This won't be a gushing infomercial, nor will I find fault with the tiniest detail. As with any cruise there was plenty of Good and some Bad so overall we had a wonderful trip, not least because the weather was perfect for the entire 2 weeks with clear blue skies, warm temps and glass flat seas. Even the locals said it was unprecedented and it certainly enabled everyone to enjoy the magnificent Norwegian fjords scenery and the eerie midnight sun.
This was our first Seabourn cruise, chosen mainly for the itinerary, but we are experienced Regent and Crystal cruisers so I think we can make some objective comments and comparisons.
Pre Cruise Hotel : The Admiral, Copenhagen. A converted former wharf side warehouse (NB, no aircon) in a very good location near all the historic downtown sights. However, the water "view" is now dominated/obscured by a large multi storey car park currently under construction. Luckily we were there on a weekend so the builders weren't poring concrete but noise/dust would be a major problem on weekdays. It wasn't especially cheap (welcome to Scandinavia) but the lavish buffet breakfast made it worth every cent.
Ship : Beautiful, well laid out and easy to "navigate". Plenty of public rooms and places to settle inside and out for a drink, or a book, or just to take in the ocean and views. The pool is very stylish and there are several other hot tubs/spas around the ship so nowhere feels too crowded. We especially liked the Seabourn Square "hub" concept where we could consult guest or destination services, use a computer, grab a very good coffee from a barista, find a book or newspaper, generally hang out.
Suite : A verandah suite which was very spacious (even bigger than Regent) with a blissfully comfortable bed, plenty of storage and a marble clad bathroom with tub and separate shower stall. It puts the cramped accommodation on Crystal to shame I'm afraid. Our friendly stewardess was very efficient and seemed to get everything organised as if by magic. The fridge was restocked promptly and any other requests fulfilled with minimum fuss.
Restaurants : Several dining options which you can choose whenever you like. No fixed dining! (Take note Crystal). The main dining room is elegant and light and the food/service to a very high standard. We don't "cruise to eat" and we aren't "foodies" so maybe we aren't as exacting as others but we didn't have a bad experience in any venue. Restaurant 2 is an interesting "tasting menu" concept which might be a little theatrical (pretentious?) for some but the food was beautifully prepared, presented and it was delicious. The Colonnade breakfast buffet and less formal lunch/dinner venue was just right and the rear verandah area was a lovely spot, especially in that spectacular weather and scenary. The poolside Grill was great for a lunchtime salad, burger, snack and informal dinner too. We had room service dinner in our suite a couple of times and couldn't fault it. Seabourn fries/chips must be the best on land or sea! Wines were good quality and well chosen so we didn't find it necessary to order any of the premium bottles.
Bars : Again, several options inside and out. The Observation Bar is a great place to enjoy the sail away and pre-dinner cocktails and tapas as is the outside Sky Bar. The Club, as the name suggests, is a more low key venue which livens up after dinner when the dance band strikes up. You can also grab a luxurious afternoon tea there. There is also a Pool Grill bar with excellent waiters constantly patrolling with trays of refreshing drinks and cocktails. You can stock your fridge with practically anything you like so there's no excuse for being thirsty!
Shops : Surprisingly large and well stocked.
Spa : We didn't partake of any special treatments or hair dressing etc but heard glowing reports from those who did. The actual spa facility is a calm haven with a lovely restful atmosphere and professional staff. Prices were not excessive and good value.
Staff : Friendly and professional at all levels although we did sometimes feel that Guest Services had difficulty grasping what we were trying to ask, especially if it was slightly outside the box. "Computer says No" or maybe a language problem? Service was generally prompt and efficient although it seemed to take an inordinately long time to get a simple pot of tea at breakfast. The maitres 'd were very cooperative and not at all intimidating (take note Crystal). Charming Cruise Director Handre was very visible without being intrusive and really knows how to do his deceptively difficult job.
Entertainment : We aren't really into the cast production shows but the one we saw was OK if you like that kind of thing. The band was versatile and skilful and seemed able to handle everything they were required to do. The pianist in the Observation Bar was good, and the Club solo guitarist was very good indeed. We enjoyed a great piano guest soloist and a comedian/impressionist. Guest lecturers gave interesting and informative talks on a wide range of subjects although the political agenda of one was perhaps a little too obvious and currently sensitive for some.
No gentlemen hosts for the dancing queens to enjoy but there didn't appear to be many hardcore dancers on this trip anyway. Chicken and egg? Trivia was popular and very competitive as usual.
Excursions : Over the years we have learned to be very selective when or if to choose ships excursions. They are often overpriced and not very interesting bus tours so we tend to do some advance research and take a private tour from the pier to places we want to see. In very small fjord-side villages or even larger towns it was just as enjoyable to go for a stroll and explore for ourselves. We spoke to a number of more energetic types who went on hiking excursions and said they were well organised. The "must do" on this trip is the scenic railway in Flam which on this occasion proved to be rather chaotic as there was another large cruise ship in town and so lots of people milling around and jumping the gueue!
The People : A really friendly bunch! Several nationalities represented and everyone seemed to be having a wonderful (well behaved!) time. It was always easy to strike up a conversation and socialise generally. Only one couple (and there's always one) made it abundantly clear to the point of rudeness they had no wish to talk to anyone so they were left alone to their solitary selves. We did try!
Smoking : Unfortunately this was a major issue at times as Seabourn inexplicably allows smoking on private verandas as well as the designated public smoking areas. Our suite was located downwind from some heavy smokers who seemed to be out there morning, noon and night and rendering our verandah unuseable. Smoking is also allowed in the Observation Bar after 8pm and one solitary smoker did so every night which effectively emptied the place. We did mention it to the Hotel Manager but since the smokers weren't breaking any rules there wasn't much he could so except unofficially sympathise. Seabourn really does have to fall in line with the other luxury cruise lines on this important issue.
Verdict : Probably the best cruise of the many we've taken. Yes, the perfect weather helped but there was that magical and elusive relaxed, happy vibe of people having a great shared experience on a lovely ship. We've already booked for 2015 and 2016. We'd consider Regent again for the right itinerary but I'm afraid Crystal just doesn't compare now. Seabourn certainly isn't the cheapest but it's probably one of the best and represents excellent value for money.