In 2014, the late Microsoft co-founder turned billionaire investor, Paul Allen parked his 126-metre-long super yacht named Octopus in Sydney Harbour.
He made headlines, nabbing the prime spot, right in front of the Harbour Bridge for our famous New Year’s Eve fireworks display, dwarfing even the glitziest of yachts on the water.
Fully equipped with a pool, two helicopters, a movie theatre, basketball court, recording studios (which even Mick Jaggar has used) and accommodation for 26 guests in 41 suites, it’s an extremely decadent way to cruise.
Costing Mr Allen US$200 million to build, and US$384,000 a week to operate, most mere mortals couldn’t afford the price tag of owning their own yacht.
But we are now seeing a new wave of luxury cruising – emerging players in the industry like the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts group, are building, lo and behold, yachts.
Yachts differ from small ships – they cater for a much smaller number of guests, usually no more than 300, and because of their size, can sail into remote areas.
While there may be fewer amenities aboard, it doesn’t mean that they are any less luxe. For example, Crystal Cruises’ yacht, the Esprit, has submarines available and the line has food created by Michelin-starred chefs.
Ultimately, it’s the most cost effective luxury alternative to buying and running your own private yacht.
The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection’s itineraries start at US$900 per day, per person and comes with all the trimmings – gastronomic fare (you won’t be short of caviar and lobster), top-shelf liquor, butlers, exclusive shore excursions included, gratuities as well that refined Four Seasons service.
The Crystal Esprit, while you can charter the entire yacht for your loved ones, starts for as little as A$627 per person per day on a Middle-Eastern cruise. While on a cruise in the Seychelles will set you back around A$950 per person, per day.
The stunning Egyptian sailing company, Nour El Nil’s starts its itineraries at around $2,200 per person and the 16 person yacht sails it more remote destinations in the ancient lands.
Here is a breakdown of some of the luxury yachts that you can sail on.
Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection
In 2017, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Resorts group announced they would be entering the cruise market, but with bespoke luxury yachts. As of August 2018 last year, reservations opened for the inaugural cruises in the Azora. Starting prices for voyages can range anywhere between US$3,100 for four nights to US$10,000 for 12 nights. The all-inclusive fare comes with onboard gratuities, 24-hour in-suite dining, beverages in-suite and throughout the yacht, WiFi as well as entertainment and enrichment. Sleek, sophisticated and cool, she can accommodate 298 passengers and will have features like The Marina, which is the perfect spot to sunbathe and jump into the water. Guests can also dine al fresco on the terrace and enjoy the views. There is also a lovely infinity pool on one of the decks with whirlpools, and guests can dine all day on the deck and enjoy frozen treats. On the inside, the plush décor creates comfortable public spaces like a library which turns into a cocktail lounge, complete with a piano bar and live music at night. On deck six, there are two restaurants as well as a Champagne bar which offers caviar pairings. The yacht will also have a restaurant with a menu designed by the chef behind the three Michelin-starred Aqua in the Wolfsburg Ritz-Carlton. The Asian Fusion restaurant has a specialised sushi bar and also serves southeast Asian delicacies. There are 149 staterooms, all of which have their own private terrace and all come with a personal assistant who can organise your dinner reservations, shore excursions or spa treatments. The two largest accommodation offerings, the Owner’s Suites has two bathrooms, a private whirlpool and an enormous terrace. The Loft Suites, at 700 square feet, are two stories and have a modern living and dining area upstairs, while the lower level is the bedroom.
Crystal Yacht: Crystal Esprit
The Crystal Esprit is a small ship which sails into remote areas around the Mediterranean. It can accommodate 62 passengers and 91 crew members. It was launched in 2015 which resembles a contemporary boutique hotel. There are 31 staterooms on board in 5 different categories. The dress code on board Esprit is casual. The Crystal Esprit cabins are designated as suites. The standard suites on board are available in four categories. Butler services are available for all cabins on board who are responsible for restocking of in-suit mini bars and delivery of room services. Toiletries on board are provided by the Italian high-end label, ETRO. Crystal Esprit has several dining venues which include an outdoor café, main dining room, grill, self-service snack spot and 24-hour room service. The Yacht Club Restaurant is the main dining room on board which offers waiter-served breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also a spa onboard where you can get massages as well as medical consultations.
Nour El Nil: El Nil
The Nour El Nil brand has four stunning ships which accommodate between 16 to 20 guests. The ships sail The Luxor and the Nile Rivers. These beautiful sailing ships will take you to remote destinations in Egypt which include Esna which is famous for the small ancient Temple of Khnum, a swim in a remote part of the Nile and even a visit to the Crocodile Museum which is near the temple dedicated to the god Sobek. The ship is decked in traditional Egyptian textiles and has chandeliers hanging from the canopy of the ship. You’ll dine on local fare under the stars on white linen covered tables on the ship’s top deck. The rooms are spacious with clean white day beds and decorated with Egyptian antiques. It’s truly a unique experience.
SeaDream Yacht Club: SeaDream I & II
SeaDream Yacht Club is the ultimate in all-inclusive luxury boutique cruising, or yachting, as they like to put it. With a maximum of only 112 guests, the discreetly sophisticated, casual and unstructured approach to life onboard makes you feel like you are on your own private yacht. Eating is a major part of any cruise but even more so with SeaDream, where each meal is a culinary sensation, made with the finest ingredients and cooked a la minute. Breakfast and lunch are served in the outdoor Topside Restaurant and dinner is served in the elegantly appointed Dining Salon, or out on deck weather permitting. Onboard facilities include double or single day beds outside on the top deck, salt-water pool, jacuzzi, golf simulator, library, casino, 2 restaurants, 4 bars, SeaDream Spa, Boutique, gymnasium, a retractable marina featuring hobie cats, jet skis, kayaks, a swimming platform and snorkeling equipment. The Yacht Club Stateroom has a separate living and sleeping area as well as a writing desk and a marble-lined bathroom stocked with Bulgari products.
The luxury yacht company, which is stretching its fleet, quite literally, will be refurbishing its three existing ships and adding 50 new suites. The ships will be cut in half and a new section will be inserted to lengthen each vessel by 25.6 metres. The renovation will also include two new dining venues, a new retail space, a larger fitness centre and a new spa. The main restaurant, Veranda will have more seating and new décor and there will be bigger deck space where guests can mingle for evening cocktails.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.