The luxe life
All aboard for magical moments
NEW WAVE ART: It’s no surprise luxury shopping awaits aboard Ovation of the Seas — an invitation to a champagne event at the Cartier store appears in my stateroom on the supercruiser, which made its Australian debut this summer and returns in late November — but what I’m not expecting is the first-rate art collection enlivening public spaces and cabins. There are 11,000 pieces in all, worth $6 million. Thoughtfully curated by a Royal Caribbean team and London art consultants Peter Millard and Partners, the theme is contemporary but fun, in keeping with the ship’s environment. The words of Confucius inspired the choices, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Artists are European, American, Chinese and Australian (about one-fifth). Move over Jeff Koons’s Puppy, Jo Smith’s huge panda installation, Mama & Baby, is a playful delight in the open air on Deck 15. Sky Wave, by Bill Washabaugh and Jeff Lieberman, is a kinetic sculpture that pivots and curves to reflect the movement of wind and water; it looks fabulous above the central staircase. And I love Aussie Joseph Marr’s recreation in red resin of his sugar sculpture, Laura. So elegantly carved, she’s like the figurehead on the bow of ships of old. But there are plenty of smaller finds adorning corridors and stairwells that are an incentive not to catch a lift on every outing. Who couldn’t relish the (manipulated) photograph by Spaniard Yago Partel of a koala in hibiscus holiday shirt, or Emily Lau’s acrylic on canvas, Life on Donuts? Delicious. More: royalcaribbean.com.au.
ADRIFT IN MYANMAR: On the bright and airy Sun Deck of The Strand Cruise, the luxury river ship that plies the Irrawaddy between Bagan and Mandalay, peacock chairs with canary-yellow cushions look like the thrones of potentates. Surrounding these high-backed affairs are clusters of sofa seating, ottomans and, best of all, cushy daybeds on which to recline and summon another Bagan Breeze or Strand Sour cocktail. Wide-smiling waiter Ney Myo seems to forever circulate with a tray of icy drinks from which sprout a forest of twirly-whirly straws. His name is pronounced Nemo and so the game of “finding Nemo” soon catches on but he is so reliably present that the idea soon peters out. There’s a maximum of 54 passengers taken on each voyage and no sense of crowding. In fact, The Strand Cruise can feel like a houseparty ves- sel or private charter but not one for rowdy goings-on. Ours is one of the inaugural cruises and there are barely 20 passengers aboard. Luxury is not always about space and golden trimmings but rather a sense of exclusivity and discretion. I am alone on that daybed as the sun sets and Ney Myo appears, genie-like, with the evening’s menu. Would I care to dine on deck or ashore on a sandbank with my new friends? More: thestrandcruise.com.
SPA, SPA AWAY: Glistening (OK, sweating like a pig), I drop to the slushy floor and feverishly scoop up handfuls of icy goodness with which to slather my half-naked, burning body. On a Mediterranean cruise, Viking Star’s “snow grotto” may be little more than a glassed-in, glorified freezer full of fake snowflakes falling from the ceiling, but it’s sweet relief from the sauna and steam room. Next, I warm up again in the hydrotherapy pool, which has a fireplace at one end and a hot tub at the other, before ending with a shower that dunks a bucket of cold water on my head. Invigorating, I think, is the point. It may not be the official order of a Nordic bathing ritual but it’s such fun to “go native’’ in this low-lit spa with the works. It seems that after years of launching more than 60 river cruise ships, which have no spas, Viking has poured all of its pent-up pampering dreams into its first ocean-going vessel. Best of all, it’s free for everyone, whether having a treatment or not. Just so you know, my massage was the best I’ve had at sea, probably because the ship’s masseurs and masseuses are Swedish. More: vikingcruises.com.au.
WITHOUT PEER: Azamara Club Cruises focuses on local “immersion”, which translates as generous shore time for excursions and meeting locals. Mediterranean ports such as Portofino, Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez already open windows on to the luxe life, to which Azamara adds “insider access” visits. These can include Slovenian truffle hunting, a wine-cellar cookery class in Sorrento and brunching with Tuscan nobility. Mediterranean and Riviera itineraries on Azamara Quest, docking at Livorno in Italy, can offer an intimate visit to Villa Bernardini to meet a descendant of Count Cosimo Bernardini. Built in the 1700s, the villa is an ochre-walled hunting lodge on a hillside near Lucca in the Tuscan countryside. The count’s descendants occupy the villa and a family member shows visitors around and, with renowned Italian hospitality, presides over a light meal of traditional foods. Visitors learn the history of the host’s illustrious forebears, hearing anecdotes of family life reaching back through 12 generations into the 1300s and illuminating the Tuscan past and a privileged, traditional way of life. More: azamaraclubcruises.com.
BEAUTIFUL DREAMER: SeaDream Yacht Club’s luxury twins, 112-guest SeaDream I and SeaDream II, epitomise effortless class with impeccably mannered crew looking spiffy in crisp white yachtie gear; faultless decor; fantastic food and the fun of dawdling around, say, the Med like those style queens of yesteryear, Jackie Onassis and Princess Grace. Between April and October, SeaDreamers can experience a choice of seven luxury wine cruises in the Mediterranean. A trophy example is a seven-night cruise on SeaDream I sailing from Athens to Rome on September 23. Guests will taste some of the world’s finest champagnes from the illustrious house of Taittinger and meet family member Clovis Taittinger. Guests will also visit two of Italy’s premier boutique wineries. In the heady setting of Amalfi, is it Sorrentino’s mastery of the grape, or the scenic spectacle that seduces? Does it matter? Then in Sicily’s exquisite Taormina, on the slopes of Mt Etna, meet the Benanti family, and taste their wines
SeaDream Yacht Club ships regularly visit Bonifacio in the Mediterranean; The Strand Cruise’s Sun Deck in Myanmar, above