Editor's note: Seabourn Pride was sold to Windstar in February 2013, and has been renamed Star Pride. It will enter service as a Windstar ship in May 2014.
Service has been a hallmark of the Seabourn Pride (and sister ships Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Spirit) and we're happy to report that, on our sailing, it was superb. You'll feel like Norm on "Cheers" -- everyone knows your name (though of course the crew will address you properly, not by your first name but by Mr., Mrs., Miss or Ms.). Everyone has a friendly smile and is ready to offer a helpful hand, or arm (women are escorted to their seats in the dining room on the arms of particularly handsome waiters).
Request a double espresso one night, and you'll get one every night, even if you change tables. Request a certain brand of vodka, and the bartender is likely to remember your preference. In fact, guests get such a high level of European-style service on this 208-passenger ultra-luxury ship that the somewhat rare complaint might strike you as surreal: Huffed one passenger sitting in the Veranda Cafe on our cruise, "the coffee pot is constantly there after you take a sip or two!"
As well, the crew exhibits a delightful sense of humor and a real sense of pride. Our traveler took a pre-dinner bath without requesting one of the line's complimentary specialty aromatherapy bath products. When she returned to her cabin after dinner a bottle of fancy bubble bath was propped on her pillow as a reminder.
And when the crew does make a mistake -- dessert service ran into showtime for one table on our cruise -- the hotel director is likely to go out of his way to make it up to the passengers (in this case serving dessert to the passengers in the show lounge and then sending a bottle of good champagne and an elaborate letter of apology to the passengers' cabins).
Beyond service, the ambiance is classically elegant on Seabourn Pride -- much more "old money" than "Hollywood flash." All cabins are comfortable and sedate suites. Public rooms are comfortably elegant but not terribly memorable. Onboard activities are very limited, so passengers entertain themselves with quiet pursuits. Conversation is very easily a highlight; since these passengers tend to be a well-traveled bunch, topics come easily.
Other highlights of the Seabourn experience? The champagne flows freely and caviar is on the house (though portions have gotten smaller, so if you're big on caviar, ask for double). It's one of cruising's most all-inclusive experiences, with freebies like a welcome bottle of champagne, an in-suite bar set up (with full bottles of your pre-selected booze), and nearly all drinks (you pay extra only for premium brands). You also get decent wines with lunch and dinner, and tips for the crew are included in your cruise fare. Free mini massages are offered poolside on sunny days and there's no extra fee for a Pilates class or wine-tasting seminar.
If there's a downside to the Seabourn experience (all three ships in the fleet are virtually identical) -- and a possible hindrance to competing with other five-star lines that have more recently built ships -- it would be the onboard decor. Public rooms, such as The Club, the ship's main gathering spot, are simply bland. Staterooms are comfortable but lack more -- and increasingly important -- contemporary amenities, such as bathrooms with separate tub and shower.
However, the ambiance is so comfortable -- and the service so spectacular -- that you really won't notice decor all that much.