VIP Havens

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Royal Caribbean’s private resort enclave, Labadee in Haiti, offers plush cabanas.

Long gone are the cookie-cutter cruise ship staterooms and cabins—today’s cruise passengers have access to some swanky and private spaces on board and off.

“Private or VIP-only areas are becoming increasingly popular on cruise ships,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners-American Express Travel. “Travelers are demanding a more customized and personalized experience including butler service, private areas to avoid large crowds, or intimate options such as private dining. These exclusive amenities also offer a relaxed atmosphere for more sophisticated travelers who expect a certain level of service, as well as ‘bragging rights.’”

Here we’re highlighting a few “ship-within-a-ship” experiences…and once clients are done spending time in their own private oasis, the rest of the ship awaits with a bevy of activities. It’s truly the best of both worlds.

celebrity cruises

The Solstice-class Celebrity vessels feature a private retreat known as The Alcoves. On board the Celebrity Reflection and Celebrity Silhouette, guests can feel like they’ve found their own private getaway when they reserve a cabana in this chic, private retreat. Located on The Lawn Club, Deck 15, The Alcoves not only provide passengers with 360-degree ocean views, but ambient mood lighting for cozy, romantic evenings; complimentary amenities like a fresh fruit plate, hand-held fans, chilled towels, bottled water, and use of an iPad loaded with music, movies, games and magazines (WiFi is also accessible for a fee). Another perk are the picnic baskets carrying tasty selections from Celebrity’s specialty restaurants; wine and cheese evenings under the stars; and special spa services that range from 10- to 25-minute treatments like a foot and ankle massage to a detox facial treatment. The Alcoves’ cabanas, which cater from two to four guests between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., are $99 (per day) while the ship is at port and $149 (per day) while at sea.

Samsara Spa on the Costa Luminosa
Samsara Spa on the Costa Luminosa.

costa cruises

“The Samsara Spa provides an exclusive and luxurious ‘vacation within a vacation’ for those guests looking for the best in spa treatments and a relaxing experience on board. Staying in a Samsara cabin elevates the cruise experience for guests because they receive a variety of special amenities in their cabins as well as direct access to the spa, the pleasure of dining in the Samsara Restaurant, and a long list of top-of-the-line treatments to choose from,” says Scott Knutson, v.p. of sales and marketing, Costa Cruises.

These exclusive spa cabins, located within the 25,000-sq. ft. Samsara Spa, offer guests two complimentary spa treatments as well as fitness and wellness classes; a personalized wellness
consultation; two sun-lamp sessions in the solarium; and an invitation to a Japanese spa tea ceremony. Another plus? Guests can dine in the Samsara Restaurant, serving flavorful, low-calorie dishes. Rates for a Samsara cabin vary with destination and ship. For example, in July, a 13-day cruise on the Costa Deliziosa to the Mediterranean starts at $3,099 pp dbl while a 7-night Mediterranean cruise in June on Costa Fascinosa starts at $1,629 pp dbl.

MSC Yacht Club accommodations
MSC Yacht Club accommodations.

msc cruises

MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club Suites are an idyllic luxurious refuge. These sanctuary suites are located on the cruise lines’ largest Fantasia-class vessels: MSC DivinaMSC PreziosaMSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia. Services include a personal butler, 24-hour concierge service, and complimentary select wines and spirits, available any time of the day. Guests also enjoy the One Pool & Bar area featuring a private pool, two whirlpool spas, a solarium and sundeck area with a complimentary selection of food and beverages; access to a panoramic restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the Top Sail Lounge serving gourmet snacks all day; and private elevator access to the MSC Aurea Spa. Rates for the MSC Yacht Club Suites on MSC Divina’s 7-night Caribbean sailings start at $1,699 pp dbl.

“A ship within a ship, MSC Yacht Club appeals to travelers who are looking for a luxurious and private cruise experience coupled with all the wonderful services and amenities offered by a large ship,” says Ken Muskat, senior v.p., sales and marketing, MSC Cruises.

norwegian cruise line

Several of Norwegian Cruise Line’s ships, including its two newest, Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Getaway, feature an exclusive suite complex ideally named The Haven by Norwegian. The Haven is located on Decks 15 and 16 and features 42 suites as well as a private restaurant, a cocktail bar and a concierge desk where guests can make reservations for spa treatments and other onboard and shore activities. In the center of The Haven is a 2-story courtyard area with a pool, two whirlpools and a private sundeck, as well as two private massage rooms, changing areas and a sauna. Guests staying within The Haven also have direct private access to the ship’s spa and fitness center. The suites available within The Haven are also something to take note, such as the Deluxe Owner’s Suite (two on board) with a living room, dining area, and a master bedroom with a king-size bed facing floor-to-ceiling windows and a wrap-around balcony. There are also 21 Two-Bedroom Family Villas and 17 Courtyard Penthouses. On the Norwegian Getaway, starting rates for a Haven suite, on a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise, start at $2,299 pp.

Norwegian Breakaway's Haven courtyard
Norwegian Breakaway’s Haven courtyard.

regent seven seas

Guests sailing in the Concierge level (and higher) aboard any Regent vessel can indulge in a few premium amenities designed to heighten their cruising experience.

The Concierge-level suites allow guests to enjoy a host of privileges, plus a number of exclusive value-added benefits, like free 1-night pre-cruise luxury hotel packages with free ground transfers, breakfast, and porterage; priority online shore excursion reservations and priority online Prime 7 and Signatures dining reservations, as well as complimentary WiFi (this service begins on all winter 2014-15 itineraries). The Concierge-level suites also offer a 10 percent discount on premium wine and liquor purchases; a 5 percent discount on Regent Choice Shore Excursions, and the cruise line’s pre- or post-cruise hotel or land programs; the list goes on and on with in-suite binoculars, an illy espresso machine and a cozy cashmere blanket to keep warm. Starting rates for Regent’s 10-day Athens to Barcelona sailing are $20,198 pp for Concierge level.

royal caribbean

Royal Caribbean International (RCI) takes the private experience out into the open air with its Barefoot Beach Club and Cabanas, located on Royal Caribbean’s private island destination of Labadee, Haiti. This exclusive enclave, available only to top suite guests and guests renting cabanas, offers VIP service and amenities to enhance the cruise vacation experience from the get-go. Complimentary amenities include lounge chairs, floating mats, use of snorkeling equipment, and a beach BBQ luncheon. There are 20 cabanas available and each cabana can accommodate four to five guests. While each cabana is the same in size, amenities and services vary depending on the type of cabana passengers rent (there are four different variations), and prices range from $225 to $250 (per day). The Barefoot Beach Club is only accessible to guests staying in these suite categories: Grand Suite, Sky LoftSuite, Royal Family Suite, Presidential Suite, the AquaTheater Suite, among others. RCI’s 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Allure of the Seas would cost two adults $7,798 for a Grand Suite; $17,098 for a Sky Loft Suite.