Some background: my sister, cousin and I have been cruising together for close to 20 years. It started out as an annual cruise and as the years have gone by has turned into a 2-3 times a year getaway. In the past we have sailed on the mass lines: Royal Caribbean, Princess, Celebrity and Holland - with Celebrity and Holland being our favorites. This past June we decided to take a leap and try the small lines. We booked a back-to-back Mediterranean cruise starting on Seabourn Legend and ending with SeaDream II. We were underwhelmed with Seabourn, although I will give their staff high-marks for friendliness/helpfulness. The funny thing is as soon as we stepped on SeaDream II we gave each other a look knowing that we had found something special. Unfortunately, a family emergency forced us to leave 4 days into our June cruise, but we knew, in that short time, that we had found a new addiction.
Six months later we were packing for St. Thomas, ready to board SeaDream I. Our itinerary was to be:
December 5, 2010 - Depart from Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas U.S.V.I.
December 6, 2010 - Esperanza, Vieques Puerto
December 7, 2010 - Cruz Bay, St John U.S.V.I.
December 8, 2010 - Gustavia, St Barts French West Indies
December 9, 2010 - Norman Island B.V.I.
December 10, 2010 - Virgin Gorda B.V.I.
December 11, 2010 - Jost Van Dyke B.V.I.
December 12, 2010 - Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas U.S.V.I. Dock 8:00 Am
There was some revision to the schedule once we got onboard. A container of food hadn't reached St. Thomas by the time we were to depart, so it was decided to swap St. John and Vieques. After spending the first day in St. John, we returned to St. Thomas in the evening to load the container. We spent Day 2 in Vieques. Day 3 and 4 were spent in St. Barts. We were originally supposed to be anchored one day in St. Barts. It was never clearly explained why Norman Island was eliminated to add the extra day at St. Barts. First we were told it was due to the weather. Then we were told it was because Norman Island had suffered too much hurricane damage. This was a bit disappointing as I'm not a big fan of St. Barts and love the beauty and seclusion of Norman Island. What I didn't like was the way it felt like we were being given different story by the staff. Other than those 2 changes the itinerary went as planned.
I was a little hesitant departing from St. Thomas as I had read horror stories on Cruise Critic about the St. Thomas airport, and it had been years since I had flown into that airport. To be honest, there was no problem arriving or departing from St. Thomas. The airport is small, but customs and security was well-staffed and didn't have long waits. The only negative I have with sailing from St. Thomas is that there are no direct flights from the Washington, D.C. area to St. Thomas.
We stayed at the Morning Star section of the Frenchman's Reef Marriot for the 2 nights before and the 1 night after the cruise. Morning Star is located directly on the beach. The location and view of the beach was fabulous; the rooms just OK. The concierge and hotel staff were extremely helpful and pleasant. We had decent breakfasts and drinks at "Coco Joes" a few times during our stay. This open air restaurant directly on the beach was a nice place to watch the sunset and the cruise ships sail out. We had dinner 2 nights at Morning Star's onsite restaurant "Havana Blue". The food and drinks were fabulous, the dEcor was modern and gorgeous, our waitress was very good - the only negative was that the numerous hostesses seemed to have an attitude both nights. We also had dinner one night at "Windows on the Harbor" the Marriott restaurant located at Frenchman's Reef. The food and service here was mediocre, but the view of the Harbor was spectacular.
DECEMBER 5TH - ST. THOMAS: We arrived with excitement at the dock around 2:30 to board SeaDream I. We were met by SeaDream staff and porters immediately. Hotel Manager John and Activities Director Colin (who happened to be our favorite bartender when we sailed in June - congrats Colin on your promotion) were there to greet and welcome us. We received our champagne and were checked in within minutes. We immediately took a tour of the ship and found the Top of the Yacht Bar. We were served our first drink by Konrad (great guy) and could tell immediately we were in for a great week! After unpacking we started what would become our routine for the week: cocktail hour, dinner, after dinner drinks at the TOY bar - life is good. A few nights we mixed it up with some gambling, singing at the piano bar, or just wandering around to see what was going on. At the first cocktail hour we were told by our captain that the sailing had 47 passengers and 97 crew. Wow! SeaDream II was departing with us from St. Thomas but their ship was full. I think that was due to their trip being 9 days compared to our 7 days. Dinner the first evening was in the Salon, the food was fabulous, and our cruise was underway.
