Editor's note: Seabourn Legend was sold to Windstar in February 2013, and will be renamed, refurbished and enter service as a Windstar ship in April 2015.
In an era of cruising in which trends and innovation in design and features have become of paramount importance, my first-ever voyage with Seabourn, on Seabourn Legend, represented a whole other age of travel. I'd forgotten that cruising like this, with an emphasis on sophisticated yet simple pleasures, still existed.
What makes Seabourn such a special experience is precisely what it doesn't offer. Indeed, there are few rules, no queues, and minimal announcements. There's no need to rush anywhere -- the ship is so small, frankly, you can go from bow to stern in about a minute. There aren't too many "attractions" competing for passengers' attentions -- so folks seem to just hang out together and talk. Ultimately, though, what put this cruise on my own "best" list was that Seabourn, legendary for its intuitive service -- from requiring that all staffers memorize every
passenger's name and face to anticipating needs you didn't know you had -- exceeded my already high expectations.
My lasting memories are quiet ones.
Standing at the deserted stern, away from the hullabaloo of the pool deck on our first sea day, watching Montserrat pass by, I started to think that "it would be nice to sit here all afternoon in a lounge chair," when Ian, one of the most attentive of an already attentive crew, called out to me: "May I set you up here?" Within minutes I had a fancy tropical drink , a lounge chair pulled up to the railing, and even a little table on which to rest my book. He would have brought me lunch from the Sky Grill, too, but I declined.
Another day, I locked myself outside of my cabin. My stewardess was nearby and quickly came to my rescue. Sure she opened the door -- you'd expect that. What bowled me over -- and again may seem like a small gesture but it's really not -- was her offer to head down to the purser's desk and get me another key card.
Meeting passengers at one of the hosted tables in The Restaurant, particularly early in the week, helped forge new friendships, making it easy to join acquaintances for a drink before dinner, lunch or a shore outing.
At the Veranda Cafe for lunch, I asked about a pasta dish I'd seen on the main restaurant menu. Not being cooked in the cafe that day, one of the wait staff offered to run down to The Restaurant and fetch me a plate.
A lot of cruise lines like to call their customers guests instead of passengers. Makes it seem more hospitable, somehow, and of course cruising is very much a part of the hospitality industry. But on this ship, making a passenger feel like a very much welcomed guest is not just wordplay. It's real.
If all was not absolutely perfect on Seabourn Legend -- it's true that the embarkation process was terrible for a ship of such a small size and, as you'll see from the review below, the ship itself won't win any interior design awards any time soon (though I'm looking forward to Seabourn's new-builds) -- the experience offered a splendid retreat from hassles and hurrying of the real world.
Looking back now, it all seems like a dream. The good news? It wasn't.
International, upscale and well-traveled. Average age depends on cruising region (higher in the Mediterranean, slightly lower in the Caribbean), but the majority are in the 55-plus age range, and onboard entertainment is largely geared to this demographic. Seabourn passengers are intensely loyal; not only do they return year after year, but it's also not unusual to meet couples who are onboard for three or four back-to-backs. Or more!
As Seabourn offers a range of itineraries, some quite exotic, dress code depends to some extent on where you're sailing. In port, respect the culture of the destination. Onboard, daytimes are in the country club casual mode. At night, there are three different dress suggestions: Casual, in which men can appear sans jacket and women are okay with a simple blouse with skirt or slacks; Elegant Casual, in which men wear jackets and women don more swishy ensembles or a cocktail dress; and, for one night on our seven-night Caribbean cruise, there's Black Tie Optional. Many men did put on a tuxedo and women wore elegant but simple floor length gowns (this is not a cruise line where you'd wear "big ship" bangles and beads).
Seabourn says that all gratuities are included in your cruise fare -- and it means it. However, you should feel free to discreetly compensate a crew member who's performed a particularly unique or time consuming request.