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    Indulge in Luxury Travel Experiences with MSC Cruises

    Last year, I received a press invitation from MSC Cruises to experience their ever-so-luxurious MSC Yacht Club aboard the MSC Meraviglia (one out of its fleet of 23 ships). After flying out to New York to board in Brooklyn, the 11-day cruise would feature stops on the East Coast and in Canada, all while staying in a swanky balcony stateroom with private butler service, massages, premium drink packages, spa access, port excursions and more. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, I was able to bring a guest. I mean, who wants to sail the seas in complete luxury alone? 

    After reading the offer a few times over, I couldn’t deny that the trip sounded good. Like, really freaking good. And also completely out of my wheelhouse: I’m a low-key girl, so luxury and flashiness have never really been something I gravitated towards. Press trips, as is, were hard for me to accept, let alone one of this caliber. Frankly, it felt too generous to accept.

    But also: why not say yes? The thought quickly squashed my apprehension. As a 24-year-old recent college grad, I could do with a bit of luxury and pampering. Couldn’t we all? 

    Soon after I made up my mind, I called my mom and asked her to be my cruise companion. She said yes without hesitation, and when I asked her about getting time off work, she was flippant in her response.

     “I’ll figure it out,” she said without a hint of concern. 

     “I have to go,” she said, referring to her decision. I could hear the smile in her voice. I don’t know if I’ll ever get this opportunity again.”

    The willingness to say “screw this job” or other life responsibilities in favor of creating memorable life experiences isn’t a trait unique only to my mother. World circumstances have altered the way many of us approach life and how we choose to live it. Whether it be in the way we work—remote or hybrid—or shop or connect with others, that year has changed what we do a lot. And travel is not exempt.

     “Revenge travel,” which refers to the voracious return of the travel industry as the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, was a result of society’s renewed lease on life after a trying 2020. As countries re-opened their borders to visitors, eager travelers opened their wallets to dish out what was required to get away. Because travel was a luxury most of us (in theory; I’m looking at you, non-social distancers) didn’t have access to, it was the thing the world wanted. Even with increased flight prices due to factors such as rising oil prices and airline staff shortages, people still wanted to travel. And, hell, why not do it lavishly?

    According to business auditors Deloitte, people have resumed travel with style. A recent report noted that the luxury travel space was “quickly returning to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels,” with bookings at five-star hotels rising 19% over the first three quarters of 2022 compared to the same period the previous year. Luxury, whether it relates to travel or otherwise, is typically seen as exclusive access to the finer things in life by those of a higher socioeconomic status. Deloitte notes, however, that “high-net-worth travelers continuing to seek unique vacation experiences are being joined by middle- and upper-middle-class buyers from around the world.”

    But why else are more people turning to luxury travel? For starters, our social media feeds are inundated with celebrities, influencers and even our peers traveling the world while enjoying lavish accommodations, delectable cuisine and breathtaking views. This kind of content is highly influential, as 35% of consumers turn to social media for travel inspiration, compared to other sources, including travel agents (29%) and TV and movies (25%), according to Expedia’s 2023 Traveler Value Index.

    ‘Revenge travel’ 

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    Outside of its material connotations, luxury also promotes a lifestyle of ease, comfort and self-care. The phrase “soft life” was inescapable on social media—specifically TikTok—last year, with the hashtag generating millions of aesthetic videos of people showcasing their version of a stress-free existence. The trend signaled society’s emphasis on self-care, mental health and wellness the further we moved away from 2020. 

    The pandemic exposed a lot—socially, economically and politically—and nothing more personal than the human need for connection and experiences. We needed to be out in the world and doing things that replenish the soul. We needed to, as corny as it sounds, live life to the fullest.

    Capital-L luxury 

    When Mom and I finally boarded the MSC Meraviglia, it was as if we stepped into the starring role in a travel vlog. The ship was absolutely gorgeous and gargantuan, and I couldn’t help but think about the luck on my side that granted an adventure like the one we were embarking on. 

