There are no lines for food, no crowds in the pool, no deck chairs draped in towels by families saving spaces for each other.
Luxury cruising is a very different kind of travel experience. It is elegance and panache from the moment you step into the lobby, as you walk past priceless art on the walls and into your suite where you’ll be greeted by name before you’ve even unpacked.
You will be forgiven for turning in circles in your fivestar room taking in the king-sized bed, the comfy chairs and the balcony with your own furniture. Your suite will be spacious with features like an iPod dock and maybe a coffee maker, your bathroom might have a bathtub as well as a shower and the amenities are just as likely to be Bulgari. Some suites have walk-in closets and storage is never a problem. You will have a butler assigned to you who will be serving only a couple of rooms and be ready to bring a pillow or take your ironing and return it before dinner before you even think of it.
Boutique ships provide unique itineraries into smaller ports and offer a higher level of service with a greater staff to passenger ratio than the larger ships can. Exceptional dining experiences are another important reason luxury cruising is so popular. The food will be locally sourced at each location and presented like art on your plate. But if you want to have a quiet dinner in your suite, that is no problem, your butler will bring it in.
Smaller ships like Ponant pride themselves on their exotic itineraries like a Greek Antiquities cruise from Istanbul to Nice via the narrow Corinth Canal where you are towed through this six kilometre feat of engineering. You’ll stop at ports where excursions include historic sites like the Temple of Apollo or Olympia where the marble starting line for the runners at the very first Olympic Games are still in excellent condition and ready for you to pose for your next Facebook photo.
Other luxury cruise ships like Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania are bigger (but not too big) with more onboard options like specialty restaurants and cosy bars. Expect to see live entertainment each night that might include a jazz singer and even the occasional ship’s doctor has been known to play the grand piano of an evening!
Some ships provide formal, glamorous experiences where women in long gowns are not out of place at dinner and you’ll need to bring or rent a jacket for men. But this is less the norm these days as understated style and less stuffiness where sundresses are perfectly acceptable for dinner becomes more popular for the luxury traveller. Yachts like Windstar offer the chance to dine under large white sails and while the suites aren’t as spacious, the intimacy makes up for it as you sail around the likes of the Tahitian islands enjoying a fine dining yet casual experience.
The people you’ll meet on luxury cruises are travellers. You’ll hit it off so well, you’ll probably exchange email address and keep in touch long after your voyage is over. They have a love of travel and it’s more than likely they will have visited New Zealand and have much to say about our own beautiful country!
But beware, once you’ve experienced a luxury cruise there is no turning back.
Have you ever been lucky enough to go on a luxury cruise? Tell us what it was like in the comments below.