I want to be clear about one thing ... we have placed a $1000.00 deposit for a future cruise on Seabourn. I am in the hospitality business and this review will sound very critical about what some might consider trivial. Overall, we had a fabulous time, ate well, drank more than we should, met some of the most interesting people, and were served by a staff that appreciates their guests.
Our Cabin - Who wouldn't be happy with the size and the amenities in the cabin? We are first time Seabourn cruisers who had placed a reservation for a GTY Suite ... and we were "gifted" a balcony suite on the 6th level ... one of the more expensive rooms. Upon entering the suite, the promised champagne was on the coffee table along with a rather sad spray of orchids. The flowers were changed 4 days later, which was 8 days past their prime. Our requested liquor was not in the room and we were informed by our stewardess that it would not be possible to have it stocked until after the ship had sailed. She did call someone and within 30 minutes, the bottle of Jack Daniel's and the bottle of house chardonnay that were ordered arrived. On both bottles, a green sticker was placed on the label, indicating that they had borrowed these bottles from one of the bars on the ship ... the color coding is a method to insure that the bottles stay on the bar where they were issued. In the rush to please, they didn't realize that the bourbon bottle had been previously opened. Yes, it could have been contaminated ... but I decided to chance it! We ran out of Chardonnay day two and had to bring it to the attention of the staff 36 hours after we ran out. It was replaced right away, and in fact ... by the time we left the ship ... there were 4 bottles of chardonnay in the mini-fridge! Point is, we shouldn't have had to tell them that it needed to be replaced. There were 2 engineering issues in the room ... the shower rod was pulled away from the ceiling and one of the stoppers in one of the sinks would not open to allow the waste to drain. Both problems were fixed as soon as we mentioned them. There was a sock behind the curtain leading to the balcony left by a previous guest ... The lone sock was placed in the trash ... this housekeeping issue was not reported. The bed is GREAT, the TV channel selections are far above any that I have seen on any other cruise line, the bath products are SUPERIOR, and who wouldn't be happy with Frette linens! We never heard our neighbors on either side, so the problem of noise must have been corrected during the recent re-do. Only one 110 outlet and that is in the vanity area. I hear people talking about not paying the extra for a Juliet balcony ... but we LOVED it. I am not sure if it was Seabourn or the Tourist Agency for the individual ports, but there was always arrival or departure entertainment. Our location on the ship was facing almost all of the entertainment ... so we never had to go on deck to enjoy it ... We felt like we had box seats at a theater! The robes that were in the closet were "cold climate" robes ... that really couldn't be worn in the heat & humidity of an Asian Summer. The stewardess had the habit of leaving the bath stopper in the middle of the tub lying on its side ... small issue, but I was always afraid of stepping on it when entering the tub. Also, I am surprised that there are no grab bars that are convenient to allow stability as you enter & and exit the tub. We had to ask for our soap to be replaced ... and this was done so by a stewardess that was assigned to the cabins across the hall. I heard of others on the ship having baths drawn and rose petals strewn around ... we never saw any of that.
The Food & Restaurants - We kept hearing about the quality of food on Seabourn ... We enjoyed it, but found the food on Celebrity to be better. What brought the overall experience down was breakfast. Day one ... we decided to eat in the main dining room. After we placed our order, we sat ... waiting for coffee ... which arrived 15 minutes later, in spite of the fact that there were less than 10 people in the main dining room. Our order arrived 40 minutes after we sat down ... but only ½ of it. My wife seasoned her plate (Sorry ... she does this to every dish prior to tasting!) ... when I noticed that this was not her order. We called the waiter over explaining the problem. He apologized ... and promptly re-served the seasoned plate to the table next to us. Now, some of you might not think this is gross ... but we do. The next issue was, and I have heard this from other reviews ... the crumbs were swept away from our table and re-set for the next guest, in spite of the fact that the table cloth was stained. We decided never to eat breakfast in the main dining room and headed to the Veranda for our remaining breakfasts. Here is where the BIG problem is ... a total lack of supplies. You had to hunt for a napkin, coffee cups were at a premium, and if a chaffer was out of food ... it took 20 minutes to have it refilled, since the food for the chaffers comes from the main kitchen. I found it interesting that the Captain would stroll in daily and be totally oblivious to the total lack of supplies and organization. I never saw the hotel manager ... Well, not totally true. I saw him once at a dinner table dining with 2 other crew members. I was "told" that he is a numbers guy. This is evident in the lack of supplies and organization. "Auto pilot" is a good term ... and the staff is gracious enough to overcome the shortcomings ... but this will fade. The Hotel Manager needs to be on the floor and not in front of a calculator. Dinner was fine, but nothing exceptional. The Galley Lunch was sensational ... and the Grill on the deck was wonderful! Restaurant 2 ... I was able to secure a reservation one night. Tried 6 times. What happens is that you can reserve 48 hours out. We didn't think about making a reservation until day 2 ... and there was a waiting list of 24. This was the pattern daily. The experienced cruiser on Seabourn would make their reservations daily for the next 48 hours ... adding a day out daily. When the menus were published, they would either keep the reservation of cancel it ... We were on 4 waiting lists and never got called for a last minute opening. Now for the controversial DINNER INVITATION topic! We were called on day two at the last minute to fill in for a cancellation at a crew table. We had made dinner plans with several other couples that we had met, thus ... we too declined. After that we received a formal invitation almost daily ... delivered after we had left for our excursions ... and well after we had made plans for that evening. We declined all but one, asking if there were room for our guests as well. It was flattering to be included, but embarrassing to decline most of them due to the invitations being delivered so late. Most people, I would hope, make plans either the previous day or the morning of.
