In summary, the service was impeccable. This was our first cruise on Seabourn and the service met and exceeded our expectations. That is not to say that there were items that needed to be improved but we would definitely sail again.
Our transatlantic cruise departed from Fort Lauderdale and contrary to our last embarkation it went were smooth. Maybe being the only ship in the port and a Tuesday was the reason for the speedy embarkation. In March, it had been two hours to get to the dock and on-board the ship. The ship was about 90% full with about 60% Americans, followed by British and German passengers.
As expected, the cabins were not ready so we had lunch in the Colonnade on Deck 8. This was first experience with great service and the free flowing wine. It was definitely a first class buffet restaurant, with large comfortable chairs. There were some aspects of a standard cruise ship buffet but the layout for the most part made for rapid access. The only negative was the use of chafing dishes for "hotâ€ food that actually was only warm. Also it was quite clear that the staff had excellent language skills and able converse in multiple languages with the passengers. With a few exceptions, most passengers were older than 60.
The lunch did accomplish one critical aspect for the cruise, the decision on what complementary wines were worthwhile. Earlier reviews and roll call comments led me to believe that the free wines would not work out. This was not the case since we found 2 whites that were very good, one red that was very good and another red that was good.
Our cabin was the standard veranda suite that was about 300 square feet, not counting the balcony. The cabin size for more than enough for 2 people and had plenty of storage space. The couch was uncomfortable, which is typical for a cruise ship. The only issues in the cabin were the shortage of electrical outlets and the relatively small size of the TV monitor. The balcony contained two mesh steel adjustable chairs and a similar table. Although the ship is relatively new the deck furniture was showing its age with peeling paint. For a high end cruise line I found the furniture to look cheap and not that comfortable. Also we noticed similar chairs in the pool area with the same condition.
We really liked the marble and granite bathrooms, which included a full sized tub, and a separate, glass shower cubicle. There is a beverage area with a fridge stocked with preferred beverages. Prior to arrival we had specified the 2 bottles of liquor we wanted. When we arrived one was incorrect but it was quickly remedied. The fridge was well stocked with a variety of soft drinks and water. When we told the cabin attendant, what we liked for soft drinks, she quickly filled the refrigerator with the chosen beverages. As noted by other reviews, the fridge is inside a cabinet that really heats up. It took us a day to realize this and we learned to keep the cabinet door open above the fridge.
Finally I would like to complement the cabin staff, they were always available to meet your needs and our cabin was made up quickly. Maybe it was the fact that our cabin was midway between the cabins they serviced and the cleaning equipment was always located outside our door.
The ship offers four places to eat, as well as room service. We only used the room service for breakfast and always ate indoors. Although the seas were calm most of the days there was always a wind that prevented us from using the balcony as well as the uncomfortable chairs.
Seabourn Sojourn offers four places to eat, as well as course-by-course room service which you can have on your balcony if you wish " all balconies are big enough for a table and two chairs.
I can say that The Restaurant on Deck 4, was the best main dining room on any ship we have on to date.
The Restaurant is a stunning space done out in cream, white and lavish textures of leather, crystal and soft gauze. Some find all those neutrals clinical but I'd label it ultra-stylish. Dining is open-seating and we never had to wait. We never tried breakfast in The Restaurant but had both lunch and dinner. The menus had some standard offerings but changed every day with new starters, main courses and desserts. The desserts were the only items that were subpar. You got to choose your wines from the standard list but the serving staff pushed a different wine at each meal. You could order from the special menu but I found the selection a little limited and the markups on par with expensive New York restaurants. The service in the restaurant was first class and periodically we were invited to dine with a member of the crew or entertainment staff.
The Restaurant did impose strict dress code. Although daytime wear is casual after 6 p.m., Seabourn has three categories for evening attire: formal (optional), elegantly casual and resort casual. Formal dress occurred 3 nights and required tuxedos (about 20% of the people) or dark business suits with ties for men and cocktail dresses or formal apparel for women. Elegantly casual meant that men to wear a jacket, a collared shirt with or without a tie and women could wear most outfits but no jeans. The resort casual was about the same as elegantly casual except no jackets for men. One the first day they provided a schedule for the entire cruise. The only problem was they decided to change a resort casual to elegantly casual, so we needed to return to our cabin for jacket. Not a big deal since the ship was small.
Restaurant 2 is characterized as Seabourn's attempt as tapas place. The decor seems to look like an overdone Chinese restaurant. It is very similar to Red Ginger dEcor on Oceania ships. You get to taste about 12 bites served in about 6 courses. The food is an eclectic mixture that seems to emphasize Mediterranean style cooking. For us the dining experience was a bust. The portions (bites) were spaced apart by 15-20 minutes. If you go to Restaurant 2 eat a large lunch or do what we did; book early and go to the Colonnade for more food.
