I knew it was going to be a great week when check-in took under 2 minutes and I was handed a glass of champagne, a warm welcome and a cold towel as I boarded Sea Dream I in San Juan.
Dining: Some of the best food I have eaten anywhere. For breakfast, don't miss the fresh squeezed OJ. The cheeseburgers at lunch are great on their sesame seed buns. The ribs are some of the best ever. At breakfast and lunch, it is waiter service AND a buffet for other than entree items. At dinner, I didn't have an entree I didn't like, they were all delicious. Creative soups too, like pumpkin seed! Breakfast is "made to order" eggs, omelettes and pancakes (to name just a few items). Breakfast and lunch was served outside on the upper decks. Dinner was either in the dining room OR, depending upon the night, on the upper deck outside, which was just terrific.
HINT: Eating outside on desk 5 is great...sit at one of the "cutouts" (for 2 More
people) on each side of the yacht, or one of the tables for 4 in each back corner of deck 5 to get a great review.
Entertainment: Very low key with no mega performances each night! instead, gather in the main salon for drinks or movies, the small casino for games, or my favorite the "Top of the Yacht" Bar outside on Deck 6. HINT: Take advantage of all of the technology SeaDream offers its guests. For example, at check-in, we borrowed an MP3 player with music already downloaded. It was great! My favorite was sailing through the British Virgin Islands (what beauty!) while listening to Andre Bocelli (what a voice) on the MP3 player. It was a magical experience, combining spectacular sights and sounds. You can borrow CDs and DVDs from the reception desk to play in the CD and DVD recorders in your cabin.
The Cabins: I could get used to them!! The amenities (Bvlgari toiletries, waffle robes, mini-refrigerators loaded with beverages, flat screen TV, VERY comfortable beds with great duvets) and outstanding stewardess service, along with an ample size cabin (including sitting area) make it a relaxing and comfortable cabin. I thought I would miss the balcony, but really you can get to the outside decks in a matter of "seconds" and find the same privacy and comfort you'd have on a balcony. In fact, not having a balcony was a reservation I had about SeaDream and I am happy to report that it was not an issue at all. See "The Decks" for more information!
HINT: There is 24 hour room service, including Popcorn to go with the movie DVD you can borrow from the reception desk. The Staff: In a word, outstanding! They really go out of their way to ensure you will have a great vacation experience. You will get to know them much better than if it were a bigger ship, and without exception they go above and beyond...even with special requests! We really enjoyed their company!
HINT: It is hard to single out 1 or 2 people, since the service all of them provide is so good. You will get a survey to fill out at the end of the trip. The Islands: We visited the British Virgin Islands, Isles des Saintes Guadeloupe, Antigua, and St. Maarten. I only got off the yacht to see St. Maarten (for an hour) and for a beach visit in the BVI. So I can't really speak to the islands, except that people seemed generally pleased with the itinerary. While you are anchored some days, the "marina deck" turns into the watersports area (sailing, banana boating, jet skiing, water skiing) and it really is a lot of fun. They also let you swim off the marina deck. I was impressed with their safety measures (e.g. life jackets always required, there was always a zodiac floating around during watersports).
HINT: If you miss the watersports on one day, it should be repeated on another so don't worry. The Yacht: Don't expect a cruise ship (their slogan is "it's yachting, not cruising" and it is so true!). I am a huge fan of cruising, and this was my first experience at "yachting." Bottom line is I love them both, but really, this was over the top. The difference is (IMO) like staying a nice hotel or a mansion. Both are great, but very different.
HINT: make time to stop by the bridge and engage the crew. We learned a bit about the night sky and stars which was spectacular on one really clear night! ANOTHER HINT: Don't get too used to the yacht, you vacation will end in 7 days and then it's back to reality :) The Decks: You will spend time on decks 2 to 6. Cabins are on decks 2, 3 and 4. The dining room is on deck 2 (open seating from 730pm - 930pm, which is really nice IMO). The main salon (gathering place for pre-dinner cocktails and hors d'oeuvres) and the reception desk is on deck 3. On deck 4, there is the library (stocked with an abundance of books), small casino (2 tables), boutique and the spa and gym. Moving outside, the pool deck is 3, the outside restaurant is 5, and the Balinese Beds (my favorite) are on 6, along with the Top of the Yacht Bar. One of my concerns about sailing on SeaDream was that there were no balcony cabins. However, this turned out to be no issue at all. My perfect cruise vacation is a comfortable deck chair in the shade on a balcony so I can read a book. There are many places to hang out on deck, beginning with the pool deck and moving up to decks 4, 5 and 6 from there. Even on the pool deck, there are tables with umbrellas so that you can get shade. The Balinese beds (deck 6) are semi-private double beds with big umbrellas and a small table (to place your drinks, of course!). They come complete with over size pillows so you can prop yourself up and look out to the sea (or read a book!). There are also deck lounges and even hammocks available. There was never a shortage of places to go on deck and there was always space available.
HINT: THe hammocks are very comfortable, but bring a rolled-up towel to use as a pillow! The Spa and Gym: I used the treadmills every day to walk off the deserts!! There are 4 treadmills and never a wait (in fact, there were always 1 or 2 available when I was there). The gym is small, but certainly adequate. Had massages too, which were relaxing and great. The ladies who work there are extremely nice and polite. And no pressure to buy spa products as is sometimes the case on ships.
HINT: Bottled water is in the small refrigerator with the glass door (built into the shelves) at the back of the gym. It took me a couple of days to find it! The Passengers (Sea Dream calls them Guests!): Because there is capacity for only 110 passengers, you have an opportunity to become friends with other passengers. We made a bunch of new friends, and really had a great time with them on board. So much so, that we'd like to take another SeaDream trip together. It is a very social environment, with people onboard who are fun and lively. (On the other had, if you want privacy, you can have it.) Toward the end of the week, SeaDream does something great (it's a surprise) and I observed everyone having a fantastic time with one another. It was a highlight of the cruise, quite honestly.
The Bottom Line: Run, don't walk, to book a trip on Sea Dream!!! Focus on the VALUE you get for the tariff vs. the actual tariff itself (it may seem expensive at first). It is all inclusive: gratuities, drinks, watersports, cabin amenities, gourmet (really!) meals, and a lot "more" (there are some things that are best left to the element of SURPRISE!). Sometimes, if you're like me, you need to get away, relax and decompress....I did, and Sea Dream was just what I needed! They also have cruises to the Mediterranean in the Summer and next Fall they start in South America. So for me, it's not a matter of IF I will sail on SeaDream again, it's just a matter of WHEN :) ...I can hardly wait! Less