DECEMBER 6TH - ST. JOHN, USVI: We did a little shopping and then took a taxi to Honeymoon Beach. The taxi dropped us off at Caneel Bay Resort. We then had to hike about ½ mile to the beach. The sand and water was breathtaking, very secluded with no more than 20 people on the entire beach. Other people traveling with us went to Trunk Bay and Water Lemon key, they gave high marks to both beaches. Dinner that evening was again in the Salon. Our party of 8 was invited to dine with the Chief Officer Albert from Sweden. He was very interesting and personable and we had a lovely evening. A sidenote: our captain was very visible throughout the entire cruise and was always willing to chat and answer any question we had.
DECEMBER 7TH: ESPERANZA, VIEQUES: The day was a little cloudy. We stayed at the pool during the day, did some swimming off of the marina, and jet-skiing. I love that the marina was opened almost every day. Dinner was served outside to the early diners, but as the rain came we were escorted to the Salon for dinner.
DECEMBER 8TH & 9TH - ST. BARTS: The first day at St. Barts was off-and-on rain but we headed to the beach anyway. We stopped at St. Jean's Beach and when the rain started we popped into the beachside restaurant, "The Pink Parrot", for lunch and a drink. It had a very French vibe, and we enjoyed ourselves. For dinner that evening, we were served topside - nothing more decadent than being served a 5-star meal with views of St. Barts surrounding us! Wonderful evening. The second day at St. Barts offered the ATV excursion. Four of our group took this excursion and voted it the best experience of the cruise. They also stopped at Governor's Beach and thought it was breathtaking. From here on out, the weather was perfect- sunny and warm.
DECEMBER 10TH: VIRGIN GORDA: We've tried to visit the Baths at Virgin Gorda on a few of our previous cruises, but it had never worked out. Finally, we were able to take the ship's excursion on this cruise and experience the baths. It was spectacular. The views were amazing, though we were told by the staff that it was a very easy tour and felt that it would have been difficult for anyone who is not fairly active The boat was anchored off Bitter End Yacht Club in the afternoon with tenders to the beach - very nice. Dinner was served outside again, and I know I'm sounding redundant, but it was delicious and the ambience perfect. The chef setup a Dessert Extravaganza on the pool deck after dinner, while a large movie screen played a Chakira concert. The boat had been repositioned to Leverick Bay for the evening which allowed us to tender to Jumbies Beach Bar. The majority of the passengers seemed to tender over to the bar. It was nice to see a lot of the crew enjoying themselves as well.
DECEMBER 11TH: JOST VAN DYKE: Caviar Splash + Beach Barbeque + Degustation Menu = Heaven! A truly special day from beginning to end. Starting with the speedy Zodiac ride to the beach, hearing the blowing of the ship horn to signal the start the Caviar splash, enjoying the fabulous beach barbeque, walking to Soggy Dollars Bar, having champagne delivered to us while floating in the Caribbean, and then ending the day with the Chef's 7 course Degustation Menu for dinner - it was a day that we will remember for a lifetime!
DECEMBER 12TH: What a fast week! We had our last, leisurely breakfast before departing a wonderful vacation. We said some thanks to the crew which had treated us so well. We left knowing that we would be returning to SeaDream in the not-too-distant future, as we had taken advantage of the onboard booking disount!
