Seabourn passengers are a discriminating lot when it comes to food and wine. Expectations are high, for all venues. We experienced few missteps in the kitchen on our 14-night sailing; most passengers we talked to seemed happy with the choices and rated the culinary experience favorably with Sojourn's competition. Portion sizes are kept small and European, which means you'll never have that uncomfortable "stuffed" feeling that's a hallmark of other cruise lines. (If you're really worried about being hungry, order multiple appetizers.)
When asked to describe Sojourn's signature offerings, Seabourn Executive Chef Tony Egger didn't hesitate. "Lobster, Champagne and caviar." All three are served copiously and on demand. In the late afternoon, you'll see Seabourn regulars ordering little trays of caviar, complete with egg yolk, egg whites, red onion, creme fraiche and crackers. We didn't find out about this until the end of the cruise -- don't make that mistake!
There are four main places to eat onboard: the Patio Grill, the Colonnade, The Restaurant and Restaurant 2. Ensuite dining and room service are available 24-7, with both the menu from The Restaurant and other options listed as choices. Every night, the room steward brings the menu for all venues to your suite and it's also available at Seabourn Square so you can plan out your eating for the day. We wish every cruise line did this!
When we were onboard, Sojourn was in the middle of implementing its partnership with Thomas Keller, the Michelin-starred chef famous for restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se. Several of the chef's dishes were on The Restaurant menu, although they were not labeled as such (they will be). Several times during the cruise, the casual Colonnade turned into a version of Ad Hoc, Keller's informal, comfort-food venue in Yountville, California, with dishes served family style. And finally, the game of spotting-the-Keller-dish continued at the Patio Grill, where we indulged in his Napa burger (made with stellar-quality meat, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and topped with homemade Thousand Island dressing and served on a towering potato brioche bun). We also learned on our sailing that the popular Restaurant 2 will be turned into a Keller restaurant, with live music, when the ship next enters dry dock.
The Restaurant on Deck 4 is the ship's main dining room, and it's beautiful. The color scheme is cream and white, with dramatic gauze curtains, crystal chandeliers and fresh flowers on the tables. Dinner is open seating for all meals, and no reservations are required; The Restaurant is large enough that all 450 passengers can be accommodated at once. There are plenty of tables for two, as well as larger setups for more social meals. Ship staff regularly host tables, as do the entertainers; discussion of who gets invited and who doesn't can be a touchy topic of conversation among passengers.
Breakfast is only served in The Restaurant for an hour most days. The waiter-served menu includes egg dishes, pancakes and French toast, breakfast meats and pastries. The Restaurant also serves lunch for an hour or so, for those who want a three-course sit-down meal during the day. On our visit, we had a red oak lettuce salad, duck spring rolls and sugar-free profiteroles with yogurt. For both breakfast and lunch, we saw only a handful of passengers choosing The Restaurant; the Colonnade, the Patio Grill and Seabourn Square are far more popular during the day.
Dinner is where The Restaurant comes alive. Female passengers are escorted to their tables by crew, starting the meal off on a dramatic foot. (Hours are 7 to 9 p.m.) The menu has an "Inspirations" side, which changes daily, and a "Signatures" side that is always available; many of the dishes on the Signatures menu date back to when celebrity chef Charlie Palmer had a partnership with the line.
Sample appetizers for Inspirations include iced Malossol caviar; foie gras, truffle and vanilla terrine; potato leek soup; a Boston bibb lettuce salad and crab two styles. Main courses for Inspirations might include a pan-sauteed petrale sole filet; butter-poached lobster tail; veal osso buco; and three-cheese tortellini. Signature appetizers include shrimp cocktail; roasted tomato soup; rustic chicken consomme; Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp; and linguini pasta with lobster Bolognese. Signature main courses include pan-sauteed king salmon; roasted chicken breast; grilled double RR New York strip steak; grilled beef filet mignon and oven-roasted rack of lamb. Menu items are marked vegetarian and gluten free. Desserts include a daily souffle, which always arrived at our table fluffy and intact, as well as a molten chocolate ganache cake (which wasn't always molten -- we saw a few people send it back) and other sweets such as apple strudel.
Much smaller than The Restaurant, Restaurant 2 offers a five-course tasting menu and is open for dinner only between 7 and 9 p.m. It's extremely popular; book as soon as you board. (We enjoyed it so much, we went back a second time.) The room itself is dark and dramatic, with red curtains, banquettes and black chairs.
A sample menu might start with a duo of Malossol ossetra caviar on a potato shallot cake and foie gras torchon served on a hazelnut brioche. Soups, such as white plum tomato, are served cappuccino style in a little cup without silverware. There's a sorbet course to cleanse your palate. Entrees are also served as a duo; we had broiled lobster tail served with lemon risotto, white asparagus and Newburg sauce paired with a chateaubriand beef tenderloin with pont neuf potatoes, asparagus ragout and truffle jus. Dessert was a soft-centered chocolate ganache cake. Wine pairings are available for the meal for $65 for four; ours included a Taittinger rose Champagne, Hansel Estate Chardonnay, Silver Oak cabernet sauvignon and ice wine from Quebec.
