It's not always easy to compare an upscale line with a true luxury cruise company, but that's exactly what many people try to do when looking at the differences between Oceania Cruises and Seabourn.
Oceania offers an a la carte approach to cruising, with a base cruise fare and then for-fee packages for everything from alcoholic beverages to shore excursions. Seabourn comes to the table offering intuitive service and a fare inclusive of alcohol and gratuities. Yet both lines share a commitment to fine dining and destination exploration.
Can service be compared across these lines? Oceania may get high marks, but how does it stack up against a top luxury line like Seabourn? Find out how we rate Oceania vs. Seabourn.
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The Oceania Cruises fleet includes six ships: four 684-passenger, older-yet-beloved R-class ships and two newer, 1,250-passenger O-class ships that were built specifically for the cruise line. The smaller R-class ships include Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena. Regatta, Insignia and Nautica joined the Oceania fleet in 2003, 2004 and 2005, respectively (all refurbished in 2014); Sirena joined the fleet in March 2016.
For those looking for newer, larger ships with more bells and whistles, the O-class options are Marina, launched in 2011, and Riviera, launched in 2012.
Oceania's R-class ships, which were refurbished in 2014, are all scheduled for upgrades from 2018 to 2020. The planned refurbishment, called OceaniaNEXT, will shell out $100 million to redesign staterooms and suites, incorporate new decor in shipboard restaurants, and update bars and lounges. Insignia will be refreshed first in December 2018, followed by Sirena in May 2019, Regatta in September 2019 and Nautica in June 2020. Marina and Riviera will also get upgrades and enhancements.
Seabourn sails five ships. Three sister ships -- Seabourn Odyssey (launched in 2009, with a 2017 refurb), Seabourn Sojourn (2010, with a 2017 refurb) and Seabourn Quest (2011, with a 2016 refurb) -- each accommodate 458 passengers. Two newer ships -- the 600-passenger sister ships Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation, based on an augmented version of the Odyssey-class design -- debuted in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
The cruise line is scheduled to debut two expedition ships in June 2021 and May 2022. Both ships meet PC6 Polar Class standards for Antarctica and Artic itineraries, and will each sail with two submarines, two dozen Zodiacs and a kayak fleet. The 23,000-GRT vessels, offering 132 balcony suites, will accommodate 264 passengers.
You may assume that it will be difficult to make a price vs. value comparison between Oceania, an ultra-premium line, and the highly regarded luxury line, Seabourn. But it may be easier to do than you think.
That's because, pricing wise, Oceania has come to the table with its OLife promotion that packages airfare with your choice of perk (free shore tours, a beverage package or onboard credit), and the line already offers free Wi-Fi and free specialty dining with its cruise fare. So if you are comparing Oceania's OLife fare with Seabourn's general fare, it will be a pretty even comparison.
Things aren't as cut-and-dried when it comes to the actual cruise experience though. Seabourn's ships are smaller and more intimate than Oceania's, and that leads to more personalized attention, spacious accommodations and an overall more luxurious-feeling voyage.
Choose Oceania if you want more control over what you're paying for.
Oceania is more inclusive than a mainstream cruise line, but does not bundle as many extras in its prices as a higher-end line like Seabourn. Oceania's cruise fares include free shuttle service from ship to city center in many ports of call; unlimited soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, teas and juices; unlimited Wi-Fi access; meals at all of the ship's specialty restaurants; and free room service 24/7.
While some cruisers hate paying for "extras" onboard, it's actually a feather in Oceania's cap. You can decide whether you'll pay extra for alcoholic beverages, shore excursions or a fancy wine-pairing dinner at La Reserve.
Note that nearly all of Oceania's itineraries are eligible for the line's ongoing OLife Choice promotion, in which cruisers receive free airfare plus one perk of choice: either shore excursions (the number of which is dependent on the cruise you select), a House Select beverage package (see below) or onboard credit. That means you can choose to pay for some extras out of pocket or book an OLife fare and select the onboard credit as your perk. Then, you can apply that credit wherever you see fit: to pay your bar bill, gratuities or shore excursions.
