08 February 2014

Sailing away: cruise ships, part two

It seems people like to cruise! Given the popularity of my first cruise ship blog and with so many different cruise ships visiting Auckland, I figured I would cater to popular demand and do another cruise ship blog. Here are some of our recent visitors.

Crystal Cruises’ ship, the Crystal Symphony was built in Finland in 1995 at a cost of US$250million, was refitted in 2006 at a further cost of $US$23million and then refitted again in 2009 – another US$25million. Expensive vehicles, these cruise ships and, to be honest, I thought her sides were looking a bit rusty and grubby when she was in port recently so I’m guessing she’s going to be costing her owners even more money quite soon.

Her 12 decks carry a maximum of 922 passengers and 545 crew, and she has a truly global sailing itinerary. Her first 5 months of 2014 will be spent in south-east Asia, visiting ports like Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City, then she heads north, criss-crossing the Atlantic from New York to Stockholm, Reykjavik to Copenhagen, echoing the routes of the Vikings of old, before cruising to several European cities: Hamburg, Lisbon, London and St Petersburg.

On its website the by-line for the Seven Seas Voyager reads:Exceeding the loftiest expectations for luxury’. When you consider how many extremely well-appointed cruise ships there are in the world that strikes me as a very high claim. She is, however, an all-suite, all-balcony ship – even the suites on the lowest deck look rather splendid – and has a wealth of crew (447 in number) to cater to the every wish of a maximum of 700 passengers, so she is well equipped to live up to those high aspirations.

Seven Seas Voyager is one of three ships operated by Regent Seven Seas Cruises, an American company with its fair share of CEOs, COOs and Executive Vice Presidents, and a whole page on its website dedicated to explaining ‘forward-looking statements’ – obviously to guard against the possibility of being sued for over-advertising or under-achieving. Yet, their ships have certainly won their share of accolades: the 2012 and 2013 Virtuoso awards for ‘Best luxury cruise line’, and the 2013 ‘Best for luxury’ in the Cruise Critic Editors’ Picks Awards, to name but a couple.


In complete contrast to that corporatisation of cruising, Silver Sea Cruises Ltd is owned and operated by a single family, the Lefebvres of Rome. Typically Italian, they boast of being world leaders in ‘style, design and that intangible allure called la dolce vita’. Two of their five ships have visited Auckland in recent weeks, the Silver Shadow and the Silver Whisper. Like the Seven Seas Voyager, these are all-suite ships, though they’re smaller in size than many cruise liners with a maximum of 382 guests and 302 crew members. Gone are the days of tiny portholes – these liners have large picture windows for panoramic ocean views.


Silver Shadow’s schedule in 2014 includes such diverse destinations as Myanmar, Alaska, Kiribati, Easter Island and the South American coastline. In celebration of Silversea’s 20th anniversary, the Silver Whisper begins the year with a 113-day world cruise, sailing from Los Angeles to Barcelona, with 54 ports of call in 29 countries. The cheapest fare is US$52,550, the most expensive – in the overwhelmingly luxurious Owner’s Suite – is a tad over US$158,000.


An even smaller cruise ship that popped in to Auckland in January was the MV Orion, an Australian-based ship that usually carries just 106 passengers. She is soon to become the National Geographic Orion, offering cruises to the Arctic and the Antarctic, guided to some of the world’s most remote locations by people who are experts in their fields, biologists, ornithologists, geologists, artists, historians, photographers. Though they offer luxury akin to the large cruise liners, theirs are cruises for the thinking man and woman, who wish to explore in more depth the places the ship visits.

Last but not least of today’s cruise ships is P&O Cruises’ Pacific Pearl, one of three P&O ships that specialise in cruising the waters of Australia and New Zealand. They each have live cruise cams, updated by satellite every 15 minutes – the Pacific Pearl’s is hereWithout meaning to demean the quality of the P&O cruises, I gather from their website that they are of a less elitist, more affordable and more popular nature. Their website mentions an ‘eye-opening range of activities’, a 'great range of bars', and ‘jaw-dropping acrobatics’ in the outdoor arena area. If I could afford it and if I actually liked the idea of going on a cruise – which I most certainly don’t – I think I would favour something a little more classy.

In the course of researching ships’ details for this blog, I found a very cool website that shows live marine traffic around the world. You can enter a vessel’s name to find its exact position, its destination and even recent photos. You can check it out here