Cruisemates Consumer Affairs; The 2006 Luxury Lineup

The 2006 Luxury Lineup
By Art Sbarsky, CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor
May 9, 2005

The six luxury cruise lines will be spanning the globe in 2006, offering guests an opportunity to reach virtually everyplace a cruise ship can safely go, with a range of itineraries from short cruises to around-the-world adventures. Crystal, Cunard, Radisson Seven Seas, Sea Dream Yacht Club, Silversea and The Yachts of Seabourn will have 17 ships sailing the seven seas next year.

Prime Destinations

The luxury lines apparently feel Europe is the most important place to be from mid-May all the way through mid-November. Some 14 of the lines’ 17 ships will be in the region, operating itineraries from the North Cape (Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas, Cunard and Seabourn) all the way around through the Med to Istanbul. The range of Baltic, Western Europe/British Isles and Mediterranean itineraries is pretty impressive, with ships stopping at the usual popular places but also adding new ports -- especially small ones.

Two of the three luxury ships not going to Europe will spend their summers in Alaska/Canada: Seven Seas Mariner and Silver Shadow. RSSC’s Paul Gauguin will continue her long-time deployment in the South Pacific, cruising around the Society Islands (Tahiti).

When not in Europe or Alaska, the ships from the luxury lines will cruise the Caribbean, Latin America/Panama Canal, South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand, the Orient, Hawaii and Mexico. Some will go through the Suez Canal, presenting the opportunity to reach ports in the Middle East, Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

Long Cruises

Three ships will be deployed on 2006 world cruises: Crystal Serenity (106 days/seven segments), Seven Seas Voyager (108 days/six segments) and QE2 (109 days/five segments). The lines are touting new ports such as Rangoon, Myanmar; and Tripoli, Libya; complimentary shoreside events such as RSSC’s private reception at the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai; and overnight land options like Crystal’s multiple safari excursions in Africa.

In addition to the world cruises, there will be long voyages around the Pacific (96 nights on Seven Seas Voyager) and South America (62 nights on Seven Seas Mariner or 38 days on QM2). But the way so many ships are deployed on consecutive voyages of varying lengths, it’s possible to build a cruise of virtually any duration (e.g., from the Baltic to Istanbul) with almost no repetition of ports.

Line by Line Options

Crystal: With a two-ship fleet for 2006, Crystal made the strategic decision to deploy both of them in the popular European arena. Both ships will be there throughout the summer, with itineraries mostly from seven to 12 days. Crystal Serenity will be in the Baltic for the first time; all itineraries going to St. Petersburg will be feature two nights and three days, giving guests the chance to visit Moscow. During the rest of the year, the ships are deployed virtually everywhere else. There are new itineraries for the Amazon; maiden calls to Mauritius, Reunion Island and La Baie des Ha! Ha! (it’s in Canada and I just love that name); a new fall itinerary to Tripoli and Egypt; new Panama Canal cruises to or from Tampa; and two-week holiday sailings on both ships for Christmas/New Years (one from Los Angeles and the other from Miami).

Cunard: QM2 will embark on a 38-day trip that virtually circumnavigates South America, going down the eastern side and becoming the largest ship ever to sail the Beagle Channel and Straits of Magellan. The ship goes on to the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii before making a maiden call in Los Angeles. Before ending the year in the Caribbean, QM2 will make 20 crossings, all of which begin or end in New York; but on the other end, there are four that go beyond Southampton to Hamburg. In the mix as well are four Med cruises, two New England/Canada voyages and two sailings surrounding our Independence Day and Labor Day. QE2, meanwhile, will offer the line’s world cruise; it’s actually the only true world cruise being offered, since it goes roundtrip from New York -- reaching 42 ports and 27 countries in 109 days. QE2 spends most of the rest of the year in Europe but with a couple of one-off crossings as well.

Radisson Seven Seas: Beyond the Paul Gauguin, which spends the entire year in the South Pacific, the line’s other three ships go globe-trotting with Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Navigator having long European seasons (both ships sail the Baltic and Med) and Seven Seas Mariner doing a summer of open-jawed, week-long Alaska sailings from Whittier to Vancouver (or the reverse). The line offers three long cruises of 62 nights to South America, 96 nights around the Pacific and a world cruise of 108 nights. All three are sold in shorter segments. Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Mariner sail the Caribbean during the winter and spring, offering roundtrips from both Fort Lauderdale and San Juan. Voyager, Mariner and Navigator’s Christmas/New Year’s sailings are either through the Panama Canal or in the Caribbean.

Sea Dream Yacht Club: Sea Dream has the simplest schedule to keep track of. Both ships are in the Caribbean from December through April and in Europe from mid-May through mid-November. Most sailings are seven nights, but there is a smattering of shorter and longer ones. While Sea Dream I sails the Caribbean out of either San Juan or St. Thomas, Sea Dream II goes deeper, sailing out of Barbados, Antigua and St. Martin. In Europe, there are departures ranging from Nice and Venice to Piraeus, Istanbul and Dubrovnik, opening up the possibility of non-repetitive longer cruises. Sea Dream also charters about 50% of its sailings, so it’s actually beneficial that they give multiple opportunities for the same itineraries.

Silversea: During the year, Silversea’s far-flung itineraries will reach 318 ports in 100 countries, via 145 itineraries. There are about 20 new ports of call, including Kangaroo Island, Australia; Khasab, Oman; Pusan, South Korea; Ventura, California; Tobruk, Libya; and Isafjordur, Iceland. Three of Silversea’s ships will be in Europe, covering virtually everywhere in the Med and the Baltic. The fourth, Silver Shadow, will be in Alaska with roundtrip itineraries from Seattle and San Francisco or open-jaw sailings between Seattle or San Francisco and Vancouver. After her European season, Silver Cloud transits the Suez Canal and explores the Arabian Peninsula on the way to spending the winter in Australia. Silver Wind starts the year off in Africa (including the Seychelles) and ends it in South America. Silver Whisper starts the year in the Caribbean and follows her summer European season with the Orient and Southeast Asia. Silver Shadow starts the year in Australia/New Zealand and the Far East and then, after Europe, spends time in the Caribbean.

The Yachts of Seabourn: All three Seabourn ships are in Europe during the summer months, with lots of different itineraries in both the Baltic (with Seabourn Pride getting up to the North Cape) and the Med. During the rest of the year, they spread out. Seabourn Legend offers 14-day cruises from Fort Lauderdale to Costa Rica or seven days roundtrip from St. Thomas for the Caribbean. Seabourn Pride starts the year by heading down to South America from Fort Lauderdale with two voyages along the Amazon. After Europe, Pride has a short New England/Canada season (with a couple of cruises beginning or ending in Quebec or Gloucester, Mass.) and is then in the Caribbean with weekly roundtrips, mostly from Barbados. Seabourn Spirit starts and ends the year cruising around Australia/New Zealand, Southeast Asia and the Orient. Going to and from Europe, the ship transits the Suez Canal, offering great exotic itineraries both ways.

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