All decked out

Se­abourn’s new ship is a de­sign marvel

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT - GRA­HAM ER­BACHER

What is it about the smell of the new that makes you just want to bot­tle it, es­pe­cially when it’s as­so­ci­ated with the world’s youngest lux­ury cruise ship and a de­sign mas­ter­piece? I am in Sin­ga­pore for the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Se­abourn En­core, a 600-pas­sen­ger, all-suite stun­ner, which this week­end docks at its first Aus­tralian port, Dar­win, be­fore sail­ing down the east coast call­ing at Cairns, Townsville, Hamil­ton Island and Mooloolaba and ar­riv­ing in Syd­ney on Fe­bru­ary 2. The ship will also visit Phillip Island, Mel­bourne and Gee­long in Vic­to­ria be­fore head­ing on a series of trans-Tas­man sail­ings and to Europe for the north­ern sum­mer. It will be back in Aus­tralia in De­cem­ber for sail­ings through to Fe­bru­ary, 2018.

Step­ping on board Se­abourn En­core for a first look, it is curvy, spick and span, with highly pol­ished dark woods, shin­ing met­als, el­e­gant light­ing and sump­tu­ous fur­nish­ings. It seems more like a lux­ury yacht than a cruise ship and is the work of Adam D. Ti­hany, the in­te­rior ar­chi­tect cred­ited with putting the words “restau­rant” and “de­signer” to­gether af­ter cre­at­ing the grand cafe La Coupole in New York in 1980. He has since worked with chefs such as Thomas Keller, Wolf­gang Puck, He­ston Blu­men­thal and Paul Bo­cuse to cre­ate food­ies’ heav­ens, in­clud­ing Bou­chon, Bo­cuse, Le Cirque 2000 and Ap­s­leys.

Tran­syl­va­nian born, Mi­lan ed­u­cated and New York based, Ti­hany has also re­fur­bished the his­toric King David Ho­tel in Jerusalem and pepped up The Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel in Los An­ge­les for its 100th birth­day.

On the ship tour, Se­abourn pres­i­dent Richard Mead­ows says 50 per cent of pas­sen­gers on the com­pany’s cruises are re­peat cus­tomers and they like con­sis­tency. Se­abourn’s de­sign brief to Ti­hany for this fourth ship in its Odyssey class fleet (and the fifth, a sis­ter ves­sel, Se­abourn Ova­tion, now un­der con­struc­tion) was evo­lu­tion not rev­o­lu­tion. Ti­hany, with a smile, says he likes to think he got away with “evo­lu­tion bor­der­ing on rev­o­lu­tion”.

As a point of com­par­i­son, Se­abourn So­journ is docked along­side at Sin­ga­pore’s ship-shaped Ma­rina Bay Cruise Cen­tre. Launched in 2010, So­journ’s in­te­rior de­sign is light-wood Scan­di­na­vian; Ti­hany says En­core is more Ital­ian in style and calls it sin­u­ous and sexy. The glossy atrium spi­ral stair­case, sil­ver-framed mir­rors and light fit­tings make ref­er­ence to art deco, but as Ti­hany says, “I have no one style”. Spend­ing nearly four years on the project, he is ob­vi­ously happy with the out­come, chal­leng­ing any­one to “find a sofa or chair that isn’t com­fort­able”. Mead­ows, too, is proud of the re­sult, say­ing [you can] “feel the con­nec­tiv­ity, but you also feel the shift”.

He’s also pleased with Se­abourn’s col­lab­o­ra­tions with chef Keller, whose restau­rant The Grill of­fers an Amer­i­can chop­house-style menu; spa and well­ness ex­pert An­drew Weil; and mixol­o­gist Brian Van Flan­dern, who’s added zing to the bar and cock­tail menus. Lyri­cist Tim Rice has helped de­vise the star turn, An Evening with Tim Rice, promis­ing a hummable night out from Evita’s Don’t Cry For Me Ar­gentina to The Lion King’s Hakuna Matata. A part­ner­ship with the fra­grance line Molton Brown has pro­duced Se­abourn Sig­na­ture Scents but as “im­mer­sive and in­spir­ing” as they may be, they aren’t a match for that in­tox­i­cat­ing smell of the new.

There are 10 public decks on Se­abourn En­core, one more than the ear­lier Odyssey-class ships, and 300 suites, all with ve­ran­das. A top-of-the-range Win­ter­gar­den Suite of­fers large win­dows, two bed­rooms, two ve­ran­das, din­ing for six and a glassed-in so­lar­ium, with a host of pre­mium ser­vices. A more stan­dard Veranda Suite is spa­cious, with plenty of stor­age space, a din­ing ta­ble for two, liv­ing area, bed­room and bath­room.

We lunch at The Restau­rant, which has a mag­nif­i­cent sput­nik chan­de­lier as its cen­tre­piece, and is of­fer­ing a se­lec­tion of sig­na­ture dishes by chef de cui­sine Kurt Tim- mer­mans. Try smoked sal­mon and os­e­tra mal­os­sol caviar, sweet but­ter-poached Nova Sco­tia lob­ster, and don’t hold back on the slow beef ten­der­loin and pan-seared foie gras. It’s a short wad­dle to Sushi, a beau­ti­ful din­ing space of­fer­ing fresh seafood shipped from Ja­pan. The decor here is all off-white, “al­most like a very del­i­cate Ja­panese eggshell”, says Ti­hany. On then to Keller’s The Grill, which has stylish deco-style col­umn light­ing and del­i­cate glass sculp­tures.

Ti­hany’s favourite space is The Re­treat up on Deck 12 and per­haps in­spired by his work at The Bev­erly Hills Ho­tel, where its pri­vate bun­ga­lows and ca­banas are the stuff of Hol­ly­wood leg­end. Un­der a flower-shaped canopy, 15 ca­banas en­cir­cle a cen­tral whirlpool. Each is equipped with sun lounges, TV and cus­tom-stocked re­frig­er­a­tor, but there’s a bar for so­cial­is­ing and pri­vate spa fa­cil­i­ties. It’s a true sanc­tu­ary, Ti­hany says.

We pass the ship’s fleet of Zo­diac in­flat­able boats, which pro­vide ex­cur­sions for what Se­abourn calls its “ad­ven­tur­ous voy­agers and globe-trot­ting learn­ers”. In Aus­tralia, ex­plo­ration of man­grove shore­lines and swims on se­cluded Whit­sun­day beaches will be on of­fer.

En­core’s nam­ing cer­e­mony is held in the Sin­ga­pore

Se­abourn En­core, an all­suite stun­ner, above; The Restau­rant, with its strik­ing chan­de­lier, far left; Sig­na­ture Suite, left; The Re­treat, be­low left; dra­matic atrium spi­ral stair­case, be­low

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