The Entertainment - What can I say ... Wonderful. We enjoyed trivia on sea days. We love any casino when we walk away with more than we entered with ... SO, we LOVED the casino! One slot machine was broken the entire cruise ... and when there are only seven machines the broken % is high! Nick and Sam ... YOU ARE THE BEST! The Gratuity issue - The policy might be that the staff doesn't expect any gratuity ... but they do. I have never seen such slick money palming in my life! We passed out more $50's and $20's, and I dare say the KGB would have missed these transactions!
The Spa - My wife had nail work done twice and I had a haircut. I explained to the stylist that the BEST haircut I had ever had was on a Carnival Cruise ... it still is. My wife was pleased with the work she had, and went back to buy product on their shelves as well. My wife wanted a facial waxing but this service was not offered. Strange that a cruise line that caterers to the older set wouldn't offer waxing! The Gift Shop - NICE stuff! Not cheap, but the quality called for that. I bought 3 mini-bottles of Polo (the scent I brought spilled). $41.00 for the 3 which I didn't think was that out of line. Like everyone says ... The Pool is very awkward and seldom used. The hot tubs are nice, but only set at 100 degrees ... Never a problem with getting a deck chair, but never saw anyone getting a free deck massage like is advertised ... and, it was not a weather issue. We had great weather every day ... OK, HOT YES! But no rain.
Excursions - On this cruise, you could do it all yourself. Every port, except for one, offered free shuttle busses. The one that didn't offer a bus was located at the street car stop! We booked 6 excursions. I didn't think they were all that expensive ... but I believe it would be just as easy to do what we paid to have done for us ... on your own.
The Guests - MOST were first time Seabourn Cruisers due to the heavy discounting that it took to fill the ship. If there was one, there were 80 travel agents on board! I was told that there was one couple who had paid full price, but they were offered a 50% discount after the "talk" on board of this cruise being so cheap. Well, the discounting worked for us! We are coming back ... hoping to be on the maiden voyage of the Quest leaving from Barcelona on 7/20/2011.
The Staff - Kudos to Lena, Patrick, Victor, Jan, Oscar, and 99% of your service staff. How do they remember your name after ½ of a day on board. My name is a simple one, but they knew all of the guests! They also remember what you drink, how you like your steak cooked, and what type of white wine you like. The best staff I have encountered anywhere ... but be careful. Your management on board is not looking at the details. You have 72 lights out in your main lounge. These are burned out ... not turned off to save power or reduce the glare ... burned out light bulbs ... a major sign of lack of attention to detail by management. During some of the formal gatherings, there were public jokes made by the senior staff that could have been offensive to some of your guests ... although not directed at me, I was offended by them.
Although not a Seabourn issue ... on our cruise one of the passengers brought bags of nuts from their state and gave them to staff members ... as well as throwing them off of the ship to the entertainment that was provided during a sail-away. While this was happening, a room service delivery was being made ... we asked for his reaction and he confirmed that this passenger, although had good intentions, was insulting the staff/entertainments with these gifts ... "Throwing bananas to monkeys." Although the intentions were good, this act was perceived as demeaning. Be aware ... not ALL gifts are appreciated!
I know that I have said several negative things that some might find over the top. If you felt that I ignored the positive, remember ... the positive is expected. I told you that I am in the hospitality business, and it is my job to notice when things are not 100%. I inspect hotels for a living ... and this is a floating hotel. The issue that would have failed this ship during an inspection was the sock found in the room. The other issues would have still kept the ship in a passing position ... so much so that it would have ranked in the 90th plus percentile. I am only offering these constructive criticisms to assist with improvement.