All decked out
Seabourn’s new ship is a design marvel
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