I thoroughly enjoyed the Seabourn Legend cruise from Monte-Carlo to Barcelona August 25, 2007. Anyone who has considered crossing from a mainstream line over to a luxury line should really take that first step! I have cruised on Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Celebrity and Wind star. This was my third Seabourn cruise and I think I've found the right cruise fit.
We arrived two days early in Nice. It is a great city with many sidewalk cafes, beaches, shopping and sights. We went to St. Paul de Vance on our own on Friday and I would highly recommend a visit to this beautifully preserved city - truly an outdoor gallery.
On Saturday we took the short drive from Nice to Monte-Carlo ... at least it looked short on the map (12 miles). Due to two mega ships docked in the bay of Villefranche the traffic was very heavy and the journey took about 45 minutes. In any case, we arrived at the Hercule pier in the middle of Monte-Carlo's yacht harbor at about one o'clock. Our luggage was taken and we were escorted onboard into the King Olav Lounge. We were offered a choice of beverages and were handed boarding number "12." About 10 minutes later the casino staff started processing passengers. We were in our suite by 1:30 p.m.
We were famished and there was a note in the suite advising room service would be available after regular boarding time (3:00 p.m.). Having traveled on Seabourn before, I knew there would be a few dozen passengers carried over from the previous week so we went up to the Veranda Cafe and enjoyed lunch. The wait staff was thrown for a loop since they hadn't seen us before and didn't know our names. We had a delicious seafood lunch and returned to our suite to find that two of our four bags had already arrived. The other two came within a half hour.
We booked at the last minute and did not know our suite assignment until we boarded. We were given 232. This is an accessible stateroom with a very large walk-in shower instead of a shower/tub combination. I asked the reception if anything was a tub was available and was told, "Unfortunately we are fully booked," so we unpacked and went to the Sky Bar. It was nearly tea time and the classical guitarist was playing in the Midnight Sun Lounge. Before we knew it, it was time for the drill so we most of us donned our orange life jackets and prevailed through the short 10-minute ordeal. Yes, I noticed the "stay over" passengers grinning at us from the top deck.
We returned to our room and there was a message from reception. There had been a last-minute medical cancellation and another suite was available. I called and advised we had already unpacked and the receptionist advised not to worry, the stewardess would move our belongings during dinner. We were moved to 325 which was just a hop, skip and a jump from the Club. Turns out that it was a three-way move ... the ones in 325 moved to a balcony suite and our suite was reoccupied by someone who had been near the front of the ship. When we returned from dinner it was dEjà vu. Everything was exactly placed as it had been in the previous suite. I was impressed.
Porquerolles - Our first port and the only one which we had to use the tenders. At first glance not much to it, but therein lay its charm. We hiked up to the fort and had an excellent view of the Legend at anchor and the town below. Only a few service vehicles are allowed on the island, so almost everyone was either walking or bicycling. We visited Plage d'Argent which turned out to be a beautiful calm beach (at the far end anyway) despite the hundreds of tourists (99% French). All in all, a great port for the first day.
Cannes - We docked right along the main marina whereas a megaship had to sit at anchor. Cannes is a very walkable city with a pedestrian mall, old town and plenty of shopping. There were beaches adjacent to the end of our pier so everything is very close at hand.
Minorca - We docked at the foot of the "stairs" which looped up to the town of Mahon high on the bluff above. We rented a car and the Avis agency was less than 100 yards from our dock. We drove to the north coast and saw the fishing village of Fornells, Monte Toro and some very high sea cliffs at Cap de Cavalleria. We then drove (a very long drive) to a wonderful picturesque beach on the southern coast, Cala Macarella. Drove back to the ship and dropped off the car, ordered a hamburger from room service and ventured around Mahon. A very full day on a very beautiful island - we tried and succeeded in seeing it all. I would recommend the beach visit or the north coast sightseeing tour. Doing both was too much. The rental car was a snap. We dropped off the car while the office was closed for siesta and I did not have any unauthorized charges added to the bill when I returned home. The sailaway party up the long, narrow harbor was a true highlight.
Palma de Majorca - Majorca is much more populated and touristy than Minorca. However it, too, has a lot to offer. Seabourn provided a complimentary shuttle at regular intervals into the city. We spent the morning touring the Almudaina Palace and the Cathedral. The Moorish architecture of the palace was beautifully offset by the adjacent gothic cathedral. In the afternoon we enjoyed the Seabourn experience. This involved a 45-minute drive to a country manor house in which the guide talked nonstop. We took a tour of the property (which was definitely not as impressive as the morning's sights) and then enjoyed a nice flamenco performance in the back gardens. Waiters continuously walked amongst our tables offering cava and other local wines, and tapas. Fortunately on the return ride we were blessed with silence and took a siesta. Upon arrival at the pier we were greeted by a large contingent of crew offering us fruit punch and chilled face towels - a very nice homecoming.
Valencia - We docked in a very industrial port - not pretty at all. Luckily we had signed up for the "Shopping with the Chef" excursion. We enjoyed a nice overview of the city followed by an extensive walk through the main market. The peaches were in season and their scent perfumed the air. We spent a good deal of time at the fish market which, incredibly, did not smell all that bad. I noticed how clean the market was kept. The chef bought a Serrano ham and some fish. I found this tour a unique and recommended offering. The local guide was excellent - she loved her city and provided thorough answers to all of our questions. As this was the last day of the cruise, we decided not to go back into the city after lunch. Seabourn also provided a shuttle into the city center at Valencia.