Speaking of wine, it plays a big role in the meal experience on Sojourn. The list of complimentary wines is fairly extensive; while servers tend to push one or two for each meal, you can order anything you want. Whites include Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and Stags Leap Chardonnay. Complimentary reds include Castello Banfi Chianti, Sirius Bordeaux, Tommasi Valpolicella, Consentino Winery Zinfandel, Kendall Jackson Avant Cabernet Sauvignon and Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet. Barton & Guestier Rose from Provence is a nice wine for hot weather. A Sauternes is available with dessert, as is port.
While these wines are likely fine for casual drinkers, Sojourn attracts passengers who have significant cellars of their own. A sommelier is always available to help with the supplemental wine list, which includes heavy duty bottles from Opus One, Solaia, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and more. The Vintages program allows passengers to choose three bottles from a Silver menu for $225, or six bottles from a Gold selection for $450; of course you can buy by the bottle or bring your own. (While these prices might seem high, keep in mind that a Grand Cru wine tasting on our trip sold for $600 per person.) A guest sommelier, the engaging Sebastian Pacheco who has risen through Seabourn's ranks, is brought onboard for Food and Wine cruises, or when the line knows groups of serious wine-drinkers will be traveling. There is no corkage fee on Seabourn.
The Colonnade on Deck 8 is the more casual option for all meals, but it's so much more chic than any buffet we've ever seen. The decor includes butterscotch leather chairs; heavy, shot-silk drapes in chocolate brown; and a mix of seating options, including bar tables. You can self-serve or order from a waiter during the day for breakfast and lunch. At night, it turns into a wonderful themed restaurant with three-course meals; reservations are required and a seat in the covered outdoor patio is a hot ticket.
At breakfast, choose from eggs, breakfast meats, smoked salmon, fruit, pastries and pancakes/French toast. Lunch is often themed to the destination -- on our Asian cruise, we enjoyed Hong Kong street market food, Thai curry, noodles, Tom Yum soup and stir fry. Other options are also available at lunch, including tasty panini sandwiches, a carving station, fruit and fish.
The Colonnade shines at dinner, particularly if you get a table outdoors. Dinners are three-course affairs with themes, although you can also order from the Colonnade Classic menu. We found the themes to be mostly well executed and flavorful; often the ingredients that are bought on Shopping with the Chef excursions end up here. A sample menu from Vietnamese Hot Pot night: summer rolls; green papaya and heart of palm salad; pan-sauteed fish cake with plum chili sauce; pho hot pot soup; pan-roasted local market fish; soy-glazed shitakes and gingered greens. The Colonnade Classic menu is a smaller version of the classic menu in The Restaurant.
A fourth option for lunch and dinner is the Patio Grill, on the pool deck. Smaller than the Colonnade, it's a mixture of buffet and served items, and on our cruise, was often themed. Pad Thai day, for example, included a choice of chicken, beef or shrimp and toppings for your noodles. Paninis, pizza, Caesar salad, fruit and the line's delicious breadsticks are also available. An ice cream station is at the nearby Patio Bar.
The Patio Grill is often open for a casual dinner, although it's closed during formal nights. Buffet appetizers could include ceviche, caprese salad, Caesar salad and a pasta dish. Grill items may be a fresh fish and grouper, prawns, a pork chop and rib eye steak. Vegetarian items are also available upon request. Desserts may include cheeses, apple trifle, fresh fruit, ice cream and sorbet; for an extra indulgence, add a splash of Champagne to your scoop, as we saw one passenger repeatedly do.
Seabourn Square is a great spot for a light nosh. In the morning, you'll find sweet pastries and croissants, and in the afternoon, there are tea sandwiches and (again) decadent pastries, as well as ice cream. Coffee, wine and spirits are offered throughout the day. The venue typically closes at 6 p.m. and opens again from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Afternoon tea is served in the Observation Lounge at 4 p.m. The Observation Lounge also has coffee and pastries for early risers from 6:15 a.m. to 8 a.m.
Breakfast hangers are left in your leather folio every night. You can order almost everything that's available in The Restaurant and Colonnade. Our meals came on time and were the right temperature.
Room service is available 24-7. Meals in your room can either be set up at the dining table in the suite or on your balcony; although, oddly, the chairs in the suite are too short for the table, so it's a little awkward. The extensive menu includes starters of prosciutto and melon; chilled shrimp cocktail; chicken consomme and roasted tomato soup. Entrees on the menu include penne pasta; Caesar salad with chicken or shrimp; pan-sauteed salmon; rosemary roasted chicken breast; grilled New York sirloin steak; margherita pizza; club sandwich; a hamburger or cheeseburger with French fries and a hot dog. Desserts include strawberry New York cheesecake, chocolate pot de creme, vanilla, chocolate or strawberry ice cream; homemade cookies; fresh fruit and an international cheese plate. Between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., you can also order anything off The Restaurant menu and ask for it to be served course by course.
On warm-weather cruises, Seabourn has its signature event, Caviar in the Surf , that's paired with a beach barbecue. The idea of wading out waist deep to nibble caviar from uniformed officers might seem a bit precious in theory, but in practice, it's a lot of fun and even a bit raucous. The barbecue is a masterpiece of work, with tables full of grilled lobster, ribs, burgers and a rash of accompaniments. There's a full bar, table service for drinks and water sports. Don't miss it.