Beverage and shore excursion packages also take the sting out of high drink and tour prices for passengers who ordinarily spend a lot on these extras. Note that packages don't necessarily cover every excursion, and you'll still need to sign a check each time you order a drink onboard.
Choose Seabourn if you prefer a cruise fare that is more inclusive so you don't have to sign chits all day long.
Seabourn's cruise fare includes passage aboard its intimate ships as well as quality entertainment (such as the enjoyable "An Evening with Tim Rice") and all meals; there isn't even a surcharge for the line's excellent restaurant from celebrity chef Thomas Keller. And if you love caviar, you can order it anytime onboard; it's always complimentary.
The fare also includes open bars throughout the ship, offering fine wines, beer and spirits (although there is an additional list of select vintages and spirits that do cost extra). Soda, coffee, tea, iced tea and juices are also included, as is an in-suite bar setup that's filled with your personal preferences to enjoy in your room throughout the voyage. Seabourn says tipping is neither required nor expected onboard.
Seabourn doesn't include airfare in its cruise fares, and you also must pay for internet access onboard (unless you're staying in a premium suite, where it's included). Other activities, such as shore excursions and spa treatments, cost extra -- but they do on Oceania, as well.
Or if you're a solo traveler.
Solo travelers on Seabourn can expect to pay a supplement that is 75 percent more than the double-occupancy fare for ocean-view, veranda, penthouse and penthouse spa suites, and 100 percent more for premium suites. The line also offers single guarantee fares for just 50 percent more than the double-occupancy fares; with this pricing, Seabourn (not the passenger) will choose the stateroom location, and availability is limited.
Oceania normally charges singles 100 percent above the advertised per-person, double occupancy cruise fare -- though it does sometimes offer a break on select voyages.
Or if you want an authentic luxury experience, a decent-size cabin and plenty of free drinks.
When you perform a back-of-napkin computation comparing similar voyages on the two lines, you might find that Seabourn is the same price -- or even cheaper -- than the premium option proffered by Oceania.
Start by comparing comparable staterooms. Seabourn's entry-level Ocean View Suite is 295 square feet. You'd have to go all the way up to a Penthouse Suite on Oceania's R-class ships (Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena) to get similar space of 322 square feet. Aboard Oceania's O-class ships, Marina and Riviera, you could opt for a Veranda Stateroom or a Concierge Level Veranda Stateroom, both at 282 square feet, or a Penthouse at 420 square feet.
Seabourn's cruise fare includes complimentary open bars throughout the ship, with fine wines poured at both lunch and dinner. You also get a complimentary welcome bottle of Champagne as well as an in-suite bar setup stocked to your preferences. You'll need to factor in paying per alcoholic drink aboard Oceania or buying a beverage package. When you calculate the fare on Oceania, don't forget to subtract the credit you'll receive for booking your own airfare; then you'll be able to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of these two lines, as Seabourn does not include airfare in its base fare.
When it comes to choice of itineraries, both of these lines offer a plethora of options; you truly can sail the globe with either line. Oceania has an excellent track record in Alaska, sailing seven-, 10- and up to 14-night voyages. The line also offers plenty of options in the Caribbean and Panama Canal; Canada and New England; Northern Europe and the Mediterranean; South America and the Amazon; Australia and New Zealand; Asia; the South Pacific; and even Africa.
Seabourn sails to each of those destinations, plus Antarctica and Patagonia aboard Seabourn Quest, and the Middle East and India via Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Encore and the line's newest flagship, Seabourn Ovation.
Choose Oceania for its 180-day world cruise.
If you're looking for a world cruise and some bragging rights, look to Oceania's annual world cruise aboard Insignia. At 180 days, it's the longest of any world cruise option on the market. And there are some add-on "grand voyages" that can extend the trip to an even 200 days in 2020.
Choose Seabourn if you want to visit Alaska.
Seabourn returned to Alaska a few years ago after a long absence. However, the line has crafted tremendous value in its voyages to the Last Frontier, including the addition of its Ventures By Seabourn program. On each voyage, a team of naturalists, scientists and scholars are onboard to make sure you see the best sights and learn about Alaska's unique ecosystem and history. In some ports, the team guides Zodiac and sea kayak excursions. Seabourn's program in Alaska ensures that you can live in the lap of luxury while also having an educational experience in America's 49th state.
