I flew to San Jose, Costa Rica on November 28, 2008 and stayed at the beautiful Marriott in San Jose. After one night there, I left the bulk of my luggage in storage and took a very small plane to Punta Islita, a small, beautiful resort on the coast in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. Here I spent five nights in a deluxe casita, enjoying their awesome views, two gorgeous pools, and a variety of flora and fauna. Taking the tiny plane back to San Jose, I once again checked into the Marriott San Jose and reclaimed my luggage (Nature Air, the planes that fly to the smaller resorts in Costa Rica, only allow 30 lbs of luggage onboard!). Thanks to CruiseCritic.com's message boards, I had "met" two gentlemen who were also on my Seabourn Legend Panama Canal cruise, December 5-19, that were staying at the Marriott San Jose. We shared a ride to the port (Caldera) and ended up seeing each other, and sharing dinner and/or drinks on the ship, several times during the entire sailing. A very wonderful feature of CruiseCritic.com's boards!
Embarkation was very easy on the Legend, as always. We handed over our luggage and went up the walkway into the King Olav lounge, where the usual took place (handing over your passport, getting your security and cabin cards, etc.). Didn't have to hang around too long until they whisked me off to my cabin (131) and my luggage arrived in short order. I had shipped ahead one very large bag via Seabourn's Valet Service, and Seabourn had cleverly put the bag onboard in Fort Lauderdale two weeks' prior, so it sailed to me and met me in Caldera. Smart! I was very happy with my cabin; deck 4 and midship. We did have a couple of rough sailing days, so the location was very excellent.
Cabins: In other reviews of Seabourn ships, I do carry on about the cabins. The reason is that they are beautiful. I love the huge picture windows with the tiny "window seat". On sea days, or in the early morning or late evening, I will perch there and stare dreamily out at the ocean. The bathrooms are functional and roomy, with lots of towels, cleaned twice a day by a hard working stewardess. Moulton Brown lotions, etc., replenished as you need them. Walk in closet. Very fast laundry and pressing services (you do pay a premium for same day). After a particularly adventuresome excursion later in the trip (white water rafting), I even asked them to wash my tennis shoes, they were horribly grungy. Have never seen them cleaner!
We had three formal nights on this itinerary, two casual nights, and every other night was elegant casual. Seabourn tends to be a dressy ship and this suits me fine; one of the reasons I ship a bag ahead is that I love to "dress" for the occasion of the day; tea at four? Formal Night? Rock the Boat? Whatever it is, I have an outfit for it. If this isn't your thing, don't worry. You can relax and wear whatever you want and you'll fit in just fine. For me, it's just part of the fun.
Food: One of the highlights of any Seabourn trip. At one evening meal, there was a young lady who told us she was on the ship "changing over" the menus. Seabourn's food is not only delicious (and varied), but each plate is a work of art. I snapped several pictures of said food before it vanished (the most beautiful usually being their desserts). Very good, in fact this is my fourth Seabourn cruise and I think it was the best food-wise. One night I actually had dinner in "2", the Veranda restaurant on deck 7 that becomes a tasting menu at night. Excellent! And very personal attention there, too. They also had a galley brunch, where you went through their galley and there were different stations of food: sushi, meats, breads, cheeses, desserts, salads; fun to see where everything was prepared and quite a spread. We especially appreciate being introduced to the many chefs who prepared our food and how many different specialty cooks there are!
Gym: Small but has everything you need. And I was on that treadmill EVERY single day!
Entertainment: On this cruise we had a variety of fun entertainment. There was a lady magician who was truly brilliant. I will be honest with you and say that her humor was a little off-color for me. But she was extremely good at magic and everyone seemed to like her very much. We also had a classical guitarist and a piano player. The cruise directors on Seabourn double as the talent. Matt and Rachel had fantastic voices and not only helped you out around the ship during the day, but sang wonderful songs for you at night. Two exceptional singers, Speedy and Christina, were up at the Midnight Lounge late in the evening. I can honestly tell you I've never heard a ballad sung more beautifully than Speedy (a young man from the Philippines) sang them. He was very special! Then they all made us laugh and dance at Rock the Boat, a special evening out on the decks singing 60's, 70's, 80's, etc. music. And what a beautiful night we had for it. On this itinerary through Central America, the humidity made the days a bit steamy, but the nights balmy and gorgeous. That was a fun night! Also of course are the trivia teams (my team ended up with zero. Yes, zero, after four days...oh well we had fun)...and Liar's Club, where you have to guess the meaning of some obscure word you've never heard of. More fun!
