Spiffing service at sea
Nothing could be finer than to sail on a luxury liner
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