THEME SAILING

By Robert N. Jenkins

Table lamps in the Blue Note Lounge are inverted trumpets, and a real juke box offers free plays.Passengers on Vantage Deluxe World Travel’s recently-launched River Voyager need take only a few steps from the lobby to come face-to-face with its musical theme.

Covering the walls at the entrances to the main dining room, the Bourbon Street Bistro and the Blue Note are sepia-toned photomontages of Cab Calloway, Dinah Washington, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday.

The Rhine-sailing river vessel’s dozen suites are named for the famous and infamous musical artists. Above the headboard in each suite is a quote from and photo of the suite’s namesake.

Interior decorator Nana Du Fijn recalled that the owner’s directions were limited to a few words: “jazz’’ and “New Orleans.’’ “So we began checking references and then the photo stock houses.’’ Du Fijn’s Alpha Design firm designed the carpeting in cabin corridors—a swirling musical staff with notes floating off the staff. Table lamps in the Blue Note are inverted trumpets with the lampshade on the bell. There is a jukebox by the Blue Note’s dance floor.

Said Patricia Lewis, Vantage Vice President and co-owner with husband Hank, “This is our first ship (of seven) to have a themed decor throughout. We wanted it to be warm and inviting, to draw people in.”

It is also Boston-based Vantage’s most-expensive vessel, about $27-million outfitted; previous boats cost about $20-million, said Amruth Sivalenka, Vantage chief revenue officer. The additional expenditures ranged from higher-quality fabrics for chairs in the public areas to more effort at deadening sounds from the ship’s propulsion and public areas.

Rich tones keep the mood of the main dining room warm.Extra touches in the 250-square-foot deluxe suites,

motorized twin beds to raise or lower the

mattresses, remote-control motorized blackout curtains,

twin sinks in the bathroom plus separate Jacuzzi tub and

shower stall, boasting a shower feature with six miniature

heads along the water pipe.

L’Occitaine de Provence toiletries are in all of the ship’s 92 cabins, 72 of which have French balconies. There are eight single cabins.

Mrs. Lewis sums it up this way: “Life takes its turns, spouses and partners die, but people still want to travel.’’

Cabins range in size from the 125-square-foot singles to the 330-square-foot owner’s suite. While there are no handicapped-accessible cabins, there is an elevator through the three passenger decks. In addition to free Wi-Fi throughout the ship, each cabin has an iPhone/iPod docking station and a flat-screen television that offers live channels plus more than 100 movies. Storage space is ample.

Vantage markets its seven riverboats only in English-speaking countries, and typical passenger loads are between 68 and 72 years old. They are “more experienced, active and affluent,” according to revenue officer Sivilenka.

Thus, there are no activities or dedicated spaces for youngsters. Nor is there a casino, showroom, theater or spa. Three exercise machines and some free weights comprise the fitness room. There is the single main dining room, though meals may be taken under the retractable-roof Cotton Club Lounge.

Typical of the ship's 12 suites, the Billie Holiday stateroom has a photo and quotation from the legendary singer.“The people in Boston called and said we want the best ship in our fleet,’’ recounted Gerrie Van Tiem of Dutch shipbuilders TeamCo. “We had a mission, to make the ship seem warm, as if you are at home. And to make it quiet.’’

They have succeeded.

For more information on Vantage Deluxe World Travel, go to www.vantagetravel.com.

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