Seagoing Luxury With a Goddess

Slater and Basch are Los Angeles free-lance writers.

When asked how he came up with the basic concept for Sea Goddess Cruises, an expensive and luxurious alternative to the usual sea vacation, chairman of the board Helge Naarstad said, "I sat down and made a list of all the things I myself would like on a cruise."

Well, what Naarstad and his beautiful wife, Nini, like is, quite simply, the best of everything, and the runaway success of the Sea Goddess formula has shown that a number of travelers agree. Here on the new Sea Goddess II, as on a previous sailing aboard the Sea Goddess I, the passengers are treated as guests aboard a private yacht, with nothing so crass as bar tabs, tips or assigned dining tables and mealtimes to get in the way of pure, unalloyed pleasure.

The idea at work on the two ships from this Norwegian-owned, Miami-based cruise line is both simple and sophisticated. Instead of the usual "keep 'em busy and leave 'em laughing" philosophy of activity-filled days and evenings, these chic and intimate ships--each about the same size as Adnan Khashoggi's yacht--are tailored for getting away, unwinding and doing exactly as you please, even if it's dining by candlelight in your suite every evening in pajamas while watching a movie on your in-room VCR.

Glittering Passenger List

Our fellow passengers, as you might imagine, are a glittering lot--an attractive young Chicago couple on their honeymoon, several fashionable Norwegian couples, half-a-dozen jet-setters from Argentine cafe society, a Canadian financial editor on holiday, a Beverly Hills couple en route from their Paris flat to a sunny holiday in Punta del Este before flying home, a Neiman-Marcus executive, and couples from West Palm Beach, Napa Valley, San Diego, Santa Barbara and other resort-weather areas.

But one thing they all have in common--and potential passengers should keep this in mind--is that none of them are traveling alone. Most are couples, the rest with relatives or friends. There is very little scheduled activity on board, and some traditional-minded cruise veterans who prefer the security of planned programs chock-full of bingo, horse races, lounge variety shows and morning quizzes are not going to find the Sea Goddess style to their taste.

(One staffer confided that early first-season inveterate cruisers complained vociferously that "there's nothing to do!")

Actually, on this first sailing in South America--a seven-day cruise between Rio and Buenos Aires--we note several changes to the first-season format. Where formerly there was little after-dinner entertainment beyond the casino and dancing, there is now also a midnight show featuring a dynamic young singer, as well as a late-night piano bar. And, while you can still have the staff arrange car and English-speaking driver to be waiting for you in every port of call, you may also opt to join one of several group shore excursions.

Itineraries Differ

Ports of call on the seven-day South American itineraries, through March 15, and again next winter between late November and mid-March, are not the same on southbound and northbound schedules, so you could take a 14-day round-trip cruise out of Rio or Buenos Aires without duplicating your sightseeing.

Brazilian ports include the charming restored colonial town of Parati, Ilha Grande, Santos (for Sao Paolo or Iguassu Falls), Itajai and Porto Bello, Ilha Bela Yacht Club, Angra dos Reis and Florianopolis. In Uruguay, the fashionable beach resort of Punta del Este and the pretty but little-known city of Montevideo are visited.

Fares for the South American cruises are $4,000 per person double occupancy or $6,000 single, rising in 1987 to $4,400 per person double occupancy or $6,600 single. These are cruise-only rates, but include all tips, wines and cocktails.

All 59 cabins are suites, each with its separate sitting room with VCR, fully stocked bar and mini-refrigerator stocked with snacks, soft drinks, wines and champagne; bedroom with choice of king-size or twin beds; in-room safes; tub-shower combination; terry-cloth bathrobes and a generous supply of toiletries, and your own cheerful Scandinavian stewardess who will also do emergency mending (even to replacing a broken zipper on an evening gown).

Understated Elegance

The decor throughout the ship is understated elegance in soft, lush tones of rose, peach, beige, blues and grays, with blond woods, plenty of original art, and glorious arrangements of fresh flowers and live greenery. The upstairs Club Salon, where afternoon tea and tiny, freshly made sandwiches are served, might have been created by Matisse, and the a la carte dining room--where everything is prepared to order and you arrive when you wish and sit wherever you please--looks like a select Parisian restaurant that has garnered a couple of Michelin stars.

In keeping with Sea Goddess' younger-than-usual clientele, a special platform on the stern can be lowered to water level when the ship is at anchor, for windsurfing, water-skiing and swimming. Inflatable rubber landing craft give access to even the most remote beaches.

A glossy color brochure, looking more like a magazine than a cruise catalogue, has just been issued by Sea Goddess. If you'd like a copy, call them toll-free at (800) 458-9000. It lists the line's new itineraries coming up in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South America and the Java seas, including some 10- and 11-day cruises and some longer positioning sailings in the Atlantic, Pacific and Mediterranean.

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