Ports of Call: On my prior Seabourn trips, I have sailed to the Caribbean, where I usually scuba dive in every port. I arrange all those trips myself, so I never went on any Seabourn excursions before this Panama Canal cruise. What a great time I had! Some of them you had to travel quite a distance, and once (the river rafting trip) was over very, very bumpy roads, but the excursions themselves were great. Zip lining in San Juan Del Sur was a blast. Don't be scared to do it; they are so safety conscious, give you good instructions, and it's really very easy! In Puerto Moin I went to a sloth sanctuary. I've never seen these animals before and I loved them to pieces. We even saw baby sloths! Adorable! Bless these people for caring for these little creatures. The one excursion I didn't really care for all that much was a little boat trip out to Monkey Island (Panama City), which was right in the canal itself. Hot, humid day and we saw I think two monkeys, that was it. But we also went through a butterfly house and saw some interesting snakes (and one snakeskin about 13 feet long after it had been shed!), which was educational! Of course Seabourn does their fantastic beach barbeque, and on this itinerary it was on Hunting Caye in Belize. They start early in the morning carting over the linen and silver and china, and set up a spectacular day for their guests. They take out their water toys and you spend the day eating, sunning, playing, and generally having a blast. Oh, and don't forget caviar in the surf, one of Seabourn's signature feasts!
Service: As usual, Seabourn tops the charts with their service. The crew is friendly and professional and know your name and greet you warmly every time they see you! It's such a lovely feeling. Seabourn's small size (208 maximum guests; we had 194 on this sailing) makes it easier to get to know others for the time you're on board. Since all passengers were on for 14 days (I usually do two back to back Caribbean cruises; passengers come and go after 7 days), I got to know alot of very nice people and enjoyed my time with them. Sailing as a solo, Seabourn will give you a printed invitation to a hosted table every night in the restaurant for dinner. I accepted almost every evening, and got to know alot of my fellow passengers that way, too. Really a delightful feature of this exceptional line.
Extras: As I was in Costa Rica a week before I ever boarded Seabourn, I somehow managed to run out of my migraine medicine, and Excedrin, both of which keep me from having horrid migraines. I talked to the doctor on board and he found Relpax for me in Panama City, but Excedrin is not to be found in Central America. Was I in trouble! A couple of days later, my doorbell rings (yes, the cabins have doorbells on Seabourn!). I opened my door and there was the doctor with a bottle of Excedrin in his hand. Where on earth did he get it? Well some executives from Seabourn Miami had come on board in Honduras, and apparently it had been communicated that a passenger on the Legend needed Excedrin. So someone brought it, just for me. That to me is an example of why Seabourn has taken over the number one spot with Conde Nast's Traveler this year in small ship ratings. They will go to any length to give their passengers the best service they possibly can. Thank you Seabourn!
In Honduras and in Belize I made my own arrangements to dive. I wasn't that impressed with the diving, to be quite honest! I wish I'd done the dolphin swim in Honduras, as that was something I really had wanted to try. I heard good things about it. I also heard that Belize was a very depressing city to go into (many of them were, as was Grenada in Nicaragua), but at least I got in a couple of days of scuba.
The canal transit was wonderful, and seeing it on Seabourn of course was terrific. They had a lecturer aboard that talked about everywhere we were sailing, and gave information about the canal as well. If you do consider doing this itinerary, I would suggest the fascinating book "Path Between the Seas", a history of the building of the Panama Canal. I had read the book before I sailed on the Legend and it enriched the experience for me.
After two sea days we reached Ft. Lauderdale and of course, had to leave. The only part of any Seabourn cruise that I dislike. Somehow Seabourn brought us into a section of the port where we were absolutely the only ship disembarking, and the hall we used had only Seabourn passengers in it. It was a snap to pick up your luggage, go through customs, and get a car to the airport. Once again, a privileged position since you are sailing with this line!
I tell myself this on every sailing: at any given time, only about six hundred people on earth are sailing on a Seabourn ship. I consider myself very fortunate to ever be one of them. I do hope I will sail with them again, sooner rather than later!