The dining experience is definitely a highlight of any Seabourn cruise. The Restaurant is open for three meals a day; however it is pretty empty except at dinner. We ordered room service breakfast nearly every morning (full hot menu, even on disembarkation day) and it always arrived right on time. The Veranda was the place where nearly everyone ate lunch and usually all at the same time. It became quite crowded however waiters carried peoples' plates so it was manageable. There is plenty of shade so it is a delightful venue.
For dinner, there were always several options. The Restaurant shouldn't be missed for formal night. Also, I recommend accepting an invitation for a hosted table at least once. Seabourn has open seating dining so if you want, you can have a table for two every night. That's nice some of the time, but part of the experience is the people you meet.
The Veranda is transformed into one of two different dining options each night (except for the night of the deck barbeque) - either Tastings at "2" or "2" Bistro. Each option appears to satisfy half the passengers. I tried one night of each. I found the Tastings a bit over-the-top ... seven courses most all of which had 2-3 small plates and, in my opinion, many competing flavors. On the other hand, the Bistro offered the best meal of the week. Four courses (actually five, because I had both starters), all of which were sensational. The lamb provencale and escargots bourguignonne finished with roasted peaches and cream for dessert was truly memorable. I highly recommend trying both "versions" of "2."
The Sky Bar had a surf and turf dinner two nights. I'm not sure if that was the plan but since the first one booked up within an hour (it was during the late night stay in Cannes) a second one was scheduled. I tried to get the first night but couldn't. If you have a late night departure, ask the reception desk the day before so you won't miss out. It accommodates less than 40 people and is popular with the smokers (none of the other dining venues permit smoking) so if you don't act fast, you'll miss out. Perhaps with the upcoming remodeling of the Sky Bar area of the ships additional seating will be added.
The deck barbeque was a lot of fun. I don't usually like buffet dinners but on this cruise it seemed to be the choice of about 90% of the passengers.
Seabourn might be a small ship (197 passengers on this voyage) but at night there always seemed to be a choice. One night there were four options offered simultaneously - movie in the main lounge, classical guitar in the observation lounge, duo in the club and dancing under the stars on deck. This summer, Seabourn has had a DJ on board. On this cruise he was a big hit. Several nights there were 20-30 people at the Sky Bar and they stayed up quite late. This was different from previous Seabourn cruises in which most turned in by midnight. The DJ had a great personality and his "following" grew as the cruise progressed.
The cruise director was at ease and approachable the whole trip. I could tell he enjoyed his job and he had a very nice singing voice.
The entertainers ranged from very good to passable. I only knew this because at the Rock the Boat show and one of the main lounge shows all of them performed together. It was easy to see who shined and who was forgettable.
There was a movie under the stars the first night. All I remember is being woken up some time after it finished since the staff wanted to reposition the chairs!
Seabourn operates on an "open bar" policy and their brands are top shelf. Even so, I'd say most of the guests were happy drinking champagne
Suggestions for Improvement
These are all small, but since you should continuously strive to improve ... Dark napkins on formal night in the Restaurant. Most everyone was wearing black, so why use white napkins? Better auditioning of the entertainers. Some of them were so much better than others. Replace the water sports equipment. The banana boat was a lot of fun, but it had seen better days. The life jackets were looking ragged as well. Seabourn offers a wine tasting of its Vintage Seabourn selections. There is an exorbitant extra charge for the tasting and it was canceled due to lack of interest. The Internet service was slow and extremely expensive. Laundry/Dry Cleaning given to the stewardess at bedtime should be returned the next evening without an "express" surcharge.
Service, service, service.
On the second day we received a card asking for improvement suggestions. I mentioned the rose wine was all from California. I wondered why there was no French or Spanish rose wine - I prefer it and it is readily available. The next night there was a bottle in my stateroom and I received it in whichever restaurant or bar I was frequenting.
The stateroom was kept immaculately clean. Additionally by the third day, the stewardess noticed the beverages we were drinking from the mini bar and what we weren't drinking. She removed and doubly replenished accordingly.
The last evening I had the "Do not disturb" sign up while I went to dinner since my luggage was out. I returned to find a full-page handwritten note from the steward
Seabourn will prepare any special request meal with 24 hours notice. I had two special dishes I wanted to enjoy. These were made perfectly and the maitre d' and restaurant manager insisted on brining we other special treats later in the cruise. If you really want something special, just ask.
The waiters had packed up the "fruit flambE" table when I arrived a bit tardy. It wasn't a big deal to me, but the waiter insisted he would make it up to me. The last night of the cruise, he wheeled out the portable flambE cart in the Restaurant and proceeded to make a special order of Crepes Suzette.
We disembarked at about nine o'clock in Barcelona - most others had already left. In the terminal we found three of our four bags - a bag which looked very similar to the fourth bag was still in the terminal. I went back to the gangway and the hotel manager stayed by my side while another crew member located the passenger that had taken my bag by mistake.
In closing, I would highly recommend Seabourn. It is truly a first-class experience. Due to the small number of passengers, there are no strangers on board. The crew addresses you by name, knows your preferences and does not stop until you have a smile on your face.