Luxury Enclaves Add A New Element To Cruising

by Donna Tunney
Luxury Enclaves Add A New Element To Cruising

The Haven offers a private pool area along with exclusive lounges and a restaurant. Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line

“A private paradise aboard a floating paradise.”

That's how Celebrity Cruises describes its new set of amenities that will be complimentary to every Suite Class guest aboard the Celebrity Edge, now under construction and due to enter service in late 2018.

Called The Retreat, the exclusive area will have outdoor spaces featuring a full-size pool, hot tub, lounge area and dedicated pool butlers. Inside, clients will find another lounge offering drinks, gourmet bites and live entertainment, plus a concierge who can arrange onboard and on-shore activities. The Retreat also will have its own dining venue, Luminae @ The Retreat, with a menu created by a Michelin-starred chef.

This suite-guest-only section is a nod to the success that other lines have had with similar luxury areas onboard ships, such as MSC Cruises' MSC Yacht Club and Norwegian Cruise Line's The Haven. Norwegian was a pioneer in this area, starting back in 2005 with the launch of its first private section called The Courtyard; its name was changed to The Haven in 2011.

Both MSC's and Norwegian's key-card-entry luxury sections, what's known as the ship-within-a-ship concept, are pricey compared to standard accommodations. Based on recent searches on the line's web sites, a seven-day Norwegian Epic cruise roundtrip from Rome in late June will cost up to $5,999 per person for a stateroom in The Haven, while an eight-day Caribbean sailing in early December is priced at $2,119 per person in MSC Yacht Club accommodations on Divina, roundtrip from Miami. A Celebrity Edge Suite Class stateroom starts at $3,099 per person for an Eastern Caribbean sailing in February 2019, two months after the ship launches.

Those are luxury line fares. An 11-day Seabourn cruise, for example, from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Los Angeles in October is priced from $3,999 per person, in an ocean view cabin on the 462-guest Seabourn Sojourn.

Clients will opt for luxury enclave accommodations like The Haven for various reasons, such as simply preferring a big ship to a small one, or wanting to stand out from the crowd.

More reveals from Celebrity
Along with The Retreat, Celebrity officials recently unveiled a few other goodies the new Celebrity Edge will offer when it debuts next year:

  • The new Edge Stateroom will have an Infinite Veranda, designed to “turn guest quarters into a seamless space, from the room's door all the way to the water’s edge.” The touch of a button gives guests open-air access to the sea. With the touch of another button, a guest can control the stateroom's lighting, shades and temperature.
  • Two new Iconic Suites will be situated above the ship’s bridge. They have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and are nearly 2,600 square feet. Six, split-level Edge Villas will have private plunge pools and direct walk-out access to The Retreat sundeck. Two two-bedroom, two-bathroom Penthouse Suites will feature soaking tubs on the veranda, dual walk-through showers and walk-in closets.
  • The Rooftop Garden will offer games and activities through the day, and movies and food at night.
  • Cantilevered from the side of the ship, the Edge will feature the Magic Carpet. The size of a tennis court, this space scales the 16-deck ship through the day and evening, positioning at four of the ship’s decks.  At the summit of the ship on Deck 16, the Magic Carpet becomes a specialty restaurant offering a “Dinner on the Edge” for 90 guests.

What's it like?
On a recent cruise aboard Norwegian Escape, from Miami, TMR chatted with The Haven concierge, Rashida Lumpas, and toured the facilities with the goal of determining just how different the experience is for those who can afford the splurge.

“Once you've stayed in The Haven, you'll never go back downstairs again,” said Lumpas, referring to the rest of the ship. To a visitor the difference between The Haven and the rest of the ship does feel a bit like an “Upstairs, Downstairs” situation—the regular folks versus the privileged.

Once the card key is placed into The Haven's main entry the most obvious change is the noise level: it's quiet in The Haven, and plush.

The Haven aboard Norwegian Escape encompasses 95 stateroom, and has 10 butlers to cater to its guests. An Escape spa suite is 307 square feet while a two-bedroom family villa is 540.

The enclave offers its own pool, with a retractable roof, hot tubs, lounge area, spa treatment rooms, outdoor breakfast room, indoor lounge and a dining venue. Guests are escorted on and off the ship at every port call, and Lumpas takes care of entertainment reservations and bookings for the ship's specialty restaurants. Clients also can be escorted to events onboard, such as to the Escape Theater, which holds prime seats aside for guests of The Haven before each show.

My dining experience in The Haven Restaurant proved to be substantially better, in terms of cuisine and service, than in Escape's complimentary dining rooms, and was comparable to the ship's alternative French venue Le Bistro, which charges on an a la carte basis.

Passengers in general are curious about Escape's luxury section. “Other guests frequently sneak into The Haven,” said Lumpas. “If someone is opening the door they will just walk right in and look around. But it's our job to know all of the guests who are supposed to be here, and we just ask visitors to step out.”

Based on current promotions at the time of booking, guests of The Haven can score freebies, such as dinner or beverage packages, or free gratuities, she said. None of those amenities are included in the fare.

Not all of The Haven's staterooms are attached to the main section of The Haven, on Escape's deck 17. There are Haven accommodations all the way down to deck 9, and those guests must use the regular elevators to access the entry point of the luxury section to use the private pool area, lounges or dining venue.

And whatever the request, “We just make it happen.” 

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