Firstly, before I provide my review of the Seabourn Odyssey ship, some background information on myself.
I am a 48 year old male, a Civil, Marine and Structural Engineer who is employed as a General Manager of a Construction Company. As I am a first time cruiser, I hope this review assists those who are considering a cruise as an option in the future in addition to, hopefully assisting frequent cruisers, in reviewing this ship, through the eyes of a manager of a firm.
My normal holidays involve basically staying in hotels at various locations, moving from one location to another via planes, trains or automobiles. In my travels, I love to experience the local culture, food and at times, the weirdness of how the locals do things in their country. In general, I don't like to simply lie in the sun, as you can do that whilst in your home country. To me, its about embracing the local experience and learning from it. The old saying of "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" seems to fit what I seek in a vacation.
When my friends suggested we take a cruise in lieu our usual way of holidaying, it would be fair to state, that I had some apprehensions of staying on a ship for 14 days. However, as the good wife has been wishing to go on a cruise around the Mediterranean islands for 25 years and after putting up with me and my moods for this length of time, it was only fair that we embarked upon our first cruise to celebrate our 25th year wedding anniversary.
We attended the Aegean and Dalmatian Delights II cruise commencing from Istanbul Turkey on 19th September and disembarking in Venice Italy on 5th October 2009.
In preparation for our cruise, we stayed at the Best Western Regency Spas Hotel in Sultanahmet, Istanbul for 3 nights. The hotel is close to all the highlights of Istanbul, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and the Old Spice Market.
The hotel was extremely clean, well organized, larger than normal rooms, staffed by the most friendly and caring personnel. It was beyond my expectations.
The Turkish people were wonderful. At no time did we feel insecure, in fact I felt extremely secure. All the locals were happily celebrating the end of their "Ramanaz" where they fast in the daylight hours for a month. I quickly came to the conclusion, that three nights was insufficient to experience all the flavors of this place. Accordingly, we will be back, there is no doubting that.
As soon as we arrived at the port to embark upon our cruise ship from Istanbul, we noticed the very sleek and attractive Seabourn Odyssey. For those wondering, the photos you see within brochures and the internet really do not do this ship justice. The first thing that struck me was the size of the vessel. It was parked next to a very large MSC ship. It made the Odyssey, whilst it is definitely larger than its sister ships, (Legend, Spirit and Pride), look smaller, personal, well portioned and definitely, not over powering.
As soon as you get out of the taxi, you are immediately greeted with the smiling faces of the crew. Your world is transformed from one of having to drag your bags from one location to another, checking periodically and showing your passports to customs, to one, where they take over and guide you along the way.
Each and every crew member welcomes you, as if they have known you for some time. A glass of refreshing juice in a champagne glass is handed to you whilst you check in which was quick, professional and painless. I only wished our airports could be as efficient.
A crew member, in our instance Manus, stays with you to guide you along the vessel. You can not help but notice as you are guided to your suite, the attraction of the interior, its newness and modern Italian flair. I noticed so many familiar things after viewing the construction of this ship over the Seabourn webpage and various blogs within CruiseCritic.com.
Once you arrive at your suite, you are introduced to your specific stewardess, in our case Lauren, who again smiles and welcomes you genuinely on board. She opens the suite, which in our case was a V4 suite number 804 on the eighth level. Immediately, a glass of champagne is provided as she shows you the features of your suite.
The suite is a modern, neutral timber, brown, cream and tan color scheme with a splash of aqua inserts within the timber furniture. Our requirements in regards to bedding and selected drinks within the bar was exactly as requested. A bottle of champagne is provided in a silver bucket with ice and selected fruits awaiting you on the table.
The bathroom has a separate shower and bath, which I am told is normal for higher standard ships and unusual for others. The walls are grey granite and the basin is of black/grey seamed marble. Very slick and attractive. The shower has a nifty arrangement where there are two heads that operate from the same shower handle. Amazing how the Italians seem to come up with new ideas. Turn one way and the traditional shower works, turn the other way and a hand shower all of a sudden opens. Don't worry, the stewardess will show you how it works during your introduction, but you will, no doubt, open the wrong shower head during your stay, presenting the occasional wet surprise.
There is a walk in robe. Some members, I noticed over the CruiseCritic.com Boards had expressed concerned over it's size . From my perspective, it was adequate and surprising that you were able to walk into it. Then again, I may be used to the normal hotel wall robes. There were heaps of clothes hangers, draws for storage and a wall safe for safe storage. Whilst I wasn't told this by our stewardess, there is heaps of storage capacity, directly under your bed for your empty suitcases rather than try to jam them into the walk in robe.
The bedroom is simple and efficient with numerous areas for storage in side tables and a buffet that runs along the wall opposite of the bed. Whilst the bedroom/lounge flow into each other, there is a curtain that can be drawn to separate the rooms and prevent any daylight entering the room in the early hours of the day. During our stay, we felt no need too use them as the curtains along the veranda glass wall were more than sufficient to keep daylight out.
