Four Seasons floats 'cruising resort' concept in Palau

The Micronesian nation of Palau may be considered off the beaten path for most, but Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is looking to lure luxury travelers to the archipelago with the debut of its first “cruising resort,” the Four Seasons Explorer, Palau.

Launched in October, the hybrid hospitality product is a redeployment of the Four Seasons Maldives’ 11-cabin Explorer catamaran, which up until this past May offered multiday excursions between sister resorts in the Maldives. 

Concurrent with its relocation from the Maldives to Palau, the Four Seasons Explorer, Palau is leaving behind the concept of fixed itineraries.

According to Armando Kraenzlin, regional vice president and general manager for the Four Seasons Maldives and Explorer Palau, it’s that flexibility and freedom that earns the catamaran its resort categorization. (Four Seasons markets its soon-to-launch cruise product under the separate Four Seasons Yachts brand.)

“We call it a ‘cruising resort’ because you can check in and check out on any day,” Kraenzlin said. “You can stay one night, or you can stay two weeks.”

Speedboat transfers are offered daily between the resort and the marina at Koror, an urban hub that’s home to Palau Airport.

The interior of a suite aboard the Four Seasons Explorer, Palau.

The vessel has 11 cabins, a lounge, dining room and two bars, a sun deck and a dive deck.

Rates for the Four Seasons Explorer, Palau start at around $3,200 per night, inclusive of all meals, with private charter options for groups of up to 22 guests also available.

Thanks to its rich underwater biodiversity and network of more than 340 islands, Palau has long enjoyed status as a premier diving destination.

The resort is home to a PADI 5-Star Dive Center and is outfitted with custom-designed dive and excursion boats. Snorkelers can opt for guided excursions with Four Seasons marine biologists, while recreational activities like windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking are also on offer.

The Four Seasons Explorer, however, isn’t positioning itself as a purely dive-centric experience. Shore excursions are a major focus for the resort, with guests able to partake in activities like visits to a traditional Palauan meetinghouse or an ancient cave painting site as well as culinary experiences such as beach barbecues accompanied by Palauan music and other local cultural elements.

“Our goal is to make sure that customers understand that you don’t need to dive in order to enjoy Palau,” Kraenzlin said.

Guests enjoying an on-shore cultural experience as part of their stay aboard the Four Seasons Explorer, Palau.

In addition to attracting nondivers, Kraenzlin said he hopes that the vessel’s debut will increase international awareness of the destination. 

“It’s a tiny country, and the only market that really knows of Palau is the regional market, [which includes] Taiwan and Japan,” said Kraenzlin, adding that while the destination does have “a little bit” of recognition in the U.S., “the U.S. market is still primarily the dive market.” 

“And in Europe, they’ve never heard of Palau,” he added.

For Four Seasons, the product also gives the brand a unique opportunity to enter a relatively untapped luxury market as the first global upscale brand to open in Palau. The destination’s tourism ecosystem is largely dominated by dive-focused live-aboards and independent hotels unaffiliated with a global flag.

“We are rarely the first in a new destination,” Kraenzlin said. “But here we really are the first luxury hotel company.”

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