Along with Regent Seven Seas, Crystal and Silversea, Seabourn rounds out the Big 4 in the luxury ocean cruise business. The defining features of these lines are inclusiveness (drinks, specialty dining and service charges are included), more space per passenger (both cabin and public spaces) and more service (staff to guest ratios are lower). Nearly all luxury ships have fewer than 1000 passengers which makes embarkation and disembarkation a far more pleasant experience. In fact, waiting in line is an uncommon experience. Wherever you go for a meal, there is likely a table waiting.
What makes Seabourn different from the others? The ships are somewhat smaller than Regent and Crystal. Wifi is not included. I suspect this will change as all the others include it or have announced it will be included shortly. Unlike Regent, no shore excursions are included. Like Regent and Silversea the ships are all suite and nearly all balcony.
Seabourn, Carnival Corporation’s luxury brand, started as the Yachts of Seabourn but 10 years ago began premiering three modern mid-sized ships holding 450 passengers. Odyssey was the first of these ships and the ship still looks and smells fresh, though it is scheduled for a dry-dock in May. The last refurbishment was in 2017. Personally, I find the décor a bit bland, but it is classic and well put together. All the public rooms on the ship have generic names as well. I would suggest they use a little imagination to come up with more memorable monikers.
We waited about 10 minutes to check in…sitting in comfortable chairs in Seabourn Square on Deck 7 which offers the coffee bar, public computers, the library and the customer service area. Once we were done we walked up one deck to our V6 suite which is identical to the V1 to V5 suites except for location. We were greeted within a few minutes by Alvi our cabin attendant who made sure we knew that she was there to help. A bottle of champagne and a fruit plate awaited us.
The large bathroom featured two sinks, a bath tub and a shower. Convenient storage space was a bit disappointing and the shower could have been a bit larger with a better layout. There was a roomy walk-in closet with a safe and several drawers. The bedroom also had generous storage space. The suite could be divided in two with a blackout curtain. The queen bed had a variety of pillows to chose from, a LED reading spot and night stand with sufficient drawers and shelving. The TV was very small, but the entertainment and informational choices were many, including very recent movies – all complimentary. There was a small table, two club chairs and a love seat. The balcony had two adjustable chairs with ottomans, a side table and a small dining height table. Talking with one couple we heard that there were some technical issues with their suite so they were moved, but we heard of no other issues.
One of the differences that we found with Seabourn from other cruise lines including the luxury and premium lines is more limited dining hours. While room service is available 24 hours, the public dining and beverage venues have limited hours. My first reaction was to be annoyed that I could not get coffee until 615am and had to wait until 7am to get the full breakfast unless we ordered the night before. (Strangely they have no automated coffee machines.) On the other hand, the limited hours allowed the service to be concentrated so that the service staff could offer better attention. Also, limited dining hours likely avoided excessive waste, especially for buffets. For the most part meals are served during two-hour blocks – 7 to 9 for breakfast, noon to 2 for lunch and 7 to 9 for dinner.
There are 4 dining venues on the ship – The Colonnade, The Restaurant, The Grill by Thomas Keller and the Patio (called Earth & Ocean at dinner time). Continental Breakfast is available in Seabourn Square and the Observation Bar. Full Breakfast (buffet and table service) is offered in The Colonnade. Lunch is available on the Patio and the Colonnade (buffet and table service). Dinner is offered at all 4 venues with table service only.
Like most main dining rooms, The Restaurant has some standard items available plus four daily featured entrees and four starters. Earth and Ocean was our favorite venue because of the beautiful weather and some inventive menu options. It was open six of the seven nights and offered 3 unique entrees, 3 starters and 3 desserts. The Colonnade has themed dinners. The Grill by Thomas Keller offered classic American cuisine inspired by the 50s and 60s, when most guests were children.
I should mention the special barbeque lunch we had on St. Kitts at Carambola Beach. As an appetizer they served caviar and champagne from a surf board floating in the water. It was silly and fun. Then they had a big tent with a buffet featuring grilled lobster, ribs, hot dogs and much more. Very enjoyable!
