Exotic ports, stellar dining, and life-enriching experiencesÂ—a luxury cruise offers the opportunity to travel the world in unrivaled comfort and style. Here, a snapshot of whatÂ’s available in 2012.
Anyone who owns an ocean home understands the magnetic allure of the sea. The peaceful rhythm of the water, the relaxed and breezy pace of life, the skin-tingling sensation of sun, sand, and salt. Spend a vacation on board a luxury cruise ship and that same feeling of calm will descend as you sit back and watch the wavesÂ—not to mention the worldÂ—pass by your stateroom window.
Forget any outdated notions of love boats and lounge lizards; todayÂ’s superliners are style-driven, sophisticated floating resorts. The average age of cruise passengers is down from the mid-60s a couple of decades ago to the mid-40s, and the focus now is on an enticing blend of relaxation, adventure, fun, learning, wellness, and reconnecting with loved ones, especially family.
The global cruise market is booming with magnificent ships, itineraries, destinations, and a boatload of dining, touring, and leisure options for all ages, budgets, and tastes. From glamorous trans-Atlantic voyages to exclusive expeditions in Antarctica, itÂ’s full steam ahead for the worldÂ’s finest cruise ships in 2012.
ItÂ’s a Small World The big news in small ships is the long-awaited arrival of Seabourn Quest, a 225-suite beauty that launched in June this year and will set sail on its first World Cruise in January, a 109-day grand voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Venice, Italy. Setting a new standard in high-end cruising, this state-of-the-art liner has elegant staterooms (90 percent of which have private verandahs), restaurants under the guidance of top chef Charlie Palmer, and an array of luxe amenities, from Egyptian linens to Bose sound systems. Not to be outdone, Silversea has given fresh looks to two of its flagships, Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper, thanks to major renovations this year and last, as well as having launched a new Overland Tour Program for 2012, offering more than 50 specially tailored mid-voyage land excursions on several of its Grand Voyages in South America, Asia, Australia, Africa, and the Mediterranean. SeaDream Yacht Club is combining adventure with luxury on its 56-stateroom mega-yachts, SeaDream I and II, with two new sailings exploring the Amazon in February.
Middle of the Ocean Mid-size ships are preparing for an equally busy year with the launch of a brand-new liner, a $25 million refurbishment of another, and new cruising options. Oceania Cruises will launch Riviera in April 2012Â—a sister ship to Marina, which debuted last JanuaryÂ—and the fifth in the Oceania fleet. The 1,250-passenger Riviera will have 10 gourmet dining venues, including a French bistro by master chef Jacques Pepin, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub, Bon Appetit Culinary Center, and OwnerÂ’s Suites decorated by Ralph Lauren Home. Crystal Serenity has undergone a major facelift and starts the year with 535 stylish New York-inspired staterooms and suites, plus new-look boutiques, outdoor pool decks, and mood lighting. Crystal Cruises has also created a new Private Adventure option, enabling guests to book shore excursions with personal guides. Regent Seven Seas Cruises will launch longer Grand Voyages in Europe and South America in 2012, lasting 27 and 29 nights, during which guests in concierge-level suites and higher will enjoy a range of new benefits, from priority bookings to upgrades.
The Big Picture The global economy may be in uncharted waters, but the leviathans of the cruise world are as buoyant as ever. No fewer than 10 major cruise lines have more than a dozen multi-million-dollar megaliners on order between now and 2015, each bigger and bolder than the next. 2012 will see the arrival of Disney Fantasy, Costa Fascinosa, Celebrity Reflection, MSC Divina, and Carnival Breeze, each accommodating between 2,500 and 3,700 guests. Princess Cruises has two ships under construction, Royal Princess scheduled for 2013 and an unnamed liner for 2014, both of which will be the biggest in their fleet. Norwegian Cruise Line has two unnamed superliners set for delivery in 2013 and 2014, and P&O Cruises will launch its biggest-ever ship in 2015. The stately Cunard Line doesnÂ’t have any new ships on order, but a busy 2012 calendar is planned with Queen Victoria reprising its popular Americas Voyages in Hawaii, the Panama Canal, the Caribbean, and Mexico, while 2013 World Voyages on Victoria and Queen Mary 2 are already on sale. The new MSC Divina will feature MSC Yacht ClubÂ’s ship-within-a-ship concept of 69 suites, an infinity pool, gourmet restaurants, a casino, and a disco.
Voyages of Discovery If your idea of a luxury cruise is venturing far from the madding crowds of tourists, an expedition voyage to destinations like Japan, New Zealand, Antarctica, and the Russian Far East is a good choice. AustraliaÂ’s Orion Expedition Cruises has two luxurious vessels, Orion and Orion II, each accommodating a maximum of 100 guests, with expert guides and lecturers on board to provide an in-depth perspective on each unique port. Both ships will embark on 69 voyages to 17 countries in 2012, with new itineraries in New Zealand, Micronesia, China, Japan, and Indonesia added to existing voyages in Asia, Papua New Guinea, and along AustraliaÂ’s Kimberley Coast, among many others. If you prefer to charter your own boat, the Monaco-based YCO has several luxury sailing yachts and expedition motor yachts available, such as the year-old Big Fish, a 12-passenger, fully crewed mega-yacht fitted with ice-breaking and other hi-tech equipment for exploring remote places like Patagonia and Antarctica.
Hoist the Main Sail! Old cruise hands say the only way to sail is under sail, and thereÂ’s no shortage of news in this ocean-going fleet. Windstar Cruises has added nine new itineraries to its 2012 list on board its three distinctive ships: Wind Surf, Wind Spirit and Wind Star. Destinations include the Caribbean, Costa Rica, and the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas, as well as an exciting transatlantic crossing from Panama to Portugal. The line has also launched a new bike program for 2012, enabling guests to cycle around the various ports. If you really want to help hoist the main sail and experience life on a tall ship, Star Clippers is positioning its 170-passenger Star Flyer in the Baltic for the first time next summer, offering voyages from England, Norway, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland last ing from three to 11 nights.
Â Real Estate: be a true citizen of the world
We know our readers love their ocean homes, but what if you could own a true ocean home, one that actually floats on water and sails year-round with the world passing by your windows? Welcome to the rarefied world of residential living at sea, a unique lifestyle concept that launched with high expectations in 2002 but remains a one-ship industry a decade later, partly due to the economic downturn. Today The World is the only residential liner afloat, featuring 165 luxury studios and apartments owned by 130 families from 19 countries. Owners live on board permanently as it sails year-round or use it as an occasional vacation home. The ship is equipped with many high-end facilities, including the only Banyan Tree Spa at sea. Owners vote on the annual exotic global sailing itineraries . The World starts 2012 in Cape Town and ends the year in the Caribbean; residence prices supplied upon application.