Why I’m so excited about the debut of new cruise line Atlas Ocean Voyages
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Editor’s note: TPG’s Gene Sloan is sailing on Atlas Ocean Voyages’ World Navigator as a guest of the line. The opinions expressed below are entirely his and weren’t subject to review by Atlas.
I’ve only been on board for two days and already I love it.
I knew I would.
World Navigator, the new cruise vessel from startup line Atlas Ocean Voyages, was designed for what the company is calling “luxe adventure” — just the sort of phrase that gets my heart racing.
Built for a maximum of 196 passengers, it’s an unusually small luxury vessel designed for adventurous exploring in the most far-flung corners of the world. It’s a ship that carries its own landing craft for remote and hard-to-reach places such as Antarctica and the Arctic. It has Jet Skis on board for watery play during stops in the Mediterranean, plus kayaks and paddleboards.
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In short, it’s pretty much my dream ship.
As regular readers may know, I have a soft spot for small vessels that offer up adventure and off-the-beaten-path travel — and the more elegant, the better.
But, perhaps more importantly, it’s the sort of ship that is, as they say in the fashion world, “on trend” with what many luxury travelers these days are craving.
Traveling in a relatively small group, to unique places, with a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure, is a big thing right now for luxury travelers. And that’s what World Navigator is all about.
I boarded World Navigator on Wednesday in Piraeus, Greece, for its very first sailing with paying passengers — a nine-night trip through the Greek islands to Alexandria, Egypt — and I’ll be posting a “first look” at the vessel in the coming days, along with other dispatches from the ship. But, for now, here’s a look at what has me so excited about World Navigator:
Built with just 98 cabins, World Navigator is a luxury cruise ship where you’ll never feel like you’re cruising with a lot of people.
While luxury cruise ships typically have far fewer cabins than mass-market cruise vessels (and thus carry far fewer people), World Navigator is designed to offer a particularly intimate type of small-ship luxury cruising.
While the ship technically can hold up to 196 passengers (98 cabins and two people per cabin), Atlas executives tell me it’s unlikely to ever sail with more than around 185 passengers. This is because some passenger cabins always will be given over to entertainers and guides booked for various trips. A more typical passenger number might even be around 160, they suggest.
On this week’s sailing, with the line operating at reduced capacity due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are just 104 passengers on board.
This is a far lower number than what you’ll find on most luxury ships these days.
Some of the most popular luxury cruise lines in recent years have been increasing the passenger counts on their ships significantly as they chase economies of scale.
Luxury line Seabourn, for instance, once only operated 208-passenger vessels. But in 2009, it began rolling out new ships that carried 450 passengers, and its latest ships hold more than 600 passengers. It has since phased out all of its 208-passenger vessels.
Seabourn currently is building a new series of luxury expedition ships that will be similar in some ways to World Navigator. But even these vessels will hold 264 passengers, significantly more than World Navigator.
Luxury line Silversea also has been going bigger with its ships in recent years with new vessels that hold around 600 passengers (one exception: A new vessel for the Galápagos that holds just 100 passengers). Luxury lines Crystal Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises mostly operate ships in the 700 to 950 passenger range.
World Navigator is just the first of five sister ships Atlas plans to roll out by 2024, and for all of them, the line has been promising an elegant, upscale feel. While I’ve only been on board for two days, I already feel like it has lived up to the promise.
World Navigator has a striking, retro-chic interior decor dominated by glossy mahogany walls throughout the ship’s public areas, set off by white-and-black marble flooring and contemporary furniture. Designed by Portuguese design firm Oitoemponto, it’s sort of a 1940s-meets-modern-times interpretation of glamor.
Onboard amenities include a small but serene L’Occitane spa with two treatment rooms, a relaxing lounge area and a sauna; an upscale restaurant serving regionally influenced gourmet fare; and a relatively large deck-top pool area — something you don’t always find on a ship carrying fewer than 200 passengers.
It’s all about adventure
World Navigator is what the cruise world calls an expedition ship. That is, it’s built extra tough to go to some of the most faraway parts of the world.
As is typical for ships of this type, it has a polar-class rating that’ll allow it to travel deep into the polar regions as well as warmer-water locales. As noted above, it carries its own landing craft for landings in remote places, and it’ll also sail with expedition guides to lead explorations.
Plus, it has those aforementioned Jet Skis, kayaks and paddleboards for adventurous outings.
In short, this is a vessel for people who want a splash of adventure with their luxury getaway.
Atlas executives have told me that when they talk about the ship having an adventure focus, they don’t just mean in the sense of taking passengers on landings for hiking and wildlife watching in remote places such as Antarctica.
They also mean adventurous outings in more traditional destinations, such as a six-hour canyoning excursion that’s on the schedule for an upcoming stop on the Greek island of Crete. There’s also a rock climbing excursion during the Crete stop.
The Atlas brand of adventure also can mean an unusual outing at an iconic destination.
Toward the end of this sailing, World Navigator will dock at Alexandria, Egypt, where one of the excursions available will be a private Giza Under the Stars evening event near the base of the Great Pyramids. It’ll include a four-course dinner and live performances, with the pyramids illuminated just for Atlas passengers.
Now that’s something about which even the most jaded world traveler can get excited.
TPG’s Gene Sloan will be reporting live from World Navigator for the next week as it sails through the Greek islands. You can find all of his dispatches on his author’s page.
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Featured image of World Navigator by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy
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