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Posted by on 3 April 2014 | 0 Comments

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3 April 2014
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Gourmet cuisine, butlers and pampering spas aboard sensational boats on the Caribbean sea. Cruise luxury, says Lynn Houghton.

Cruising in the Caribbean always offers a bonanza of luxury experiences against the backdrop of clear azure waters, white sand beaches and sunny skies. There will be new vessels sailing to Caribbean ports for the first time in Winter 2014 including the recently christened Royal Princess, MSC cruises’ MSC Divina, Oceania’s Riviera and also Paul Gauguin cruises new acquisition, 90 passenger Tere Moana. If spa is your thing, there are new treatments being offered and unique itineraries being added into this heady mix. Here is what holiday makers can look forward to this winter.

THE YACHT EXPERIENCE

What do Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Leonard di Caprio all have in common? They all sail on - or own - luxury yachts in the Caribbean. Those with discerning taste can also choose a yachting experience this winter. Variety Cruises have Caribbean itineraries that include swim stops in sheltered island coves. The S/C Panorama, a bijou two mast vessel, will have seven night Caribbean cruises with a variety of different itineraries to choose from. Compagnie du Ponant’s small three mast ship, Le Ponant, is also sailing in the Caribbean this winter but this elegant little charmer has only 32 cabins so you will need to be an ‘early bird’ and book early to secure your place.

Seabourn cruise line’s six all-suite ships have been recognized as the “World’s Best” by readers of Travel + Leisure for the fifth consecutive year in the “Small-Ship Cruise Lines” category. Seabourn’s personalized and intuitive attention to detail as well as excellent facilities are what earned it the top spot. The cruise line’s unique events and parties, such as ‘Caviar in the Surf’ are extremely popular and mean passengers come back to experience the Caribbean with Seabourn year after year. ‘Caviar in the Surf’ has uniformed waiters (up to their waists in water) serving champagne and caviar from surfboards as guests enjoy the experience in the cool waves.

SeaDream Yacht Club has two intimate yachts that each carrying only 112 guests and 95 crew. SeaDream I and SeaDream II are particularly popular with honeymooners as the cruise line offers the opportunity to sleep under the stars on Balinese Dream Beds. Really a must for all guests; beds are located on the top deck (6) and are made up with fluffy pillows, fine Belgian linens and include an incredible unobstructed view of the night sky. An even more enjoyable experience after watching Starlit Movies by the poolside.

The name Regent Seven Seas is synonymous with luxury and also known for its competitive pricing. An all-inclusive Caribbean experience with this cruise line means everything is thrown in: shore excursions, flights, beverages, gratuities. Departing on 11 November, 2013, the 490 passenger Regent Seven Seas Navigator will be sailing to Costa Maya (Mexico), Guatemala, Belize city, Cozumel and Key West – a port intensive itinerary to give a real flavour of the destination.

 

