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LUXURY CRUISE: Luxury cruising 2017 

The world’s oceans are awash with ever-expanding cruise fever. New builds are queuing toward completion, others are already afloat toward a port somewhere near you. So whether it’s a polar region on a luxury expedition ship, a grand voyage on a medium size ship, a transatlantic crossing on a Cunard Queen, or an epic world cruise on Azamara, there is a plethora of classy, sassy new ships, from mega resort to magnificent square-rigger sailing ships all on the horizon. Or you can take to the air with Crystal Cruises All-Exclusive lifestyle brand portfolio. The cruise sector is indeed buoyant whether viewed from above or from the waterline.

With a name like Celebrity Cruises you would expect the line would live up to its promise. And it does, in spades.  Guests feel like celebrities on their immaculate, contemporary ships. Celebrity Reflection is the last and largest of five Solstice Class ships and carries 3,046 passengers. The vibe is cool, classy sophistication which appeals to a younger audience around their mid-fifties. Unique attributes are the Lawn Club – with real grass - and a glassed-in Solarium.  Suite Class guests have their own restaurant Luminae and private lounge. Although not all-inclusive, there are genuine luxuries: fabulous bars, restaurants and entertainment – and guests love to dress - like a celebrity on formal nights.  Suites aside, much sought after are the AquaClass staterooms adjacent to the stunning Aquaspa.

The Cunard Queens, Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are indisputably the crowned heads of ocean travel, certainly in name alone. Established initially as a Royal Mail Service, Cunard soon won a reputation for its transatlantic liner service and recently celebrated 175 years of history. Essentially, only the Queen’s and Princess Grills accommodation, each with their own dining venues, butlers and concierge service make them indisputably First Class. But just have their legendary afternoon tea and you’ll feel proudly royal.

Holland America Line. But it isn’t only queens. Holland America Line anointed a new ship, their first Pinnacle class, 2,650 guest  Konigsdam -  named in honour of the Nederlands first king in a century. Konigsdam made her debut in February 2016.
Crystal Cruises’

Crystal Cruises
Devotees of the world’s most-awarded cruise line’s medium-size, all-exclusive Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity, know they are best. Now they have embraced yacht cruising; river cruising; expedition cruising and have taken to the skies with Crystal Luxury Air – their own private Boeing 777-200LR.

Their air cruising 2017 and 2018 global itineraries, in partnership with Peninsula Hotels, will take travellers on all-inclusive 15-29 day journeys to the world’s most coveted destinations. Meanwhile their 2017-19 Worldwide Cruise Atlas showcases 109 global itineraries aboard Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity. Highlights are a transit of the Northwest Passage, a 94-day South American odyssey and pre and post cruise land programs to Macchu Picchu and Edinburgh’s Military Tattoo.

Europa 2 German line Hapag Lloyd Cruises’ impeccable five star+ cruise ship tops the charts year in year out. Her streamline profile and aesthetic management of space appeal to youthful sophisticates and their families. (The children’s programs are outstanding).

Europa 2 is bi-lingual, so English-speaking guests feel perfectly at home. Both Europa 2 and Europa have been awarded the highest distinction in Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships 2017 edition as the only 5-stars-plus cruise ships worldwide. They defend their pole positions as world’s best cruise ships in their category for the fourth (EUROPA 2) and 17th (EUROPA) time.
Between December 2016 and February 2017, Europa 2 will be cruising Oceania with a 15 day Tahiti-Auckland cruise; 16-day Auckland-Sydney; 14-day Sydney-Auckland, and 18-day Auckland-Bali cruises.
The company is also renowned for their expedition ships Hanseatic and Bremen
and have announced two new-builds in the 5-star expedition category which will have the highest Polar Class designation for passenger ships.

Marketed as slotting neatly into the upper- premium category, the line prides itself on its immersive, destination experiences, and arguably more overnight port stays than most other cruise lines. They also boast the finest cuisine at sea along with culinary inspired journeys. Oceania have just announced their new 2018 Europe and the Americas Collection which features a diverse array of voyages which will appeal to discerning travellers keen to enrich their cultural, culinary or historical experiences, whether in the Mediterranean, Baltic, Northern Europe, North America or the Caribbean. The collection offers more than 100 voyages and 85 unique itineraries, 71 of which are brand-new. Calling on 218 destinations across four continents, the Europe and Americas voyages spend up to 90% of their time in port and more than 60 voyages feature overnight, or double-overnight port stays.   Their newest and biggest ships, Marina and Riviera will spend their northern summer seasons in Europe: Marina  cruising the Baltic, Scandinavia and northern Europe with hopeful sightings of the Northern Lights, then south to the Mediterranean and Lisbon before her Transatlantic crossing. Meanwhile, sister Riviera will do a series in the Mediterranean and Greek Isles before sailing westward ho! - to new ports in Spain – Huelva and Roses. 

