This was our third cruise overall, and our second on Seabourn. Our last cruise was on Odyssey, so we can offer an opinion on the small ship vs. smaller ship controversy. Not very helpfully, I think it depends. On what is important to you, and what the ship, crew and passengers combine to offer on your specific voyage.
While there is no question that Legend is an older vessel, for the most part the physical state of the ship is fine. Cabins are of ample size, and though our class of cabin on this voyage had no veranda, we didn’t miss the mostly useless mini version available with higher priced cabins.
My wife found the food slightly less appealing than on Odyssey, though I think the absence of a dedicated Restaurant2 on this ship has colored her opinion. Two striking differences, with exceptions noted below, were the passengers and the crew. This group of passengers was older than those we sailed with on Odyssey. And almost 60 per cent were on Seabourn for the first time. A large and noisy minority had, it appears, never been exposed to free liquor—or at least liquor not priced by the drink; it is, of course, priced into the cruise—and settled onto bar stools for hours at a time. Several were boorish in tone and viewpoint, and one couple simply surrendered to their multiple prejudices and vented in a shocking manner. (Just one couple, it is true, but such comments can stain the atmosphere.) To be sure, there were some bright and interesting folks aboard, and we enjoyed their company.
The service from the crew was attentive, but several notches below that which we found on Odyssey. The difference was manifest at the very beginning, when the pier-side staff clearly had no idea how to facilitate the boarding process. Once aboard, although three stations were set up for document issuance, only one was manned for some twenty minutes, as passengers fidgeted in a longish line.
To be honest, when others have complained about boarding delays I have often been unsympathetic. After all, a small price to pay for entering paradise. Well, sort of. I always thought Seabourn had an infallible computer, but when we entered our cabin we found: the wrong liquor; the beds arranged as twins, not the queen requested; and a statement of my onboard account that was in error.
The service issues in the main restaurant were minor but irritating. Coffee when requested usually came, but not always. The peitifours often appeared at the end of dinner, but not always. If you chose to start dinner with a white wine to accompany a seafood appetizer it was oddly difficult to secure a red wine for the meat entrée. On two occasions the service plates were removed, only to be hastily returned moments later. On a couple of nights, Restaurant 2 was closed, so almost all passengers went to the main dining room. This clearly strained the servers. At Cozumel, we were tied up across from a giant Carnival vessel. When she left, globs of diesel fuel rained down upon Legend, particularly noticeable on the open deck seven, where many passengers were enjoying the sun, or having a cocktail. The crew chose to ignore the obvious problem, neither wiping down tables and chairs nor warning passengers, many of whom were wearing white, of the imminent danger to their clothing.
We always had breakfast on the veranda cafe—which becomes Restauarnt2 at night—and the service there was always much better. We attribute this to the firm control of a charming gentleman whose name I cannot remember, but who is a native of Brittany. One of the tasting menus that we enjoyed in Restaurant2 was exquisite. And the food in the main dining room was always good, and sometimes better than that. And a note on the service front, I queried the German chef whether he might be serving sauerbraten at any time. He was, for lunch when we were on a tour, but he graciously saved two portions for us for dinner that night. Delicious!
Enormous credit must go to the cruise director, the very tall and very gifted Erik de Gray, whose talent and general bonhomie were extraordinary. We both felt that the entertainment aboard Legend was better than Odyssey. And the reason, at 6 feet six inches, was easy to spot. A surprise was a discussion about sports by a fellow passenger who had practiced with various sports teams, a la George Plimpton. Very entertaining.
A tad disappointing was the Seabourn Club party, to which you are automatically invited if you have previously sailed with the line. One sweet moment was when a well-earned award was presented to a woman who had spent 231 night with Seabourn (Let’s see, average single occupancy price of $1000 times 231…) Graciously, she showered the line with a paean of praise. But we were astonished when the captain followed with a fervent sales pitch. Frankly, it seemed highly inappropriate. Seabourn sales reps were in vocal evidence throughout the voyage. We concluded that the line was nervous about sales as it moved from a capacity of some 600 plus berths to 1500, with another 450 arriving next year. And the service issue may be a direct consequence of the line’s increased capacity. We wondered if many of the better service crew had been enticed to Odyssey and to the arriving Sojourn.
Despite the negatives, the small ships have their appeal. More intimate certainly, and with the right passengers more of a club than just a cruise.