Having grown up in a family having our own yacht and full-time crew for eight years, I am especially qualified to say that SeaDream is more akin to yachting than cruising. This was our second time aboard SeaDream (and my wife and I had cruised aboard Seabourn three times prior to that). We believe SeaDream is measurably better (particularly after Seabourn was sold to a large, multi-brand company - Carnival Cruise Line).
My wife and I only stay at the finest of resorts when we travel on vacation. NONE have put together a team that executes like SeaDream does. I mean none. And seldom does the guest experience that from each and EVERY staff member and department that guests come in contact with. Usually, a guest senses some departments delivering better attitude and/or better execution than others. I was astounded to see "over the top" attitude and service from each and every crew member, regardless of which department head was responsible for their training. It is one thing to respond to a guest's request, but it is quite another to anticipate, and offer extra service, without having been asked. Equally telling, is that I recognized crew members from over five years ago - which longevity is uncommon (with some exceptions) in the crew industry.
For example, when our flight connection to San Juan experienced mechanical problems and we caught another flight getting us there 2 hours prior to the flight that our luggage was on, we reported the baggage situation to the airline in the usual fashion and then went right to the ship (we got out of the airport sooner than if we had to wait at baggage claim for our luggage). When we told the receptionist at SeaDream about our baggage being on a flight arriving later, she told us to go enjoy ourselves, and that she would arrange for one of the crew to go back to the airport and retrieve our bags. So, instead of my wife and I sitting for two hours or so in a Caribbean airport waiting for our bags - on our first day of vacation - we were able to enjoy our first day aboard just as we planned, and the bags appeared a couple hours later in our stateroom when we returned from cocktails and dinner.
When I requested ahead of our trip that our refrigerator in our stateroom be stocked with particular brands, it was. Each day, it was re-stocked that way, too. Even our ice bucket in the stateroom was replenished with fresh ice, twice a day, without ever having to ask. The crew really endeavors to learn your individual preferences, and then delivers them at your next lunch or dinner without you having to remind them or re-ask.
This is how yachting is supposed to be. A truly customized experience. SeaDream can deliver this because there is a maximum of 55 couples aboard.
What also brings it closer to a private yacht vacation, rather than a cruise ship, is the fact that nothing aboard is rigid. Cruise ships, generally speaking, go to a port in the morning and leave around 5 or 6 pm. SeaDream will pull up anchor after lunch sometimes and cruise in the middle of the day for a couple hours while you relax and enjoy the changing scenery in motion. As well, SeaDream almost always anchors, rather than pulls in to a dock. The most beautiful scenery is captured from an anchorage looking back onto the sights ashore - not from a dock (usually in the industrial section of the port) looking out at the plain ocean. At really popular ports of call, SeaDream will not leave until well after midnight so that, if you wish, you may enjoy dinner and an evening ashore. One evening, the ship wan not leaving until after midnight, but the last tender bringing you ship to shore and back was scheduled to have everyone back aboard before dinner (largely because that particular island, Nevis, had only a Four Seasons Resort on it, but not much else to do). When my wife and I remarked that we had planned to have dinner at the Four Seasons that evening, the onboard concierge - before we could say a word - immediately asked that we allow her to ask the captain if they could keep the tender running for us so we could enjoy dinner that evening at the Four Seasons. SeaDream, because it caters to only 55 couples maximum, can be flexible like that. And they go out of their way to deliver that individual attention without you ever feeling like you may be imposing on them. On evenings when dinner is served in the dining room, as opposed to outside under the stars, they always still set up a few tables for those guests who, like my wife and I, want to dine under the stars every evening.
Unlike larger cruise ships, SeaDream is not big on educational lectures, or live performances after dinner etc. Rather, they are focused on pleasing the discerning vacationer looking to get away, relax and have fun as opposed to looking forward to exploring the ports and getting the educational enrichment that is found on larger cruise ships catering to the adventure-minded traveler. Indeed, SeaDream only cruises the Caribbean in the winter and the Mediterranean in the summer; it does not try to compete with cruise lines that cover the globe. At the same time, however, SeaDream enjoys the distinct advantage of being able to anchor in more fashionable, smaller ports which the larger cruise ships cannot gain access to. Again, because of its small number of guests, you never wait in line for anything. Going ashore is fast, and comfortable. The shore excursions cater to the well-heeled traveler, meaning they are done with class - and you never feel like you are being "herded" like cattle or part of a tourist trap.
As you might expect, the age group tends to be more middle-age active adults, rather than seniors. The live entertainment at night consists of a guitar player and a piano player at the outdoor and indoor bars, respectively (although the music and guests get more festive as the evening wears on and the mild crowd retires to their staterooms for cookies and a movie). My wife and I enjoyed both types of evenings, equally, and were happy to have the variety available. The guests were elegant and sophisticated, but knew how to have fun, too.
It is not the intent of this review to repeat the "niceties" that the SeaDream brochure or website already points out. They are wonderful, and don't overstate the truth. In comparing this type of vacation to a shore side resort, the only drawback would be that the staterooms are, obviously, not as large as at a fine hotel. That's the nature of a small, exclusive ship. At the same time, though, because of that exclusive atmosphere, we spent very little time in our stateroom. There were always multiple places where we could enjoy just being by ourselves. The whole ship feels like your stateroom when there are so few guests. The other guests are there when you want to enjoy them, and you can pick several different places to go when you wish to be alone.