My wife and I have been cruising since 1995, including multiple experiences with Seabourn, Silversea and Regent--but also with larger Holland America and Princess ships, and one very-forgettable Celebrity Alaska cruise. We have some perspective as to reasonable expectations which come from spending more "upfront" going with an all-inclusive "boutique" smaller ship; vs. the mid-size varieties where one winds up paying extra for a soft drink or a special coffee + "suggested gratuities" or automatically-added-on payments to staff + wine with dinner + extra charges for specialty dining venues + on-and on.
Up until last month, our most recent Seabourn experience was in 2000 with the "Sun" on a 19-day repositioning cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to Bercelona--with 900 other guests. (The Sun remained under the Seabourn label for about three years; wisely, it was then handed-off to another nameplate. Currently, that ship is a Holland America vessel.) That's 900 passengers. Do the math. We had been spoiled by prior cruises on Seabourn's "Legend" (around 195 guests). Naturally, we expected some service changes, but were unprepared for the realities of about 600+ other Seabourn alumni on that voyage "pushing back" with the staff when dealing with the realities of diminished service. The staff did it very best; and I would bet the other 300 passengers with no prior experience with Seabourn had a very pleasant experience. We--and about 600 others--did not.
So--it was to Regent and Silversea. However--with the advent of the larger, and brand-new Sojourn--time to give Seabourn another try. We were not disappointed. Our cruise was top-notch from start to finish and either met, or exceeded, expectations.
Embarkation: Flew directly (via a short stop in Amsterdam) from Seattle to
Copenhagen. Seabourn arranged a private car from the airport to the pier. We arrived a few minutes before the bulk of of fellow passengers who flew in earlier and were having lunch at local hotel(s) (One of which we passed--to see our soon-to-be companions boarding a bus.) Were on the ship in about five minutes. Right--five only minutes. A pleasant stop on the Deck 6 Grand Salon for champagne and finger sandwiches (or bigger ones, or another type-drink, if one so-wanted.) Just ask--and it was provided.
Cabin: Into our vary-spacious veranda cabin within 35 minutes, with luggage waiting for us. The one "thing" we noted--which was a reoccurring "sour" note on an-otherwise pleasant cruise--was the smell of cigarette smoke. We opened-up the veranda door, turned up the air-conditioning as high as it would go--and waited. It took about three hours, but that lingering odor went away. It never returned inside our cabin ALTHOUGH--the person occupying the next-cabin over was, obviously a chain smoker. Everytime we left our suite for the hallway, literally held our breath to avoid second-hand vapors escaping into the common area. See below. With that aside--
Service: "Suite" and attendant service met our expectations. Sandy, our attendant, provided prompt, and professional service. A very pleasant young lady. This is the standard we experienced whether in a dining venue, at a lounge, while at tea, chatting with staff, or at the "Square". Efficient without pretense. Staff is well-aware of the clientele, which I would wager consisted of 85% or above Seabourn alumni. The same goes for paying guests. We respect the professionalism of staff, and do not make unreasonable demands or requests.
Dining: Absolutely 5+ star. An example or two says it all: My wife likes a simple lunch consisting of broiled fish and steamed vegetables. This combo is not on the menu. No problem in either the Colonnade or Restaurant. After the first lunch, no need to even ask. I like an occasional cheeseburger or beef "dog" for lunch, even while in the Colonnade or Restaurant. And--I like a BIG hamburger patty, well-done. As for beefdogs--got to have the sauerkraut. That garnish was not present at The Grill. I had to merely ask for it--and had a surfeit of same thereafter. The chef prepared a double-sized beef patty, perfectly done [well] each time I order the cheeseburger. This alone was worth the extra tariff for an all-inclusive cruise. Dined in Restaurant 2 on three occasions. Simply delightful. Unique combinations of tasting dishes, with each explained in detail by our server(s). My wife--a gourmet cook--appreciated this attention to detail. Afternoon tea was refined and delicious, with all those little treats available.