Or if you'd like to visit Antarctica.
Of the two lines we're discussing, only Seabourn visits Antarctica. Antarctica and Patagonia voyages are a specialty of Seabourn Quest, which has a reinforced hull that is certified Ice Class (something you need when sailing the icy waters of Antarctica).
Even though the experience might be a bit more rugged than other voyages (say, to the Mediterranean or Caribbean), you can expect the same intuitive, top-notch service from the crew. Your entertainment choices and dining venues are that of a luxury ship, but you'll also have access to complimentary Zodiac landings each day to select Antarctic locations.
The line's expedition team is outstanding, and knowledgeable guest speakers fill out the enrichment program. There are also digital photography workshops and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife from the ship or shore.
Both Oceania and Seabourn offer a deep list of shore tours to entice all types of travelers, from those looking to learn about the culture of the destination to people seeking a more thrilling, active adventure.
Seabourn-sponsored shore excursions tend to get better reviews than those offered by Oceania. In part, that might be because Seabourn limits the number of passengers aboard motor coaches, ensuring a comfortable ride and optimal touring conditions for everyone. Seabourn also partners with experts across the globe and even has a partnership with UNESCO, allowing in-depth exploration of World Heritage Sites around the globe.
Oceania, on the other hand, gets glowing reviews of its culinary-focused shore tours that introduce cruisers to the food and wine of the destination.
Choose Oceania if you're a foodie and you want shore tours that focus on food, wine, craft beer and more.
If you love food and wine and you're always interested in trying the specialties of the regions you sail, book any of Oceania's Culinary Discovery Tours. These tours -- some accompanied by a master chef -- take you to local produce, fish or spice markets so you can learn about the region's food supply and get a traditional recipe or two to try at home. You might also tour a winery or brewery, take a cooking class or visit a famous patisserie. Many tours include snacks or even a meal.
Choose Seabourn if you want to experience more in-depth excursions with Ventures By Seabourn.
If you're the type that really wants to dig into the destinations you visit, look for excursions labeled Ventures By Seabourn. With this program, the line puts together a team of naturalists, scientists and historians that come together on the sailing to bring added value to passengers.
This extends to the shore excursion program, where designated tours are led by a member of the Ventures By Seabourn team. Excursions may have you jumping into a Zodiac for scenic cruising or boarding a sea kayak for a more physical experience. Some of the tours will afford you once-in-a-lifetime adventures, such as sea kayaking in Antarctica to see penguins, or hopping in a Zodiac in Greenland to see icebergs and Iceland to see puffins.
Both lines offer some pretty spectacular staterooms, but Oceania comes to the table with several cabin categories that are smaller than Seabourn's entry-level Ocean View Suite, which is available aboard Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. But if you can book a Penthouse or higher aboard an Oceania ship -- especially on the newer and larger O-class ships, Marina and Riviera -- the digs will be more comparable to what's on offer from Seabourn.
Choose Oceania if you want the most variety in cabin categories.
Oceania Cruises offers a wide range of cabin categories, including inside staterooms. (No Seabourn ship offers inside cabins.) Oceania has ocean-view, veranda and Concierge-level veranda staterooms, plus suites (Penthouse, Vista, and Owner's, plus the Oceania Suite on Marina and Riviera).
Square footage varies and allows you to really select a cabin that's right for you based on your circumstances. If you only use your cabin as a place to rest your head at night, you can pay the entry-level rate and still have a premium experience elsewhere on the ship. Even the least expensive cabin onboard the ship has Oceania's exclusive Prestige Tranquility bed with two-inch-thick, gel-filled pillow top (yes, it's a really comfortable bed!), and the bathroom is outfitted with Bvlgari soap and hair care products. The room steward will also leave some delicious Belgian chocolates in your room at nightly turndown.
Oceania ships also have beautifully designed and decorated suites with bonus inclusions for those who want to go all-out.
Choose Seabourn if you want plenty of elbow room and pampering in an entry-level suite.
