The luxe life

All aboard for magical mo­ments

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - DESTINATION AFLOAT -

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.

GRA­HAM ERBACHER

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.

SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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.

LOUISE GOLDS­BURY

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.

JUDITH ELEN

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

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