The Cruise ..
We arrived at the terminal at about noon .. saw the luggage whisked away and took a seat. I suppose that there would have been about 100 passengers already there [ships accommodates 450] and boarding commenced at 12:15.
I had seen some comments on CC Boards about early boarding and by 12:30 we were guided to the Collonade Restaurant for lunch, hand luggage stowed temporarily, until suites were ready at 2pm.
By the time lunch was over we had met about 8 people that we knew from past cruises.
Big Sister Experience ..
Both of our previous Seabourn Cruises had been on the “Little Sisters” and we really did love the atmosphere and the service, so it was with anticipation that we took to sea on a “Big Sister”.
Is it being unfaithful to say that the hardware that is the ‘big sisters’ is better than the little sisters.
* In suites, the bathrooms have an improved layout with both shower and bath and the TV entertainment system has movies on demand, account checking, and heaps more.
* Seabourn Square is a wonderful innovation, encompassing the Café, internet connections, iPads to read the latest newspapers, guest services [took me 3 days before I realized where they were], recliner lounges and a huge multi language library.
* The Club has a proper stage and a bigger dance floor [?] but still has all the ambience of the original model.
* The deck areas – Patio bar and grill and Sky bar are a great utilisation of space – and the pool is now accessible and in sunshine.
* The on-board shop is a decent size and sold clothes that fitted me, as well as ladies clothing, jewellery and perfumes – apparently.
* There are more Dining options, with Restaurant 2 and the Collonade both operating each evening. We tried the former but not the latter, although heard comments that it was also good.
But in contrast the software was not as good as the little sisters even though it did get there in the end.
Basically, I’m talking about the time it took staff to connect names and faces. On the Little Sisters [200 passengers] we were known in about 3 days, on the Quest I think it took more like 6/7 days before we were being recognized and as incomprehensible as it sounds, I think it may have taken the Head Waiter about 12 days. Am I not a memorable person, that eats every day ??
The service however was still very good .. and the breakfast waiter eventually did get the idea that I didn’t want to see salad items as a garnish. In whose reality does lettuce go with eggs and bacon ??
Big Sis Entertainment ..
This is one area where there are significant differences .. some good, some bad ..
* the Big Sis’s carry an entertainment staff of 7 singers and dancers, guest entertainers, lecturers, plus a Cruise Director and an Assistant – all of whom were excellent on Quest, I should add. They also had a band and a solo guitarist in the Club, both good but not great.
* Lil sisters don’t have the entertainment staff [they have the rest] but do carry an extra Assistant [usually a guitarist] and the CD and his/her assistants are frequently on stage strutting their stuff. They also carry a band and a duo that play the Club.
Here’s my gripe .. if I go for a pre-dinner drink and want to have a dance, it’s almost impossible with a solo guitarist .. but with a duo and a band, it works really well. It should be easy to fix, and yes I have shared my comments with Seabourn.
Big Sis Dining ..
We are laid back for breakfast, occasionally like to check out the dining room to see if it’s busy or not, casual for lunch – although the battered fries at the patio grill were enough for Robyn to make that her preferred location – but like to have dinner in the Dining Room.
And yes, we do like to join ‘Hosted’ tables, because it’s a great way to meet people and to meet members of staff – mostly entertainers, some officers - who carried themselves very well and were a wonderful advertisement for Seabourn.
Big Sis Events ..
There were a number of extra ‘events’ that were staged during the cruise that were simply excellent, executed very well, obviously a lot of time and effort went into them, for example;
* The Halloween Party in the Club. The entry was decorated in cob webs and other Halloween paraphernalia, whilst the whole entertainment team and CD’s were in fancy dress. This was the biggest night of dancing and jolliment that I saw all trip.
* Crossing the Equator. Complete with dunking the crew and kissing the fish.
* Caviar in the Pool. Traditionally Caviar in the Surf but as we weren’t stopping at these locations this crossing, a great compromise.
* Staff Tug of War. An Atlantic crossing tradition, the staff provides all the entertainment and seems to enjoy themselves enormously.
* Rock the Boat. An evening dance party held on deck. Fortunately this wasn’t subject to bad weather as a couple of the other deck events were.
* Tea Dance. This saw the whole of the Club set for afternoon high tea with the traditional cakes, sandwiches and of course hot scones. And yes we got to Waltz.
* The Epicurean Event. Did we really need more food ? Of course not but it was lovely.
* Galley Lunch. An enormous amount of effort to enable guests to walk through the galley to collect their own food – of course someone will be at the exit to carry it back to your table for you.
* The Laundry. I sent a suit to be pressed and it was a bit late being returned, so I rang and asked for a hurry up. The suit was delivered – which was then I realized that we had not filled in the form correctly and hadn’t actually requested same day service.
Feeling guilty I went to guest services next day and confessed, wouldn’t want the boys and girls in the laundry to get in trouble on my account.
Seabourn People ..
I like the people we meet on Seabourn [most of the people most of the time] and like the fact that cruising is a bit of a ‘leveller’, and for that short period of time that we cruise together we are treated as [almost] equal.
Seabourn Special Requests ..
Seabourn are excellent at accommodating peoples requests once they are on board, for example special meals, champagne and caviar for breakfast, private tables, anniversaries and celebrations, etc.
Before we set off I lodged a special request with Seabourn in Seattle, for a pre-mix vodka drink for my wife[Smirnoff Ice] and a particular beer for me [Kilkenny] and subsequently exchanged a few emails on the subject.
It was a delight to find out that both of these drinks were provided and the staff was very helpful in ensuring that the bars in which we drank stocked the beverages.
Rio de Janeiro ..
I was awake about 5.30am and stepped out onto the balcony to discover the Sugar Loaf Mountain just there – in front of me. We had arrived in Rio de Janeiro. So naturally I woke my wife.
Disembarkation went according to plan – Seabourn are very good at letting you off when you want to get off, you just have to make sure you ask before hand.
In a Nutshell ..
Seabourn is wonderful cruise line. The ship was in first class condition and was exceptionally well appointed. The staff excell at delivering a personal service. The experience was luxurious.