We spent one night with friends in Florence prior to boarding the ship. In a very un-Seabourn fashion, we took the train from Florence to Rome and Rome to Civitavecchia. Once in the (tiny) train station, Florida Keys Guy says to me "How do we get to the port from here?". In a moment of brilliance I pointed to a ship in port and said "It's right over there, we just stroll down the street". It did not end as badly as you might be thinking. We got to the entrance of the port, with a stop to buy some knock-off sunglasses, and there was an information booth where I learned of the shuttle bus to take us to the ship. A mere 10 minutes later we were aboard the Seabourn Spirit, champagne in hand (the champagne will be a recurring theme).
Once in the lounge waiting to check in, I went to get myself a glass of water. This is where I first learned "the Seabourn way". Grudgingly, the waiter at the water table let me put ice in my own glass. See, it is his job to do it for me. He did not, however, let me pour for myself. Since I live in a do-it-yourself world, it is really a treat to have people bring you things, do things for you and even take your plate from the buffet line (not that there is a line, mind you) to your table, which they have already scouted out for you. Life is good.
After about 2 glasses of champagne (which could not have been that long, as David is quick on the refill), we were checked in and given our ID cards. It is the photos from these ID cards that the staff use to learn the passengers names, and do quite a good job with it! On the last night of the ship one of the crew members greeted us by name with canapes in hand, and I had not seen him ever before. It was impressive to say the least.
Once in our suite, there was a bottle of champagne waiting for us, and within moments our stewardess greeted us with canapes and a choice of soaps -L'Occitaine, Hermes and an exfoliating one. She insisted that we try all three. There is that Seabourn service again. A person could really get used to this.
As for the food, Chef Andre did a cooking demo for a group of 16 people. He made lobster risotto, and I learned a few things about cooking the finicky rice dish, and he made a fois gras creme brulee. Who knew creme brulee could be made as a savory appetizer? I am inspired to try some variations of my own. During the demo, Chef Andre invited those in attendance to go shopping with him to the market at the next stop, Corfu. Naturally, I was all over that. Even Florida Keys Guy was interested. A bus picked us up at the ship and took the group of 20 to the market, where Chef Andre bought some provisions for the next couple of days - 10 kilos of swordfish, some John Dory for particularly picky passengers, and Sea Bass. All those on the trip got a special meal made for them in the dining room that night. The conversation went like this:
Koen: What will you be having for dinner, Ms. Keys Girl?
Me: Whatever Chef Andre bought this morning and has decided to make for us, Koen.
"Whatever" it was turned out to be perfectly cooked sea bass, and we turned out to be very happy campers.
Earlier that same day, we went on a tour of the galley. I thought it would be interesting to see the inner workings of how I am constantly fed on the ship. The tour (mainly the same people that would later go on the shopping adventure) was greeted with Champagne and caviar and then taken through the entire, spotless galley, with explanations along the way. Apparently they make everything from scratch except the cookies and the ice cream - there is way too much consumption of those items to be able to produce it all by hand.
Overall, this is a wonderful cruising experience. Everything is understated, no loud announcements (or any, really) and the service and food are superb. Take a Seabourn cruise, you won't regret it.