The first new luxury cruise line in more than a decade debuts today

Aug 4, 2021

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It’s official: There’s a new player in the world of luxury cruising.

Atlas Ocean Voyages, a new “luxe adventure” line based in Fort Lauderdale that’s been under development for several years, finally kicks off its first sailing with paying passengers today with a Greek Islands voyage out of Piraeus, Greece.

Atlas is the first new luxury cruise brand to debut in more than a decade and was created by Mystic Invest Holding (a Portugal-based company with major interests in river cruise ships, tours and attractions).

For now, it’s launching with just a single small luxury expedition ship, the 196-passenger World Navigator. But it has plans to grow quickly with four more sister ships by 2023.

Measuring just 9,930 tons, World Navigator was specially designed to offer intimate, upscale and adventurous trips to some of the world’s most off-the-beaten-path destinations.

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Built to be tough and versatile, it has a polar-class rating that will allow it to travel deep into the Arctic and to Antarctica as well as warmer-water locales. It carries Zodiac boats for landings in remote places and will sail with expedition guides to lead explorations. It also carries Jet Skis, kayaks and paddleboards for adventurous outings.

But it’s also been built for elegance and luxury.

Onboard amenities include a L’Occitane spa with two treatment rooms and a sauna; upscale restaurants serving regionally influenced gourmet fare; and a deck-top pool area — something you don’t always find on an expedition ship.

The 196-passenger World Navigator. (Photo courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages)

Atlas also is hanging its hat on being incredibly all-inclusive. The line’s base fares include round-trip airfare from select U.S. and Canadian gateways; drinks, including spirits and fine wines; shipboard Wi-Fi; prepaid gratuities; and (perhaps most notably) shore excursions in every port.

In addition, Atlas will offer one very unusual inclusion as part of what it’s calling All-Inclusive All the Way pricing: Emergency medical evacuation insurance for every passenger.

As the coronavirus crisis continues, that perk could be a game changer for many travelers.

Remote destinations

A big part of Atlas’s focus will be on getting customers to remote destinations.

While World Navigator’s initial sailing is in the Greek Islands — a relatively common destination for luxury ships — its first season of itineraries also includes voyages to little-visited destinations along the Brazilian coast, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica.

Even the ship’s initial Greek Islands itinerary is ending with an unusual twist. Instead of returning to Piraeus (the port for Athens) after visiting such islands as Patmos, Mykonos and Santorini, the vessel will spend the last two nights of the nine-night voyage in Alexandria, Egypt.

The latter stop will allow for an unusual Giza Under the Stars evening event near the base of the Great Pyramids near Cairo that includes a four-course dinner and live performances, with the pyramids illuminated just for Atlas passengers.

More off-the-beaten-path voyages are in the works.

Indeed, Atlas president Alberto Aliberti has promised to bring customers to “more remote and authentic destinations” than other lines.

World Navigator initially will sail in the Mediterranean before heading to Antarctica for the winter. Fares start at $4,999 per person, not including taxes and fees.

Regionally inspired cuisine

The dining options on World Navigator will be diverse for a ship that carries fewer than 200 people. Counting in-room dining and an afternoon tea service in one of the lounges, there are six food-related concepts. 

These include a main restaurant called Porto serving regionally inspired gourmet cuisine and a Portuguese restaurant called Alma that shares the same space on alternating days. The Portuguese eatery is a nod to the company’s Portuguese owners. 

There’s also a chophouse called 7Aft Grill that Atlas says is the first at sea to use a combination grill-oven cooking process called “jospering” that originated in Spain.

Luxury living and cutting-edge technology

Eight categories of accommodations on the vessel range in size from 183 square feet to 465 square feet. The biggest of these, called Navigator Suites, come with separate living and sleeping areas, plus butler service (two more types of suites bring butler service, too).

World Navigator also has been built with lots of observation areas including a top-of-the ship observation lounge and a specialized bow viewing area with heated seating.

In addition, two of the ship’s lounges will feature live entertainment including cabaret-type performances and sing-alongs. There also will be movie showings, port presentations and lectures in the ship’s auditorium.

Among its high-tech features, the ship can hover in place using a GPS positioning system in lieu of dropping an anchor, so it won’t disrupt fragile marine ecosystems. It also boasts a hybrid electric-hydro propulsion system that can propel it silently at up to 5 knots in areas where wildlife is present.

Atlas Ocean Voyages isn’t the only new luxury cruise brand scheduled to debut this year. Also scheduled to start operations later this year is The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the new cruising arm of luxury hotel and resort company The Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection initially was scheduled to start sailings before Atlas Ocean Voyages in February of 2020. But its debut has been delayed multiple times.

The last luxury cruise brand of note to start operations was Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours. Founded as a touring company in 1987, Scenic began offering luxury cruises on European rivers in 2008 and added ocean voyages in 2019.

The four major luxury cruise lines that cater to North American travelers — Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — all date to the 1980s and 1990s.

Viking, which doesn’t call itself a luxury line but offers ocean voyages that some consider at a luxury level, was founded in 1997.

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Featured image of courtesy of Atlas Ocean Voyages.

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