Cruising

Bigger isn’t better: Six of the world’s coolest small ships

Bigger isn’t better: Six of the world’s coolest small ships

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WINDSTAR
Over the past three years, Windstar has spent millions of dollars refitting the three nearly identical, 212-passenger ships that were formerly part of the Seabourn fleet; they joined Windstar’s three motor-sailing ships, Wind Star, Wind Spirit and Wind Surf.

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The new threesome has all-suite accommodation; 36 suites have French-style balconies and the top four have private verandahs. All have full-size baths as well as showers.

Cruising with Windstar is about “casual elegance” – there are no formal nights – and visiting small ports in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Tahiti, Costa Rica and the Caribbean. The ships’ marina platforms are stocked with waterskis, kayaks and sailing dinghies. Fares are reasonable but not all-inclusive.

REGENT SEVEN SEAS

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Uber-luxury line RSSC’s 750-passenger all-suite, all-balcony flagship sets sail in the Mediterranean this July. Outstanding features include the opulent 271-square-metre, two-bedroom Regent Suite (the others promise to be pretty impressive too); seven restaurants; eight bars and lounges; and a crew-to-guest ratio 1 to 1.38.

Two new restaurants, Pacific Rim and Chartreuse, will be added to Regent favourites Prime 7 and Compass Rose; another first for the cruise line is the Culinary Arts Kitchen. Classes will cost extra, but all excursions are included in the fare – as are drinks, gratuities, transfers and internet access. The new ship has set such a high bar that RSSC is now spending $US125 million on upgrading its three fleetmates.

SILVERSEA
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Silversea’s newest ship, Silver Muse, will be christened in April 2017. It joins four “classic” ships (Silver Shadow, Whisper, Spirit and Wind – Silver Cloud will be converted to an expedition ship in 2017) and the existing three expedition vessels. Silver Muse is the line’s first new ship since Silver Spirit launched in 2009, and will be a similar design but slightly bigger; a maximum of 596 guests will be looked after by 411 crew.

The ship will have eight dining venues, including two new ones: the poolside Regina Margherita pizzeria and Atlantide, a seafood and steak restaurant. It will spend its inaugural season cruising in the Mediterranean, then move to the Caribbean.

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There’s enormous interest in Seabourn Encore – its maiden voyage sold out within two days and most of its cruises in Australian waters between January and March 2017 are waitlist only. The 600-passenger Encore is the first of an identical pair: Seabourn Ovation is scheduled to launch in 2018.

Their designs are an extended version of the line’s Odyssey-class ships (Seabourn Odyssey, Quest and Sojourn); they have an extra deck and carry 150 more guests, but offer a similarly high ratio of space per guest and almost one-to-one crew to guest ratio. Highlights include “softer” nautical-themed decor, a round Seabourn Square area and new restaurants as well as signature Seabourn venues.

STAR CLIPPERS

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The Star Clippers fleet of classic, 19th-century-style tall ships combines the romance of sail with contemporary facilities such as top-quality dining, comfortable accommodation, pools and a watersport marina. Flying Clipper, which will launch in 2017, will be the biggest of the four; powered by 35 sails, it will carry 300 passengers and, like its sisters, will rely on its sails rather than its eco-friendly engines whenever possible.

New features include 34 suites with balconies and a glass Dive Bar along with familiar spots such as the bowsprit net, library and al fresco Tropical Bar. The accent is on destinations and adventure rather than luxury; guests can hoist sails if they wish.

PONANT
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The French-flagged Le Lyrial is the youngest in Ponant’s fleet of four luxury expedition ships, which all launched between 2010 and 2015. Le Lyrial accommodates up to 264 guests and is as elegant on the inside as you’d expect from its chic, sleek exterior. It is ice-strengthened for polar cruises and like its sisters, Le Boreal, L’Austral and Le Soleal, offers soft-adventure and expedition cruises around the globe.

Unlike its fleetmates, Le Lyrial has a deck of larger suites – almost all staterooms in all the ships have balconies. Two restaurants offer a choice of formal and casual dining and there are two comfortable, two spacious lounge-bars, a library, theatre and pool.

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