All accommodations aboard Seabourn ships are referred to as "suites" and they are all ocean view. (Most even have a veranda.) Entry-level, 295-square-feet Ocean View Suites are available aboard Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest. The Veranda Suite, measuring between 246 and 302 square feet (not including balcony space), is the entry-level suite aboard Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.
Compare that to Oceania's R-class ships, which offer ocean-view cabins that are just 143 square feet. You'd need to upgrade to a suite aboard any of those ships before getting the same amount of space Seabourn offers in its entry-level accommodations.
Everyone gets a free welcome bottle of Champagne plus a stocked bar with up to two selected spirits, wine and soft drinks. You'll also find personalized stationery and bath products by Molton Brown. Upper-tier suite residents get extra perks, such as free Wi-Fi.
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Oceania fans rave about the specialty restaurants found onboard and also have great things to say about the main dining room. Seabourn loyalists say you can't compare the two lines when it comes to cuisine; they insist Seabourn is a cut above. But it's fair to say that foodies will find plenty to keep them happy on both ships. Here's why.
Choose Oceania if you want a lot of choice at mealtime.
Oceania puts great emphasis on its dining venues, emphasizing variety, quality and no fees for specialty restaurants. Marina and Riviera dedicate an incredible amount of space to the galleys and provisioning store rooms to ensure that nothing is shortchanged when it comes to meals.
The R-class ships each have two additional eateries: the Polo Grill steakhouse and Italian restaurant Toscana on most, and Tuscan Steak and Asian Red Ginger on Sirena. The two O-class ships offer four: Polo Grill, Toscana, Red Ginger and Jacques, a French bistro starring the cuisine of Jacques Pepin. A wine-pairing dinner at La Reserve (in conjunction with Wine Spectator) takes place aboard Marina or Riviera. (It's the only meal that carries a surcharge, and you're mainly paying for the wines.)
Across the fleet you'll find the Grand Dining Room, highlighting global cuisine, and two casual venues, Terrace Cafe and Waves Grill. The line offers a robust menu for vegans and vegetarians, as well as lighter dinner options designed by the Canyon Ranch Spa.
Choose Seabourn if you love American cuisine but enjoy sampling international cuisine as well.
The Seabourn fleet has fewer restaurants than Oceania ships, but that doesn't seem to bother Seabourn loyalists. The restaurants all use the highest quality provisions, have interesting menus and are run by maitre d's and wait staff that are the best in the business. You'll find tremendous variety in the menus onboard Seabourn ships.
Seabourn's partnership with Thomas Keller (the chef in charge of New York's Per Se and Napa Valley's The French Laundry) brings an emphasis on American cuisine. The Grill by Thomas Keller, found fleetwide, brings the classic American chophouse to life aboard all Seabourn ships. Dishes inspired by Keller are found on The Restaurant's menus and take over The Colonnade for family-style dining on select evenings. The poolside Patio features artisanal burgers and hot dogs by Keller, in addition to other casual grill fare.
At dinnertime, The Patio aboard Seabourn Ovation transforms into Earth & Ocean. Menu items, which change nightly, call on recipes from around the world and will be served to passengers dining at candlelit tables. Cheese and dessert courses are designed to be shareable. Earth & Ocean will roll out to all Seabourn ships by spring 2019.
Or if you want to experience the line's signature "Caviar in the Surf" beach barbecue.
One of the unique and fun activities presented by Seabourn is its once-per-cruise "Caviar in the Surf" beach party (or deck party in cooler climes). It's a favorite among guests who like to indulge in fine Champagne and caviar while relaxing on a warm, gorgeous beach.
You'll want your cameras ready for this one, as uniformed Seabourn crew members plunge into the water to deliver flutes of Champagne from a surfboard. A caviar bar is also set up on the board, and everyone ends up gathering around, eating, chatting and laughing as the waves crest to and fro. It's a fun experience, even if you don't like caviar. (And remember, you can order caviar anytime on a Seabourn ship, and it's free.) The Caviar in the Surf extravaganza is usually paired with a beach barbecue when the ship is in tropical regions.
