Having researched cruise lines thoroughly in an effort to persuade my husband that this form of holiday 'might be alright', I chose Seabourn and Legend to sail from Monaco by way of St Tropez, Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Bonifacio (Corsica), Gozo, Malta, Siracusa (Sicily), Lipari (Aeolian archipelago), Amalfi and finally to Civitavecchia for Rome. High expectations were fulfilled in terms of suite accommodation, food, service, lack of regimentation and a Seabourn will to satisfy each and every whim.
The chauffeur driven Mercedes from Nice airport to the main port in Monaco was a good start with the ensuing embarkation process completely painless and surprisingly speedy. Even the safety drill was fine and a good, initial way to chat to the other inmates.
Our suite on deck 5 (206) provided the patio doors, opening onto a Juliette balcony was perfectly adequate and with the doors open, gave a terrific feeling of airiness. The refrigerator had been stocked up as requested, and the fruit bowl (accompanied by cutlery and napkins) was replenished daily. The bed, pillows and bedlinen were of the best quality so a good nights sleep was not in doubt. Although the walk-in closet, aka 'dressing room' was on the wee side, there was plenty of hanging and drawer space for our needs. You wouldn't want to ablute a deux in the bathroom as it was too cosy for that, but nonetheless, everything you might require was there. Lots of shelf and cupboard space and the shower was sufficiently fierce to keep the Americans quiet. Additional little touches were the atlas provided and a glossy little book to keep, which covered all the ports we would visit. The seating area in the suite comprised a comfortable sofa, with a rug supplied in case you felt chilly, a height-adjustable table from which you could eat, 2 additional stools in case of visitors and 2 armchairs. All well thought out and perfect.....although, it did occur to me that a pair of binoculars might have been useful.
The system of inviting guests to hosted dinner tables throughout the cruise also provided a shortcut to hooking-up with like-minded others. But as the days passed, we found ourselves declining these as we had made arrangements to dine with people we had met. There was plenty of after-dinner entertainment on offer but we tended not to avail ourselves of that, apart from the on-deck BBQ one evening which involved much singing and dancing, and hugely enjoyed by all. I did notice that there were Pilates and Yoga classes on offer, together with early morning runs/walks - but for me, it was just a passing acknowledgement!
The service was utterly impeccable. To a man/woman, the entire crew could not do enough and are clearly trained to within an inch of their lives. The food is inclined towards the American market in terms of menus, but is none with worse for that as it was tempered by modern, European cooking techniques and portions which were definitely not gargantuan. Should you wish to breakfast and dine in your suite, then that too is catered for.
Disembarking at ports, whether you have signed up for a Seabourn tour or have chosen to operate independently, is completely painless. No queues. The two Seabourn Legend tenders (used when anchored offshore) run regularly and we never had to wait for say more than 10 minutes when we wished to return to the ship.
Now to our comrades on board - the guest list which is supplied to you after a couple of days demonstrated that the majority were from the USA. The next largest group was from Australia followed by the UK, with Japanese, Chinese and European stragglers. All of these were what could be described as professional cruisers, with the majority doing certainly more than one cruise per year and very many on their third of this year. Although there was clearly an enormous number of repeat Seabourn customers, lots of them had also tried other lines - the overwhelming feeling that came across from those people was that Seabourn provided the very best formula.
To endeavour to provide a balanced review, I wanted to catalogue the negatives. However, there was only one, which lay with the IT department. I had chosen to sign up for the 24/7 internet service at a cost of $399 (other guests noted that this was probably the annual cost of their domestic internet service!). Unhappily, it was not up to the mark and in fact missed the mark by a wide margin. Ok, it is provided by satellite (which my domestic service is also, as I live on an island on the west coast of Scotland and I am all too familiar with this), but the continual dropping-out or not being able to access it when asked was maddening. I resorted to getting up at 3am when I knew that most right-minded people would be in bed, to try to send and receive emails and so on. Clearly not good enough and on the day of departure, issue was taken with this and Seabourn did the decent thing and refunded the charge. Well done chaps!
So, would I recommend Seabourn? Without hesitation.