This will be a review of the May 10 -- 20 sailing of the Seabourn Legend, Idyllic Rivieras and Spain cruise from Rome to Monte Carlo by two Seabourn rookies. Having cruised before on Carnival, Disney and Celebrity and having done a lot of research on the Legend, we thought we knew what to expect (based on all the hype) but were happily astounded by the level of professional service my wife and I received.
My wife and I spent 2 1/2 days in Rome (Hotel Barocco) prior to the cruise and had a wonderful time. The hotel is lovely and very convenient to the sites and Metro. Our concierge was very willing to make the dinner reservations that we requested and checked to make sure everything was in order. Everywhere we went English was spoken and the people were very gracious. I had pre-purchased tickets for the Coliseum and Vatican Museums (we had tickets for 10:00 and were allowed in at 8:45 with almost no one else in front of us) which saved us hours of time in line. (Why more people do not do this simple task is beyond me. We did the same thing with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and laughed as we passed the 100 or so people waiting to buy tickets.) As we were there on Wednesday, we were able to go into St. Peter's Square for the blessing and greeting from the Pope -- he passed less than 50 feet in front of us. For both transfers we used Rome Cabs and their friendly, ON-TIME, professional drivers eased our trepidations in an unfamiliar port. Then the cruise began and what a cruise it was!
Embarkation process at 12:40 was simply filling out a health questionnaire (along with being offered a cold towel to refresh ourselves), then being led through security and to the ship by a white gloved, tuxedo dressed crewman. No one else was there at that time, and that type of service was a glimpse of what was to follow us for the next 10 days. After meeting in the King Olav lounge for a photo ID and quick bite (the champagne had already begun flowing) we were then escorted to our suite at 2:00.
Immediately, Daniela our smiling stewardess arrived with more champagne and canapes for a review of our suite, pre-selected beverages and pillow selection. Only once did my wife ask for some orange juice to go with the vodka we had and every afternoon after that we had 2 glasses appear. She must have had a sensor go off if we left the room because when we would go to breakfast around 7:45, the room was already cleaned by the time we got back to the room around 8:30. One morning I needed a jacket as it was cooler than expected and upon return to the room - there she was polishing the brass door track.
The suite had a queen size bed, one sink, a huge shower, wonderful walk-in closet, couch and table, 2 chairs, bar and glasses, TV, BOSE stereo, 5 foot wide window, curtain to separate the sleeping and sitting areas. Anything and everything we needed was at our fingertips.
After a great sale-away, we and 197 other lucky guests were ready to receive the most impressive service imaginable. From the bar servers to the dining staff, our preferences were duly noted and anticipated wherever we were on the ship.
We had the ship's tenders in a few ports and at times were able to leave with only 6 of us (they could fit 22). No waiting anywhere. In fact, for the convenience of the passengers, while the winds and seas were rougher than would have been pleasant trying to tender into Ile De Porquerolles, France, the captain decided we would instead move on to St. Raphael but when we arrived, the seas were still a little choppy, so the captain called ahead and we sailed on to Villefranche instead where the sun was out and very little wind. Certainly this would NOT happen on a large ship and goes to show the advantage of the smaller size.
Breakfast was split evenly between the Veranda and Restaurant (good Eggs Benedict). Our 1st morning at breakfast, we were greeted by a server by our name (and even the correct pronunciation), whom we had not even met before. This was followed by them constantly carrying our dishes (if at the buffet). One morning for breakfast, my wife had a container of yogurt and our server insisted that he would open it for her.
Dinners were divine and we spent only 1 evening (Chop House) in Restaurant 2 with great service. We were escorted to our table for dinners (we had the pleasure of joining others for company at dinner and being invited to hosted tables for 5 of the nights). Only the last night did we have repeat tablemates, every other night we engaged in conversation with so many different people and shared our stories to newfound friends.
SIDE NOTE -- Cannes, France
Since it was Mother's Day in the US, I had decided to hire a personal car/driver in Cannes for just the 2 of us with Sylvie Di Cristo of www.frenchrivieraguides.net. I had read her reviews on Tripadvisor and Cruise Critic and felt she would be a wonderful choice and the reviews are spot on. We had an idea of where and what we wanted to see and discussed this with her before we began our day. For this excursion we wanted to be immersed in the French culture, not the overly touristy areas, but the in-depth areas of France. With that in mind, we revised our plans to include Antibes, Cannes --with the market, the city of Vence and other wonderful villages surrounding the area. She has the knowledge and insight to understand what we were looking for and adapt as needed. I had pre-booked for a 6 hour tour and we had so many things to do and see that Sylvie stated 'You have me for the day, so I suggest we go somewhere else where I have a friend and we may be able to visit him at his wonderful house. Would that be OK?' Well, what do you think - we said 'ABSOLUTELY, we are in your capable hands.' It was a fantastic and informative day. My wife had a sinus infection and needed some Sudafed and all but 1 pharmacy is open in each town on Sundays -- you guessed it -- Sylvie drove us around Cannes and found the one that was open and went in with my wife to attend to her needs. At the end (2 hours more than we had anticipated), we asked to be dropped off at the sight of the Cannes film festival for some photos and when paying I asked what she would want for the extra time and she said -- nothing! I was rather shocked at her graciousness. In fairness, I added what I felt was appropriate for the extra time with her gratitude. What a wonderful person!
We only used 2 of these as we prefer to go out and explore on our own, and the bus trip to Aix-en Provence was a disappointment as the time there is very limited. On our second excursion, we went to La Mola and this was a better value as we covered about half the island of Menorca with a fabulous guide. Since we were running a little late at some of the stops, she decided that we deserved to see everything she had planned, and with the approval of the ship -- we extended the trip around 30-40 minutes. The ship knew we were running late, so lunch on the Sky Deck was waiting for us -- drinks in hand.
Again -- buy your tickets on line for Sagrada Familia and save time. One morning we spent viewing the outside which though still being worked on is beautiful and the finished inside was absolutely stunning. The second morning we took the train to Montserrat for more stunning views. Each afternoon was spent strolling along Las Ramblas and picking places for lunch. We spent some time traversing the market and could have spent many more hours (and Euros) selecting anything and everything. It was a wonderful two days. Having visited London, Paris, Rome and now Barcelona -- we know how to act and safeguard our valuables -- so we had NO ISSUES anywhere.
The ship was full of many nationalities including many from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Denmark, Germany, the UK and others. While we were among the younger few (we are 51 and 56, less than two dozen cruisers who were our age or less), we had no trouble enjoying the company and stories of the vast majority of other guests. Sure there were a very few who obviously were used to the royal treatment (we are not), and they acted as such. But overall, you learned who to avoid and who you could mingle with.
Would we go again -- ABSOLUTELY! We put down a deposit for our next cruise with Seabourn after experiencing a trip that we could only have imagined. Service, food, and the hospitality were EXCELLENT. One suggestion would be for everyone who has sailed the mainstream, crowded, chit signing, everything is extra cruise lines to at least once in your lifetime, experience a Seabourn cruise. You won't be disappointed!
Now, the tough part -- where to cruise next!! Another trip on the small triplets or move up to the larger ones -- it will be a very hard choice to make.