Review: Royal Caribbean's Suite Club
The Suite Club staterooms on Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas give luxury cruise lines a run for their money
I knew Darma had been as soon as I saw the swans. My smiley suite attendant had a penchant for fashioning bath towels into winged animals, and here they were – a pair of swans with necks entwined – elegantly arranged over the crisp white sheets of my king-sized bed
The late-morning sun sliced through slits in my curtains, beyond which stood an ample balcony furnished with sun loungers overlooking the East China Sea. Fresh water had been topped up in my minibar, and my daily itinerary was displayed over a black marble coffee table. I could have been in a five-star hotel or on a luxury cruise line. In fact, I was sailing with Royal Caribbean International.
The cruise giant doesn’t actively position itself within the luxury market (sister company Silversea Cruises takes the lead there). Royal is known instead for its epic – and arguably unrivalled – entertainment offering. But the line’s newest ship, Spectrum of the Seas, certainly has an affluent audience in its sights. Homeporting in Shanghai, it has been custom-built for the Chinese market and boasts the line’s first-ever private enclave for suite guests.
The Suite Club resides at the top of the ship across decks 13 to 16. The area, accessed only by key-card doors or private lift, encompasses 36 Golden Suites and 106 Silver Suites (which together span eight categories), two restaurants, a solarium, sun deck and boutique, which can be reserved for private shopping and wine tastings. Top-tier accommodation includes Royal’s largest-ever Ultimate Family Suite (pictured) – a two-level, 2,809sq ft cabin which sleeps 11 guests and features an indoor slide, cinema room and wraparound balcony with whirlpool bath – and stylishly designed Grand Loft Suites which wouldn’t look out of place in New York.
The suite life
I noticed the difference between The Suite Club and the rest of the ship immediately. Golden and Silver guests have their own embarkation lane, allowing them to bypass the queues and be escorted swiftly to their suites by a member of staff, instead of tasked with locating their own. On a short trade cruise around Shanghai, I stayed in a Grand Suite in the Golden category – a simple yet stylishly designed suite with an impressive amount of floor space and a L’Occitane-stocked bathroom so large it had two doors and two sinks.
Guests staying in Golden Suites have access to Gold Dining, a bright, airy space clad in glass and gold with splashes of muted pink and grey. Dining here is à la carte from breakfast through to dinner, with dishes ranging from poached black cod with vegetable nage to braised pork belly with Chinese yam cooked Sichuan-style.
Golden Suite guests can also use The Balcony, a sweeping alfresco deck dotted with cushioned sofas. Located at the front of the ship with 270-degree views of the ocean, it’s the most peaceful place on board.
Meanwhile, Silver Suite guests have access to Silver Dining (Golden guests are able to use both). Food here is buffet-style, with lavish arrangements of lobster and crab embellished with caviar and roe; huge cuts of hand-carved roast beef; and a whole stand dedicated to cured meats and cheeses. Food displays border on over-the-top and don’t always hit the mark, but the sheer array of food on offer means you’ll always find something you like.
On the other side of the restaurant is a private solarium – a leafy oasis with mini pools (one of which features a hoist for less-mobile guests), comfy loungers and a well-stocked bar, with the sounds of lapping waves playing through its speakers.
The best of the rest
But to hole yourself up in the Suite Club for the entirety of the trip would be to do yourself a disservice. From rock climbing to Ripcord by iFly (simulated skydiving) and all the dodgems, laser tag, archery and virtual reality trampolining in between, the wealth of activities and experiences on board Spectrum is impressive. The choice means a multigenerational family would have ample options to keep all age ranges happy.
And the fun doesn’t stop after dark. By night, my vision was filled with the bright lights of Broadway thanks to Royal’s enchanting new shows The Silk Road, Showgirls and The Effectors. Outside of the Suite Club, speciality food options are vast and include Sichuan Red; Teppanyaki; and traditional tearoom Leaf and Bean.
As I headed to the spa on my final morning – a dreamy Elemis facial calling my name – I saw Darma for the final time. “Good morning, Miss Erica!” he beamed. “Do you have everything you need?” For the third morning in a row, I realised I did. A happy cruiser indeed.
Suites on a seven-night Best of Japan sailing round-trip from Shanghai on Spectrum of the Seas start from £1,605 on a cruise-only basis.