Whilst the bedroom size is adequate, it is a little tight on one side of the bed with the adjoining wall of the walk in robe. A tasteful clock is placed on the wall, which is so much better than the usual cheap digital watch on the bedside table. The lounge is firm, great for my bad back and two comfortable leather tanned lounge chairs are also provided. For us both, more than enough seating comfort. They accompany an aqua colored glass topped timber table, a large mirror on the wall and of course, your well stocked mini bar. Normally, brochures tend to over exaggerate the appearance of a suite or room. In this instance, what you see, is what you get. The television is positioned between the lounge and bedroom behind a closed cupboard. It is on a swivel/slider base enabling it to be pulled out of the cupboard and swiveled around to suit where you are positioned. It performs a number of functions over and above watching the news. It provides a glance of the day's events, features of the vessel, entertainment ranging from current movies to the classics, documentaries, music within the system to allowing you to listen to your own music through your iPod. There are heaps of movies to chose from, if that is of interest to you.
In regards to the physical room services, the air conditioning is relatively quite and simple to adjust for temperature, however you unable to switch it off. There is sufficient lighting to light up the room during the night and plugs to connect into. For safety reasons I think, you are forced to use the hair dryer outside the bathroom.
The veranda/balcony is a highlight. Wall to ceiling glass with a door that opens out into the veranda. From a design perspective, it may have been more prudent to place a sliding door instead, so it didn't knock against the outdoor furniture, but that's probably the engineering part of me coming out.
There is a circular table, two seats and a semi lounge chair. Enough room for 3, possibly 4 guests, to sip champagne and look out into the horizon. You view is not obstructed in anyway, the railing is a slender length of timber rail with glass inserts below. You get the sense of openness, yet feel safe enough that you won't fall over the edge. There are white steel screens between each suite to provide privacy, yet if you are leaning on the rails, you are still able to greet your next door neighbor without having to break your back bending over sideways.
There has been many comments on the crew within several boards of CruiseCritic.com. I found the crew, that deals with you on a daily basis, absolutely brilliant. Hard working personnel with the necessary wit and humor when required. Always friendly and caring while they undertake their duties with efficiency and speed, in an effort to ensure you are being served to the highest standard and satisfied with such.
I found it amazing that the crew could maintain their happiness after working on 4 month long contract with no full day breaks (other than I think 3 hours per selected days) and tender to the guests, some of which I found to be pedantic and difficult at times. We stayed on the ship for two weeks which enabled us to view two groups of guests, one on the Aegean leg and the second on the Dalmatians delights leg. One group was different to the other even though the age bracket and guest home locations were similar.
For first time cruisers, allow yourselves to become friends with fellow cruisers who come from all walks of life. It makes the cruise so much more pleasurable and enjoyable. Ignore the fact that some are older than you, or have different interests, as most of fellow cruisers share in the same outcome as you, that is, to have a great time. There will be times you will raise your eyebrows and wonder why some guests ignore you or simply don't want to engage. I felt sorry for these guests as it would have cheaper for them to stay at home and watch the home shopping channel.
Whilst this ship carries more than double the guests as the sister ships, the crew somehow remember your name and choice of beverage for breakfast, drinks around the pool and preference of wine. In return, I remembered their name and how they loved it, when you called them or thank them by mentioning their name rather than "bark out" some instruction as if they are servants.
Imagine leaving for breakfast and later returning to your room about 45 minutes later and always, yes always, finding you room serviced, fresh towels, clean and fresh. If you have eaten your meal quickly, they ask if you desire another portion to ensure you are satisfied. One day a member of the crew is serving you wine, the next, food, drinks at the bar and even getting on stage to sing a song. Of particular fondness to us were Lauren our room stewardess, Stephan, Manie and Silvia who always looked after us for breakfast, IIzahn, Adrien and Pedro for lunch, Carlos, Lionel and Marco during dinner with James ensuring my wine glass was always full. The team is young, enthusiast, beautiful and an absolute pleasure to witness their efforts.
There was regrettably, an incident where a crew member did not share in the same spirit as the rest of the team. For those who do not know, to visit and return from Santorini, reliance is placed upon a boat shuttle service. An incident occurred, which I unfortunately got involved with, where a crew member refused to allow a shuttle boat to depart before the scheduled time. The boat was at capacity, 20 minutes before scheduled departure time, elderly guests were present on board, where this shuttle was bouncing all over the place with the sea swell, all in a shade less, warm and stuffy environment.
Despite the fact that there was another awaiting empty shuttle, suggestions from the full shuttle boat captain, the tour operator and the guests to allow the shuttle boat to depart, he steadfastly refused, referring to the schedule. It was only after some heated moments he relented and allowed the shuttle to depart.
The one positive of this regrettable incident is that when I asked for the appropriate manager to discuss this matter, he met me within 10 minutes, listened to my concerns, agreed with them and apologized immediately for the incident and since then, the shuttle policy had been altered to quickly depart once it was sufficient full..
A minor "blimp" of an otherwise brilliant team effort.
I mentioned pampering earlier in my review, the food is great and wine plentiful. After being on the ship for 14 days, I need to eat lettuce and drink water for the next two months to lose the weight I gained.
