Luxury yachts host just a few guests in spectacular destinations

Luxury yachtsEarlier this year, Gadling introduced InnerSea Discoveries, what we called the Alaska Adventure Cruise for people that hate even the idea of a cruise. Called the “Un-Cruise” its an up-close personal adventure experience that just happens to travel on water. The line’s moderately priced inaugural season sold out fast and reports back from the field validate the adventure nature of the travel experience.

Now, InnerSea’s sister-line American Safari Cruises, promising luxury in the pursuit of adventure, has released its 2012-2013 Schedule Of Active Yacht Adventures deployment detailing voyages for its three yacht fleet.

The nimble yachts, 12-guest Safari Spirit, 22-guest Safari Quest and 36-guest Safari Explorer, specialize in expedition cruising with flexible itineraries. Destinations include Southeast Alaska, Mexico’s Sea of Cortés, Columbia and Snake Rivers, Hawaiian Islands and Washington and British Columbia.

“We are releasing our brochure a bit earlier this year” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “We had a stellar year in 2011, and we want to get the new brochure in travelers’ hands now to book 2012 as early as possible.”

In all destinations, the yachts sail flexible itineraries in order to maximize wildlife viewing opportunities and provide one-of-a-kind active adventures for guests. Activities may vary by destination and include kayaking, hiking, biking, yoga, beachcombing, snorkeling, stand up paddle boarding, tubing, sailing and skiff rides. Expert guides and naturalists lead many excursions.
Let’s take a look at what they are offering in the upcoming season.

Luxury yachtsWashington and British Columbia
For 2012, the 22-guest Safari Quest sails weeklong Pacific Northwest Passages cruises along the coasts of Washington state and British Columbia from September 14 to November 16, 2012 and from March 29 to May 3, 2013. Sailing roundtrip from Seattle, WA, the yacht visits Victoria, Jervis Inlet and the Harmony Islands, Princess Louisa Inlet, Nanaimo and Gulf Islands, B.C.; and San Juan Islands, WA.

Hawaii
Introduced in 2011, the 36-guest Safari Explorer continues sailing seven-night Hawaiian Seascapes cruises between Maui and the Big Island (and reverse) from January 4 to May 3 and November 3 to December 29, 2012; January 5 to April 13, 2013. The inter-island yacht cruise explores Moloka’i and its picture book Halawa Valley, Lanai, Maui, Molokini and the Big Island.

Southeast Alaska
All three luxury yachts sail roundtrip from Juneau, Alaska from May 11 to August 24, 2012. The seven night Discoverers Glacier Country cruises spend two full days in Glacier Bay National Park with opportunities to hike and kayak with park rangers. The yachts will explore around Icy Strait, Frederick Sound, Admiralty Island, Fords Terror and Endicott Arm.

The 15-day Famed Inside Passage cruise from Seattle to Juneau (or reverse) visits San Juan Islands, WA; Canadian Inside Passage; Misty Fjords National Monument, Ketchikan, Petersburg, LeConte Bay, Baird Glacier, Frederick Sound, Red Bluff Bay, Pavlof Harbor, Glacier Bay National Park and Icy Strait, Alaska. In 2012, spring dates include May 11 on Safari Quest and April 27 on Safari Spirit. Returning from Alaska, the Safari Quest departs on August 31 and the Safari Explorer and Safari Spirit depart September 7.

Luxury yachtsMexico’s Sea of Cortés
From January 7 to March 31, 2012, the 22-guest Safari Quest explores this UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve on weeklong Aquarium of the World cruises sailing roundtrip from La Paz, Baja California Sur. The itinerary explores Isla Partida, Bahia Agua Verde, Isla Coyote, Isla San Francisco, Los Islotes, Isla San José and Isla Espiritu Santos.

Columbia and Snake Rivers

The 12-guest Safari Spirit sails from Portland, OR to Lewiston, ID (and reverse) on weeklong Rivers of the West cruises September 29, October 13 and 20, 2012. The itinerary visits the Columbia River Gorge, Bonneville Dam, Hood River, Washington Wine Country, Palouse River Canyon and Hells Canyon.

