From suite experiences to Michelin-level dining, Jane Archer explores the key selling points for upscale cruising
If anything is an easy sell it surely has to be an ultra-luxury cruise. Who, after all, can resist the thought of being served by staff whose mission is to ensure they have the best holiday possible without forever dipping into their pockets.
Of course, there's the small matter of the upfront cost, but agents who can drive home everything their clients will get on board and ashore are more than halfway there. What else can help get clients over the line? We look at the key aspects of a high-end cruise that agents can highlight to increase their sales.
One of the first things to know when selling a luxury cruise is that all rooms are suites, all face the ocean and most have a balcony. The Regent Suite – there’s one each on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ Seven Seas Explorer, Splendor and Grandeur, which launches in November – tops them all in terms of price (around US$11,905 a night). For that you get an apartment-like suite that sleeps four, has a large balcony with a mini pool, separate living, lounging and sleeping areas, and a spa with a sauna, steam room and hot tub.
Business-class flights from destination are usually standard and perks include a private car and guide at each port, transfers and laundry.
Of course, ultra-luxury ships have suites at various price points. Whether they’re called standard, deluxe, penthouse or owner’s, clients can expect generous-sized rooms, walk-in wardrobes and bathrooms with double sinks and separate baths and showers. But there are a few exceptions. While most suites on luxury lines have balconies, not all do.
Elevated Service: Chefs, Bartenders and Butlers
Good service is all about making people feel special. Being greeted by name after a day ashore, having a bartender offer to pour your favourite tipple before you’ve asked or hailing your butler to uncork your champagne is all par for the course on luxury ships, which have almost as many staff as passengers.
SeaDream Yacht Club boasts a 1:1 passenger-to-crew ratio and Crystal will be close to that following its ships’ refit. At Regent, it’s around 1:1.4. while Seabourn simply points to the “intuitive and thoughtful” service delivered by staff.
Scenic, Silversea and Crystal have butlers for all, while Regent has them for those in suites from Penthouse level and above
“Having a butler is very special and all part of the ultra-luxury experience,” says Silversea's Peter Shanks. Among their duties, they will book restaurants and spa treatments, organise in-suite parties and unpack and pack suitcases.
Chefs across all high-end lines create individual vegan or gluten-free menus for passengers with dietary requirements and tailor dishes to suit food allergies, preferences and dislikes, while special hosts on Regent organise gatherings and dinners for solo travellers and Seabourn arranges parties for past passengers.
Most of the ultra-luxury lines offer a concierge service to organise trips ashore, be it making reservations for a top land-based restaurant – and transport to reach it – or organising private tours or experiences.
Fine Dining, from Nobu to SALT
Ultra-luxury customers expect everything to be the best and are prepared to pay for it, so imagine the selling power when you tell them that dining on high-end ships not only rivals the best restaurants ashore but is mostly complimentary.
They can dine free on dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller on Seabourn ships, try local cuisine in the SALT (Sea and Land Taste) Kitchen on Silversea’s Silver Moon and Silver Dawn, and indulge in French fine dining in Chartreuse on Regent’s ships (except Seven Seas Navigator).
Nobu’s Umi Uma restaurants, which serve his trademark Japanese-cum-Peruvian dishes, will be back on Crystal Cruises’ ships Crystal Serenity and Symphony, when they resume service this autumn.
“It wouldn’t be Crystal without [these] popular restaurants back on board,” says senior vice-president of hotel operations Bernie Leypold. Passengers can dine there once for free on cruises of up to 11 days; more on longer voyages. Additional visits cost US$50 per person.
Despite their size, the ultra-luxury ships have a terrific choice of places to eat. There are up to eight dining venues on Silversea ships, up to seven on Regent vessels and nine on Scenic’s yachts including the invitation-only Chef’s Table@Elements, where just 10 passengers at a time feast on an 11-course degustation menu with food, wine and a head chef to personally present each dish to the table. In Scenic Epicure, passengers prepare local dishes under the watchful eye of a chef and then tuck into their creations.
Relaxing spas, Thai massages and Hydrothermal Suites
Spa treatments are the only things that none of the luxury lines include in the price, so if they fancy a massage or facial it will carry an additional cost. On the plus side, the spas themselves are deliciously lavish and free to enter, so clients can spend as long as they like in the saunas and steam rooms, and, on Regent Seven Seas, the hydrothermal suites with cold and hot chambers.
SeaDream has the only Thai-certified spas at sea, where the masseurs are all trained and certified in Thailand. The line also has private open-air spa areas where passengers can doze to the sound of the waves while being massaged. Seabourn has guided meditation and yoga group classes (mostly paid for) created by mindful living expert Dr Andrew Weil.
Imagine attending a private classical concert after dark among the ruins of Roman temples and bathhouses in Ephesus, Turkey. This experience, offered by Seabourn, is one of a host of exclusive events lines offer to make passengers feel extra special.
SeaDream has a Champagne and Caviar Splash on Caribbean cruises, when the chef and waiters wade into the sea in uniform and serve fizz and pickled roe in the water. Seabourn has a similar event called Champagne and Caviar in the Surf. Silversea has had exclusive events in caves in Halong Bay in Vietnam and the vineyards of South Africa.
Scenic packs exclusive ‘Enrich’ outings into most of its ocean cruises (not expedition). Coming up, passengers will join the chief and villagers for an evening of song, dance and traditional cooking at Sangliat Dol Village in the Tanimbar Islands (17-day Secrets of Indonesia cruise departing 5 September 2024, from US$15,925) and enjoy sundowners on a private beach in Bermuda (13-day Bermuda and Bahamas cruise departing 12 October 2024 from US$9,963).
Scenic director of trade sales Andrea Stafford says knowing about these events will help agents inspire ultra-luxury clients. He says: “Luxury cruises are about making memories. If they can bring the cruise to life for a potential guest, it will help them sell.”