Oceania and Seabourn ships definitely have a different onboard vibe, which is particularly noticeable when you compare the entertainment options available. Oceania offers more structured daytime entertainment options such as cooking classes and art projects -- especially aboard its O-class ships. If you love water sports, Seabourn is the winner since all of its ships (with the exception of Quest) have an onboard marina. In the evening, most cruisers will tell you that Seabourn has the edge when it comes to theater shows and performances by onboard musicians.
Choose Oceania if you love learning to cook something new or want to use your creative side in an art studio.
If you want to take part in structured classes, pick a sailing aboard either of Oceania's O-class ships, Marina or Riviera. These ships offer two special entertainment complexes. The Culinary Center provides passengers with individual cooking workstations in a state-of-the-art teaching facility. Chefs from around the world help cruisers hone their techniques while teaching them new recipes, with themed classes such as "Rethink the Crepe" or "Brunch Comforts."
Alternatively, you can take free classes at the Artist Loft, instructed by an artist in residence. You can learn from the artist and try your hand at creating your own work of art throughout the voyage.
Choose Seabourn if you prefer a greater variety of activities.
When you sail with Seabourn, your daytime hours can be as structured or unstructured as you want. Check the daily program for events including bridge, lectures, dance classes, cooking demonstrations and even free mini-massages on deck by the pool. Hit the pool deck for swimming or lounging in one of the hot tubs; on select itineraries, you can also while away your time at the ship's retractable marina where you can swim or borrow a personal watercraft. On port days, you might even be able to accompany the chef to a market where he or she will do a bit of shopping for the ship.
Or if you enjoy high-quality evening entertainment.
In the evenings, you can enjoy performances by musicians in the lounge or attend a Broadway-style show in the theater. Head to the Grand Salon to watch the complimentary "An Evening with Tim Rice," a concert-style presentation complete with singers, anecdotes on screen from Mr. Rice himself, and other visuals.
First debuted on Seabourn Encore's inaugural voyage and now playing on all Seabourn ships, the production shares how favorites, such as "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and the Lion King's "Hakuna Matata," were created by the award-winning songwriter. This presentation is a showstopper and nearly everyone enjoys it.
Additionally, the live music in all of Seabourn's lounges tends to be of a high quality. So if you love enjoying a drink while listening to talented musicians, you can't go wrong with Seabourn.
Neither Oceania nor Seabourn are a match made in heaven for families -- mainly because none of their ships offer dedicated kids clubs, supervised children's activities or babysitting. While Seabourn doesn't promote the fact, it will bring a kids counselor on the ship if a large number of families have booked passage on a particular voyage. On those very limited sailings, families will be notified of kid-friendly activities.
Choose Oceania if you want to visit Alaska and have kids in tow.
While Oceania doesn't normally offer programming for children, it does in Alaska. Sail from May through September and your kids can take part in the line's Alaska Explorer Youth Program. Designed for kids ages 5 through 12, the program is supervised by experienced youth counselors that lead Alaska-inspired activities, games and special events.
Choose Seabourn if you're traveling with adult children or a multigenerational group.
Seabourn's ships make great home bases for multigenerational trips or when you're traveling with your adult children. There is so much for older families to enjoy, from the retractable aft marina where you can borrow personal watercraft like kayaks or paddleboards, to Seabourn Square, where you can grab a cappuccino and pastry while planning the day ahead. There's also an incredible pool deck, and additional hot tubs can be found throughout the ship.
Casual venues -- Earth and Ocean at The Patio, The Colonnade's Market Dinners and Thomas Keller family-style dinners -- are ideal for younger cruisers who get tired of long, more formal dinners. A variety of connecting suites and rooms that can sleep three accommodate families wishing to stay together.
Choose Oceania for more control or customization over where your money goes, more choices in cabin types (especially if you need a more budget-friendly, entry-level option), if you prefer food-centric activities and shore excursions, and if you like bigger ships.
Choose Seabourn for excellent evening entertainment, a chance to experience the line's signature Caviar in the Surf event, and for overall pampering. Seabourn is known for incredible service and intimate ships so if you want to feel like a prince or princess, Seabourn is the line for you.