Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Glorious Seclusion At Sea

Worldwide cruising organisation Cruise Lines International Assocation (CLIA) recently highlighted the growing trend for cruise lines to add special secluded areas on their ships, and went on to list the different ways they have created these special 'private' areas aboard even some of the largest vessels.

I thought it was worth highlighting this, so I'm reprinting most of the CLIA press release here as it makes for really interesting reading...

FORT LAUDERDALE, August, 2013 --- There’s so much to experience on today’s cruise ships and now, as ships create tucked away spots for private dining, sunning and small gatherings, cruisers can add seclusion to the diverse attractions of a value vacation at sea.

“Increasingly, cruise lines are creating intimate spaces for guests, even on the largest ships,” says Christine Duffy, President & CEO of CLIA. She notes that while vacationers love the entertainment and activity experiences of cruising, many are also looking for quiet time and increased personalized service—“and they can get this now from a concierge level cabin with its own lounge or by having a romantic dinner for two under the stars in a secret nook of the ship.”

The following is a sampling of some of the wonderful features being created on CLIA North American fleet cruise lines for passengers seeking a tranquil retreat or exclusive enclave.

Balconies are among the most popular privacy features, and ships, from luxury to mega, are upping the percentage of cabins with balconies. One line has even figured out a way to provide views and balconies for inside cabins. For example:

  • Disney Cruise Line’s newest ships have private verandahs on 70 percent of staterooms and suites, while more recent duo Disney Dream and Fantasy have 'virtual' portholes..
  • Princess Cruises' new Royal Princess, which made its debut in June, has balconies on ALL outside cabins.
  • Royal Caribbean’s refurbished Navigator of the Seas will emerge next year with “virtual” balconies (below) – LED projection screens showing live images taken by exterior cameras--for interior cabins.
Club sections take exclusivity and pampering to new levels. Similar to luxury hotel concierge floors, many ships have club or concierge level cabins with upgraded services and intimate lounges. For example:

  • Holland America Line’s Neptune Lounge, open to guests in a Neptune or Pinnacle Suite, is a private lounge with a widescreen TV, continental breakfast and coffee, tea and snacks throughout the day as well as concierge service.
  • Oceania Cruises’ Executive Lounge, available to guests in Owners, Vista, Oceania and Penthouse Suites, features complimentary soft drinks, coffees and snacks throughout the day and a dedicated concierge; a separate Concierge Lounge is provided for guests in Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms.
  • Disney have their own Concierge level on Disney Fantasy and Dream, adding a gorgeous extra amenity for guests on that level.
Cabanas, usually rentable by the day or for the whole cruise, put guests in the heart of the action while indulging them with special services. For example:

  • Celebrity Cruises’ “The Alcoves,” on Celebrity Silhouette and Celebrity Reflection come with fresh fruit, chilled towels, use of a pre-loaded iPad and more. An attendant is also on hand to arrange for spa treatments, food and other services.
  • Holland America Line’s “Cabana Club” on the Nieuw Amsterdam offers airy, tented cabanas with plush upholstered seating where guests receive extras such as bathrobes, chocolate-covered strawberries, champagne and a pre-loaded iPod.
  • Princess Cruises has The Sanctuary, a similar private retreat on all its recent ships, with the option for cabana hire.
Adults-only areas are becoming increasingly popular, especially on kid-friendly sailings. While spas have long been serene retreats, adults-only spaces for everything from dining to swimming and sunning are now popping on a wide array of ships. For example:

  • Disney Cruise Line’s Quiet Cove Pool and Cove Bar invites adults to sunbathe, swim, sip a cool drink or soak in a hot tub overlooking the ocean.
  • Royal Caribbean's glass-canopied Solarium pool area and café, with cantilevered whirlpools that jut out over the sea, are popular adults-only spots.
  • Carnival Cruises Lines’ Serenity adult-only area, offered on many of its ships, features plush lounge chairs, bar and food service, whirlpools and soothing music. 
The cocooning concept goes one step further with the creation of the new wave of elite
on some ships. Here, guests find everything they need in their own private retreat. For example:

  • MSC Cruises’ MSC Yacht Club (left), called a “ship within a ship,” wraps guests in a private pool, solarium, restaurant and butler-serviced suites.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line’s “The Haven” has butler-serviced cabins that surround a private two-story courtyard with pools, whirlpools, a massage room, private restaurant, cocktail bar and concierge lounge. 
Exotic dining spaces set the scene for personal evenings. These very private areas can be ideal for special anniversaries or other occasions. For example:

  • Paul Gauguin Cruises’ M/S Paul Gauguin offers private dining on the watersports marina for up to four guests to enjoy gourmet cuisine at a table set with white linen, fine china and crystal glasses along with live Polynesian entertainment.
  • Oceania Cruises’ Riviera and Marina both offer Privée, a dining room that can be reserved for up to 10 guests, where the plush décor features a white Venini glass chandelier, white baby crocodile throne chairs and backlit onyx-clad walls. 
And there's more of course, with new twists and additions to the formula all the time. It just goes to show the cruise industry is incredibly adept at evolving its formula and reacting to guest needs for more sea-going experiences.
For expert advice, travellers can turn to CLIA travel professionals, who stay current on the latest offerings and trends, and can help clients select the ship with the features that will fulfill their dreams. To find a CLIA travel professional in your area, visit www.cruising.org and click on Vacations. In the UK, visit www.cruisexperts.org and, for an example of a top cruise agent specialist, see www.cruiseline.co.uk.