The Colonnade was described earlier for our initial lunch. In the evening the Colonnade becomes a more formal dining venue, with theme dinners roughly based on regions (Italian, French Indian, etc.) or surf and turf night or steak club night. They offer a unique menu each night that allows you to order items specifically cooked for you. I would say they got it right most of the time. The service also was great.
The last location is the Patio Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serves burgers, fries, pizza, salads. The cold food was fine but the hot food was cooked elsewhere (except for the fries) and served in chafing dish. In comparison to the Waves grill on the Oceania, the Patio grill was a distant second.
The MDR was the best but on other ships the specialty restaurants were generally better than the food on this cruise. With the exception of the fruits and vegetables everything else was frozen. Finally if you like sushi this is not the ship for you. The one item they did poorly.
On a transatlantic trip, you really get to know the ship since you have no place to go. The pool area was well done except for the quality of most of the chairs and the pool attendants did not set up your chair with towels, which I would have expected on this type of cruise line. There were other outdoor areas including the whirlpool at the bow on Deck 6 that was too cold and breezy on the cruise. The pool area at the aft on Deck 5, and the Sun Terrace on Deck 11 were better choices. Unlike other ships there were always available chairs on the sea days.
During the day the major event was the noon time team trivia contest. Approximately 25% of the passengers participated and unfortunately some took the game to seriously. Most other activities were the standard shipboard lectures, tours, dance classes, etc. The two guest lecturers had a few good lectures but too many poor ones. One of the speakers, Graham Anthony had a hard time staying on the topic.
The Seabourn Square on Deck 7 provided a place to get for coffee and pastries in the morning and catch up with limited copies of newspapers. It also houses a small library (maybe too small) and number of computers. The cost of 2 hour session was under $20 and was a real buy for a cruise line. This was especially important since we have a number of relatives in Boston during those tragic events. It also has multiple people serving as the ship's concierge. No long waits like on other ships for service, and they knew the answers to your questions.
In the evening, there are three sources of entertainment: piano music and drinks before and after dinner in the Observation Bar, music and dancing in The Club with a singer and the ship band and finally a different show each night in the Grand Salon. The Observation deck was always crowded before dinner and you could not hear the piano player. The music and dancing in the Club were good and were not crowded at any time but the shows were almost the same each time. We normally do not attend many of the shows on cruise ships since they tend to be loud and not much else. This cruise featured a revue show that was very good. Good voices and only two dancers that did not get in the way of the singers and also danced to the music. The magician was more of a playing card manipulator but he was entertaining. The British comedian was called the "the clean comedianâ€. A better description would be the unfunny one. Finally there was the Casino, which was really small but was the right size since I never saw more than 10 people in the room. Most often it was 2 or 3. It was the only cruise I have been on where they had blackjack and poker tournaments and no one came!
The highlight of the evening cruise shows was the concert pianist, Tomono Kawamura. She was outstanding.
The Spa and fitness areas were small but useful. The only complaint was that there was only one recumbent bike and it was the only piece of apparatus that had a waiting line. The other item I found to be done right was that the crew repaired broken equipment. Twice I saw them repairing the equipment while on other cruise lines the "out of orderâ€ sign was there for the entire cruise. Treatment rooms were adequate but for some reason they always seemed to be short of supplies, one day it was towels, the next it was soap and finally cold water. This was the only area of the ship where service was lacking.
If you read my other reviews then I really dislike the shore tours offered by the cruise line. With all of the drinks included it was hard to spend the cruise credits provided by the TA. Also with only two stops there were not too many choices. We took the standard Madeira ride on the cable car and the ride down on the wooden sleds. The excursion was fun but was not well run. Although there were two guides they did not make sure that everyone on the tour stayed with the group. Two people were "lostâ€ but eventually they made it down to catch the bus back. To spend the credits we also signed up for the Lisbon tour of Lisbon and then a drop off near the hotel area. The embarkation was very smooth but ship announcements could have been done better. The Lisbon tour was well run and the guide made sure everyone was accounted for at each stop. They also were able to navigate around all the obstacles in Lisbon created by a marathon and a protest against the government that shut down many streets. My final comments are to the cruise passengers. Please pay attention to the tour when it says that there is a fair amount of walking on a tour. If you have problem getting on or off the bus then you should reconsider the tour.
There were a number of concerns in choosing this cruise including the recent number of poor reviews. We were lucky and we did not experience the same poor service, in fact, it was the best. The other concern was the effect of free alcohol on the passengers. Maybe due to their average age, there were no instances of intoxicated passengers that I saw on the entire cruise. On other ships with the all you can drink packages, resulted in a large number of drunks.