As you might expect of the cruise industry’s only French-flag line, PONANT’S sleek, chic ships make-up the youngest fleet afloat. Already a leader in five-star White Expeditions to polar regions, they have ordered four new ice-rated vessels each with 92 staterooms and crew of 100. Their ships are a blend of luxury, adventure and fine French food. Interior design echoes the company’s commitment to environmental sensitivities in the subtle use of natural materials and colours which symbolise the authentic nature of their itineraries in Amazonia, Costa Rica, and PNG.  In 2017, L Áustral’s will commence her inaugural season of Kimberley voyages. 

Regent Sevenseas  
The all-suite, all-balcony ship, new ship Seven Seas Explorer, is promoted as “the most luxurious ship ever builtTM.” Billed as the most inclusive luxury cruise line, Regent Sevenseas certainly delivers with free, unlimited shore excursions in every port–of-call, free Wifi, pre-paid gratuities, fine wines and spirits, ground transfers and luxury pre-cruise hotels stays. A popular feature on board are Gourmet Explorer Tours, where guests enjoy unique culinary adventures in select destinations accompanied by a local guide and chef instructor from the ship’s Culinary Arts Kitchen. Their signature Regent Suite with two marble bathrooms, golden chandelier, Steinway, media centre, private driver and personal guide in each port, personal butler, unlimited spa treatments- gasp! is indulgence beyond imagination. Itineraries in 2017-2018 Voyage for their four-ship fleet, will feature 335 port calls in 98 countries. Most thrilling will be Sevenseas Navigator’s rare, 30-night summertime excursion though Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage.

For Seabourn fanciers, too much is never enough, hence the curtain calls. Applauded for their luxury, style and intimacy, fans will be queuing for their first  glimpse of new ship the 600- guest Seabourn Encore when she heads down under in 2017 when she will make nine maiden calls between Darwin and Geelong.  New features are The Retreat – a serene space with private cabanas designed as private living rooms and their fine dining restaurant will be overseen by 3 star Michelin chef, Thomas Keller. Following her delivery in December 2016, she will offer two pre-inaugural cruises: a 16-day voyage from Athens to Dubai, and an 18-day Dubai Singapore, while Seabourn Quest is offering enviable opportunities to explore unique destinations led by scientists and naturalists, into the stunning waterways and fjords of Iceland’s Vigur Island, and the Lofoten Islands.
Aficionados of Silversea’s intimately luxurious ships have started the countdown when new star, the 596-guest Silver Muse makes her entrance in April 2017. She sets a new benchmark in the ultra-luxury cruise category with all-suite accommodation, eight restaurants, state-of-the-art technology, bespoke al fresco areas and flawless Italian craftsmanship throughout.  Meanwhile, the company has just announced its 2018 Voyage Collection which covers virtually every corner of the globe with their fleet of 9 vessels set to reach 850 destinations and 300 maiden calls. Or put another way -  from Antarctica to the Arctic Circle and the Galapagos Islands, with iconic cities in between. There are enviable expedition adventures into unchartered territories to facilitate privileged viewing of the immaculate nature world, few travellers have witnessed before. All this in the sophisticated ambience of Silversea’s unique luxury environment.  2018 will also see Silversea’s largest fleet-wide refurbishment plan, which reinforces Silversea’s commitment to their continued evolution and progression of elegance at sea.

Star Clippers
Founded by Swedish yachtsman Mikael Krafft 25 years ago, Star Clippers has announced a fourth sailing ship, Flying Clipper. She will be the largest 5-masted square rigger ever built. Little equals the thrill these amazing ships deliver when all 35 sails unfurl. Flying Clipper will carry 300 passengers in a variety of cabin grades including 34 suites with balconies and four luxurious owner’s suites. A unique feature is the elegant, light-filled atrium dining room. There are three swimming pools, an al fresco Tropical Bar and water sports platform. Star Clippers sail the Mediterranean in summer, the Caribbean and Cuba in winter, and a new route in Asia starting in December 2016.

Maggy Oelhbeck 15/11/16


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