There are 4 Restaurants on the ship starting with "The Restaurant" with a "al carte" rotating menu choice. This restaurant requires no booking and at no time, were we not able to be seated. Food was refined and excellent on every single occasion. A 5 star performance and quality of food. Seating extremely comfortable and again a pleasant and relaxing décor. It can accommodate 410 guests, 3 to 4 course meal, in a period of 2 to 3 hours. Just think about that for a moment. How many restaurants have you gone to that are able to do that without you wondering, how much longer for my soup, or where's the waiter to take my order ?. Considering this ship is more than double the size of the sister ships and it has only been in service for some 2 months, a brilliant effort for which I congratulated Karl, the leader of this wonderful restaurant and its team.
Restaurant 2 is a modern black and red décor chic environment. Some traditionalists may find such décor too different, but I loved it. Unfortunately 48 hours booking advance is required for this restaurant, which is frustrating as you don't tend to think more than 48 minutes ahead on a cruise, let alone 48 hours. The menu is set, with a degustation of food variety. Each serve is adequately explained and described by the serving team. I attended this restaurant twice and adored its effort and taste, but it may not suit everyone, especially those seeking a large steak and chips.
The Colonnade, surprisingly also required bookings. This restaurant also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of the three, this is the most casual restaurant and has a menu, but with I think two choice per course. Whilst the food was of equal quality, I preferred the other more formal, open and classier restaurants to this one for dinner.
Finally there is the Patio Grill, a restaurant in the open air adjacent to the swimming pool on deck 8. It is such a shame that you also have to book for this restaurant during dinner times. Actually thinking further, it is quite frustrating, as you should be able to simply sit down for dinner if there is a vacant table like we are able to with "The Restaurant". Here you able to order fish, lobster, steak or prawns straight off the grill complimented with heaps of salad choices.
On an overall perspective, at times the staff seem to be a bit rushed, bringing food in and out with the occasional dropping of plates. Whilst they try hard, I believe it is a simple case of a new team on a new ship, that has been in service for some two to three months. Accordingly, there are still some efficiency teething problems which I hope they will slowly iron out over the next six months.
Being a wine buff, I found the choices very good where we were provided wines from all places within the world. Australian, Chilean, American, Argentinean, New Zealand, French South African and Italian. Not once did I have to resort to the "exclusive" and additional wine choices.
In addition to the restaurants, room service is available 24 hours a day and there are snack places around the ship where you can get sandwiches, fruit, cakes and drinks. If you are a vegetarian, there is always a choice of meals to satisfy you at all 4 restaurants If you walk off this ship feeling thirsty and hungry, well it can only be by your choice, not due to the fault of the crew.
During the day, there are some activities within the ship to keep guests entertained, however as we were docked at a different locations every day, most guests liked attending tours, walking and exploring the new environments. During the night there are primarily 3 areas to go to, the Club on Deck 5 with live music, the Lounge on Deck 6 with live cabaret and magical shows and the Observation Bar of Deck 10 with piano music. The highlight is pool party night, where all the entertainers sing the night away whilst the pool bar and patio grill attend to everyone's wishes. Nothing like a warm night under the stars.
In regards to the overall build quality of the ship, there are tell tale signs of this ship being rushed due to its "behind progress" program. I noticed many things which I thought was probably me due to my construction background, but other guests noticed issues as well. Whilst they do not distract from the experience of the cruise, I hope the crew will attend to these matters soon, as it would be such a shame, to allow these matters to detract from the uniqueness of this ship.
If I was a Seabourn manager, I would insist a maintenance team from the ship builders, Mariotti, were present within the ship, attending to minor omissions and defects whilst the guests, slept in lieu of the ship's crew doing it during daylight hours.
For first time cruisers if you are wondering how and what steps are taken to visit shore, well its pretty simple, as you have provided your passports when you first berth, they provide you a Guest pass where you tag on and tag off. There two methods of berthing, one against the docks which is very simple to disembark down a ramp, no stairs and in the ocean where you use shuttle transfers with groovy boats that also serve as the "life rafts or boats" It's that simple, yet mentioned many times within blogs.
I have tried to reflect on what my thoughts are on this ship without the joy of the places we visited affecting my opinion. Yes, she is young with minor issues to resolve. There will be times you will wonder why do they things this way and why not that way and the crew suffers some a little inexperience at times due to their youth. Despite this, this is a wonderful ship, deserving of some understanding and appreciation of their collective efforts.
I have no regrets in taking our first cruise with the Odyssey, so much so, we took up the option of placing a fully refundable deposit of $ 1000 to receive a a further 5 % discount, if we book another cruise within 2 years. I think I have made it hard for myself, as my wife has experienced this fantastic silver service cruise ship and it is going to be difficult to convince her to take a cruise on a cheaper and larger type ship. Actually, I would not even consider it.
Finally, during the evening of the 3rd of October, whilst I was walking along the streets of Venice with my wife of 25 years, there she was, the Odyssey, gracefully sailing out of Venice unassisted with the newly arrived guests on board, without us.
That's when my wife said, "there's goes our yacht"
That just about sums up our thoughts on the Yachts of Seabourn, the Odyssey.