She’s Australia’s newest ship and Seabourn’s latest luxe liner. She docked for the first time in Australia this week before setting off on a sell-out first itinerary.
The Seabourn Encore is set to be a very special vessel for Australia. She will be back in December to sail a season of Sydney – a testament to how big the luxury cruise market has become.
Over the next few days, her place will be taken on Sydney Harbour by the Regent Seven Seas Voyager, and the Silversea Whisper.
Both Regent Seven Seas and Silversea told us the luxury market is expanding rapidly.
All three lines lay claim to being the epitome of luxury: white gloved butlers, bottomless mini-bars and enough foie gras to close a duck farm.
But only Seabourn director of sales Tony Archbald made his bold statement: the Seabourn Encore represents Australian luxury: stylish, understated with no dripping drapes, old masters and gargantuan crystal chandeliers.
Just great food – US chef Thomas Keller has infused the ship with his distinctive style – and discreet service that Mr Archbold described as “clairvoyance”.
“They know what you want before you do – and suddenly, as you reach for a pen one appears!”
The Encore has been winning standing ovations all around the world.
She’s almost fresh from the yard – she sailed from Italy to Singapore for her christening by Soprano Sarah Brightman just last month. Like a new car, you can smell the fresh paint and leather.
And she does indeed come from a line Australian’s love. When billionaire transport king Lindsay Fox wanted to celebrate his 80th birthday, he hired the Seabourn Odyssey at a reported $200,000 a day and invited his mates – Hugh Jackman, Molly Meldrum, Eddie McGuire, Andrew Forrest, Lloyd Williams. You get the picture.
For her next Australian season, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard is listed among the speakers.
“The Australian ultra-luxe cruise market has been growing,” says Mr Archbold. The demand is growing consistently which is why we have brought down this ship.
“She is the first of a new class – she is in layout almost identical to Odyssey – and that familiarity guests are telling us is important.”
Australians love the fact that, whoever, you are, once you are on board a Seabourn you are “in the club” and get treated like everyone else, says Mr Archbold
On this, her first cruise into Australia, 8 out of 10 guests are Seabourn returnees. A vote of confidence indeed.
The Encore has some very special touches. She was designed by Adam D Tihany, whose specialty is restaurants and hotels. Thomas Keller is the culinary star, but The Restaurant and a sushi bar are good.
The 600 guests enjoy an almost 1-1 ratio of those clairvoyant staff.
“Cruising is a value for money proposition – $700 to $1,000 per day at Seabourn prices, which you just can’t get on land tours for the equivalent.”
At The retreat, guests can rent cabanas and relax for the day. At the spa, Dr Andrew Weil’s happiness treatments abound.
So what’s for lunch at The Restaurant (Seabourn doesn’t waste time with fancy names)?
How about smoked salmon and ossetra malossol caviar, cauliflower and green asparagus soup en croute, sweet butter poached Nova Scotia lobster or beef and pan seared foie gras and illanka transparency (chocolate mouse) for dessert.
Thanks chef Kurt Timmermans for a great meal!
What’s in the suites? Well, here are 300 of them, all with verandas, granite bathrooms Hermes and L’Occitane or Molton Brown products
We only had a few seconds to view – but they looked spacious and well stocked.
Seabourn appears to be a little more expensive than its rivals on a quick trawl of net deals.
The February 18th 16-night Auckland sailing costs $15,799 twin share, or $987 per night.
Seven Seas Voyager is at $710 a day and Silversea Whisper is at $711 at 13 days to Bali.
All the luxury lines admit the market is booming.
Regent Seven Seas told Cruise Passenger they had seen a strong uplift since opening their own office in Sydney.
Regent’s Ben Angell told us: “Support from Australian and New Zealanders for Regent Seven Seas Cruises continues to go from strength to strength with the brand contributing to 30% year on year growth for the Australian NCLH office.
“We are in a stronger forward booked position than we’ve ever been. Demand for Regent Seven Seas Explorer, our newest ship and The Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built™ has been exceptional as has interest in local sailings on Seven Seas Voyager and Seven Seas Navigator.
And Silversea’s Amber Wilson, General Manager & Director Sales & Marketing – Asia Pacific, said: “Generally speaking, for the local Australian market, luxury cruising has never been more popular.
“Australian cruisers are seeking something different. They want to access destinations, off the beaten track, that haven’t been visited frequently before. This is a positive direction for the industry and Silversea, as we continue to tap into new areas of growth and enhance the cruising experience for our guests.