Recently I spent 20 days aboard the lovely Seabourn Spirit sailing through India and Malaysia and I reported extensively on those ports in this blog. However, I did want to do a final reflection on the overall Seabourn experience.
For many years, Seabourn has been ranked among the top small-ship luxury cruise lines. Having now enjoyed the “The Yachts of Seabourn” personally I can tell you why: The stellar service they provide. At times the food wasn’t quite perfect. The ship we sailed on was worn in a few places. The cabins lack full verandas. But that seemed to matter not at all to most passengers because they love the way they are treated by the Seabourn staff.
I had been thinking that perhaps all of the best staff would be working on Seabourn’s new ships, the Odyssey and Sojourn, and that we would be served by a group of newbies. Well, I don’t know what pixie dust that Seabourn sprinkles over its new recruits, but there wasn’t a dud in the bunch.
Our stewardess Lina (and her twin Therese) boarded the ship the same day we did and were new to Seabourn. I believe they were from Sweden while most of the new staff were from South Africa. But from Day One, our cabin service was impeccable. Most staff members you see regularly will address you by name after the first few days. They will remember what you drink and where you like to sit.
Staff members are trained never to say “no.” If they can’t handle a situation, they will take it to a higher officer. The staff, in general, seem happy to be there and in their work.
Our captain, David Bathgate, Scottish by background but living now in Southern England, was also new to the ship. But with his pleasant and easy manner he fit in easily and was a great ambassador for the cruise line. He was all about the ship, participated in activities and took the time to chat with passengers while keeping a close on ship operations.
A few other observations:
The Seabourn Spirit, as a facility, is a bit tired. She entered service for Royal Viking Line in 1988 and in 2005 was named the best luxury small ship by Conde Nast. But the wood is a bit worn now, the marble in the bathrooms is cracked in a few places and the small swimming pool very hard to access. There really is not enough room in the popular open-air Veranda dining room. Although it does have one tiny elevator it really isn’t great for those in wheelchairs. Many people would like full balconies instead of the french balconies that Seabourn installed some years ago.
Most of these issues have been addressed in the new, larger ships. There were some passengers we met who said the loved the size of the Spirit (and sister ships, the Legend and Pride) and would not want to cruise on the larger ships. Then we met others who said that if they sailed Seabourn again, it would only be the larger ships.
I have to believe that with Seabourn bringing yet another new ship on line this year, the Quest, that one or more of these smaller ships will be phased out. It is a pity really, as they do offer a very personal cruising experience. People with special needs are treated like royalty on these ships and that is worth a lot.
The cruise director and staff on this ship are really all-purpose…they do everything. They emcee, run the activities and sing and dance. And they do it very well. Everyone pitches in, from the guitarist to the husband-wife singer/piano duo. In addition to these performers, there is a house band with singer (quite good) and they bring on featured performers every few days. On this trip, these included an illusionist, a pianist and a cabaret singer.
The problem is that the evening shows are at 10 p.m. and we are early-to-bed folks so we only caught a few of them. We did enjoy the few nights they offered early shows before dinner. There are two lounges aboard and they are quite adequate, if perhaps underused.
Oh yes, there is a teensy casino and also a bridge instructor aboard. Her sessions were well attended during days at sea. There is a small business center and wi-fi internet is available throughout the ship. It is probably worth buying unlimited minutes ($400 on this trip) if you plan to be online very much.
They are quite expensive, perhaps even more so because of our exotic itinerary. We booked many of them as these were all new ports to us but noticed that many of our fellow passengers were doing it on their own — hiring cab drivers for personal tours – for about half our price. We were surprised at how many people speak English in this part of the world. In the future, I would consider doing much more on our own.
This is always an important part of a cruise and Seabourn does very well…but I can’t rave about every meal. I heard there were many passengers who ordered caviar daily and you can do that on Seabourn. They will accommodate most meal requests. However, when we asked for escargot (which was offered on the everyday menu on Celebrity), we were told we would have to order it a day ahead of time. When we did get it, we didn’t care much for the preparation and didn’t order it again.
The line is trying to offer more places to dine, as it now the cruising trend. So in addition to the main dining room, it offers a special menu in the Veranda during the evenings when they change the name to “2.” These meals are themed and were quite popular, so much so that people had to stand in line to get reservations which seemed strange. There were also two on-deck barbeques with outdoor dancing (the “Bollywood” theme night was particularly fun as we donned clothing purchased in India) and sometimes surf and turf was offered in the upper bar area.
This staff was some of the best on the ship. All wine and alcohol are included in the cruise (except premium brands) so you often saw the champagne bottle being poured. But I never saw any excessive behavior. You also have a fully stocked fridge in your room. I LOVED having no chits to sign.
We selected this cruise because we have long wanted to experience “The Yachts of Seabourn” and because of the wonderful itinerary. Seabourn does offer some of the best itineraries on the planet. These were all ports we had never visited. Some 30 passengers had combined the previous cruise with this one and were on board for over 40 days…and loving it.
There have been some great deals offered on Seabourn in the past couple of seasons. They need to keep those ships filled and have come up with some enticing offers…once you are aboard, your expenses are mostly shore excursions and spa treatments – all optional. There is no tipping on Seabourn, either. We only tipped Lina…who had given us personal service from day one.
We suggest you look for good cruise deals on Seabourn on www.cruisecompete.com.
For more information on the line, go to www.Seabourn.com.