We have cruised with Silversea and Regent several times and people we have spoken to on board have always praised Seabourn so when the opportunity to cruise with them arose we took it. Within a few weeks of booking this cruise we received a letter from Seabourn advising us that they were selling the small ships. We booked a Seabourn air package with the cruise which came with a one night stay in Athens and all transfers.
The private transfers to our pre cruise hotel and then onto ship the following day using local taxis went very well and was managed throughout by their local agents. We boarded the ship around 12.45 but we were held in the theatre with little or no daylight until our suites were ready, which felt a bit like a holding pen for sheep, unlike on other six star cruise lines where on boarding early we had the run of the ship and restaurants. We were given drinks and sandwiches (which were a bit dry and tasteless) but it got very crowded and stuffy after a while. We More
were escorted to our cabin around 14.00 and I think we were among the first. This seemed to be a fairly random process and I happened to be hovering next to the stewardess at the right time? Our A1 cabin was a good size but the walk in wardrobe was on the small side. The Suite was still reasonably fresh but some drawers seem to have problems closing without lifting them up first. Adjacent cabins share a little corridor off the main corridor (saving space) which means that the entrance door is part way down the cabin beyond the wardrobe. This is not a problem except that your neighbour's cabin door is very close to your bed and if they slam their door at night you are more likely to be woken up. Seabourn put a little note in beside your keycard telling you to close the door quietly - but it doesn't work. The in suite bar was stocked with our choice of spirits and Becks beer and mixers and a bottle of champagne was on ice in the suite when we got there.
Unlike other ships we have been on there is no room for the empty suitcases under the bed so you have to find a space for them elsewhere in the wardrobe or cabin. Our cases were laid out on the bed on the last day of our cruise but again unlike other cruise lines they were not cleaned (nor were any shoes or spectacles).
The towels we had in the room were definitely not up to the six star status of the ship.
Our Ocean view window was fairly dirty when we joined the ship but after four days it was difficult to see out properly. It was cleaned on day 6 when we docked on the right side to allow cleaning from the dockside but when the sun shone on the window it was still very streaky. Spraying with a pressure hose is obviously not enough to clean the window properly.
We had water (and some other debris) coming up into the bath one day but they seemed to fix it within a couple of hours. Plenty of hot water was available but sometimes you had to run the tap for a while unlike the newer ships. Beware of the bath plug as it sticks up about 2cm and is very easy to catch your foot on and give you a bruise
There are only two restaurants on this ship which both have set opening hours. If you need food out with these times you need to have room service. The sky grill only does food on occasions and in the evening reservations are required. The veranda cafe can get a bit busy especially if it is too cold for people to sit outside and again you need reservations in the evening. We found that the quality of the cooked breakfast food and the choice of fruit and cereals was better with room service than in the veranda cafe so stuck to that most days for breakfast. The lunch in the Veranda cafe was excellent with plenty of choice of hot and cold foods. Lunch started to become the main meal of the day and it is just as well that the evening portions were on the small side. We found that at least one of the complimentary wines served at dinner was reasonable so we normally stuck to either red or white for the whole meal. During the cruise we enjoyed a Bordeaux, a Cote de Rhone, two Italian red wines, and a New Zealand Pinot Noir and a NZ Sauvignon Blanc called Wingspan and these were always available no matter what the recommendation of the night was.
The choice of food in the restaurant was generally good although it had a distinct bias towards sea food. Deserts tended to be chocolate and we had chocolates left in our room each evening so no chance of losing weight. There is a standard "always available" menu if you don't fancy anything and the fillet mignon is very good.
The choice of dinner deserts was not as good as on some 6 star ships and in fact the deserts were better at lunchtime. I don't think we had a single hot desert on our 10 night cruise and sometimes everything on the menu contained chocolate. Crepes stuffed with apple were served one night (again cold even though the waitress said they were warm!) but they had obviously been prepared in advance??
Service we found to be very good and we always managed to get a table for 2 when we couldn't be bothered to have a conversation with others although we do tend to eat early which helps.
The Dress code, although laid down for each evening, was not enforced and many appeared not wearing a tie or jacket on formal nights. Dinner jackets were very scarce and I wish I hadn't bothered to take mine. I was concerned that I would be the only one without one but in fact I felt overdressed most nights in the restaurant. We were also surprised that a second Formal night was included when prior to the cruise we were advised that there was only one.
Room service was generally good but when you ring them you speak to reception first and then room service call you back. We did wait for almost half an hour on one occasion for a pot of tea and we had to ring up again and suspect reception forgot to pass on the original message? Our breakfast did arrive at 07.05 one day when we booked 07.15-07.30 and 15 minutes early on the last day but generally orders did arrive within the booked time.
The observation lounge shown in the deck plans on the internet is actually called the constellation lounge on the ship which confused us a bit having memorised the deck plan in advance. Smoking is allowed inside this lounge at certain times which makes it a "no goâ€ area for non smokers. This is a pity as the smell of smoke lingers for some time. Likewise at the sky bar there is a smoking area which covers almost half the bar area but at least that is outside.
The guest laundry (only one on this ship) had two washers and two dryers but only one washer was working for much of our cruise. Powder is provided but you may have to queue for some time.
