I love a beach. I don’t trust a person that doesn’t love a beach, to me it’s incomprehensible. When I need to go to my happy place when I’m having dental work done, I visualize myself sitting on a beach looking at the water. When it’s freezing cold at home, I look at photos of beach vacations to keep me from going over the edge. To me it’s pure relaxation and how I love to spend my vacation time.
I’m lucky to be able to travel quite a bit, each year we take a summer vacation to the Outerbanks, NC, we cruise at least once a year on one of the large ships, and visit the Gulf in Florida a few times. But since 2010, the highlight has been a yearly caribbean cruise on SeaDream with my siblings. We have countdown charts, diet challenges, and shopping trips to get prepared. We send emails to each other when we start packing and keep a list all year of cocktails to try onboard (dang we forgot to try the Dirty Banana)!
Being a cruise critic junkie, after reading recent posts I was getting a little nervous that “my SeaDream” was a thing of the past. There were some negative reviews mixed in with the positive reviews. There was also talk of engine trouble on SeaDream I. I’m happy to report that our trip erased all my fears. This might rank as my favorite trip on SeaDream so far. The engine is being repaired and there were no delays in getting to any of our ports. The crew was beyond spectacular. Below are some of my favorite memories as well as a few things that could be done to improve SeaDream.
Saturday | Philipsburg, St. Martin - Departure 6:00 pm
We had booked a hotel for 3 nights pre-cruise at the Radisson Blu on the French side of St. Martin. We really liked the hotel - the grounds/beach/pool were very nice. Service was very good and the food and drinks also good. We would go back without hesitation. Originally, we were supposed to depart from Marigot, but a few weeks before the cruise we were informed that we would be departing from Philipsburg. Since the island is small it wasn’t that big a deal to get to the new port on Saturday.
Sunday | Anguilla 8:00 am-3:00pm | St. Barts 6:00 pm - overnight
This was our first visit to Anguilla and my favorite beach of the cruise! We took a cab to Shoal Bay and rented lounge chairs and an umbrella. The sand was pure white and powder soft. There were a few beach bars that served cocktails and had restrooms. Weather was perfect, low 80s and no humidity. We stayed at the beach as long as we could and returned to the ship in time to depart for St. Barts. We stayed onboard while anchored at St. Barts in the evening.
Monday | St. Barts departs 10:00 pm
We’ve done the ATV and the Fast and Furious excursions on previous cruises to St. Bart. This year we started with some obligatory shopping, then headed to St. Jean Beach for lunch at LaPlage - the lobster burger and lobster citrus salad were fabulous, but pricey, which is to be expected in St. Barts! We had our taxi drive come back to pick us up at 2:00 to bring us to Gouverneurs beach. Our cab driver again returned at 5:30 and brought us back to the tender. Another perfect weather day.
Tuesday | Antigua 8:00 am-10 pm
This was the only day of the week where the weather wasn’t perfect - overcast and scattered showers. We got a half-day pass to the Hawksbill Resort. This was rather disappointing - food was bad, beach not nice, resort looked tired. In the past we’ve gone to Jolly Beach resort and would highly recommend it for a day pass. One of the prettiest beaches I’ve visited.
Wednesday | Iles Des Saintes, Guadelope 9:00 am-6:00 pm
We visited last year, so decided to make this a pool day. Stayed onboard and enjoyed drinks by the pool. Tristan and Christian treated us fabulously all day - umbrellas were raised and moved when requested, spritzed with water to keep us cool, sunglasses were cleaned, pass-around snacks delivered - weather perfect.
Thursday | St. Kitts 8:00 am-6:00 pm
We had such a nice time onboard on Wednesday that most of our party stayed onboard again. Once again we were spoiled all day poolside. The energetic couple of our party did the zip-line tour and enjoyed it.
Friday | Coconut Grove, Nevis (Champagne & Caviar Splash) 9:00 am-6:00 pm
OK, I’ll admit this is my favorite day next to Christmas. And a lot like we used to peek down the stairs when we awoke on Christmas morning, we peeked out our curtains this morning. We were happy to see sunny skies, as last year the weather didn’t cooperate and the Splash was held on the ship. This year we giddily jumped on the Zodiac with Chief Officer Albert as our captain. After a quick and bumpy drive, we were delivered with our wet landing to Coconut Grove for the Champagne & Caviar Splash and arrived on the beach feeling like we were in a James Bond movie (Halle Berry eat your heart out!). We were happy with the location for this years splash. Two other years we were at Jost Van Dyke and though Coconut Grove was different, it was just as much fun. The sand and beach aren’t as nice as Jost, but the facility at Coconut Grove is gorgeous. Thatched roof, beautiful furniture...I even took a photo of the bathroom because it was so pretty. Once again the energetic couple of our group decided to do the seaside morning horseback riding excursion and were happy they did.
