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Q& A SARINA BRATTON, 

Australasian chairman of Compagnie du Ponant

Sarina Bratton is a woman of many talents. Before she rose to the top in the cruise industry and then left the security of a large company to create her own cruise line (not an easy task in itself) she was an award -winning Australian athlete in three different sports. She achieved international recognition as Vice President and General Manager Asia Pacific for Cunard Line and also won the 2004 VeuveCliquot Award for Outstanding Women.  She founded well respected orion cvruises and is now Australasian Chairman of the luxurious Compagnie du Ponant. Well deserved in The Luxury Travel Bible's opinion. She is one of the industry's most innovative, and likeable personalities.

What inspired you to become part of the cruise industry?
I was not so much inspired as head hunted. At the time, (feels like just a few years), I was working at Sydney's Wentworth Hotel in Marketing and Sales, and enjoying the hospitality industry with its energy and growth potential. I could see that this would suit me. Then along came a gentleman from Holland America Line who made me an offer that turned me on my head. It was simply too good to refuse and so I put my concerns of seasickness behind me and started a career in the cruise industry.
 
What was the single most defining thing about Orion Expedition Cruises?
I think it is the shared vision, passion, commitment and drive that every single member of the team - shoreside and at sea - has to develop and maintain an outstanding world class five-star expedition product. Nothing is taken for granted and where we can improve our product, we strive to. Everyone in the company is encouraged to contribute. Perhaps that is an advantage you have in being a relatively small company. We all know and respect each other and so it makes for a strong team.
 
Sarina Bratton
Sarina Bratton
What is the next big luxury cruise trend?
Small luxury cruising! With a twist. Not just a comfortable deck chair, casino, white glove service and a gin and tonic at hand, but the personal enrichment of engaging experiences with wildlife, with the wilderness, with ancient cultures, many of which are literally life changing. This is why we constantly strive to present extraordinary experiences in extraordinary places. Of course there is a place for large luxury products but, like small luxury hotels, the personal attention you get onboard a smaller vessel adds an additional dimension. Now roll in the stimulation of becoming involved in ancient cultures far removed from our own, in remote places almost impossible to access in any other way except by an expedition ship, and you have what I see as the next big cruise trend - high-quality EXPEDITION cruising. Except, a handful of us are doing it already.
 
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a cruise ship is worthy of the "luxury" tag?
"Luxury" in my opinion is a very subjective word. Discreet attention with a minimum of fuss. When your whims are provided for before you actually consciously realised you wanted something. This can be a small thing like a warm drink awaiting you when returning to the ship (on zodiac) from an Antarctic landing, a helping hand to climb to a rock platform or a quiet nod in the direction of a sleeping crocodile enabling you to get that once in a lifetime photograph.
Orion
Orion
Orion in NZ Fjords
Orion in NZ Fjords
What is your own personal litmus test for whether a hotel is worthy of the "luxury" tag?
Easy, friendly check-in and flexible check-out times. A friendly smile at 2.00 in the morning when checking in after a delayed flight. You can have a bed the size of a small suburb, bath robes of combed cashmere and wall-to-wall electronic devices but if you are not greeted in a welcoming manner, all the rest fails.
 
What are your favourite hotels/resorts? (and why)
The Four Seasons, Jimbaran Bay, Bali - when stepping inside your individual villa you are immediately overtaken by the serenity, privacy and mystique of the location. For a short romantic weekend away (wish there were more of them), I would never hesitate to drive an hour-and-a-half north to Kims at Toowoon Bay in New South Wales - great food, exceptional beachside residences and genuine hospitality by managers Diana and Peter. I also love my friend Marilynne's Pinctada Resort and Spa in Broome, Western Australia because it captures the essence of this far-flung pearling town. They all provide warm welcomes a cut above the rest. Yes they have gorgeous architecture that reflects their environment, comfortable beds and well stocked fridges, but it is the people that count.
Spice Islands Cruise
Spice Islands Cruise
What is your favourite port visit?
Not one harbour but the entire Kimberley coastline - 600 nautical miles of pristine wilderness with no infrastructure to support operations. The sheer magnitude and grandeur of towering ochre-coloured sandstone walls, vertiginous waterfalls, thousands-of-years-old rock art and the vastness of a clear sky contrasted with the red of the earth and the blue of the water, has an almost spiritual affect on you. I always think, this is our country - Australia. Let's always preserve it for future generations.
 
What is your best overseas restaurant experience?
I lived in Costa Brava, Spain in my early 20s and always considered the paella mariscos on the beachfront with sand in my toes, sipping champagne an absolutely blissful indulgence. If the truth be known, it probably cost me less than (the equivalent of) $5 and the champagne was of questionable quality, however, the experience was impressionable. Nowadays, we are so spoilt with great restaurants where I live in Sydney but I often will take overseas visitors to enjoy the cuisine of Serge Dansereau at Bathers' Pavilion, Balmoral Beach. I still enjoy my champagne, and it's very easy to get the sand between my toes!
 
What is your favourite airline for business or first class? Why?
I just returned from an overseas business trip and flew Business Class on British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Qantas. I must admit Qantas remains my favourite. The same thing applies - the welcome. There is nothing like walking onboard a QF flight after a couple of weeks away from home to immediately feel welcome - plus they always serve excellent Champagne!
 
What three things do you never travel without?
Credit card, iphone and pictures of the family.
 
What is the one luxury travel experience you will never forget?
My husband Ray and I being hosted by the House of Veuve Clicquot in their private hotel in Reims, France. We stayed in the former master suite and the in-room refrigerator was huge and fully stocked with Veuve Clicquot and Perrier. I was in heaven.
 
What is the most important thing (travelwise) that money CAN buy?
Shorter queues.
 
What is the most important thing it can't?
That warm welcome.

bratton's Choice

Veuve Cliquot: www.veuve-clicquot.com
Four Seasons, Jimbaran Bay, Bali:www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay
Pinctada Resort & Spa, WA: www.pinctada.com.au
Bathers' Pavilion: www.batherspavilion.com.au

Luxury Link:

www.orionexpeditions.com.au

 

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