GLEAMING NEW SHIPS 
Four brand new ships will be sailing in the Caribbean this winter: Royal Princess, MSC Divina, Oceania’s Riviera, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as well as Screen Goddess, Sophia Loren, both christened new ships, the Royal Princess and MSC Divina respectively. Oceania’s new luxury ship, Riviera, boasts a renowned cookery school and delightful restaurants to tempt passengers on board while the Norwegian Breakaway has an exclusive luxury area as part of its new large ship that is quietly luxurious. 
All eyes were on HRH the Duchess of Cambridge as she snipped the ribbon to let a magnum of Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne smash on the 3,600 passenger Royal Princess’ hull on the 13th June, 2013. In fact, the Royal Princess naming event in Southampton attracted the attention of the world, with media reporting on the event from around the globe. MSC Cruise Line also pulled out all the stops in a glamorous christening event in Genoa that saw Sophia Loren once again nominated as the godmother for the MSC Divina, latest ship for the popular Italian cruise line.
BEST ITINERARIES 
SeaDream I’s West Indies programme is far removed from that favoured by holiday packages and traditional cruise lines. It is a unique blend of islands: chic ones, small ones, sandy ones, rocky ones but above all, always fun ones! Favourites among these are uninhabited Culebrita Island, chic St. Barts, oh-so-private Norman Island, and delicious Jost van Dyke, ‘sexy’ Bequia, glorious Virgin Gorda and incredible Montserrat. New destinations are Frigate Bay and Friars Bay, BVI, Christiansted, St. Croix and Reggae Beach (Cockleshell Bay, St Kitts). A typical spring 2014, seven night Caribbean sailing costs from £2,300pp including fees and port tax. 
Silversea have snagged renowned chocolatier Chantal Coady, founder of award-winning Rococo Chocolates, to host Silver Whisper’s seven day Caribbean departing on 8th November from Bridgetown, Barbados. Coady will be on board throughout the sailing and will give demonstrations and talks throughout the cruise. Voyage calls at Bridgetown, Willemstad (Curacao), Oranjestad (Aruba, Kralendijk (Bonaire), El Guamache and St George’s. Oceania’s new ship, Riviera, will sail from Miami on a ten night cruise that takes in many of the most popular spots in the Caribbean. Departing on 2 December 2013, Riviera will visit Ocho Rios (Jamaica), George Town (Cayman Islands), Roatan (Honduras), Santo Tomas (Guatemala), Belize City (Belize), Cozumel and Costa Maya (Mexico) before returning to Miami. 
BEST FOR SPA 
The SeaDream I and SeaDream II Spas, with eight spa staff attending a maximum of 112 guests, is the highest staff to guest ratio at sea you can find. These spas provides the ultimate in relaxation and rejuvenation for the mind, body and spirit. The range of treatments on offer varies from Thai to European. And for the FIRST time from August 2013, Aïny products will be incorporated into treatments. The concept of Aïny is based on plants used in magical and sacred rituals by native communities and shamans in South America. Many of these treatments can be enjoyed on deck in the open air private massage area.

GLEAMING NEW SHIPS 

Four brand new ships will be sailing in the Caribbean this winter: Royal Princess, MSC Divina, Oceania’s Riviera, and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Breakaway. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as well as Screen Goddess, Sophia Loren, both christened new ships, the Royal Princess and MSC Divina respectively. Oceania’s new luxury ship, Riviera, boasts a renowned cookery school and delightful restaurants to tempt passengers on board while the Norwegian Breakaway has an exclusive luxury area as part of its new large ship that is quietly luxurious. 

All eyes were on HRH the Duchess of Cambridge as she snipped the ribbon to let a magnum of Moët & Chandon Impérial Champagne smash on the 3,600 passenger Royal Princess’ hull on the 13th June, 2013. In fact, the Royal Princess naming event in Southampton attracted the attention of the world, with media reporting on the event from around the globe. MSC Cruise Line also pulled out all the stops in a glamorous christening event in Genoa that saw Sophia Loren once again nominated as the godmother for the MSC Divina, latest ship for the popular Italian cruise line.

BEST ITINERARIES 

SeaDream I’s West Indies programme is far removed from that favoured by holiday packages and traditional cruise lines. It is a unique blend of islands: chic ones, small ones, sandy ones, rocky ones but above all, always fun ones! Favourites among these are uninhabited Culebrita Island, chic St. Barts, oh-so-private Norman Island, and delicious Jost van Dyke, ‘sexy’ Bequia, glorious Virgin Gorda and incredible Montserrat. New destinations are Frigate Bay and Friars Bay, BVI, Christiansted, St. Croix and Reggae Beach (Cockleshell Bay, St Kitts). A typical spring 2014, seven night Caribbean sailing costs from £2,300pp including fees and port tax. 

