Suite Surrender

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Several years ago, I was touring a Holland America Line ship when I came upon a guest room that was undergoing refurbishment. I thought this odd, because the room did not appear to need updating. The furniture and carpet appeared to be new; the fixtures, polished and sparkling. My host told me that an elderly widower, who was going to spend an extended period of time living on the ship, had booked the vessel’s largest suite. She wanted it redecorated with carpeting of her choosing and furniture from her home. Money was no object to ensure the comforts of home.
For the rest of us, though, just the luxury of being able to stay in a suite as opposed to a regular cabin — even for a week— would be enough to inspire giddiness and glee. No need to change a thing. I could be perfectly content kicking up my heels in almost any of the luxurious suite accommodations aboard today’s fine cruise ships.

I had always thought that living the suite life on the high seas would be beyond the reach of my feeble pocketbook. Not so. Whether you’re cruising the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, or just about any other locale, it’s more feasible than ever to upgrade to a suite. Particularly when you consider not only the extra amenities thrown in for suite guests but also the additional space to accommodate more warm bodies.

Suite Surrender
Of course, on some ships, such as the vessels of luxury cruise line Silversea Cruises, you have no choice but to rest your head in a suite. That’s because the luxury line only offers suites — ranging in size from 250 square feet to more than 1.400 square feet. More than 75 percent of the suites on Silversea’s four ships feature lovely, teak verandas, and all suites provide the ultimate in pampering through such luxury amenities as cut crystal, crisp Frette linens, personalized stationary, marbled bathrooms — and top-of-the-line Bvlgari soap, shampoo and lotion.

Regent Seven Seas’ newest vessels also are all-suite—featuring European king-size beds, separate sitting areas, and marble bathrooms with full bathtubs and showers. Seven Seas Voyager and sister ship Seven Seas Mariner also feature private verandas in all suites. On Seven Seas Navigator all suites are ocean view, with nearly 90 percent of those with private balconies. Butler service is offered in most, but not all, categories aboard these ships.

Talk about plush accommodations …
Oceania Cruises made waves — or make that “raves” — for its “Tranquility Beds,” featuring 350-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets and duvet covers. Guests say they sleep better on these beds than they do at home.

The thing is, you don’t have to book a suite to rest on the Tranquility Bed. It’s standard in all guestrooms. But guests who book accommodations in either Owner’s or Vista Suites or Penthouse suites aboard the 684-passenger Regatta and Insignia do get quite a bit extra — including 24-hour butler service. Butlers coddle those privileged guests in the 62 suites aboard each of Oceania Cruises’ ships. Shoes need a shine? Your butler will be happy to take care of it. In fact, butlers perform a variety of services — from hand delivering shore excursion tickets to arranging cocktail parties — hosted in your suite, of course.

On almost all cruise lines that offer suites as part of their total accommodations, suite guests are entitled to special considerations such as priority check-in and disembarkation and elegant in-suite meal service. Some cruise lines, such as Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises, offer additional concierge services as well as private lounges exclusively for their suite guests.

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Holland America Line’s Neptune Lounge, for example, offers Deluxe Verandah Suite and Penthouse Suite guests a private retreat where they can relax, read and socialize. The concierge, who has a desk in the Neptune Lounge, will gladly assist in making reservations for shore excursions, car rentals, and dining reservations at the line’s signature Pinnacle Grill.

Celebrity Cruises even went so far as to introduce a new category of veranda stateroom accommodations that offer many suite services and amenities for non-suite prices. “ConciergeClass” guests receive welcome champagne, fresh-cut flowers, fresh fruit and hors d’oeuvres delivered daily, as well as personalized stationary, 100 percent Egyptian cotton linens and duvets, Frette bathrobes, and a one-touch phone button to reach a dedicated concierge directly.

Like its premium-category contenders, Princess Cruises offers a variety of suites. The company’s newest ships feature suites, mini-suites, grand suites, and, on each of the new ships as well as grand-class vessels, two family suites that include two self-contained rooms with private bathrooms and a central living room.

A Notch Above
Noted maritime historian Bill Miller once told a story about the suite life in the heyday of transatlantic cruising. During the 1940s and 50s, three ladies by the names of Smith, Jones and McBeth, cruised for extended periods of time on transatlantic liners. Smith and Jones cruised for two or three years at a time, which you may consider remarkable, until you consider McBeth’s extended cruise. She boarded a ship one day and sailed for 14 years before leaving her suite for good. In today’s dollars, she would have spent roughly $4 million in cruise fares.

Those days are long gone, but the glamour and romance of that golden era can be rekindled for those willing to permit themselves to at least explore the possibility of booking the top categories on today’s fleet of premium and luxury liners. You won’t have to spend $4 million. In many instances, upgrading to suite accommodations can actually work out to be financially advantageous, especially when you’re splitting the cost with several others — or when you need the extra room for your family.

And unlike the wealthy widower who was compelled to rip out carpeting and replace furnishings, you’ll need only step across the threshold to feel right at home in your suite. Luxury living doesn’t get much better. Ah, ain’t life sweet? Ahem, we mean “suite.”

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