We only took two shore excursions but the organisation seemed a bit haphazard. The atrium on the ship is small so waiting to leave the ship meant standing about in the stairwell. Not sure why they don't gather the tour people in the theatre and then take them off in groups. They do use the theatre to gather people when you are tendering in a port to control the number of people going down into the marina area. The excursions we felt were rather expensive for what we got and in Delphi they suddenly realised that the museum was still on winter hours and told us 2 nights before that the tour had been brought forward by an hour. They didn't recon with the Greek efficiency in getting us through the Corinth Canal and so we were an hour late in reaching Itea which delayed the early start. We did have to have the compulsory 40 minutes in the town for shopping on the way back of course.
There were few announcements on board which was good for us but it would have been good to announce when we were able to go ashore and when a shuttle bus was available if not publicised in the daily newspaper.
One of the bar tenders somehow managed to get a few bottles of Bass beer for me instead of the usual European and US lager beers or did he have it stashed away for himself?
People had to distribute their own loungers (after the initial morning set up) on the pool deck (7) which proved difficult for some as they were of the heavy metal type and it was hard to lift them from the top of the stack. On other ships there has always been staff on hand to do this and serve drinks but this seemed to be lacking on this ship. The tables on deck 8 were well tended by the bar staff but they seemed reluctant to pop downstairs to cover deck 7 but on this ship that is where most of the space is. The loungers didn't have cushions so weren't that comfortable after a few hours with some people resorting to "borrowing" the cushions from the sky bar tables.
Space on the pool deck is quite limited as the lifeboats take up a lot of space. Finding a seat in the shade was difficult sometimes.
The shuttle bus in one port wasn't advertised in the herald and was very badly organised. On the way back we waited over half an hour and then gave up and walked back to the ship. There was no timetable for the bus and it ran when the driver felt like it. He also nipped off for a coffee break we found out later so there were some big gaps in the service..
The feeling from some regular Seabourn cruisers was that the staff were not up to the usual standard - possibly because they are moving their best staff to the bigger ships before the small ones are sold off?? One or two of the staff did appear to have an attitude problem.
The ship seemed to ride very well although it wasn't really tested by rough seas on our cruise. We also didn't travel very fast especially on the day at sea where we appeared to be barely moving. Our cabin on deck 4 was of course fairly low so that no doubt helped to give us a more stable ride.
Coffee on the ship is quite good but the milk is quite creamy even if you ask for semi skimmed. The Morning coffee in constellation lounge was variable and sometimes cold. Not sure if they have a coffee machine up on decks 7&8 as generally the coffee was poor compared to that we had at the veranda cafe. I suspect they make a batch and keep it in a thermos? When I complained about cold coffee the waiter said it was because we asked for milk and he put cold milk in the coffee but my wife's cappuccino was cold as well?
Housekeeping was good and unobtrusive with the mini bar and toiletries stocked as required but there were no slippers in our cabin throughout the whole cruise.
The complimentary "on deck massage moment seemed to take place at random. It was not advertised in advance and presumably took place when the staff had spare time. It was not ideal having this on deck as it necessitated partial removal of the upper body clothes in full view of everyone on deck and I know this put a lot of people off. Also when my wife asked about when the free massage was available she was directed to the spa and told it was $120.
There were a number of other minor issues on this cruise for example 1. Ladies restroom door so stiff it is almost impossible to open 2. no towels in the gents restroom 3. crew carrying out repairs to the deck and handrail using power tools within a metre of passengers sunbathing 4. Bits all over the carpets on the atrium stairs seemed to be there for several days etc. Attention to detail was sadly lacking. We always saw an army of staff cleaning general areas on Regent but never saw any on this ship? Not sure if Seabourn are cutting back on their staff but at certain times they did seem a bit thin on the ground especially in the bars. They also seemed to run out of certain provisions towards the end of the cruise such as yoghurt, strawberries certain beers etc. Presumably they wait to stock up in the cheapest places?
I am not sure what the reception staff actually do on this ship? We asked about switching our flights but they sent us to the cruise consultant, then we asked for a breakfast order card and they told us to go see our steward who was on break - not I will get the steward to bring you one.
The flight seabourn booked us on home from Rome was not until 17.25 so they took nine of us in a minibus from the ship to a hotel near the airport and provided a lunch. The hotel was the Sherraton and it seemed to be in three sections. The part we finished up in (the driver and guide got lost so we did a lap of all the buildings) was fairly large but empty apart from us so was a bit ghostly! Two Rentokil vans were parked discretely behind one of the blocks of rooms and the workers were busy with spray packs in some of the rooms. The swimming pool was closed and covered in green algae. This section of the hotel seemed pretty run down but the staff were friendly and helpful. The lunch was a buffet with pasta, salad, chicken and chips with some fruit salad for desert. Half a bottle of white wine was provided per person. It was obviously better lounging around in this hotel than waiting to check in at the airport but I will insist on an earlier flight next time.
I know this all sounds a bit negative and perhaps our expectations were too high. Having read the reviews and the Seabourn brochure perhaps we expected this cruise to be that much better than Regent and Silversea but it wasn't and overall we were disappointed with this cruise.
Our experience on this ship was not what we were expecting and certainly not as good overall as the cruises we have had with the other two six star cruise lines. Perhaps some of the issues we had were down to the age, size and design of the ship but certainly not all of them.
We will definitely not travel again on any of the other small Seabourn ships but we may try the larger ships if we can get a suitable itinerary at a reasonable price " something we couldn't achieve for this cruise. Less