New ships with increased comfort on board and exclusive adventures on land are making ultra luxury cruise experience a great value vacation.
The recession of the last two years has not managed to curb the increasing growth of the cruise business.
The attention of the public and the media has been lately focused on the increasing size of the cruise ships mass market however the luxury segment of the cruise business is growing too. Not only are new (although much smaller) five-star ships joining the fleet of luxury lines, but the new amenities on board, land options and better pricing policies are making luxury cruise vacation a more attractive possibility.
Besides offering a more intimate cruise experience than the floating mega resorts of mass market cruise lines, luxury vessels have other advantages such as being able to call at ports where the major vessels cannot go, a higher staff to guest ratio and a wider range of itineraries across the globe.
Below are some of the luxury ships that have been recently launched or are expected to enter service in due course.
Silversea Cruises launched its largest ship yet, the 540-passenger Silver Spirit (its other ships hold fewer than 400 guests). Most of the vessel staterooms have verandas, and the ship offers six dining venues as well as a state of the art spa.
This addition comes after Silversea had already bolstered its fleet in 2008 with the addition of the Prince Albert II, a small luxury expedition ship that visits the farthest corners of the world
The Yachts of Seabourn, is also upsizing. In the summer of 2009, it introduced the 450-passenger, Seabourn Odyssey, due to be followed in June 2010 by a sister ship, the Seabourn Sojourn. A third new ship should be launched by the end of 2011. The new Odyssey boasts four restaurants with menus from celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, six outdoor whirlpools, a mini-golf course and a private diamond showroom.
In January 2011, Oceania Cruises' new ship, the Navy, will hit the waves. The 1.258 passenger ship which is by far the largest of the company’s fleet has a total of ten restaurants, a culinary studio where passengers can take cooking classes and a state of the art Canyon Ranch Spa Club
Sea Cloud Cruises claims that the new Sea Cloud Hussar, due to launch in 2011 is “the largest full-rigged, three-mast passenger ship ever built,” yet the ultra luxurious vessel carries just 138 passengers in 69 cabins, all of them facing the sea.
Two other popular luxury line Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have no new ships scheduled to be released, but have made some important improvements. Crystal recently completed a $ 25 million renovation of the Crystal Symphony, giving the ship new Swarovski crystal chandeliers, Jacuzzi bathtubs and a new Italian restaurant from famous chef Piero Selvaggio. Whereas the new Regent Seven Seas Navigator has underwent a major renovation which has seen the addition of a new American style steak house
Luxury cruises are certainly more expensive than mass-market or premium lines, but few travellers pay the full brochure price for any cruise these days and luxury lines often include many extras in the cruise fare that would require an additional charge on mass market ships.