ABOARD THE ODYSSEY – When I went ashore in Ravenna, Italy, a passenger on another cruise ship asked me a thought-provoking question:
“What is there to do on the Seabourn Odyssey?” Mitchell Anderson of California queried when he saw me walking with my complimentary Seabourn tote bag.
“My wife and I have been thinking about taking a Seabourn cruise but the ship looks so small and I wasn’t sure there would be enough to do on it,” Mitchell said. “Would you recommend it?”
He certainly asked the right person. Although I am sure if Mitchell had queried any of the other 439 passengers on my cruise, he probably would have gotten the same answer.
“Definitely,” I would recommend taking a cruise on the Yachts of Seabourn. They don’t call them “yachts” for no reason. Seabourn combines the luxury and service of a small sleek ship with the activities and dining options of a much larger vessel.
However, if you are looking for a myriad of shipboard activities, a Vegas-style casino, a splashing water world, a climbing wall, hairy leg contest, big stage productions or shipboard adventures, Seabourn may not be for you.
“It is a certain style of cruising. And it is not for everybody,” Captain Mark Dexter says. “We don’t have basketball courts and ice skating rinks on the Odyssey. What we do offer is the time to sit down and interact with other people, to learn about the world and to make new friends. That’s the beauty of Seabourn.”
So, as my final blog about my Odyssey cruise, I’d like to borrow a favorite of fellow Hoosier David Letterman and share the top 10 things (in no particular order) that I like about Yachts of Seabourn:
1. The comfortable luxurious size and layout of the ship. Since her inaugural journey in 2009, Seabourn Odyssey has earned the reputation as a leader among the ultra-luxury cruising market. The Odyssey can carry about 450 guests in its 225 ocean-view suites. My verandah suite has a walk-in closet, plus a bathroom with double sinks and a large tub and separate walk-in shower.
2. The Seabourn all-inclusive policy. That means there is no extra charge for drinks – alcoholic, sodas, fancy coffees – or extra treats such as ice cream and pastries or dining in the ship’s specialty restaurant. Any drink is free. Day or night. Anywhere on the ship. Any kind of drink. Another unbelievable Seabourn policy notes that “tipping is neither expected nor required” on the Odyssey. From what I’ve seen, service couldn’t be any better. No one is being nice to you because they expect a big tip at the end of the cruise. They are just being nice because, well, they are nice people.
3. The crew whose service on the Odyssey is impeccable. Everyone I have met – from the captain to my room attendant to the person who delivers breakfast to my suite every morning has been way beyond courteous. As a solo traveler, I am always seated at a dining table in a prime location with a lovely ocean view. That doesn’t always happen on other cruise ships. The point on those ships seems to be to fill up every table with at least two diners. A table for one is often stuck in the corner, away from a window and in a high-traffic, noisy area. If I want to sit alone, I should be able to pleasantly do so. The Odyssey staff understands and respects those wishes.
4. Dining options and delicious cuisine on the Odyssey. No reservations are required for the ship’s three main dining spots. You can decide at the last minute and show up wherever you want to eat. A daily paper called “Dinner Options” is delivered to your cabin every night. It contains the full menu of all the restaurants for the next day so you can decide where you want to eat and what you want to eat. The food is fantastic. The ship’s specialty dining place – Restaurant 2 – is very small with only a few tables that diners share with others. Dining at Restaurant 2 doesn’t cost extra but reservations fill up fast. They were all booked up on the first day when I checked.
5. Fellow passengers are a great diverse group and wonderful travelers. There are no children on my cruise. The youngest cruisers are in their early 20s and traveling with family. An unexpected souvenir gift from the Odyssey is a neat little directory containing the names of the staff on our cruise along with the names and hometown of each passenger. The largest majority of the 24 nationalities on our cruise are 216 from the United States. The next largest nationality is 83 the United Kingdom, 27 Australia, 19 Belgium, 14 New Zealand, 13 Germany, 12 Switzerland, and 10 Venezuela. At the bottom end are one each from Hong Kong, Croatia, Portugal, Romania and South Africa. The language on the ship is English.
5. Little extras such as a clock and refrigerator in my room and a small free self-service laundry. The Odyssey policy concerning announcements is much appreciated. Public announcements aboard ship are kept to a minimum. That means no loud voice on an intercom will jar me awake at 6 a.m. by announcing that the ship has arrived in some port. “Announcements will not be made for such routine events as ship clearance, tour departures, etc.,” my Seabourn guide notes. Hooray!
6. The ship’s entertainment has been consistently good each night in the comfortable Grand Salon. The Odyssey Singers consists of three women and two men; the Odyssey Dancers are one man and one woman. There are so dazzling sets or special effects. But the performances such as “Rock at the Opera” and “Dance” have been excellent. The cruise also has featured comedian Kenny Smiles and multi-instrumentalist Mark Donoghue who played the violin, guitar, piano and harmonica. The Club and other spots around the ship also offer entertainment from a pianist, guitarist and vocalist.
7. Shore excursions on any cruise are always one of my favorite parts and the Odyssey offers some fascinating ones. On our roundtrip from Venice, we went to Triluke Bay, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Primosten, Koper and Ravenna with a huge choice of tours to take. Or we could just go ashore. The ship’s staff is very good about helping choose tours, as is a local tourism representative who comes aboard when the ship is in port. As part of what Seabourn calls its “Conversations,” the Odyssey also has “guest destination speaker” Dr. James Valle on our cruise.
A long time Professor of History at Delaware State University, he has been highlighting the history of the various ports we have been visiting and the sites we might enjoy. If not for Dr. Valle, I might not have found Dante’s tomb on our last stop in Ravenna when I walked ashore by myself to explore and take photos.
Although Dante was born in Florence and dearly loved that city, he spent the last years of his life in Ravenna after being exiled from Florence for his political beliefs. It was in Ravenna during the end of his life that Dante wrote “The Divine Comedy.” He died in 1321.The mausoleum is quite small on a narrow lane and easily overlooked. I walked to it with no problem but heard back on the ship that some passengers couldn’t find it.
Don’t mistake a mound of earth next to the mausoleum as Dante’s final burial place. Another photographer did that and was showing me his photos of what he thought was the grave. That is actually where Dante’s urn was moved and buried from March 1944 to December 1945 because of fears that his tomb might be bombed during World War II. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
8. The Spa at Seabourn is a delight. For $99, I received a weeklong cruise pass and have used it every day, sometimes twice a day. Spanning two decks, the spa offers the usual massages, facials, body wraps and other treatments, plus a fitness center with exercise equipment, a Kinesis Wall and specialized classes. But it was use of the spa facilities that I wanted – the hydrotherapy pool, saunas and steam rooms, along with the heated loungers. Well worth the money.
9. Activities aboard the Odyssey have definitely been to my liking. Some might complain about the dearth of activities but I like the peacefulness, the chance to join in (as Seabourn calls it) “the art of conversation.” Nothing wrong with having a multitude of activities, recreation devices and all sorts of other things on a cruise ship but there is nothing wrong also with sitting still for a while and watching the ocean roll.
10. The embarkation and debarkation processes are well organized and easy. Getting on the ship was a breeze. Getting off tomorrow is said to be equally as simple. The biggest problem with leaving is that I don’t want to. The Seabourn experience has been exemplary – my idea of a true cruise.
When Captain Mark Dexter greeted us aboard in Venice with the simple statement – “It’s rather a nice afternoon for messing about in boats,” I knew this was going to be a special experience. The Captain was quoting one of my favorite childhood books – Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”-
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
So it has been. The Yachts of Seabourn is definitely the way to see the world from the water.
Photos and video by Jackie Sheckler Finch