Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald ushered in a "golden age of cruising" at the christening of Seabourn Encore, the most glamorous débutante in the cruise giant's global fleet and on its way to Australia this month on its maiden voyage.
"In the past four years we've seen tremendous advances in technology to improve the safety, the efficiency, the comfort and just the plain fun on our ships," Donald said at a naming party at Singapore's Marina Bay cruise centre last weekend. "But every few years those advances take a great leap forward with a ship that breaks the mould."
Accommodating 600 passengers, Seabourn Encore is the largest in Seabourn's four-ship fleet and the most lavishly appointed in the "ultra-luxury", small-ship line - marking "a new chapter in the evolution of our fleet and the evolution of cruising", said Donald.
Seabourn Encore's on deck pool.
Size matters - suites range from 23 to 120 square metres, all with private verandas, large marble bathrooms with separate shower and full-size tub, and walk-in robes. Some of the most distinctive interiors, however, are the cleverly styled small spaces: a 30-seat restaurant called Sushi, with an L-shaped granite bar, retro curved chrome-framed windows and smart recessed lighting and mirrors, for example, and The Retreat, with 15 cabanas arranged around a top-deck whirlpool, each with fully stocked fridges, a spa menu and screens for watching movies.
New York designer Adam D Tihany fashioned the ship's interiors "to feel like a luxury yacht", with liberal use of chrome and leather and distinctive curvaceous lines throughout, from windows and mouldings to bars and pools. Even the guest-services "square" has been turned into a circle and styled as a lounge.
Winter garden suite.
Several high-profile partnerships also feature: a restaurant by three-Michelin-starred Californian chef Thomas Keller, a spa and wellness program by integrative medical pioneer Dr Andrew Weil, entertainment by English lyricist Sir Tim Rice and cocktails by American mixologist Brian Van Flandern.
As part of Weil's program focused on mind-body health, guests can join group and individual meditation, yoga and "sound bath" sessions with a "mindful living" coach, consult an on-board acupuncturist and join discussions with visiting wellness practitioners. A physician and best-selling author, Weil is the founder and director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
The Seabourn Encore's spa.
There's attention to detail across the ship, from sunglass-cleaning by pool staff and white-glove service at afternoon tea, to bespoke samphire and eucalyptus bathroom products by Molton Brown and a choice of fresh herbal body scrubs for DIY use in the spa's thermal suite.
Seabourn Encore will visit nine ports in Australia during 2017, including Cairns on 26 January, Sydney on 2 February and Melbourne on 5 February.