    Before we could wander off to explore (or get lost), we were escorted by a crew member to our stateroom within the Yacht Club. It was outfitted with two memory foam twin beds adorned with Egyptian cotton sheets, sleek modern furniture, ample closet and drawer space (for the excessive amount of clothes we brought), a generous bathroom and a balcony. To commemorate our arrival, the coffee table adjacent to our beds served as the resting place for sweet treats, finger foods and (our favorite part) a bottle of Martini & Rossi champagne. There was also a personalized note welcoming us. I could get used to this.

    As my mom ate and I filled up on champagne, we heard a knock on our door. When I opened it, a lovely face with kind eyes and expertly slicked hair greeted me. As I panned down to the man’s outfit, he was adorned in a white shirt, suit and bowtie. Suddenly, I felt out of place and underdressed in my cardigan and ripped jeans.

     “Hello, Miss Roshae,” said the man. He knew my name and pronounced it correctly on the first try. And he called me “Miss.” What is happening? My mom came to the door. “Hello, Miss Sandra,” he greeted her. She was slightly taken aback, too.

    The well-dressed man introduced himself as Anthony, our assigned butler. Yes, butler. He gave us a rundown of the mandatory drills that everyone onboard was required to do before we left for sea. I tried to follow as best I could, but I was still stuck on “Miss Roshae” and “Miss Sandra” and the fact that we had a butler. Talk about “lux” with a capital L.

    Despite the new environment, I would be lying if I said it took Mom and me a while to settle into our new reality as VIPs. Every ounce of stress was massaged from our muscle fibers during spa visits; we ate and drank to our hearts’ content at the exclusive Yacht Club restaurant, played games hosted by crew members, watched Broadway-style shows, enjoyed nightcaps at the exclusive Top Sail Lounge and ended the night by dreaming of the day ahead while nestled in Egyptian cotton.

     “I don’t know if I’ll ever get this opportunity again” had been my mom’s justification for going on the cruise and she was right. On my modest salary, I don’t know when I’ll have another opportunity to cosplay as a VIP again any time soon.

    Regardless, my foray into the world of luxury travel validated to me the blaring motif of the last four years: life’s too short to not fulfill your soul’s desires and make space for moments of softness. Whether you’re doing up your next vacay in style or keeping it local with a staycation, we all need a break—regardless of the bells and whistles attached. 

    The post-pandemic recovery has seen a rise in interest in luxury travel.

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    The Top-Notch Treatment 

    If you’re looking to experience a break with a splash of class, you might want to consider one of these options.

    1. MSC Yacht Club: If you want VIP treatment while on vacation, look no further than the MSC Yacht Club on MSC Cruises. The experience, which feels similar to that of a boutique hotel, includes 24-hour personal butler service, exclusive lounge and restaurant access, a private sun deck, nightly turndown service and more.

    2. Nobu Hotel Atlanta x Porsche: This Atlanta hotel hits the gas on luxury. Located in the Buckhead neighborhood, its partnership with Porsche has created unique experiences for guests. From chauffeur services in the hotel’s Porsche Taycan house cars to Porsche-themed suites, Nobu and Porsche are the duo you never knew you needed.

    3. Personal Shopping with Saks Fifth Avenue: Packed light and realized you didn’t bring enough?  Saks Fifth Avenue has you covered—and will make you feel like a VIP in the process—with The Fifth Avenue Club. The personal shopping service, a hallmark at the luxury retailer’s stores, has expanded to the Alohilani Resort in Waikiki, the Stanly Ranch Auberge Resorts Collection in Napa Valley and more.

    4. Amangiri: A more remote, nature-filled getaway is always a vibe, but you don’t have to sacrifice luxury. Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah, is nestled within the gorgeous red rocks of the Colorado Plateau, offering a secluded getaway that allows guests to focus on wellness and relaxation. Stay in either a private suite or pavilion, and unwind with personalized wellness experiences, spa treatments and more. 

    Roshae Hemmings is a journalist from St. Louis, Missouri. A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and associate producer at DETOUR (www.detourxp.com), she has bylines in the Columbia Missourian and Vox and 5280 magazines discussing topics from pop culture and social justice to travel and eat and drink.

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