We have just returned from our first cruise with Seabourn on Seabourn Spirit in the Caribbean.
It has taken us a little time to analyse why we were so very disappointed in this cruise. It has been a long held ambition of ours to sail with Seabourn and our expectation was high – much higher than the actual delivery which fell short on many occasions. Many of the issues were caused by our expectations that this ship was accessible, with a few restrictions. My husband cannot walk well, has difficulties with stairs and often uses either a very small electric mobility scooter or a manual wheelchair. These needs were discussed with Seabourn prior to booking and a special needs form completed as requested.
Despite obvious attempts to make the ship accessible, it is clear immediately on boarding that issues are numerous.
The first problem is boarding. Nowhere did we find a warning that boarding would be via a staircase. As it happens, in Barbados the stairs were not too steep and given time and help my husband was able to climb the stairs. However, in other ports the stairs were often steeper and were very difficult, particularly as there was never any assistance available on the dockside. This restricted our ability to leave the ship.
The second major problem was boarding the tender. On other ships this has not really been a problem. Lifts normally go to within a few steps of the tender boarding platform. Boarding tenders tends to be from midships where movement is less and the entrance to the tender also tends to be midships reducing movement significantly whilst also providing a safe landing into the interior of the tender. Arrangements on Pride are quite different. There are two steep wooden staircases to negotiate as well as a passage through the marina area where there are only rope rails. On arrival at the tender boarding platform (at the stern of the ship where movement is extreme), one is faced with stepping onto a tiny platform at the stern of the tender with no rails to hold. Crew are excellent at helping but it is frightening to have to step on the small tender platform and then step down onto the stern on the tender before negotiating yet more steep steps into the tender. General warning about the need to use tenders is just not good enough. We had to cancel all of our booked shore excursions in tender ports since on any particular day we could not be sure if my husband would be able to board the tender. This had a very significant impact on our enjoyment of the cruise.
We were also disappointed in the accessibility of the suite. It was only big enough to drive the scooter in if the dressing table chair was removed first. There was no electricity socket near enough to charge the scooter. This problem was solved by wiring in an extension through the cupboard below the TV so that the cupboard doors could not be shut. There is a step into the bathroom that is easy to forget at night. There are no grab rails near the WC. The shower is tiny and with inadequate grab rails. The shower chair eventually turned up but was so unstable that it could not be used. Someone came to tighten the screws on the legs but this failed to solve the problem. The walk-in wardrobe had clearly been made to smaller to attempt to make the suite accessible. This meant that use of the hanging rail near the door prevented the door from closing. If the door was not closed then the light would not go off. If the clothes were moved to close the door, movement during the night caused them to slide back down the rail so the door could not be opened in the morning.
It is clear that a lot of work has been done to make the door thresholds around the ship easier to negotiate. However these steep ramps are impossible for scooters. As there is no flat area at the top near the door, the scooter just grounds on the crest and hangs in mid-air with its wheels off the ground. These ramps help those unable to step up but do not help scooters.
Getting to the Sky bar (the only outdoor space with chairs for use during the day) was impossible since the lift was not big enough for a scooter or a wheelchair.
In general public spaces were very crowded making it hard to find seats that were accessible to anyone with some walking difficulties. Sidling between chairs and tripping over feet is just not an option.
In our view it would be much better to make some of the issues clear. If we had known the problems we would have considered carefully if we could manage without the scooter or if we should have tried one of the bigger and more modern Seabourn ships. As it was, life on board was a constant frustration making it hard to enjoy other aspects of the cruise.
Not all other aspects came up to our expectation. The promised “fine wines” poured with meals turned out to be the lowest price vin de table available from supermarkets at a few pounds a bottle. The promised service turned out to be patchy with tables in the crowded Veranda Café left with dirty dishes while people wandered around trying to find somewhere to sit. Often repeated requests were necessary for such simple items as a glass of water or orange juice. Breakfast in the dining room took over an hour for a simple cooked breakfast to arrive. The ordered plate of fruit never did arrive. A simple 3 course dinner one evening took over 2 and a half hours meaning that we left before coffee in order to get to the entertainment.
We did speak to staff on several occasions about items that could be rectified on board and the crew did everything they could to rectify deficiencies. However the major issues could not be addressed and resulted in a wide discrepancy between our expectation and delivery. Everyone told us that the problems we were encountering were due to the age and design of the smaller ships and we would not have these problems on the larger ships. However, at the price of cruises with Seabourn we are reluctant to consider another cruise if it is not possible to find out a bit more about the realities of life on board for those with walking difficulties. We feel that the publicity and the web site are very misleading and lacking in real information about the ships. The result for us was a very disappointing cruise that fell far below the advertised standard.
In spite of writing to the company over a month ago we have not had any contact from them.