Without going into detail, we found the food consistently well-prepared and imaginative. For those who are not adventurous, Earth and Ocean and the Colonnade may not have appealing choices at dinner. In fact, choices were more limited than on any of the other ships we’ve sailed on, but I’m not sure that is a such a bad thing. The ship published daily dinner menus delivered to the cabin the night before.
The Odyssey had the most enjoyable entertainment of any small ship we had sailed on. If you like big hits and broadway retrospectives, you may not enjoy it as much as we did. The 3 productions shows featured 4 fine singers and two athletic and graceful dancers. While each show offered a few familiar songs, most were new to me. The theme were Italia, Tim Rice and Latin Rhythms. The 5 piece band were solid and unfortunately backed by pre-recorded tracks for some numbers. The singers were very versatile offering everything from pop opera to soul. And their harmonies were excellent…to me that is the rarest thing.
The ship had a bluesy female singer who performed with a trio, but we saw her only once. There were some fun pool deck shows during the week. They had a singer / comedian and a magician sailing with us as well. Many guests enjoyed their performances. There was also a guest lecturer with us who talked about the history of the Caribbean, Columbus and Pirates. We enjoyed his presentations.
Service & Staff
We found the service to be the area where Seabourn exceeded expectations most. They anticipated your needs, especially in cabin service. All the staff were extremely professional and personable, often taking the time to share life experiences. This is only possible with a low staff to guest ratio.
One story will illustrate the high level of service. Good quality fruit sometimes hides secrets. It is unavoidable. Donna found a raspberry with a worm that must have died during refrigeration. It was on the fresh fruit plate left in the suite on the second day. We left that berry on a napkin before leaving for dinner. When we got back to the suite, there was a letter of apology, a bottle of red wine, chocolate covered strawberries and a chocolate high-heeled boot. Now that is service!
We were invited to two dinners with staff members and a tour of the bridge with the captain. In addition, at the farewell event we spent a good amount of time with the Hotel Manager. This was not because we are travel agents. Apparently, everyone is invited to the dinners and tours. Our dinners were with the Staff Captain (from Bulgaria) and with the Destination Manager (South Africa) and his assistant (the US!). There were two or three other couples at the tables as well. The primary purpose of these dinners was for the staff to ensure that we were having a good time. Everyone on the staff wanted to know if we had any issues and had a positive attitude if we brought something up. What struck me was their confidence that whatever problems we had, they would be able to solve them. Meeting the Hotel Manager on the last night we found out why. He was from Austria and had worked at the Ritz Carlton. He was very proud of his staff and supportive. Excellent service starts at the top. A staff that is treated well passes their positive attitude on to the guests.
We mostly relaxed on this cruise. Living near a beach, the Caribbean has limited appeal to us. So the only shore excursion we did was the transfer-tour in Barbados before our late afternoon flight. It was very enjoyable and a good value. Otherwise, we wandered around on our own.
The casino was small with perhaps a dozen machines and three tables. On our cruise which stopped at different islands every day, hours of operation were very limited.
One of our new friends had a spa treatment (a special offer that was not as expensive as I would expect) and said she really enjoyed it. I used the workout room several times which were nicely appointed. They offered cardio events and yoga.
We participated in daily trivia with friends which was hosted by the Cruise Director and his assistant. The daily schedule was what you would expect on a luxury ship – not a lot of guest participation games. I was not disappointed!
One thing we especially enjoyed were the new friends we met. Many were Seabourn loyalists. They seemed to have long standing relationships with some members of the staff. While we took the 7-night one-way cruise, most people we talked to seemed to be doing 14-night round-trips.
The dress code in the evening applied to all public venues and was what they called smart casual – which meant no blue jeans or shorts. My tan jeans and any collared shirt were acceptable. There was one formal night, but there were some guests who dressed up for dinner on other nights. I wore my suit twice but had forgotten to bring a tie…it wasn’t an issue.
Seabourn is a bit different from the other luxury and premium lines I have sailed on. They focus on the fundamentals of service and quality. And they plan activities in a way that ensures they have the staff to do everything exceptionally well. Mostly they keep things simple. Other lines are more ambitious perhaps, but the Seabourn approach works exceptionally well.