This is a review of a cruise taken on the Seabourn Odyssey on August 15, 2009. We sailed from Istanbul through the Black Sea, to Athens, then on to Venice. In fairness, this critique was submitted to Seabourn management before posting and they have promised to look into the areas that I considered deficient.
First the positive: As an experienced cruiser, with much of that spent on Regent/Radisson, I can state unequivocally - Seabourn is better! My wife and I came off the Odyssey about a week ago and it was our first experience with Seabourn. In terms of service and amenities, Seabourn and Regent are comparable. The two biggest differences are 1) The food is better on Seabourn and 2) The atmosphere is better (this is a biggie). As one would expect, after about 2 days, the crew knew our names and preferences, but more importantly, there was a feeling of family between us and the crew members with whom we interacted. The waiters and maitre d's in the restaurants would watch for us and know what we liked and how we liked it. The cruise director and assistant cruise director (whom we had previously met on Regent) would tell us about their families and lives. Even the singer/dancer troupe (with whom we only had dinner once) told us about life in show biz (and its less glamorous side). Shopping with chef Joachem was an experience unequalled on any other trip we have ever taken, and our cabin stewardess was in tears when we left after 3 weeks. You can't buy experiences like these.
And now the negative: First and foremost - the LOUD music. When we went to the evening's entertainment the first night, we were astonished at how loud the volume was turned up in that fairly small theater. In addition to detracting from the quality of the show, it also made us hesitant about returning for additional shows. The Seabourn band likewise comes in for its share of criticism; generally the function of a band is to accompany, not to perform. Which means that you should be able to hear the singer/pianist/conversation to whom you are trying to listen. When a pianist performed his pre-dinner show, his accompanying CD was turned up so loud that it was impossible to know whether he was actually playing the piano (he was) or whether he was key-synching to the CD. Perhaps the most egregious incident occurred in the Club Lounge one evening at 10 PM when a group of us were conversing. The singer/band started up full volume, no introduction, and eliminated any possibility of further conversation. To me, this was just...plain...rude. The message was: your conversation is unimportant - you will listen to me. Could you imagine some guy barging into the middle of your conversation and proceeding to talk, in a very loud voice, about his gall bladder operation (which removed his bladder, but not his gall)? This sort of "loud music=excitement=fun" attitude is much more suited to the Carnival "fun ships" than to an up-market product such as Seabourn. The second criticism: Limited evening dining choices. Regent offers two choices in the evening: dining room or cafeteria/sit-down in La Veranda. Seabourn offers no alternative to the dining room because the other restaurants are reservation-only. Understandably, Restaurant 2 and the Colonnade are specialty facilities in the evening (as are Signatures and Prime on Regent) but could the Patio Grill not be opened as an alternative to the dining room? That way, casually-dressed diners or those who don't want to spend 2½ hours in the dining room could socialize, rather than having to eat in their cabins.
In conclusion: Will we sail Seabourn again? Yes, absolutely; we've already purchased on onboard booking voucher and love what we saw on Odyssey.