When you think of a cruise vacation, chances are the picture is less than buoyant. Perhaps you imagine a confined space, monotony broken only by visits to the buffet line, and screaming children running wild through the public areas in their Frozen bathing suits.
But luxury cruising – now, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. And it's on the uptick.
Last month, two of the world’s fanciest luxury cruise ships docked in Singapore, and when we toured them, we could understand why even millennials and Generation X-ers are more interested in cruise vacations now than they were a year ago, according to US-based Cruise Lines International Association’s 2018 Cruise Travel Report.
A CRUISE FIT FOR ROYALTY – AND CELEBRITIES
Take the Queen Mary 2, for instance, which is the world’s only ocean liner to undertake regular transatlantic crossings between New York City and Southampton. These journeys were famously enjoyed by stars such as Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and, most recently, Ed Sheeran, who undertook the voyage to find songwriting inspiration.
On this floating behemoth, you can imagine yourself in the glamorous heyday of transatlantic travel, with all the clandestine passions of Evelyn Waugh and the bejewelled decadence of the Titanic’s upper decks – but with enough lifeboats for everybody.
The flagship of the British-American Cunard Line was remastered in 2016 and has 1,360 staterooms, including 949 private balcony cabins. It is a ship of superlatives. In addition to its sweeping staircases, collection of art, and opulent, high-ceilinged dining room, it also boasts the only planetarium at sea, the largest ballroom at sea and the largest library at sea. Yes, this is a ship that Belle and the Beast could conceivably honeymoon on.
But luxury is also in the little touches, such as the ship's dedicated florist, who sources local blooms from various ports along the way and orchestrates them into magnificent displays. Or the large portraits of decorated royals staring out at you from gilded frames.
Or the fact that the ship has the only kennels at sea, so that even your pampered pet can travel in style with you, under the care of the ship’s kennel master.
EATING LOBSTER OFF VERSACE PLATES
A few weeks later, the Regent Seven Seas Voyager also docked in Singapore, and we clambered enthusiastically aboard. How luxurious is it? Suffice it to say that in the Compass Rose dining room, we ate lobster off specially designed Versace plates.
Here, the top categories of suites come with a personal butler service, who, among various other things, can organise cocktail parties for you and your newfound cruising friends in your suite. The ship pays an incredible amount of attention to service, with a crew-to-guest ratio of about one staff member to every two guests.
When you sail, you barely have to worry about forking out additional money: The fare includes free unlimited shore excursions. This is something to consider when you are touring, for instance, South America, where places of interest may not be very accessible; or Alaska, where shore excursions are typically very expensive.
On our way in, we spotted a young couple returning to the ship wearing funny headbands and other Universal Studios paraphernalia.
We did not observe any children, although presumably, those on board might have been posh children wearing Little Lord Fauntleroy suits, who are seen and not heard.
OH, WHICH LUXURY CRUISE TO PICK?
After getting our sea legs, we couldn’t think of anything more luxurious than taking a leisurely cruise around the world.
Of course, you could cruise for a mere week from Singapore and feel like a king. Many people do that, especially in Asia, which saw a 41 per cent compound annual growth in cruise passengers between 2012 and 2016.
If you had all the time in the world – and time, as we all know, is the ultimate luxury – you could hop on one of the Regent Seven Seas Grand Voyages, such as the 89-night journey that kicks off in New York City and calls at places such as Iceland, Russia, Spain and Portugal.
You could even get on the Queen Mary 2’s 134-day round-the-world cruise, also departing from New York City. The ship’s stop in Singapore had been part of this special journey. One of the passengers on board was 63-year-old Gerard Miller, who was fulfilling his bucket list.
“I always wanted to do it, especially each time I saw the Queen Mary 2 berthed in Red Hook, Brooklyn on my way to work,” said the retiree, who was travelling solo, adding that he had had no reservations about committing to such a long journey.
If only we could all be like Gerard – footloose, fancy-free, enjoying the breeze on our faces, while lounging in a deck chair and looking out over an expanse of blue.