We just returned from a 12 night cruise on Seabourn Pride from Kobe to Shanghai. This is our first Seabourn cruise, we've been on several Silversea cruises in the last few years and loved them.
The Pride is the smallest ship we've sailed on but it didn't feel too small at all, it's a great size. This cruise had 210 guests on board including a handful of children (all superbly behaved bar one) so the ship was full, it never felt crowded, even on sea days there was space on deck and we often wondered where on earth everyone was. Pride is well-maintained, shows the wear and tear you might expect from a ship which has 200 people sloshing around it on a daily basis but everything worked, the suite was fine and as long as Seabourn continues to wet or dry dock these ships on a regular basis, they'll stay that way.
I put 'The Crew' next because I think that's what makes or breaks a cruise. All the staff on board, almost without exception, were excellent from the moment we turned up at Kobe to the moment we got in the cab in Shanghai. Seabourn, like Silversea, has a high crew-to-guest ratio and they clearly pick their staff carefully and train them well. There's a can-do attitude, people learn your name and your preferences and they go out of their way to make every cruise special for every passenger. At the end of the cruise it was hard to pick a few people to mention by name because everyone was wonderful. (For reference our cruise director was Nick Hale and he's absolutely superb).
Itinerary And Ports Of Call
The itinerary on this cruise was Japan-South Korea-China. It wasn't stunning but we didn't expect it to be, we cruise for the ship more than the ports. We felt some of the excursions were really cobbled together to try to find 'something' to do, they tried .. not sure it always worked out. The low point was probably Mokpo in South Korea, Shanghai was the best port.
Food And Drink
Always a hot topic on cruises, perhaps the hottest! We thought the food on this cruise was good, not exceptional, but good. Everything we had was well-prepared and the ingredients were ok. Definitely we had the feeling that the galley had a budget to stick to and that budget had been squeezed when the line started to discount the cruises. The main dining room fare did get a little monotonous by the end of the cruise, cold or hot appetizer, soup, salad, fish/poultry/meat or vegetarian main and then dessert or cheese .. we'd have liked to have seen a few more creative choices there, on the last night I nearly ordered a pizza just because I couldn't eat another scallop, but the waiter (smartly) talked me out of it, but I did get home and make one tonight and will be eating comfort food for a few days.
The Pride has 'Restaurant 2' where they do a different menu each night, 2 choices for each course. There was some interesting food on offer there and we went twice (see the 'Dress' section for more comments on that), food was good and we enjoyed the change. We also went to the sky grill once and had surf and turf, it was a little too casual but the food was well-presented.
We 'booked the cook' once this trip and had a thai curry, managing to pick the day another large table had the same thing which helped the kitchen. It was very good indeed and we eat a lot of thai food so we know what it's supposed to taste like. That night the chef proudly told us that 140 passengers had ordered a 'special meal', they did a great job and we were truly impressed. Going back to the first paragraph I'm surprised they don't take some cues from what people order for special meals and offer them as variety on the menu during the week.
Breakfast was a little limited, I think they could add choice to the buffet in this area and the coffee was very hit and miss.
Wines were mostly awful, at least those included in the cruise. The sommeliers did a great job of talking up what was there and serving it but the wines were cheap and obviously so. I don't expect vintage wines on a daily basis but I think Seabourn must know they have taken big shortcuts here and are serving really poor wines.
We found Seabourn in general more casual than Silversea. On the cruise we had one formal night (two would have been nice on a 12 day cruise), 4 casual nights and the rest were Elegant Casual where men were supposed to wear jackets at the least. We found that in the dining room Elegant Casual was pushed to the limit and some very casual dress was tolerated (jacket, hawaiian shirt and Jesus sandals?). Restaurant 2 which is always casual verged on the sloppy and the one night we dined at the Sky Grill with people in cutoffs and slippers was the only time we did that. On our first ever Silversea cruise I was (correctly) thrown out of a bar on the second night after I'd changed to beach wear after dinner because the dress code for the ship after 6pm was semi-formal, I changed back and came back to find my drink waiting. On this Seabourn cruise if it was fine to dine at the sky grill in cutoffs, T-shirt and slippers it was fine to show up to the show that way afterwards and go to the bar. I would personally like to see dress standards tightened up ship-wide.
Entertainment for a ship this size was very good. We had a couple of really good acts and the shows put on by the ships company were super; we actually showed up to most shows. One area we thought was a bit lacking was daytime activities on non-sea days, there was very little indeed. Silversea does this better, there's less on a non-sea day but there is something going on, not everyone gets off (and on this itinerary when people did get off they were mostly back on quite early!) .
Was wonderful. We relaxed and had a great time, the staff were super, the food was good and the wine was .. ok. We liked our cabin, the ship didn't make us sick and never got bored.
Comparisons And Comments
At the start of this cruise we thought that Silversea was winning by a length, at the end of it, Silversea wins by a nose or two. The accommodation and service on both were very similar, Silversea wins a little on being a touch more formal, which we like and we prefer their La Terraza presentation to Restaurant 2. Food was a push between them and the wine on this cruise was awful, but it's been 9 months since our last Silversea and they may have cut back too. Seabourn entertainment was better even on a smaller ship and the galley produced a better thai curry. Both lines have not skimped on the most important thing which is service and we would cruise either tomorrow without hesitation; in fact we have a booking with each. As the cruise market and economy recovers I'd like to see these lines put back in the areas they have cut the most obviously, which I would say are wine, ingredients and formality.
We have no complaints, we'd have stayed on another 2 weeks and gone to Bangkok if we'd been able, and that would have allowed us to keep cruising with the really great crowd of people we met on the way.