We just returned from a 9-day Norway cruise (round trip from Copenhagen) on the Sojourn. Although we don't have the extensive luxury cruising experience of many who post on this site, I wanted to pass along our impressions. First of all, as background, my wife and I are in our mid 40's and we have a 17 year-old daughter who travels with us. While, our luxury cruise experience consists of only two cruises on Regent (Voyager Baltic, 2010 and Navigator Caribbean, 2011) and Cunard (Atlantic Crossing, Queen's Grill, 2005), we do consistently take very nice vacations and we prefer to stay in nice hotels (Four Seasons, Mandarin, Ritz-Carlton, etc.). So, to some extent, we are naturally comparing experiences on Sojourn to land-based luxury experiences as well. However, for purposes of this post, I will primarily compare our Seabourn Sojourn experience to our two prior experiences on Regent ships. While I understand that these impressions are entirely subjective and are based on a single Seabourn cruise on a single vessel, I'm passing them along for whatever they may be worth.
Overall, the Norway trip was one of the best trips we've ever taken. In part, that was due to the stunning scenery and location, which would have been amazing even if we were on a non-luxury ship. In addition to the scenery, however, the high quality Seabourn experience also made this a wonderful trip. There were a number of areas in which we thought that the Seabourn experience was superior to Regent, as well as some areas where we preferred our prior Regent experience. All in all, we think that both Seabourn and Regent offer excellent experiences, but we did note some differences.
AREAS WHERE WE WOULD GIVE THE NOD TO SEABOURN SOJOURN:
This is one area where we thought that Seabourn was the clear winner. While we didn't find the difference to be that significant in the main dining room, we thought that Seabourn was far superior in the other dining venues. This was particularly true for the Colonnade, which we thought was simply superb all the way around (the buffets at breakfast and lunch, as well as the superb dinners with table service and excellent dishes prepared to order in the open kitchen). We never thought that we were "settling" for lesser food quality or diminished quality of service when we opted to dine in the Colonnade in lieu of the main dining room. By comparison, we felt that the buffet-style dinners in Regent's La Veranda were a notch-down in quality and atmosphere from the experience offered in Regent's main dining rooms. When weather conditions permitted, the Sojourn's pool grill also was open in the evening, serving excellent made-to-order steaks, lamb chops and other grilled items with table service, as well as antipastas, salads and other "side" items available as a buffet. While we have very much enjoyed Regent's Prime 7 steakhouse venue, the dining there requires a reservation and might only be available once per cruise - by contrast, we could eat in Sojourn's Colonnade or pool grill in the evening without a reservation anytime we wanted.
I can't comment on Restaurant 2, as we never made it there for dinner (not because we were intentionally trying to avoid it, but simply because we never got around to it, as we found the other alternatives so appealing).
Service in Dining Venues.
This is another area where we would give the nod to Seabourn. It is hard to define precisely what was superior about it, but the European Seabourn dining staff somehow seemed more polished and professional. In addition, we never made a request that the dining staff was unable to grant. For example, waiters in each dining venue were happy to have decaffeinated iced tea specially prepared for my wife (she avoids caffeine but, being a Texan, she loves her iced tea). By contrast, my wife has made the same request in Regent dining venues a number of times, and the waiters have never been able to accommodate the request (in some cases, acting as though they had never heard that such a thing as decaffeinated iced tea even existed). All in all, the dining service on the Sojourn seemed to us to be essentially the same as what we would expect if staying and dining at a Four Seasons resort - spot on and highly consistent.
Outdoor Public Areas of Ship
We were really surprised by the wonderful outdoor "nooks and crannies" and other places to relax - from multiple hot tubs to secluded hidden deck areas, the exterior spaces on the Sojourn were incredibly well conceived and executed. We had the impression of almost being on a private yacht - really no comparison to Regent Navigator (which seemed cramped in terms of outdoor spaces) or Voyager.
Stability of Ship and Lack of Vibration
We sailed through some pretty rough waters in the North Sea, but the Sojourn seemed rock solid, without any hint of vibration. By contrast, we found the vibration in the rear portion of the Regent Navigator to be HIGHLY bothersome, and the Regent Voyager also seemed to have some issue with this.
No Art Auctions
The Sojourn had a relaxed but sophisticated on-board feeling, and thankfully no art auctions to destroy the ambiance (unlike Regent).
AREAS WHERE WE WOULD GIVE THE NOD TO REGENT:
Purser and Similar Services
We thought that the Sojourn fell far short of the Regent standard in terms of on-board purser and similar services. While the "set up" of the personnel to assist with account/purser issues in Seabourn Square was good, there were some real problems with systems and/or execution. First of all, we had made the mistake of reserving some spa treatments and shore excursions online in advance of the cruise (not having previously sailed with Sojourn, we were afraid that these might be "sold out" if we waited until getting on board). Seabourn's website required us to pay for these in advance with a credit card. Because we had significant onboard credits from American Express, I asked onboard to apply these credits to the spa treatments and shore excursions that we had pre-reserved. The staff in Seabourn Square was unable to accommodate this. At first, they essentially indicated that we were simply out of luck, and one staff member told me repeatedly that we should have simply reserved, but not paid for, the pre-booked items when we reserved - I told them that the website seemed to indicate that we MUST prepay for the pre-booked items. Eventually, we were paid out in cash for the items we had pre-paid, but this took several days to resolve. They were unable (or unwilling) to simply reverse the credit card charges.
Secondly, we asked to get a key to our daughter's suit (she's a minor), so that we would be able to access her suite if we need to do so. At first, we were told that the system would not accommodate this and that there could be only one key issued for each person in a suite. Finally, after three days, the purser was able to override the system (or something) and get us another key.
These may seem like minor annoyances, but they were definitely annoyances, and these are not the type of issues with which we've ever had a hassle on Regent or at a high-end hotel on land.
Bars Open During Day
Only one bar (the pool bar) was open prior to 6:00 pm on the Sojourn. By contrast, on Regent we had always appreciated that there was at least one other indoor (and more convenient) bar open during the day - which was nice if returning from a long shore excursion, etc.
While our suites never smelled of smoke, the hallways often smelled of it when passing other cabins. Also, the observation bar could be extremely stinky from smoke when it was full of people. We much prefer Regent's smoking policy.
Places to Get Coffee in the Morning
While the Sojourn had excellent coffee drinks of various sorts available in Seabourn Square, one had to get the coffee from the staff member working the coffee counter and there was often a line (and a wait). This was the only thing for which I ever had to wait in a line on the Sojourn - but I hate waiting in lines. I have always enjoyed the ability to get self-service coffee (at Coffee Connection or by the pool) on Regent. This may seem minor to most people, but it's annoying to me to have to wait just to get a cup of coffee and to not have a self-service option.
Although this is a close one (and in most respects we found the Sojourn suites to be equivalent to the Regent suites), there were a couple of minor things that would cause us to give the nod to the Regent suites. First, the dressing area (with mirror) on the Sojourn is in the entry hallway and is completely exposed if one opens the suite door. So, when opening the door to the suite from the outside, it would be very easy to expose one's spouse, etc. to an embarrassing situation if they happen to be getting dressed. By contrast, this area in the Regent suites is at an angle, sort of "around the corner" and not exposed to the suite door.
Also, while the bathrooms were very pretty, we thought that the double sink configuration was a mistake. The second sink deprived the bathroom of too much storage space and was not really useful.
Once again, not a big differences in the suites.
All in all, two excellent cruise lines. We likely will sail both in the future (depending on itinerary, etc.).