Perhaps most notably, the eagerly anticipated 100-guest Emerald Azzurra has made her debut sailing in the Red Sea. Initial reports back have been favourable, which is impressive considering Emerald were affected by global supply chain issues which caused a delay in some items making it on board prior to departure from the shipyard in Vietnam.
The long bow and sleek lines lend a superyacht feel to the vessel, whilst onboard design elements from Emerald's popular river cruise vessels are apparent in the aft infinity pool and square buffet area in the main restaurant. Lower grades of accommodation are compact but functional. with Balcony Suites featuring a narrow outside seating area. The Deluxe Balcony suites have the same narrow style balcony but offer more internal space with a separate living area. However, we recommend the Yacht Suite or Terrace Suite, with more expansive outside terraces at the aft of the ship.
Looking now to the ultra-luxury sector, the charming and much-loved twin yachts of SeaDream have just completed a US$10million makeover. Guest rooms have been remodelled with nautically inspired hues of blue and grey helping retain the feeling of being on your own yacht. There's also the addition of two new couples' Jacuzzis - perfect for lounging after a day discovering private isles and secluded coves.
Turning from mega yachts to sailing ships, it's been announced that The Yacht Portfolio, the maritime investment company that owns The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, has signed a letter of intent to acquire Sea Cloud and its three tall ships, Sea Cloud, Sea Cloud II and the recently launched Sea Cloud Spirit, which have all begun their summer schedules.
In less positive news, Tradewind Voyages have delayed again the start of the calendar proper for Golden Horizon from May until July, citing a combination of issues that have affected their planning and start-up of operations.
Closer to home, Hebridean Island Cruises are celebrating the first sailings of Lord of the Highlands, with itineraries from mid-April. The vessel has undergone a remarkable transformation, rebuilt to transit the intricate waters of the Caledonian Canal, with the elegant appeal of a vintage Pullman carriage. Accommodating just 40 lucky guests, it's a superb addition to the Hebridean Island Cruises fleet, infused with the same relaxed house party atmosphere as the Hebridean Princess, and is perfectly in keeping with the line's unmistakably Scottish heritage.
On the rivers, Uniworld's huge investment in their fleet has continued and it's fantastic to see the S.S. Sphinx operating on the Nile, S.S. São Gabriel on the Douro and the River Countess emerge after a complete design renovation as the S.S. La Venezia on the Po. Each has been uniquely designed with inspiration drawn from the region in which they operate, with bespoke decor from local artisans.
And finally, the biggest small ship covered here, Silver Wind, is currently undergoing a significant renovation which will see her rejoin the rest of the Silversea fleet, including the newly launched Silver Dawn, at the end of May, having been ice-strengthened with significant environmental upgrades. Guest capacity will reduce slightly to 274 guests and suites will be updated. Importantly for polar travel, the ship will now carry 24 Zodiacs, 14 kayaks and have a mudroom, while the casino has been converted into a photo studio, and the swimming pool will be heated.