Spiff­ing ser­vice at sea

Noth­ing could be finer than to sail on a lux­ury liner

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Luxury - HE­LEN HUTCHEON

OCEAN lin­ers have long ri­valled ho­tels for sheer op­u­lence, lav­ish din­ing and at­ten­tive ser­vice.

The French Line’s 23,769gt France, built in 1912, for in­stance, was known as the Chateau of the At­lantic for its ex­trav­a­gant Louis XIV decor and it is said more seag­ulls fol­lowed the com­pany’s Paris than any other ship in hopes of grab­bing scraps of haute cui­sine be­ing dumped over­board.

To­day’s pas­sen­gers are spoilt for choice, with so many grand float­ing ho­tels vy­ing with each other to pro­vide the last word in lux­ury. Here are five of the best.

Sil­ver Shadow: The Le­feb­vre fam­ily of Rome, for­mer own­ers of Sit­mar Cruises, launched the first of Sil­versea’s six all-in­clu­sive, ul­tra-lux­ury ships in 1994. Sil­ver Shadow, which en­tered ser­vice in 2000, is 28,258gt but car­ries just 382 pas­sen­gers. It un­der­went a sub­stan­tial en­hance­ment ear­lier this year.

The com­pany’s all-in­clu­sive con­cept, which has been taken up by Re­gent Seven Seas Cruises and Crys­tal Cruises, cre­ates a spe­cial am­bi­ence in this el­e­gant, in­ti­mate ship. You never need to sign a chit, from an in-suite cham­pagne break­fast to an af­ter-din­ner co­gnac in the cosy bar off the casino on deck five.

Ev­ery­one re­laxes in the lux­ury of not know­ing (or car­ing) whose turn it is to buy a round of drinks or the wine in the din­ing room. More: sil­versea.com.

Seven Seas Voy­ager: Re­gent Seven Seas Cruises was the first line to of­fer all-suite, all-bal­cony ships and the first with Le Cor­don Bleu restau­rants at sea.

Its flag­ship, Seven Seas Voy­ager, had a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar makeover at Grand Ba­hama Ship­yard in 2009, which in­cluded Sig­na­tures, the name of the restau­rant op­er­ated un­der the aus­pices of chefs from the elite cook­ing school in Paris. A clas­sic a la carte French menu has the spe­cial­i­ties you would ex­pect, such as es­car­gots, pate de foie gras, crus­tacean bisque, tourne­dos rossini (pur­port­edly cre­ated for the com­poser Gioachino Rossini by Au­guste Es­coffier) and, of course, creme brulee.

It is sheer bliss to fre­quent Le Cor­don Bleu’s fine din­ing room afloat at no ex­tra cost (the wine is com­pli­men­tary, too), but book­ings are es­sen­tial. More: rssc.com.

Crys­tal Sym­phony: Some peo­ple think af­ter­noon tea at The Ritz is the creme de la creme of a trip to Lon­don. There are five sit­tings ev­ery day to meet de­mand and it costs £90 ($140) for two.

Af­ter­noon tea is one of the many lit­tle lux­u­ries aboard mul­ti­award-win­ning Crys­tal Cruises’ 51,044gt Crys­tal Sym­phony, which had a $US25 mil­lion makeover in Oc­to­ber 2009. Like The Ritz, Crys­tal Tea Time is held in the Palm Court with soft back­ground mu­sic. Un­like The Ritz, there is no charge, as it is part of the all-in­clu­sive cruise fare.

Crys­tal Tea Time also has vary­ing themes. At the English Colo­nial High Tea, stew­ards in white ties and tails, wear­ing white

Celebrity Sil­hou­ette ex­udes mod­ern lux­ury with eight pri­vate ca­banas on an emer­ald-green ex­panse of real grass on the top deck

Crys­tal Sym­phony, seen en­ter­ing Syd­ney Har­bour, boasts many lux­u­ries, in­clud­ing an af­ter­noon tea that ri­vals that of The Ritz

Open-air com­fort on the aft deck of Seven Seas Voy­ager

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