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LUXURY CRUISE: Seabourn Odyssey
Style: Contemporary boutique hotel set sail
Scene: Currently, the world's waterways. Soon to be found predominantly around the coasts of Greece, Turkey and Italy
Seen in Lobby: A more eclectic age range than usually expected on luxury ships.

"Isn't she lov-el-y!" the seasoned reporter of luxury cruises breathily declared. "She is sexy, isn't she?" another chimed. I stared up at the great white pointy hull of Seabourn Odyssey in silence. The glamorous proportions of this new luxury yacht dulled into the mish-mash of other great white pointy hulls I had stored in my memory banks.

Passing into the Odyssey's interiors the mind's mutterings met their own u-turn. Centre-foyer a wide see-through staircase, its steps carpeted in magenta, spiralled chic-ly skywards to the top-deck glass-ceiling. A graphic target in white circled on the marble floor directly below, sheer curtains floated against the walls. Already, it seemed as if the siren call of cool ship interiors was finally being heard.

wintergarden suite
wintergarden suite
pool at sunrise
penthouse suite
spa villa
seabourn odyssey marina


Odyssey, even in a short swoop around its decks, revealed that it had ventured into uncharted onboard design territory. Forgoing a lobby reception, an area known as Seabourn Square has ramped up check-in to something that resembles the executive floor levels in a boutique hotel. Here, a coffee bar, library, Internet lounge and concierge are combined into a large central meeting hub.

While onboard design has latterly resided in the same realm as ubiquitous hotel chain style - weepingly 'Nanna' in its safe beige and watercolour tones; Odyssey mixes a base of chocolate and white highlighted with brights and metallics.

In the main restaurant called, er, "The Restaurant", a large space has been made softly intimate. Ceilings have been lowered with white lightboxes marbeled with chocolate in a contemporary take on Art Deco. Inside the entrance a wall of metallic gold mosaics is reflected in the Louis XV-inspired balloon chairs upholstered in gold leather. Sheer white curtains make another appearance covering the walls and dividing spaces. The floors are dark wood boards, not a patterned carpet in sight - are we allowed to cheer? Dramatic, custom-designed, chandeliers hang overhead, completing a lighting that makes this restaurant heavenly for evening dining.

The menu, developed by American chef Charlie Palmer, steers itself into the calmer waters of simple contemporary favourites such as grilled fresh tuna with caper berries, olives and zucchini ragout and chicken cacciatore with tagliatelle pasta and broccoli florets. In "Restaurant 2", the menu cuts loose with a series of tasting dishes and the décor turns intense. There is nothing remotely nautical about the black leather seating and black on white table coverings pared with deep red flocked-velvet banquettes and sheer red curtains. Rather than taking your eye out to the night sea, it is kept inside by batons that scribble over windows and ceiling in geometric angles.

There are other more casual dining options, the most private of which is best found in your room. Here the décor lightens up with white, neutrals and striped brights in warm tones giving them what was intended to be a South Beach-inspired glamour. The 225 rooms all have ocean views and range in size from 295 square feet (27 square metres) to 1682 square feet (156 square metres) in the four two-bedroom Grand Suites. Never do they feel more boutique than in the Wintergarden Suites where a daybed and free-standing bathtub are enclosed solarium style so that you can soak in the view.

The same sense of boutique style is found in the Spa. Reportedly this two-storey wellness zone is the largest on board any of the small luxury ships, yet the overall effect is one of intimacy. This peaks in the ocean view Spa Villa where a large chocolate rattan daybed and lounge sprinkled with saffron cushions can be sectioned off Arabian tent style. There is, of course, a large treatment bathtub, and a dining table is all the encouragement you'll need to hire the villa for an all-day custom retreat.

Yes, yes, there are many of the onboard lifestyle options that are standard with this level of luxe, including nightclubs, bars, a casino, a boutique and putting course. Nevertheless, it is the detailed approach to design that resuscitates them, making them playgrounds to be rediscovered. On the walls in corridors you can spy the concept illustrations for the ship's interiors, framed works of art. They are white lines on black card and drawn by a hand that is exquisitely free-flowing with ideas. The same contemporary design interiors will be used for the Seabourn Sojourn and Seabourn Quest to be launched in 2011. Which brings us to a new challenge for luxury small ships: who will be the first to follow the current boutique hotel trend for individually decorated suites?  Anouska Hempel can you take what you did on board the yachts Beluga and San Lorenzo and go bigger?

Check in: Visit http://www.seabourn.com/ to select your itinerary and contact travel agents

Ultimate Luxury: There are many - including on-deck "massage moments" - but in a spate of feeling unusually active, The Luxury Travel Bible has to go with the ship's marina that emerges from the back of the hull to produce a pool, sun deck and various water sports. For anyone who desired the futuristic chic of television's "Thunderbirds" resort home - live the fantasy.

Most Indulgent Moment: The Dry Float Treatment in the spa. Lie back as your basted with mud, then wrapped up and lowered into warm water. The sensation of being dry, yet afloat as you have your head massaged is to be experienced.

Insider Secrets: There may be up to 450 of you, but the crew really do try to satisfy all your personal proclivities. If there's that Sacher Torte you're longing for, but it's not on the menu, you only have to mention it and it will turn up on your table the next night (true story!). Yes, do ask, do mention, but we also suggest that you graciously give them time to deliver.

The Little Things: The stylish brown mesh-like sun-deck lounges topped with fluffy towels. The way the pool is finished off with paving and decking. The foliage that's growing in planters scattered around the various areas and in some rooms. A restaurant with floorboards instead of dodgy carpet. Yes, you can offer luxe service, but adding style seals the package.

Junior Luxies: Must you, really? Take time out - Odyssey is geared to a more grown-up kind of hedonism.
Dress code: Think Miami chic - flowing white linens and cottons for day; jewel-coloured slink for night.
Perfect luggage: Something leather a shade of white, tan, chocolate or saffron.
Dent in the platinum:
Luxury Link: www.seabourn.com
Prue Rushton 19/4/10
Photos: Seabourne

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