Seabourn Encore launched in Singapore with help from Sarah Brightman

By Ewan McDonald

Encore will be the youngest cruise ship to visit Auckland when it arrives next month

It was one of the more unusual stages that Sarah Brightman has performed on, but perhaps the easiest set of lyrics that the world's best-selling soprano has had to learn.

"I name this ship Seabourn Encore. God bless her and all who sail in her," said the curly-haired English singer in the cavernous customs hall of the Singapore cruise terminal for the naming ceremony of the world's newest ultra-luxury cruise.

The concrete and iron shed was converted into a musical theatre for the occasion, seating 2000 guests including Sir Tim Rice, writer of many of her hit records, and Thomas Keller, the three-Michelin star chef who created the ship's signature restaurant.

Brightman pulled a lever to crack a bottle of champagne over the bow of the ship, moored just outside, and received a standing ovation without having to sing a note.

Encore, which will overtake last month's giant visitor, Ovation of the Seas, as the youngest cruise ship to visit Auckland when it arrives next month, carries a mere 600 passengers in 300 suites, all with verandas.

It will visit Auckland twice this season and return Down Under from December 2017 to February 2018.

The Seabourn line focuses on the ultra-luxury market, with a high proportion of North American passengers, in relatively small-capacity ships. Encore's 600 passengers make it the largest in the family, with a similarly sized sister, Seabourn Ovation, under construction in Italy.

Intended "to feel more like a luxury yacht", in the words of designer Adam Tihany, the 40,350-tonne ship features The Retreat, a top-deck sanctuary with 15 private cabanas with bar, cuisine, designer furniture and personalised spa treatments.

Restaurants include Keller's The Grill, the American chef's gourmet take on the classic American chophouse, and an intimate, high-end Sushi destination.

Rice headlines the entertainment, the Evita-Lion King-Beauty and the Beast writer not only leading a production show but also meeting, chatting and dining with guests throughout the voyage.

The ship has left Singapore on its inaugural voyage, a 10-day cruise to Bali. Next port of call will be Australia and New Zealand. A 16-day cruise from Sydney to Auckland starts February 2, followed by a return 16-day cruise from Auckland to Sydney leaving February 18.

- NZ Herald

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