Seabourn has earned the title of our most-beloved cruise line since we first sailed to Alaska, circa 1999. The food, intimacy, service and the attention to small but important details placed Seabourn as our top luxury cruise line. The original Seabourn vessels, the Pride, Legend and Spirit have just 104 suites. That is about 210 people served by a crew of about 170. Not a bad passenger to crew ratio in terms of service. The ships were originally built in the late 1980's and were refurbished between 2009 and 2011. We have sailed the three original ships many times and love them, but there are sacrifices. Because the ships are older, there are no verandas. The top suite category has a "Balcony" suite which allows you to open sliding doors to fresh sea air, but they are really French windows not verandas you can actually sit out on. The pool is very small and often in the shade, as if added as an afterthought. In the last few years, Seabourn added three new larger ships to their fleet, the Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. These ships were twice the size of the older ships and carried twice the passengers. Most of the suites had verandas and the central swimming pool was large and beautiful. My Wife and I were very skeptical whether Seabourn could offer the same exquisite cruise experience on a much larger scale. Well, we needn't have worried. We sailed the Sojourn for 10 days from November 27-December 8, 2011, and the ship was fabulous. The Sojourn was, if not the most beautiful ship I've sailed, certainly among the top three. For those curious cruise lovers out there, the other two contenders were the Regent Seven Seas Voyager and the Crystal Serenity. It should be noted that both of those ships are much larger, with 800-1000 passengers. I should emphasize we took the Sojourn cruise just to experience the ship, as the itinerary was pretty mundane. The Sojourn is nothing short of spectacular.
A pleasant surprise was how many crew members and guests we knew from previous sailings on the smaller ships. Let me use this space to praise the people who made our voyage extra special. While tipping is neither required nor expected, when people go above and beyond, I have always felt they should be rewarded and try to do so. I always manage to miss a few of them, but I'll be seeing them again. Darius, my bartender buddy from the Legend, who I was thrilled to find on the Sojourn. He is both a marvelous bartender and one of the nicest and funniest guys I've met at sea. Our Cabin stewardess Anne was terrific and very sweet. We like to have both breakfast and lunch in the Dining Room every day, and Annie, Nigel, Kimberly and Drew were a delight. Jo and Claudia made the Coffee Bar a must-visit every day. Jo's interpretation of Iced Coffee made us skip dessert at lunch in order to have one. With ice cream, caramel, chocolate sauce and cinnamon, it was better than dessert. So good it ought to be illegal. Neither Sue nor I drink booze, and we had a ball with Sommelier Daniela Balser, who tried and tried to find something to entice us. She was very funny and we were sorry she was leaving to go on vacation halfway through the cruise. Arek, the Assistant Matre D' made sure we were pampered at every meal as only Seabourn can. Although there are four dining venues in the evening, we wound up in The Restaurant every night. This was strictly a personal choice. When the day's activity sheet arrives each morning, the menus for that evening are provided for all four venues. It just happened that the Restaurant offerings suited us the best. The food was excellent, although I maintain that their smaller ship, the Legend, has the best cuisine afloat. Conde' Nast agrees. In addition to The Restaurant, there are several other dining options every evening. Restaurant 2 offers small-dish tasting menus with the offerings changing nightly. The Colonnade is a more casual alternative to the Restaurant, offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The Patio Grill, overlooking the main pool, offers al fresco dining nightly.
Our suite was elegant in typically-understated Seabourn style. The veranda was a haven for morning coffee, an afternoon snooze or pre-bedtime star-gazing with the sounds of the ocean and the salt breezes easing your transition to sleep. A tip about the verandas; the less expensive veranda categories, V1 and V2 have railings that are part metal and part glass. Categories V3-V6 offer all glass from floor to the teak rail. If you are going to pay for a veranda, go for the V3-V6 categories. A few extra dollars offers an unobstructed view of the sea from anyplace in the suite. It is a small detail, but the kind that matters to me. The bathroom was a fabulous two-person, two-sink marble affair with both a glassed-in shower and a large bathtub. I wish my bathroom at home was half as nice. As with all Seabourn ships, suites feature walk-in closets, refrigerator, mini-bar, and interactive flat-screen TV. The refrigerator is stocked with the beers, soft drinks, water and juices you selected on your pre-cruise order sheet. The first evening, two liters of the premium liquor of your choice are delivered to your suite. The table in the sitting area converts to a Dining table, and all Dinner can be served to you course by course in your suite should you feel like a private evening in.
In addition to the large central pool, there was a smaller pool on Deck 5. At the bow on Deck 11 was the Retreat, a place to sunbathe and relax with super-comfortable sun beds rather than chaise lounges. As always, Seabourn attention to the little details was unsurpassed. While sitting in the sun, we were brought sun screen, cold mango sorbet in champagne, frozen fresh fruit on sticks and spritzed with mineral water to cool off. Complimentary 15-minute massages were offered on deck. It was not too hard to take, to say the least.
The brochures featured great pictures of the Watersports Marina which opens out at the stern and offers swimming, kayaking and sailing right from the back of the ship. I had enjoyed this many times during cruises on the three smaller ships, but strangely, to my knowledge, the Marina was not opened once in our 10-day cruise. Obviously, this was not going to happen during our four days travelling at sea in the open ocean, and the ship actually pulled in and docked in San Juan and Antigua, so those days were out. But in St. John and St. Barts, we were at anchor while in port and tendered in. Those are traditionally the times the Watersports Marina is lowered. Perhaps the winds and current were too strong; I really have no idea. But I don't believe the Watersports Marina was opened during our cruise, and I would have liked to have at least heard an announcement explaining why.
The Spa on the Sojourn was visually the most remarkable I have seen in all my cruises. Occupying two decks, it features such luxuries as wooden heated loungers to relax pre-massage, Kneipp walk pool, saunas, steam, outdoor whirlpools and a cabana area. I have posted several pictures, but they don't really capture just how mind-boggling this spa is. That said, I had booked four massages and wound up cancelling the last two. While the massage was adequate, it was not what I had expected, and at over $140.00 for 50 minutes, hardly a bargain. I have massages regularly at home and perhaps I've been spoiled. There is, of course, a fully-equipped fitness center for all you gym people. As I do on all my vacations, I made it a point to walk past the Fitness center at least twice daily.
For all the diehard Seabourn veterans loyal to the older, smaller ships, I see no reason to change that. I have already booked for next year on the Legend, our fifth time aboard. That being said, I would strongly encourage you to give the Sojourn, Quest and Odyssey a chance. The cruise experience is a little different, yes there are more people, but it is a first-rate cruise experience. And the ship is so much bigger, I found more places to be completely alone than on the smaller ships. Seabourn has done a great job. I think you'll be glad to have tried the new ships.
Please see my blog piece with photos at http://theworldaccordingtojud.com/