by Liz Fleming

Spending far too much time catering to your family, your workmates, your friends and the whole crazy demanding world in general? Isn’t it time you had things your way for a change? We certainly think so...and so do an inviting array of cruise lines, all waiting to cater to your every whim.

 Celebrity Aqua ClassCourtesy of Celebrity Cruises

If you're in need of some serious ‘me’ time, a cruise is the best way to embark on your journey of self-indulgence. It's simply a delicious matter of deciding how you'd most like to be spoiled. The smorgasbord of choice is so laden, in fact, with so many ships competing for our vacation time, that cruise lines have had to come up with specialty offerings in order to stay competitive. And lucky us – we’re the beneficiaries of one brilliant concept best described as the ‘ship within a ship.’

Royal Caribbean Royal Loft SuiteCourtesy of Royal Caribbean International 

Treat yourself to one of the three elegant tiers in Royal Caribbean’s new Royal Suite Class - Star, Sky and Sea, each with its particular accommodation style - and you’ll see what we mean. Though everyone else on the Oasis and Quantum Class ships will be well cared for in the other areas, you and your Royal Suite companions will be treated to something extra- special. You’ll luxuriate in an exclusive enclave filled with Egyptian cotton sheets, marble tiles, chocolate truffles and fresh flowers as you view the world from your private ocean-view balcony and dine in the exclusive Coastal Kitchen restaurant.

Bringing the family? A Royal Family Suite will offer two spacious bedrooms, two bathrooms outfitted with your choice of Hermès®, Ferragamo® and L’Occitane® amenities and a living area with a gloriously comfy sofa bed – in all, enough space for eight people and perfect for the kind of multi-generational travel that creates family memories to last forever. Prefer two-level living? Spacious loft suites – some with baby grand pianos! - are also available.

Royal GenieCourtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Perhaps best of all, you’ll have your own Royal Genie – and you won’t be restricted to just three wishes! Your personal assistant will be on-duty round-the-clock to anticipate your every need, from shining your shoes, to arranging your VIP dining and entertainment seating to offering insider port information to helping with booking your shore excursions. He’ll even handle your airline arrangements. You’ll top your Royal Genie’s priority list.

NCL Haven_GetawayCourtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The top rung on the indulgence ladder is exclusivity – that delectable sense of knowing you’re being spoiled just a little bit more than everyone else and enjoying features not available throughout the ship. A private area of the ship truly can become your Haven, as guests on Norwegian Cruise Line have discovered.

NCL Haven restaurantCourtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Their ship-within-a-ship concept caters to Norwegian's special guests, offering a choice of elegant suites and villas in the exclusive Haven, surrounded by a private, secluded Courtyard all on a private deck of the ship accessed only by key card. While all the public areas of the ship are still available, privileged Haven guests prefer their own Courtyard pool, sundeck, hot tub and fitness area and the uninterrupted pampering of their devoted concierge and 24-hour butler. Whether you choose to dine in the exquisite Haven restaurant, host an ultra-glam party in your suite, would like a romantic White Tablecloth ensuite dinner for two, or want to enjoy a private shore excursion, the Haven staff will see to every detail. You’ll be treated to priority tender access on days ashore and will be whisked from the ship to the airport in a limousine. And these accommodations are ideally suited to friends or family traveling together too.

Such tender loving care is exactly what we - the work-weary and ultra-stressed – need isn’t it? Trust us…this pampering can be justified.

 

You can argue, for example, that you’re simply taking the healthy option when you choose Celebrity’s AquaClass®CEL_Persian GardenCourtesy of Celebrity Cruises spa-inspired veranda staterooms on Solstice Class ships. Like drinking lots of water or eating Brussel sprouts, upgrading to an exclusive suite that offers unlimited access to the blissful Relaxation Room and the Persian Garden Spa, a soothing lineup of other services and priority seating in the sleekly health-conscious specialty restaurant Blu is just doing what the doctor ordered - right? Remember…the only thing better than self-indulgence is having permission to be sanctimonious about it.

Cunard GrillsCourtesy of Cunard

For some, space is the ultimate luxury so if the lovely standard staterooms on the Queen Elizabeth or the Queen Mary 2 strike you as a bit snug, surely you can justify treating yourself to a Grills Experience. In addition to your elegant suite with its walk-in wardrobe, comfortable sitting area and private balcony, Grills guests are treated to the services of an on-board concierge and personal butler who’ll devote themselves to booking delightful spa treatments, printing your personalized stationery, arranging fresh flowers by your bedside, planning fascinating shore excursions and making reservations for the exclusive Queens Grill or Princess Grill restaurants. Beware - a week of it might have you thinking you’re royalty. Two weeks and you may never be able to return to the real world.

Though not all cruise lines have embraced a complete ship-within-a-ship concept, many offer special features for their highest-end suite guests. Regent, for example, has ultra-spacious penthouse suites and more that provide their pampered inhabitants with top-end amenities such as the services of a personal butler, an in-suite iPad and iPod docking station, all-inclusive beverages, room service, priority access to dining reservations and all-inclusive shore excursions, free internet access and a complimentary 15-minutes of ship-to-shore phone calling.

For some guests, time at the spa is the ultimate indulgence and no one does more to indulge those guests than Seabourn. The Quest is particularly popular for The Spa at Seabourn, an aft spa atrium boasting 11,400-square-feet in a two-level complex with a sparkling spa pool, ringed by therapeutic loungers and an exclusive private Spa Terrace where guests can bask in sun or shade. In desperate need of relaxation? Book a Spa Villa for a few hours in a Persian-inspired hideaway with a day bed, sofa, dining table and chairs, tub and sun deck.

Seabourn_Spa TerraceCourtesy of Seabourn

Caring staff is the secret to most success at sea and Seabourn’s all-female team of suite stewardesses are always on hand to make your cruise special – from offering a welcoming bottle of Champagne and canapes to proffering a selection of designer soaps to customize your onboard bathing. Would you like a bubble bath drawn? Just ask!

Silversea_butlerCourtesy of Silversea Cruises

Speaking of being well-cared-for, guests on Silversea find themselves completely pampered by the specially trained butlers who serve all lucky guests. Like a magical blend of butler, steward and concierge, these masters of guest service take care of everything from room service, to dining room reservations and shore excursion planning - and more!

From ‘just for you’ shore excursions, to VIP seating at shows, to priority dining reservations, to the creation of the exclusive ‘ship within a ship’ experience, cruise lines are amping up the special treatment factor to capture our hearts and our imaginations and we’re happily sailing into a glorious sea of self-indulgence.

Originally published in Dream Voyages Spring 2016 issue.

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