My wife wants to specifically mention the wonderful galley tour and cooking demonstration done by the chef. He took real pride in his presentation, and answering questions. Which, of course, is the perfect segue to--
Spa and Fitness: Neither my wife or I utilized the Spa. As for the Exercise Room. I usually had this area all-to myself. Worked out daily on the treadmill during the period 6:45-7:30. Perhaps one or two others joined me. Where was everyone? Top-notch equipment, which actually worked! And, individual tv screens at each machine.
Public Rooms: The "Square" is functional, friendly, and complete. The staff was always available to provide services such as facilitating reservations for Restaurant 2 [Get there precisely at 6:30pm to make same for the next 48 hours]; exchanging currency; or arranging for special meals on the return plane flight. The reclining chairs made it very difficult to read--one only wanted to snooze. That is why it was nice to have a specialty coffee readily available from the Square's coffee bar. Library was ample, and stocked with recent publications.
Entertainment: Here is the deal: Every PM public activity (dining and entertainment) on Sojourn is either 30 or 60 minutes "late", or at least later than one might expect on a Regent or Silversea. So--Deal with it! It is just too-late to really enjoy a "show"--singers/dancers; jugglers; acrobats (just kidding) which begins at 10:00pm. This is really not fair to these fine performers. We saw only two shows. It was so-so easy to retire to one's suite and "dial up" a plethora of vintage high-quality movies. Such is Seabourn.
Shore Excursions: We booked three. One--"Footsteps of Rembrandt" at Amsterdam--was cancelled due to lack of sufficient participation. No big deal. We purchased two day-long trolley passes, visited several museums on our own, and probably saved about $300.00 in the process. Plus, had the opportunity to take a bunch of neat pictures of all the bicycles and chat with the locals. The two excursions we did take--Piano Recital at Troldhaugen and Cruising Lysefjord--were handled expeditiously. The Recital was really magical, as I enjoy playing Grieg's piano music; and my wife' favorite piano selection is "Wedding Day at Troldhaugen". That was the last selection played by a real "pro" [not me!]. It was a shame we had to leave that venue.
Enrichment Lectures: Dr. Donald Behnke was great! By popular demand (encouraged by a ground-swell started by my wife and me) he was "allowed" to present an additional lecture. He knows his stuff (Opera; Broadway) and presents it in a down-to-earth manner.
Missing Ports: Aalesund, Molde, and Olden, Norway. Easy off-easy-on. Nice walk through the scenic towns.
Disembarkation: Again, without a hitch at Dover. We were called off the ship at the precise time (9:00am) indicated on our luggage tags. Seabourn's arranged private car was there to provide a speedy trip to Heathrow for the non-stop return to Seattle.
Value for Money: We got what we paid for. No complaints.
Smoking policy: This is one area Seabourn must address, as much in the interests of its staff and cabin attendants, as for paying guests. The Sojourn brochure we received stated no smoking anywhere in any dining venue, whether inside or outside. This included Deck 8's Patio Bar and Patio Grill areas. BUT--there were the ashtrays on tables used by Grill and Bar patrons. And, folks were lighting up. This, literally, chased us off that area. What gives?
As mentioned above--the cabin next to ours literally wreaked with cigarette smoke. On more than a few occasions, the door to that suite was open when we were coming and going to our room, as our attendant was providing services. How can Seabourn allow its suite attendants to be constantly exposed to this situation? It is bad-enough to hold one's breath when walking by; but we had the luxury of being able to escape the smell.
This smoking reality is the subject of a letter my wife and I are sending to Seabourn management. This was the only negative aspect of our cruise. It is simply a matter of health. That health pertaining to Seabourn's employees.
Yes, we will be sailing with Seabourn (on the bigger ships) again. Hopefully, management will properly address concerns which I hope other alumni will continue to raise regarding smoking policy.