Silversea have snagged renowned chocolatier Chantal Coady, founder of award-winning Rococo Chocolates, to host Silver Whisper’s seven day Caribbean departing on 8th November from Bridgetown, Barbados. Coady will be on board throughout the sailing and will give demonstrations and talks throughout the cruise. Voyage calls at Bridgetown, Willemstad (Curacao), Oranjestad (Aruba, Kralendijk (Bonaire), El Guamache and St George’s. Oceania’s new ship, Riviera, will sail from Miami on a ten night cruise that takes in many of the most popular spots in the Caribbean. Departing on 2 December 2013, Riviera will visit Ocho Rios (Jamaica), George Town (Cayman Islands), Roatan (Honduras), Santo Tomas (Guatemala), Belize City (Belize), Cozumel and Costa Maya (Mexico) before returning to Miami. 

BEST FOR SPA 

The SeaDream I and SeaDream II Spas, with eight spa staff attending a maximum of 112 guests, is the highest staff to guest ratio at sea you can find. These spas provides the ultimate in relaxation and rejuvenation for the mind, body and spirit. The range of treatments on offer varies from Thai to European. And for the FIRST time from August 2013, Aïny products will be incorporated into treatments. The concept of Aïny is based on plants used in magical and sacred rituals by native communities and shamans in South America. Many of these treatments can be enjoyed on deck in the open air private massage area.

HOT AND COLD RUNNING BUTLERS 

MSC has lead the way with the ‘ship within a ship’ concept by creating the MSC Yacht Club. The MSC Yacht Club is a dedicated area of the ship that is only accessible by those guests staying in one of the Yacht Club’s exclusive cabins. Guests ascend the golden Swarovski encrusted staircase to the magnificent private pool area that has its own secluded bar and Jacuzzi. All the while butlers look after your every need, even escorting yacht guests to restaurants in the main section of the ship if they choose not to eat in the Yacht Club’s own private restaurant. 

Synonymous with luxury, Silversea offer butlers as part of a complete package intending to attend to guests every wish. Turn down service with pillows chosen from a menu of nine, 24 hour room service, complimentary spa robes and even having bags packed and unpacked are all included as part of the butler service. Champagne, spirits, wine and beer are complimentary and the cruise line ensures your cabin bar is stocked to your specifications. 

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Oasis of the Seas Crown Loft Suite is set over two levels and guests staying here will have a complimentary valet service. This suite has stunning ocean views, a private balcony – the perfect place to watch the sun set – while the mezzanine level bedroom offers all the comforts of home.

The privileged staying in The Haven, Norwegian Cruise Line’s luxury private enclave on Norwegian Breakaway, will enjoy the 24 hour service of a certified butler. They will also have exclusive access to The Haven’s Courtyard which boasts a private pool, sun deck and fitness area. There are a host of additional complimentary services plus easy access to the adjacent Mandara Spa where guests can use the thermal suites, sauna and hydrotherapy pool.

ELEGANT EATING 

Many of the luxury ships sailing in the Caribbean have fantastic speciality restaurants which adds to an upmarket experience. 

Oceania cruise line has recently expanded their larger ship offering with the introduction of new ship 1250 guest, Riviera, adding both of these to the three small ships Nautica, Regatta and Insignia already in the fleet. The Grand Dining Room, Toscana Italian, Polo Grill, Waves (poolside) and Terrace Café are on all of Oceania’s ships while the two larger ships both have La Reserve, wine pairing and tasting centres, and Bon Appetit Culinary Centre. The Bon Appetit Culinary Centre is unique as it has workstations and hands-on cookery tuition under the auspices of trained chefs rather than theatre style demonstations offered on other cruise lines. The two larger ships, Marina and Riviera, also have an Asian fusion restaurant `Red Ginger’ which is known for its sumptuous Thai cuisine while `Jacques’ is a traditional bistro and French restaurant. 

On board P&O cruise line’s Azura and Ventura are celebrity restaurants that are garnering excellent reviews. ‘The Glass House’, on board both ships, offers the opportunity to taste 32 wines by the glass, each handpicked by TV wine expert Olly Smith. 

‘Luxury’ has different meanings for different people but with cruising you can be assured of top rate amenities, excellent cuisine and, of course, intuitive service as part of your experience. Winter 2013/14 is proving to be a perfect time for luxury sailing in the Caribbean. 

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