The terms "men's club" and "gentleman's club" have fallen into disrepute. Most any person who hears them today immediately thinks of a dimly lit bar reeking of stale beer and filled with bearded truckers watching a barely dressed woman writhe around a pole. Sad.
My first introduction to a gentleman's club was when I was sent by Yachting decades ago on an errand to London to watch the workings as some of the wisest men in the sailing world gathered to administer the sport. It was held in a private gentleman's club on a lane known only to London cabbies and it was, well, quite wonderful.
The images I retain are of dark walls with intricate paneling, marked by impeccably framed sporting prints from a lost Empire. Of comfortable, deep leather chairs with a patina from a century of men wearing morning coats. Of the faintest aroma of fine cigars and even better brandies. This was where corporations were born and continents conquered.
With my first steps aboard After You, the horizon Premier 130 trideck, I was immediately transported back to that London club, and it was even more wonderful than I remembered, because this is a gentleman's club that can carry you to the farthest reaches of an empire in grand style.
The salon sets the tone for After You, with sapele pommele finished in a dark-stained satin lacquer for the club look. Sapele is an African hardwood much like mahogany but, in this case, the pommele (a French word meaning "dappled") appellation indicates a wonderful grain that a wood expert once likened to "champagne bubbles rising." Set off with raised paneling, intricate crown moldings, baseboards, and tasteful curtains tied off with black silk, the effect is at once elegant and inviting.
Underfoot, the planked-rosewood sole complements the look and, with more than 7 ½ feet of headroom, the salon seems immense. One reason for this is because the engine exhausts were moved to eliminate the usual intrusions on each side of the salon. Delineated by an area rug, the lounge has an immense rolled-arm leather settee and matching chair with ottoman, and you almost expect to see Ernest Hemingway (or Dr. Livingstone) enjoying them. Opposite is a black granite bar with a sunken serving area finished in marble and, in addition to the expected ice maker and fridge, the bar features a wine chiller large enough for two cases of wine.