Relish long days at sea in the classic style and comfort of
these five elegant lines
By Maureen L. KingImpeccable service, outstanding cuisine, deluxe accommodations and a wealth of on-board amenities -- these are the makings of the ultimate cruising experience. The ships of Regent Seven Seas, Silversea, Seabourn, Crystal and SeaDream offer all of these luxuries and more, each adding its own touch of opulence and grandeur. The five cruise lines are exceptional in every way, from their generous crew-to-guest ratios to their top-notch enrichment programs. While these lines are not inexpensive, they feature a distinct level of luxury unmatched by more mainstream cruises.
Passengers interested in booking a world-class voyage will find that these cruises add value in a variety of ways. Depending on the line, many components that cost extra on other ships can be included in the cruise fare, such as shipboard gratuities, port charges, complimentary wines and spirits with meals, an in-suite bar setup and soft drinks and bottled water throughout the ship. Travelers will also find that these luxury vessels sail to more intimate ports that are often off the beaten path, says Cheryl Cunningham, manager at Vacations To Go, a leading discounter of cruises.
"You're going to get a really good feel for the destination you're traveling to," she says.
Cunningham has seen a growing popularity in luxury cruising among baby boomers, who often have the time and money to enjoy more exotic, nontraditional itineraries.
"They want to be surrounded by things they enjoy, like excellent service and accommodations, fine dining and wines and on-board lectures," she says.
Cunningham recommends booking luxury cruises well in advance in order to get your desired accommodations and enrichment programs with guest experts or special themes. Here's an overview of each of the luxury cruise lines.
For more information and to see the best discounts available, contact Vacations To Go at (800) 338-4962, or click the links provided below.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Designed for passengers numbering in the hundreds rather than the thousands, the vessels of Regent Seven Seas evoke a personal ambiance with generous crew-to-guest ratios. Guests cruise in style and comfort on the three luxury vessels in the line's five-ship fleet.
The newest, Seven Seas Voyager, carries 700 guests in its 350 balcony suites. Travelers will find easy access to the ship's amenities and dining areas, without having to wait in line. The Voyager's sister ship, the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner, offers ocean-view suites from 301 to 2,002 square feet with private balconies. It is the first ship to feature cuisine by the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school of Paris in its open-seating Signatures restaurant. Carrying just 490 passengers, the Seven Seas Navigator boasts all-suite, ocean-view accommodations.
Regent offers a full menu of planned activities, from instruction in golf and bridge to computer workshops. Guests can take part in an auction of fine artwork or join a class in ballroom dancing. Culinary aficionados can take cooking classes from master chefs on select sailings. The Le Cordon Bleu workshops provide hands-on training in the secrets of classic French cuisine. Guest lecturers from leading universities and museums also complement each voyage.
Many amenities are included in your cruise fare, such as select wines with dinner, all soft drinks and bottled water, shipboard gratuities and an in-suite bar setup at the start of your cruise.
The luxury ships of Regent sail on exotic itineraries to more than 300 ports on six continents. From the vast Amazon rain forest to the unspoiled beauty of Patagonia, South America invites travelers to explore its natural wonders. Cruise to the Central American country of Costa Rica and the Panama Canal, a true engineering marvel. Or, traverse the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, where you'll find Old World sophistication and the alluring Greek Isles.
Ports of call in Scandinavia and Russia offer eclectic cultures, and itineraries to the Caribbean and Mexico are available in winter. Radisson also sails to Bermuda, where white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees await, and Alaska, where the wilderness meets massive glaciers.
The Voyager will sail on a world cruise, departing from San Francisco, CA, on Jan. 6, 2008. This 115-day sailing will call at ports in Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean before arriving in Fort Lauderdale, FL on April 30. The ship stays in port for two nights while in Shanghai, China and Yangon, Myanmar; giving passengers more time to fully explore these cities.
Information: To see Regent itineraries and rates, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.
The small, intimate vessels of Silversea are specifically designed for fewer guests, giving passengers more space as they sail to exciting ports off the beaten path. Immerse yourself in the romance, history and beauty of the Mediterranean, with its striking coastlines, charming villages, ancient monuments and classic art and architecture. Travelers can explore the treasures of Scandinavia and the Baltic in Northern Europe or the bustling metropolises of the Far East. Australia and New Zealand and the South Pacific welcome visitors with a laid-back lifestyle.
