John Honeywell, AKA Captain Greybeard, shares his reviews of the three luxury cruise holidays he enjoyed this summer.
Luxury cruising comes in all shapes and sizes – there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all policy. This summer, I have enjoyed three cruises on very different ships, each of them comfortably worth the luxury tag, but poles apart in size and style.
Regent Seven Seas Explorer
Regent Seven Seas Explorer boldly announces itself as the most luxurious ship ever built, daring anyone to challenge the assertion.
It’s not far off, though, especially for the few – very few – passengers who could afford the $10,000 a day needed to stay in its 4,500-square foot Regent Suite. Occupants have a better view from their panoramic windows than the captain has from the bridge two decks below, and they are provided with a limo and driver in each port of call. The accommodation boasts – and I really mean boasts – its own personal spa with unlimited treatments provided by the Canyon Ranch staff. There’s a $250,000 Steinway grand piano, and the king-sized bed cost more than $100,000.
My Concierge Suite was nowhere near as roomy, but I liked the fact the bed faced the window, beyond which was a spacious balcony. Food in all the ship’s restaurants was excellent, and I feel slightly guilty that my favourite thing was the handcrafted beef burger topped with lobster and sweetcorn aioli – I ate three during my five days on board.
Queen Mary 2
By comparison, the beef burgers on Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2 – which was my home for an eight-day crossing of the Atlantic from Southampton to New York – were a slight let-down. But that was the only disappointment. The newly-remastered ship – beneficiary of a £90-million dry-dock refurbishment this spring – has been given a new lease of life.
It has said goodbye to the over-sauced Todd English restaurant and the unloved Winter Garden. They have been transformed into the fresh, modern Verandah, and the comfortably-welcoming Carinthia Lounge. New balcony cabins have been added to the ship’s top deck, and even the pets who travel have been given better facilities – more kennels, plus a Liverpool lamppost and a New York fire hydrant for their convenience.
Queen Mary 2 offers luxury in the grandest manner – high tea in the Queens Room, enrichment talks in the planetarium, and an ever-changing repertoire of entertainment in the plush Royal Court Theatre.
My third luxury experience this summer was nowhere near as big and it had nothing as lavish as the QM2’s facilities. Crystal Esprit carries just 62 passengers – against 750 on Explorer and 2,695 on QM2. The guests are outnumbered by the crew of 91. The week spent exploring the Adriatic coast from Dubrovnik to Venice was almost like taking a holiday on my own private yacht. Excursions in each port, from Kotor in Montenegro to Split, Zadar, and finally the Slovenian town of Piran, were included in the fare, as were the drinks.
Instead of lavish theatre productions, there was one man and a piano, keeping his small audience happy by playing their favourite tunes.
A water sports platform at the stern was lowered when the ship was at anchor; guests went swimming and kayaking, and I had my first ever chance to take command of a jet-ski. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to descend beneath the waves in Esprit’s 3-man submarine because the weather turned against us. There were no disappointments when it came to the food, especially dinners. There was limited choice, but the creations of Birmingham-born chef Adam Jenkins and his small team – all on show every night in the open galley – were, without exception, absolutely sublime.
Sommelier Sean, from South Africa, always came up with just the right bottle to accompany the dishes, and he would be on hand with a glass of dessert wine or, if I was having cheese, a glass of port. Our butler was equally attentive, bringing my wife a pot of tea so she could have a lie-in while I went for breakfast to set me up for the day ahead – which usually involved a morning ashore and an afternoon lazing by the pool.
So I’ve enjoyed three different types of luxury – some more than others. It could be the same for you – all you have to do is choose the style that suits you best, and then dig into your savings.