We've been fortunate enough to be on numerous luxury small ships, Azamara Club Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Seabourn of late; all are aiming to be the worlds leader in smaller ship cruising with Seabourn proclaiming themselves as the finest! So, why do they feel that, what do we love, what do we feel can improve?
THE FLEET: Seabourn have 4, soon to be 5 small ships. Sisters Odyssey, Sojourn & Quest are the 3 slightly older ships (2009-2011) and slightly smaller at just 458 guests. The slightly larger Seabourn Encore was launched towards the end of 2016 with her sister Ovation coming in 2018. These slightly larger ships have just 600 guests and it would appear that Seabourn guest list is unlikely to get bigger than this. All ships have very similar features including an onboard marina which means you can launch Kayaks and Zodiac boats or windsurf from the ship itself, adding a huge range of extra possibilities for excursions or just passing the time. On certain sailings you may find yourself on a zodiac to attend a beach party for example where the waiters stand in the beautiful turquoise waters serving champagne & caviar! You won't get that anywhere else...
WHY CRUISE ON SMALL SHIPS? What you may lose in terms of ship features you tend to gain in terms of service and itineraries on smaller ships and this is definitely true of Seabourn! The service is what this cruise really feel makes them stand out from the others and more on that in a moment but we were struck that due to its near 1 on 1 crew to passenger ratio and given the small number of passengers everyone seemed to know everyone, in fact, by name! This level of personal service would certainly make you feel at home. The itineraries are vast and worldwide, avoiding repeating itineraries over and over again, also trying to avoid docking in ports in between 2 x 5000 passenger ships - not the experience Seabourn are going for. In 2017 they relaunched their Alaska itineraries which sound incredible and never before has such a level of comfort been experienced while sailing through these icy but absolutely stunning wildlife filled parts of the world.
SEABOURN MOMENTS These are the little touches that Seabourn feels sets them apart, from 'caviar on the ice' events when sailing through Alaska, to Marina day when you can water ski or paddle boat around the beautiful Mediterranean launching from the ship itself or going through the soap menu with your personal suite stewardess before having your bath run just how you like it (extra bubbles for us please!!) We heard lots of moments yesterday, about the lady who lost her engagement ring between boat and shore only to have it retrieved by divers within the hour. Or how about the lady who's in suite robes were too long but found them shortened for her and her initials embroidered on when she returned to her suite... the sort of moments that make you never want to leave.
THE SHIPS: Yesterday we were on the Quest with the Odyssey and the Sojourn the same layouts. Considering it's a small ship it felt very spacious with lots of space per passenger. The decor was clean, warm and welcoming though to be fair didn't feel particularly lavish. Don't get us wrong, it was lovely, it was more than comfortable but have we been on ships with more Wow? Yes we have! We particularly liked Seabourn Square, an area where you can have a coffee. Catch up with friends, use a computer or read a book while also handling any concierge or excursion enquiries without the usual queueing at a desk! A much more comfortable, friendly, clever and relaxed way of dealing with any issues. You can see that without the background of containers at Dublin Port he pool area with surrounding pool grill and sky bar would be just perfect on a warm day floating at sea, The award winning spa perfect for letting your worries fade away. For us the gym area was too cramped, too much equipment in a small space but we're being picky! It's just what we do! Sometimes less is more!
SIMPLE PRICING If you've been following us you know we've an issue with the term 'all inclusive' as it never means what most of us thinks it does and can mean someone coming on board is met with little let downs when they discover what actually is included! With Seabourn we didn't see or hear the phrase once! Effectively all dining venues are included, including Room Service which is the restaurant menu and not a specific room service menu. This includes the 3 Michelin star Thomas Keller restaurant! Fantastic! No supplements to eat here or eat there! Drink? Bar some very very high end drinks you're covered, included and your mini bar will be filled and refilled with the drinks of your choice! Brilliant! Gratuities neither required or expected! So the price you see, albeit this is not a €499pp cruise, does cover so much without having to pay little bits on top! One exception, Wi-Fi! Now, we won't labour the point but in this day and age access to the internet has become a basic need. Given this is 6 star cruising, for us, it should be included! Instead it's $19.95 for 2 hours or $399 for the entire cruise (regardless of whether it's 7 Nights or 27 Nights!) Some access is complimentary as you move up membership tiers but none as standard! We'd urge Seabourn to look at this given it's aiming now at a slightly younger 45-64 average age from the traditional 65+ market.
ANYTHING ELSE TO LOVE? A lot! Your stewardess welcomes you with champagne and caviar, before going through a soap menu (including Molton Brown ranges with some exclusive to Seabourn) and then onto how they can be of service to you during the cruise. Less of a butler and more of a friend they'll pack and unpack your case, run a bath, personalise your turndown service, as little or as much as you require! Now what's not to love about that?
The entertainment on board befits the style of cruising, there's piano bars, educational talks and evenings with the likes of Apple founder Steve Wozniacki or how about an exclusive show in the lounge from Tim Rice, exclusive to Seabourn!
Excursions or Ventures as they are called aim to enhance an understanding of the local area and cultures. Whether it's kayaking to get closer to Wildlife, shopping in town with the onboard chefs or going 'behind the scenes' with exclusive information and access to Unesco sites given the partnership between Seabourn & UNESCO , there really is so much out there to experience in ports and don't forget they stay longer in port, e.g., last nights sail out from Dublin was approximately 11pm!
We'll let someone else finish this review - a passenger told is that they've "sailed on Silversea and Celebrity amongst other cruise lines but we keep coming back here...we love it... the service is the best there is, they really just care"
Worlds finest Small Ship Cruise Line? Tough one... But their passengers certainly seem to think so and really their opinion is the most important...