Silversea also cruises to the colorful harbors of Mexico and the sun-kissed islands of the Caribbean, where turquoise waters create an idyllic paradise. Discover the tropical scenery of South America and the Amazon or the breathtaking landscape of Alaska and the Pacific Coast.
Silversea's Personalized Voyages program allows passengers to customize their cruise by choosing the length of the trip as well as their embarkation and disembarkation ports. Silversea also offers a unique shore excursion program designed to highlight the major sights of each port and maximize your time on land.
Many of the luxury cruise lines are willing to work with clients to create shore excursions that meet their desires, says Cunningham. Rather than exploring the area on your own, you'll travel with knowledgeable tour guides in smaller groups, creating a more intimate experience, she says.
Back on board, cruisers will relish long days at sea amid the all-out luxury of Silversea's four vessels. The 296-passenger Silver Cloud and Silver Wind and the 382-guest Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper are small in comparison to traditional ships, giving them easy access to less-traveled ports.
Silversea creates an intimate ambiance on board with attentive, personalized service from a European-trained staff. All-suite accommodations, most with private verandas, and open-seating dining options add to the upscale experience. Cruise fares are all-inclusive and cover gratuities, port charges and fine wines and spirits.
Between ports, passengers can attend lectures by noted historians, authors and ambassadors, who give special insight into the destinations. Silversea's Enrichment Voyages cover a wide variety of topics. Perfect your golf swing with the Silver Links golf program available on select sailings, or enjoy wine tastings and guided excursions to renowned vineyards with the Wine Series program. The Relais and Chateaux Culinary Series features demonstrations by guest chefs and a grand gourmet dinner.
The Shadow will depart on a 110-day world cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 16, 2008. The sailing will call at ports in Central America, Mexico, Hawaii, Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean before returning to Florida on May 6.
Information: You can see Silversea itineraries and rates at Vacations To Go, or call (800) 338-4962.
Seabourn Cruise Line
With high levels of personalized service and well-appointed accommodations, Seabourn has made a name for itself in the cruising industry. It sails three elegant, yachtlike vessels, the Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend, each carrying a maximum of 208 guests. A crew of 160 gives Seabourn's ships some of the best crew-to-passenger ratios afloat.
All-suite accommodations, many with balconies and panoramic views, offer sleek and spacious interiors with large walk-in closets. Cruisers can enjoy a superb culinary experience with a variety of dining options. From a stylish restaurant that hosts formal dinners to a casual cafe where breakfast and lunch buffets are served, you'll find the perfect venue to complement your mood. Restaurants aboard Seabourn ships have an open-seating arrangement for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gratuities and complimentary wines and spirits are included in the cruise fare.
Passengers can sail with celebrities and distinguished guests on select cruises as part of Seabourn's Dress Circle program. This on-board enrichment series features renowned experts who discuss a wide array of topics, including current events, entertainment, history, sports, geography and the latest culinary trends. Past celebrities have included Alex Trebek, the host of the television quiz show "Jeopardy!" who sailed to Northern Europe last summer aboard the Seabourn Pride.
The yachts of Seabourn visit unique ports in the world's most fascinating regions. Discover the historic cultures of Spain, France, Italy and Greece as you sail the open waters of the Mediterranean. Northern Europe voyages highlight the seafaring traditions of St. Petersburg, Russia, and Norway, which boasts a rich Viking heritage and striking fjords. Journey to Asia, where Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam invite you to explore their timeless traditions and treasures, or cruise the Amazon River in South America, where you'll find the ancient ruins of early civilizations.
Seabourn also transports guests to the tropical wonders of Central America, where you can sample the wines of Belize, admire the lush countryside of Costa Rica or traverse the awe-inspiring Panama Canal. The Caribbean islands offer special delights, with stunning coral reefs and unspoiled beaches. Or, uncover maritime history in the rustic fishing villages of Canada and America's eastern seaboard.
Seabourn offers a series of complimentary, exclusive shore excursions to help you make the most of each destination. For example, enjoy a private evening cocktail party and classical music amid the ancient ruins of Ephesus in Kusadasi, Turkey; feast on grilled lobster at a lavish beach barbecue in Virgin Gorda; or attend a quintessential English tea party at a manor in Guernsey.
Information: Find information on Seabourn cruises at Vacations To Go, or call (800) 338-4962.
This Los Angeles-based cruise line boasts one of the highest space-per-guest ratios at sea, providing exceptional service in comfortable surroundings. Built in 2003, the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity is the newest and largest of the line's two vessels. The Serenity's sister ship, the Crystal Symphony, accommodates up to 940 guests.
