All aboard for all-inclusive

Over the past year, more cruise lines than ever have started using those two magical words: all-inclusive.
The most recent converts are Crystal Cruises and Compagnie du Ponant, as well as several river cruise lines: Australia’s Scenic Tours and APT (selected European departures only) and Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.
Crystal added open-bar service and pre-paid gratuities, on top of the already included non-alcoholic drinks, meals, 24-hour room service, self-service laundry, port shuttles, fitness classes, golf lessons and use of steam rooms and saunas. Ponant prices also now include all alcohol and tips. Meanwhile, passengers on the three river cruise lines won’t have to reach into their pockets while onboard for drinks, wi-fi internet, tips, airport transfers and shore excursions.
For the record, Regent remains the most inclusive line, covering everything from top-shelf alcohol to unlimited shore excursions and pre-cruise accommodation in a top-level hotel.
First published in Vacations & Travel. Read the full article by clicking below:
Photos courtesy of Seabourn
All-inclusive Paul Gauguin Cruises has renovated the MS Paul Gauguin and launched a second ship, the Tere Moana, at the end of last year, which will venture beyond the line’s traditional home in Tahiti to a much wider range of destinations in Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Silversea, which also includes all drinks and butler service, recently purchased an upmarket expedition ship that has been renovated and renamed Silver Galapagos. Its existing adventure vessel, Silver Explorer, operates in the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctica.
Seabourn’s 2013 world cruise was spiced up by special events, such as a private viewing of the Panama Canal’s Miraflores Locks operation, afternoon tea in the members’ enclosure at a Hong Kong horseracing track and a desert sunset in the world’s highest restaurant, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
SeaDream is venturing to Australia for the first time next year, which is a major departure from its usual routes in the Med and Caribbean. In November 2013, it will also make the company’s first transit of the Panama Canal to spend several weeks sailing along the coast of Costa Rica.
For a yacht experience with sails blowing in the wind, Windstar Cruises’ revamped, four-masted Wind Spirit and Wind Star have redesigned staterooms, teak decks, a beauty spa, hot tub, pool, library, water-sports platform, casino and entertainment lounge. Seven new voyages debut this year, such as the “Gaelic Explorers” journey past the highlands, castles and pubs of Scotland and Ireland.
Active travellers may enjoy Star Clippers’ nautical experience, where they can get involved in the action, including the chance to climb the mast. After plying Europe’s waters for the rest of the 2013 Northern Hemisphere summer, the fleet’s three vessels will follow the sun to the Caribbean, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
One of the year’s most exciting developments is that the world’s highest-rated ship, Europa, is getting a sister. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2 will have 251 all-balcony suites, eight restaurants, a theatre and several bars and lounges. The two-week maiden voyage from Hamburg to Lisbon takes place in May. According to the operators, the newly built ship will be a more casual version of the original with an emphasis on lifestyle and wellbeing.
Oceania Cruises launched the lovely Riviera in May 2012. Ten dining venues are complemented by the only hands-on cooking school at sea and a dedicated wine-tasting room. Another new feature is the Canyon Ranch Spa Club’s thalassotherapy pool. Next season’s itineraries are focused on Europe’s summer, with options consisting of Istanbul to Rome or Athens and Venice to Barcelona.
MSC Cruises recently debuted the Divina and is planning to float its 13th ship, the MSC Preziosa. Like many of her sister ships, Preziosa will feature the MSC Yacht Club: an exclusive enclave of cabins on the foredeck offering all the trimmings, from butler service to restaurants just open to Yacht Club guests. The MSC fleet has also benefited from an upgrade to its facilities for young cruises, with new kid’s clubs and games rooms providing endless entertainment.
Local luxury
Australia’s most luxurious offering is Celebrity Solstice, described by Celebrity Cruises as “a spa resort holiday at sea.” Based in Sydney this summer for the first time, this beautiful ship has 130 AquaClass cabins located near the two-storey spa. Guests in these rooms receive a host of extras, including complimentary access to the health-oriented Blu specialty restaurant and the AquaSpa’s Relaxation Room and Persian Garden aromatherapy steam room overlooking the water. The rooms are stocked with custom-blended toiletries and carafes of iced tea, while each bathroom is fitted with a five-head shower tower. Celebrity Cruises recently enhanced its suite amenities, so AquaSpa suite guests can also look forward to premium beds and linens, iPod/iPad docking stations, Bulgari bath products, a welcome bottle of wine and reserved seating at the ship’s theatre. A personal spa concierge is on hand to arrange beauty treatments, which range from 24-karat gold leaf facials to Botox, teeth-whitening and eyelash enhancements – everything a luxury cruiser could possibly need to look the part.

TRAVEL FACTS • Celebrity Cruises. 1800-754-500; celebritycruises.com • Compagnie du Ponant. 1300-950-622; en.ponant.com • Crystal Cruises, Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 1800-251-174; wiltrans.com.au • Evergreen Tours. 61-2/4929-433; evergreentours.com • Globus. globus.com.au • Oceania Cruises. oceaniacruises.com.au • Seabourn. seabourn.com • SeaDream Yacht Club. seadream.com • Silversea. 1300-306-872; silversea.com • Star Clippers.1300-362-599; starclippers.com • Tui Marine. tuimarine.com • Windstar Cruises. windstarcruises.com

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