by Lisa Grimaldi | May 01, 2006

Silver Coud cruise through Norways fjords




Silver lining: Silversea’s
Silver Cloudglides through Norway’s fjords.

While much of the cruise industry relentlessly pursues a “bigger is better” philosophy, a quiet, more intimate world of small, upscale ships also is thriving. These fleets of jewel-like vessels provide services and amenities -- high guest-to-staff ratios; premium wines and spirits; gourmet cuisine (that participants order from a menu); toiletries from the likes of Hermes and Bvlgari; and elegantly appointed guest quarters, often with balconies -- that rival the finest offerings of five-star hotels, and at all-inclusive prices.
    In addition, the ships’ compact stature (each of the vessels profiled here carries fewer than 500 passengers) is especially well suited to small, high-level corporate meeting or incentive groups. In fact, all of the members of this fabulous flotilla have meeting facilities as well as dining areas that can hold a crowd for gala evenings or award ceremonies.
    Following are details about four upscale cruise lines that specialize in the small group market.

Seabourn Cruise Line
6100 Blue Lagoon Drive, Suite 400
Miami, Fla. 33126
Contact:Tanya Barnette, director, charter and incentive sales
(773) 276-7601;
Fleet:Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Spirit; each accommodates 208 passengersThe Seabourn Spirit in Greece

Greek idyll: The Seabourn Spirit  in Santorini

These identical vessels were designed to give guests the feeling that they are sailing on their own private yachts. Seabourn ships feature all-suite accommodations, a full line of aromatherapy bath products (with baths personally drawn by the guest’s cabin steward) and tempting cuisine designed by renowned Chicago chef Charlie Palmer.
    Amenities include a spa, salon and gym; a water sports marina; a private motorboat for waterskiing; a business center with e-mail and Internet access; and Wi-Fi access in most lounges and in all suites. (Note: Internet charges are not part of the all-inclusive pricing at Seabourn or the other cruise lines featured in this article.)
    According to Tanya Barnette, Seabourn’s director, charter and incentive sales, fully 85 percent of the line’s business is charters, mostly for incentive programs.
    For groups that do not want to charter the entire vessel, the largest block they can secure on any one of Seabourn’s ships is 40 cabins (for up to 80 passengers). If a group does choose to charter -- typically for seven nights -- Barnette recommends a lead time of nine to 18 months for preferred sailing dates.
    If the ships’ itineraries have not yet been finalized (2007 dates were established this past March), Barnette says clients can customize their itineraries, within reason: “We can’t reposition from Australia to the Mediterranean, for example,” she notes. 
    For 2007, seven-day cruises can be arranged in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, Barnette says. “We also are getting a lot of interest for incentive programs on our Baltic cruises. These typically last nine to 12 nights. The longer ones work well for large groups that can be split into two, for cruises of six nights each.”
    Although Seabourn will offer sailings in Asia and South and Central America in 2007, these exotic itineraries typically are too long (14 days) for the corporate and incentive markets.
    All three ships were in dry dock over the past few months and were refurbished, according to Barnette.