With these larger ships, Crystal Cruises offers passengers a variety of public areas and more choices in quality activities and entertainment. Well-appointed staterooms, most with private verandas, and outstanding international cuisine add to the inviting ambiance created on board. In the main dining room, passengers have assigned seating at dinner and the convenience of open seating at breakfast and lunch. Nonalcoholic beverages are included in your cruise fare; however, gratuities and alcoholic drinks are not.
Crystal Cruises is known for the exceptional personal enrichment courses offered through its Creative Learning Institute. Launched in the summer of 2003 aboard the Serenity, the Institute is now also available on the Symphony. Passengers can choose from an extensive list of hands-on, interactive classes in five areas: arts and entertainment, business and technology, lifestyle, wellness, and wine and food. Test your performance skills in an acting workshop, study languages with instruction from the Berlitz School, or join a swing dance class. Masters from the Tai Chi Cultural Center demonstrate the art of this ancient Chinese practice, and the Society of Wine Educators explores the world of wine appreciation.
Seminars on digital photo finishing and Web page design are also available through the cruise line's Computer University@Sea program. An enrichment series is provided on every sailing and includes a noted destination expert who lectures on the regions you visit.
From one continent to the next, you can explore destinations around the globe in absolute luxury. China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam lure travelers with their bustling cities and storied pasts. The seaside villages of the Mediterranean feature Old World charm. Tourist hot spots like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco are among ports of call on Mexican Riviera itineraries. If you're looking for adventure, head to Australia and New Zealand, which boast dramatic landscapes and wide-open spaces. Crystal's ships also sail to Canada and New England, the Caribbean, South America, the Panama Canal and Northern Europe.
The Serenity calls at many fascinating ports on its 108-day world cruise from Los Angeles, CA, departing Jan. 19, 2008. Among them: Papeete, Tahiti; Cairns, Australia; Yangon, Myanmar; Salalah, Oman; Mumbai, India; Luxor, Egypt; and Monte Carlo, Monaco. Passengers disembark in Southampton, the port for London, on May 7.
Information: For information on Crystal Cruises, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.
SeaDream Yacht Club
For a truly unique seagoing experience, consider the twin sleek and stylish yachts of SeaDream Yacht Club. The line's 110-passenger vessels -- SeaDream I and SeaDream II -- maintain a casual and intimate ambiance on board by keeping things flexible and unstructured. Travelers have the opportunity to enjoy the voyage at a leisurely pace, giving them the feeling that they are aboard their own private boat.
While SeaDream I and II sail on scheduled itineraries, departing from their first port and arriving at their last port on time, port calls in between are not set in stone. Captains have the flexibility of adjusting itineraries to take advantage of sights and activities, perhaps making an unscheduled port call to visit a local market, for example. The yacht might also stay longer than planned in a secluded bay so guests can have more time to enjoy water sports.
Unlike cruise ships that typically arrive at ports in the morning and depart that evening, SeaDream yachts dock overnight in key ports, enabling passengers to explore the nightlife of such areas as Monte Carlo in the French Riviera. SeaDream's shore excursions are often led by the ship's officers -- cruisers might have the opportunity to snorkel with the captain in one of his favorite spots or join the chef on a shopping trip.
While on board, you'll be pampered with a variety of amenities, including the Balinese DreamBeds. These double sun beds are raised above the yacht's railing to provide unobstructed views and are perfect for sunbathing, reading or even sleeping under the stars at night. Guests can also indulge in the private massage tent on deck. For an elegant dining experience, choose from indoor and outdoor options that follow an open-seating policy. A complimentary selection of fine wines is poured freely at lunch and dinner. Cruise fares include gratuities and an in-suite stocking of beer, soft drinks and bottled water at the start of your voyage.
SeaDream's yachts typically sail on seven-night itineraries, but cruisers who want to extend their voyage can combine back-to-back sailings, remaining on board at the end of the first cruise as others disembark. The 344-foot-long vessels can easily navigate to destinations that larger cruise ships can't reach. From May through October, SeaDream I and II travel to the French and Italian Riviera, the Amalfi Coast, the Greek Isles and the Adriatic and Black seas. From November through April, they visit such enchanting Caribbean destinations as St. John, St. Croix, St. Martin, St. Barts, Barbados and the Grenadines. Trans-Atlantic voyages feature guest speakers from the fields of health and wellness, current events and aviation.
Information: For SeaDream itineraries and rates, visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Spring 2006 . Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.