Saturday | Philipsburg, St. Martin 10:00 am debarkation
We enjoyed our last breakfast of crispy bacon and said our goodbyes and thanks to the crew. We didn’t have a flight until the evening so we got a day pass at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort to kill some time. The resort is right next to the airport and was crowded. They did offer changing rooms to take showers and clean up in. We got to the airport and quickly realized our vacation was over. The airport was pure chaos - crowded, unorganized, loud. We were happy to get on the plane and head home.
CREW - all the crew were spectacular, but here are some of our favorites: Captain Smorawski, our favorite SeaDream Captain - always visible and willing to chat. Enes, Maitre ‘d - we never had a meal where he didn’t stop by to check in on us -such a nice guy. Gareth, Activities Director - we were lucky to dine with him one evening. Gareth is a great addition to SeaDream, he was the perfect host and seemed very interested in finding out what we love and what we think could be improved on SeaDream. His activity tours seemed very popular and he was also very visible and willing to answer questions. Concierge Brenda. Waiters Doromas and Olivier (always a gentleman). Bartender Manuel at the Piano Bar.
FELLOW PASSENGERS - this cruise had 98 passengers, 50 from the U.S., 20 from Norway and the rest from assorted countries. 50 passengers were returning guests. If you read my review from a few years ago I think the fellow passengers are an important part of making SeaDream stand out from other cruises - always friendly and interesting. This years cruise seemed to be more social than ever.
FOOD - delicious. Favorites included the pesto omelet, crispy bacon, mussels for lunch, crab claws, Chateaubriand, pumpkin cappuccino soup, macaroon cookies, crab legs.
DRINKS - our favorites included: champagne, peppermint patty, salty chihuahua, lemon drop martinis, espresso martini, B&B - hand mixed by Manuel each evening at the piano bar.
COCKTAIL HOUR - my two favorite things, martinis and appetizers. Last year’s cocktail hour was a bit disappointing, seemed like the same thing every night. This years was back to being fabulous, something different every night and the addition of a hot appetizer passed-around each evening.
DEGUSTATION MENU - I’m always amazed at how even things I don’t think I like taste good at this dinner. The egg caviar appetizer is fabulous, the Chateaubriand was cooked to perfection. The crab lobster citrus appetizer was new to us and was a hit.
PIANO BAR - we usually head to the piano bar after dinner every evening. On many of our cruises, we would be the only ones there. This year there was always a boisterous crowd and it was a hoot.
DINNER TOPSIDE - we were only able to eat dinner topside once but it was fabulous, I love the contrast of the casualness of outdoor dining with the waiters dressed in their black t-shirts, with the beautifully set tables and gourmet dinner. We had a table looking over the pool area. It was the night of the dessert extravaganza poolside, so we didn’t have far to go to finish our meal with an assortment of delicious desserts.
ABOVE AND BEYOND - the evening of the dessert extravaganza we loaded up our plates and noticed that there wasn’t a table with enough chairs for everyone in our party. Since our plates were really “loaded”, a few of us decided we would eat our dessert at our dinner table that overlooked the pool. Gareth saw us and immediately told us to go join the rest of our family. He then carried a few chairs down the stairs for us, so we would be comfortable. I told you he was good!
OVERALL CASUAL AMBIANCE - the pool area, outdoor breakfast and lunch, top-of-the-yacht bar, the casual dress - I didn’t even pack heels for this trip.
WATER TOYS - lots of opportunities for swimming off the back of the boat. Jet skis, sailboats, banana boat, water skiing, kayaking.
SPECIAL TOUCHES - sunglass cleaning, remembering order from day-to-day, being greeted each and every time by concierge when we entered the lobby, butterfly service at dinner and “voila,” pass-arounds at the pool and cocktail hour, monogrammed PJs, Bulgari toiletries.
AHA MOMENT - one afternoon, later is the week as we were lounging poolside, Tristan cam by with a tray of frozen Snicker bars. I turned to my sister and said “This is the best cruise ever!” After a week of fabulous, freshly prepared food - a little processed junk food hit the spot. How did they know?!
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
- The wine at dinner was almost undrinkable. We actually purchased wine at dinner for the first time.
- Beer could have been colder (yes I’m knit-picking)
- One of our rooms was part of the Commodore Suite. The bed in that cabin was a trundle and very low to the ground, though the mattress seemed the same as the “regular” cabins. Also you could hear what was going on in the connecting cabin in the Commodore Suite.
- This was the first time were we had trouble getting chairs at the pool. There were also people “saving” chairs. One day when we went to lunch the crew was removing things from the chairs, we ran down to let them know we were just having lunch, but the hotel manager said they were to remove items if they were left for a half hour.
- Could use some general sprucing up, cabins are dated, and the salon was looking a little worn.
So after becoming nervous hearing all the doom-and-gloom that has been posted on cruise critic recently, our latest experience on SeaDream put our fears to rest. We went ahead and put a deposit for a cruise in 2015 confident that another spectacular vacation is in store. Happily, our countdown clock has started once again, 46 weeks to go....