FOOD: Overall excellent. Here are some of our favorites: Mushroom Soup, Mussels, Duck, Indian Salad, Grand Marnier Souffle, Indian Salad with Chickpeas, the Pea Risotto served with the Lobster (I didn't think I liked peas or risotto, but OMG it was delicious!), Pistachio Cookies, all 7 courses of the Degustation Menu. Also, all of our requests were easily accepted: crispy bacon, steak cooked to the proper temperature.
ACTIVITIES: We enjoyed the daily cocktail hour, the blackjack table, the piano bar, the disco night, the staff afternoon with mini massages/crepe demonstration/fashion show, disco night.
WATERSPORTS: Loved that the water sports were available every day! Swimming off the back of the yacht was lovely and the water temperature was perfect. The jet skis were available a few days (they are not allowed in the British Virgin Islands) and were great fun. Other passengers used the sailboat and kayaks during our sailing.
STAFF: The staff is what makes SeaDream. Everyone seemed sincerely happy to be making our vacation special. Some of our favorites were: the Captai, Chief Officer; Hotel Manager, John; Activities Manager, Colin; Concierge, Nina; the Casino Dealer (her name escapes me, but she was very patient with us!); Sommelier, Tyrell; Bartenders, Konrad and Pablo; Waiters, Felix, Olivier, and Mikee, along with adorable Assistant Waiter Placido. I'm sure I'm leaving some out, but as I mentioned I've turned 50 so my mind is not what it used to be.
PASSENGERS: The fellow passengers are also a big part of what makes us love SeaDream. Everyone was friendly and not pretentious, as was the case on our other small cruiseline experience. With the ship being only half full, it seems like we interacted with everyone onboard. The age range for the cruise was mostly 40s/50s with a few younger and a few older.
CABINS: We had 4 cabins on level 2. The cabins are small, but not a problem for us. The storage area was adequate and we had plenty of hangers in the closet. The bathroom is small, but oh that shower pressure and constant hot water was fabulous! The cabin dEcor is the only place where I see some need for improvement from SeaDream. The dEcor seems dated and could be easily and inexpensively updated. Color scheme, art, wood drawers could all be modernized. Plus, I hate the plants on the ledge...yes a little picky, but they seem tacky.
• The "Voila" moment at dinner in the salon. Makes me happy everytime!
• Early on in the cruise we were served a homemade ice cream sandwich poolside. Pistachio cookies with homemade cherry ice cream -- they were amazing. A few days later the waiter came around with fruit kabobs. One of us said "what no ice cream sandwiches" and the waiter said "I'll make some for you, how many do you want?" Five minutes later he was back with a tray of freshly made ice cream sandwiches!
• My brother and sister-in-law had the large bali bed reserved one night. They decided they would take a photo to use for their Christmas card. I thought they were crazy when they asked the concierge if they had a Santa hat they could borrow. 10 minutes later 2 santa hats were delivered to their cabin.
• Jost Van Dyke!
• Love the casualness of SeaDream...no formal nights, yippee!
• Love the shower...it's small but powerful.
• Love the Bvlgari shower products.
• Loved entering a cabin filled with balloons and decorations on my birthday.
• Love the way that SeaDream allows the staff to actually enjoy themselves with the passengers. At Jost Van Dyke and Jumbies Bar the staff was able to have some fun.
• Love cocktail hour...martini and crab claws before dinner, yummy.
• Love the poolside pass-arounds.
• Love the sunglass cleaning.
• Love the alfresco dinners with perfectly set tables...casual and elegant at the same time.
• Love swimming off the back of the boat.
• Love the overall atmosphere.
• Love getting to know the passengers and staff...so many interesting stories to hear.
• Love being called by name as soon as we board...how the heck do they do it?
• Love SeaDream I just as much as SeaDream II. I was a little leery after reading some cruise critic postings that SeaDream I wouldn't match up with II. I'm happy to report that the two ships seemed identical in looks and atmosphere.
• Love that we took advantage of the open booking discount onboard and that we'll be returning to SeaDream.