Culinary and Wine Discovery cruises travel the same route but include an on board visit by a guest sommelier, visits with winemakers, food and wine pairings, a visit to the Maryhill Museum and winery tours in the Walla Walla, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge and Yakima Valley appellations. Culinary and Wine cruises depart October 6 and 27 and November 3, 10 and 17, 2012.

Here’s the best part. These very-inclusive cruises include all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; exquisite meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews; and all port charges, taxes and fees. All yachts feature a hot tub, Tempur-pedic mattresses, heated tile floors in all bathrooms and upper category balconies. Some also feature saunas, a complimentary massage and Jacuzzi tubs.

With all that, an all-American crew and a guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1 this is too could be called an “un-cruise”.

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On Celebrity Cruises X marks a change to on board experiences

Celebrity Cruises changeCruise lines continue to hack away at what we think of them. Pretty much burried are images of shuffleboard, bingo, and “just old folks” on the ships. Now, they are moving forward with intense new branding efforts that are making for clear choices between lines.

It wasn’t all that long ago that if your answer to “Where did you go on vacation?” was “on a cruise” that similar images, impressions and perceptions would come up. Cruise vacations really were quite similar between lines and “on a cruise” was a good, accurate answer.

Now, cruise lines are clearly focused on defining their brands and making sure you know it.

Celebrity Cruises, traditionally seen as a more upscale line with a more fancy onboard experience, is taking it’s signature “X” icon to a different level with a new theme “X the rules”. This is different than Norwegian Cruise Line’s “Freestyle Cruising” that promotes how guests are “free to do whatever…” It’s different than sister-line Royal Caribbean’s “Land of why not?” campaign.

Celebrity Cruises is promoting change through a “trendsetting onboard experience”, different than other lines. Still upscale, Celebrity “iLounges” offer the latest Apple technologies and invite guests to become immersed in new applications through “iLearn” courses. Celebrity also offers vacationers the chance to learn a new language through Rosetta Stone, become immersed in the culture of the destinations with experts from Smithsonian Journeys, or taste the difference a glass makes in comparative wine tastings with Riedel Crystal.

Yes, there’s still bingo and you can find shuffleboard if you look for it. But Celebrity ships, new and old, are going after a unique onboard experience that won’t be for everyone. That’s a new direction for cruise lines in general who wanted to be everything to everybody for so long as the industry was developing.

While only an estimated 20% of the U.S. population has taken a cruise, the Cruise Lines International Association predicts strong growth in the future. If the individual lines have anything to say about it, they will find you, sail with you, and be everything you ever wanted in a vacation.

As Celebrity might have said in the not-nearly-as-well-defined past “It’s all about you”.

Flickr photo by sailorbabe80



Lunch with a view and exceptionally good values on luxury cruises

The photo above was snapped yesterday from the balcony of stateroom 720 on Seabourn Sojourn during a transit of Norway’s UNESCO World Heritage Geirangerfjord. Small ships such as Seabourn Sojourn, carrying a maximum of 450 passengers, can easily navigate the Norwegian fjords and dock or drop anchor in small ports of call where the big ships can’t.

Small ships offer several other advantages, such as fewer lines for activities ranging from dining to disembarking, and greater space ratio, meaning fewer guest per square foot. Small ships generally feel more intimate and less crowded than larger ships as well.

Small ships typically also represent the upper-end of the product line, the luxury segment. While luxury cruise fares are sometimes three times more than fares on cruises of a similar length on large ships, luxury cruises are more inclusive. For example, alcohol is served free of charge as are specialty coffees and soft drinks. Gratuities, which are added to passengers’ final bills on larger ships, are also included on luxury cruises.

Luxury cruise fares are also at – or near – historic lows. Today, for example, Seabourn announced cruises beginning at less $200 per day per person during a special One Week Sale (the lowest fare, $2499, is for a 13-day transatlantic from Monte Carlo to Fort Lauderdale on December 6).

More typically, cruises can be found for around $300 per day per person, not bad when you consider the fare includes wining and dining in Seabourn’s gourmet restaurants – or on your balcony as you sail by some of the world’s most attractive sites.

Other luxury players, Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Crystal Cruises and SeaDream Yacht Club, offer similar savings in the ever-competitive luxury cruise segment.