I love approaching the terminal right before embarkation. The anticipation has been building for so long, the ship is finally in sight, and you’re almost there! But here’s a tip: in Barcelona, Seabourn ships may not be docked with the ... Read More
I love approaching the terminal right before embarkation. The anticipation has been building for so long, the ship is finally in sight, and you’re almost there! But here’s a tip: in Barcelona, Seabourn ships may not be docked with the others. Our taxi driver (who did not speak English… I’m not sure many in Barcelona do) wanted to go where the larger ships usually dock; we had to motion to him to turn around and take us to Terminal S, as in South.
No doubt about it; the Encore is a beautiful ship. I had watched many videos about it beforehand, but it wasn’t until I was on it that I appreciated its design touches. We’ve only been on one other cruise ship: Celebrity Solstice. There is simply no comparison.
I especially love the colored glass accents… the fish in the Observation Lounge, the auburn bottles in the Thomas Keller restaurant, and the chandelier in the main restaurant. These whimsical accents complement the classic, handsome nautical decor throughout the ship.
Who can resist sail away from the first port? You’ve finally made it, with nothing else left to do except enjoy your cruise vacation. We loved the Cruise Director, Chris -- a total sweetheart who is enthusiastic without being over-the-top -- and we appreciate the fact that opera is one of his passions (he has a beautiful voice). But to me, sail-away is the time for fun, get-the-crowd-revved-up music. Instead, we heard opera and more opera -- which can really add weight to the mood. Granted, it was a small point in what was otherwise a lovely experience.
We lucked out being assigned to a suite on Deck 11; I’m grateful to Cruise Critic members who told me, via the boards, that our suite -- the most forward on that deck -- would be quiet. It most certainly was, as the soundproofing was amazing. The suite was comfortable and felt high end. We loved having a walk-in closet. And our cabin stewardess, Patricia, was absolutely lovely and a great representative of the Seabourn brand. She was extremely efficient, a hard worker, warm, and personable.
In addition to the suite, I give high marks to the restaurants with wait staff, especially the main dining room. Not one false note the entire time, and we found the cuisine to be inventive and of high quality. We’re American -- and Thomas Keller fans -- so we loved The Grill. I liked Sushi -- service was a bit uneven -- but we only dined there once.
The Colonnade Buffet has many fresh and appealing options, but no real exciting/offbeat presentations. If you’ve ever been to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s in Las Vegas, you know what I mean: gourmet sliders, red velvet mini pancakes, chicken-and-waffles baskets… that kind of thing. I don’t know why I thought I’d see some of that inventive energy on Seabourn, but that wasn’t the case (not even on our final night, when they touted “epicurean delights” on the pool deck).
I found the 1 o’clock lunch opening of the Patio Grill to be odd and inconvenient. And there’s really nowhere to get a late-night snack (Seabourn Square’s little cafe shuts down pretty early, and even when it was open, its snack choices to be rather sparse and not terribly appealing, IMO). I realize that for night owls with a grumbling stomach, the expectation is to call room service. But sometimes I don’t want to wait. And sometimes, when one person is asleep and the other is hungry, room service is not practical. But believe me, I did not starve.
Booze Flows Freely
I’m not a big drinker on land, so while I definitely enjoyed imbibing on the ship, I’m sure I didn’t get my money’s worth… and that suits me just fine.
That’s because on Celebrity, even though we sprung for the drink package, there was something rather dispiriting about having to proffer my room key to get any little thing, be it a bottle of water or a mai tai. That’s why I loved Seabourn’s all-inclusive policy: you ask, you receive. Simple as that.
My reviews are mixed. I didn’t find Mahón, on the island of Menorca, to be a particularly compelling stop. But the timing of it was good; since it was our first port, I preferred to continue exploring the ship and only walked around outside for about an hour. Corsica was another place that didn’t really hold my interest.
Saint-Tropez was much more of a laid-back beach town than I was expecting. It was OK.
Monte Carlo, Marseilles, and Portovenere (Italy) were very cool and interesting. I’m glad we got to experience them.
Other Things I Loved
The Observation Lounge. We began just about every evening there, enjoying the live music, a cocktail or two, and snacks.
Relaxing just about everywhere. Except for the main pool, which is fairly high energy, there are many places to get away from it all. I found the forward whirlpool on one of the days we were in a port that didn’t interest me; and I hung out in it, without seeing another soul, the entire morning. I liked that there were only about 600 passengers, but I wouldn’t want to go any smaller. As it was, we started running into the same people, and part of the enjoyment of cruising is seeing new faces.
Things I Would Change
I wished that the pools were open later into the evening.
Seabourn’s performers are talented, but the themes of the shows just didn’t hold my interest.
Seabourn Website is old and clunky… could stand an overhaul.
We had a wonderful voyage. We would definitely book on Seabourn again, although we’d also like to give Silversea a try. It’s hard to imagine going back to a mass-market line after such a great experience. Read Less