on board a large vessel, but  also has respite from the hoi polloi in the club for a more restful experience. The concept is similar to the club floors found in many hotels.

Whatever the size of the vessel, "first-class, personalised service with high crew-to-passenger ratios plus varying degrees of inclusivity across a range of cuisine and fine wines are the hallmarks of a luxury cruise", says Ms Bond.

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Several luxury cruise companies have vessels that call at Singapore, including Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises.

Christina Siaw, chief executive officer, Singapore Cruise Centre, tells Wealth: "As Asians generally prefer to take shorter cruises around the region, luxury ships coming to Singapore have customised their cruise itineraries to cater to their needs. Due to the proliferation of flights, many of the destinations this group of travellers visit are no longer exotic or new to them. Thus customers tend to value the on-board experience.

"Luxury cruises allow them to customise their lodging and dining arrangements. For example, they could request local food to suit their taste buds, celebrity chefs to cook their meals, or a spacious penthouse for a bigger group. They also have more extensive and flexible menus,  and less formalised daily schedules without assigned dining times or with fewer scheduled activities to allow plenty of leisure time to dictate their own pursuits."

Overnight stopovers

More luxury cruise lines are also offering overnight stops in ports, allowing passengers to spend more time at their destinations.

"With more exotic itineraries and the growing popularity of fly-cruise packages, travellers can cruise in style and visit multiple cities in the region. For example, smaller cruise ships will be able to visit out-of-the-way cruise destinations that larger ships cannot manoeuvre into, offering passengers a more laid-back and unique experience," adds Ms Siaw.

On Silversea ships, butler service is offered to every guest on every ship. Around the world and around the clock, your butler is available to pamper you and take care of every indulgent detail for you. In 2017 and 2018, there will be 26 Silversea cruises calling at Singapore. Silver Whisperer called at Singapore in March, while Silver Shadow and Silver Discoverer will call in the last quarter of this year.

Seabourn Cruise Line, which has four ships able to carry between 458 and 600 guests, has also included Singapore in its cruise itineraries. Brian Badura, director of public relations and strategic initiatives, Seabourn Cruise Line, says: "Visits to Singapore depend on the itinerary and geographic region each ship is designated to sail in a given year. This year, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Sojourn both made port calls in Singapore."

Explaining the Seabourn experience, Mr Badura says: "Our ships are intimate with all-suite accommodations across the entire fleet. A Seabourn ship is like a private club, where members share expansive open decks, inviting social spaces, and the personalised attention of an exceptional crew. They dine on some of the finest food at sea, and drink a wide selection of complimentary wines and spirits - all while visiting many of the world's great destinations from a true ultra-luxury environment. Our crew is trained to exceed guest expectations, often delivering service that borders on the clairvoyant."

Seabourn believes in going the extra nautical mile and more for its guests.

Mr Badura says: "Seabourn prides itself on creating what we call 'Seabourn Moments' for our guests on board. For example, if a couple is celebrating a special anniversary, our crew may quietly arrange a dinner with some of their favourite dishes that they may have mentioned or had on board in the past. They might also source fresh flowers from a local market to create an arrangement that is placed in the guest suite when they return from dinner, perhaps joined by balloons or banners created just for that special occasion."

The crew are also ever ready to fulfil special requests.

"Once we had a group of Swedish guests on board, and they wished to do something special for their friends who were boarding on the next embarkation day. The crew went out and bought mini Absolut Vodka bottles from ashore, which were placed in a bowl of ice together with caviar in their suite upon embarkation."

Such luxurious attention to detail does not come cheap. Seabourn's 24-day Orchid Isles and Great Barrier Reef cruise, which sails from Singapore on Nov 10, will cost between US$10,499 and US$29,999 per person. This is based on a double occupancy and excludes taxes, fees and port expenses.

Still, if you are looking to live the high life in the lap of luxury on the high seas, you really do get what you pay for. W