Seabourn Spirit - Eastern Mediterranean: Seabourn Spirit Cruise Review by Valorie

Seabourn Spirit 2
Member Since 2010

Overall Member Rating

Seabourn Spirit - Eastern Mediterranean

Sail Date: June 2006
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Istanbul
Having traveled on Renaissance and Seven Seas cruises before, I was expecting our Seabourn trip to be in the same league. I was sadly disappointed. I sincerely hope that the problems we faced are not endemic to Seabourn overall. Perhaps we are setting very high expectations that our experience would be like our Renaissance and Seven Seas cruises, but those are the lines to which Seabourn is compared to in the literature. As my husband says, Its almost perfect but the almost is like a pebble in your shoe  no matter how lovely the scenery, the pebble ruins everything.

Our experience was sufficiently bad that I spent $60 to write a three page letter to the Hotel Manager to let him know of our displeasure. I did get a meeting with him, but the only result of the meeting was that the $60 I had spent for the privilege of using Microsoft Office to write the complaint letter was refunded. I got the distinct impression that we were meeting solely so that he could say he had More dealt with my complaints. He said that he had forwarded the complaint to the Seabourn offices, but after almost two weeks, we have heard nothing from the company via phone, email, or mail.

Service and Staff Tensions: While the service on board the boat was excellent, it often verged on being overbearing. Its one thing to bring drink refills promptly and without being asked, but some of our group (there were eleven of us traveling together) couldnt get the staff to stop opening our butter and jam containers. It was lovely having the staff know us by name, and we had many lively discussions with them. The staff eagerly joined in as our three twenty-somethings decided to make it a game to see if they could get from the buffet to the table without being helped. The sense of humor and playfulness of the waiters was a huge part of the enjoyment of the cruise. As we became more familiar with them, we found out that on a previous cruse, the service had not received a 10 which required all waiters to work an additional three hours per day until the rating improved.

Our tour of the galley with the chef also underscored the tension between the staff people and the management. The ships are small and only have storage room for 7 days. This means that longer cruises have quite the challenge remaining provisioned. In one port, the food did not arrive because the originating airport was closed due to bad weather. The food arrived at the local airport just as the ship was scheduled to leave but the captain was unwilling or unable to wait 45 minutes for the food to be delivered. No surprise that the food rating was severely depressed but it was clear from the chefs discussion that he had gotten no support in solving the situation that was clearly not in his control. Tours: Make sure you bring your own tour books for each stopping place on the tour since the information presented on the boat is minimal at best and the tour descriptions require you to have an understanding of the places you will see. The live tour overview offered nothing more than the information in the written description. Other cruises have had that overview being invaluable in deciding which tours to go on and have included things such as photos or personal recollections. I was passing by the tour office at some point on the ship and overheard the cruise director comment to a fellow shipmate that she didnt like any tour over two hours so she hadnt participated in any of the tours the boat offered. This explained why the tour descriptions are boring and incomplete. Since the cruise director apparently hasnt gone on the tours nor has contacted anyone on the tours to get additional information, she couldnt offer any insights. It seems to me that if the cruise director doesnt want to attend the tours, she ought to at least ask tour participants for their highlights of the tour to add to next years tour descriptions.

Tours are a decidedly mixed bag. Some tour guides are excellent while others appear to be unknowledgeable or do not understand any English not on their script. While the boat may be in port for 6 or 10 hours, guests are only allowed to choose one 3-4 hour tour per port. Some ports only had one or two tour options. The remaining time in port, guests are expected to shop. Our tour had us in towns during the mornings. This was wonderful from the standpoint of avoiding the heat, but lousy from the standpoint of visiting the culture. The Seabourn Experience was a folk music festival in Korcula. It was the only tour available for that port. We were in port for 6 hours, but the two-hour Experience was from 8-10AM. There was no real reason the Experience couldnt have been scheduled later since everything in the town was closed by noon and wouldnt reopen until 4pm.

Our experience in Santorini was pretty typical. The boat was scheduled to be in Santorini from 8am until 4pm. There were two tours we wanted to do but all tours were only offered in the morning. We opted to do the volcano tour in the morning with other guests and scheduled a private version of the other tour. Initially, the tour office on board the boat told us we couldnt schedule any private tours because the cost would be prohibitive. It took me three tries (the final try included bringing the cruises newsletter to the cruise office because it stated that private tours could be arranged through the tour office) to get the tour arranged. It was expensive, but we really wanted to see the Monastery and the Archeological museums. The tour office did not tell us that the Monastery was closed to visitors and the morning tour was merely a photo op for surrounding vistas, nor did the tour office tell us that the Archeological museums are closed on Mondays. The two primary objectives for our private tour were not available but the tour office did not communicate that to us. Our tour guide was given the wrong time to meet us (12:45 rather than 1:15) and ended up taking us to Oia, abandoning us to shop for an hour, then taking us to a winery. The transportation for our four hour tour was a bus with an air conditioner which leaked so badly the seat underneath it was literally dripping water onto the floor of the bus.

The volcano tour was wonderful! Too bad the tour office didnt know that after the hot walk up to the volcano, guests were taken to a local hot spring to go swimming. One of the guests on this tour was the ships nurse and she didnt know about the swimming either. Had we had swimsuits and towels, we would have gladly gone swimming. The Ship: The ship is a typical high-end cruise ship. The ship is very small so there isnt much variety. In our case, the excellent DVD and CD library saved the nights. The dance was excellent, but most evening entertainment didnt start until 9:30 or 10pm and with tours that all started at 8AM, we just couldnt stay up waiting for entertainment to start. The rooms are large and spacious, but you are responsible for storing your own luggage. Our wheeled suitcases didnt fit under the bed so they ended up occupying a corner of our room.

When we scheduled our cruise, we booked 5 rooms of which two needed to be adjacent so we could be near our two kids (ages 12 and 14). We had requested the staterooms that could be opened to make a double stateroom. All of our early confirmations showed us in the double staterooms. The final tickets, however, had our kids across the hall and up a room. When we alerted the staff, they said theyd see what they could do but said no one was willing to switch with us. On the Thursday of the cruise, we met the couple next door to our kids. They also have kids of similar ages who were not traveling with them and would have been pleased to switch rooms with us but were never asked. Good news is that our kids were excellently behaved according to this couple, but it made us feel very uncomfortable.

A month after we scheduled our cruise, we needed to add an additional person into one of the rooms. We contacted Seabourn who talked with their finance division and said it was no problem. What they neglected to do was to inform us that the third person would be sleeping on a couch. Not a pull-out couch like they indicate is available in a double suite, but a regular couch. The maid said that the roll-away bed was less comfortable than the couch but she would bring it if they wished. The maid also said that she would make up either bed each day so they could choose. They gave up trying to get a third set of towels, blankets, sheets, and robe after three days and just endured.

The ship did publish a newsletter every evening. It included a ships schedule, articles, the daily encouragement to book your next cruise, and sometimes a sheet describing the next port. Delivery of the newsletter was spotty with one of our five rooms never receiving a newsletter without explicitly requesting one. Others of us got parts of the newsletter but not all of them. We quickly learned to share our newsletters at dinner to ensure that everyone in our group was aware of what was happening the next day. The newsletter was, on the whole, appreciated. However, any on-ship event you wanted to attend you needed to confirm the time directly. Yoga might be listed at 8am in the newsletter, but the instructor was getting a massage at that time so class got moved to 9. The cooking demonstration by the chef was listed in the newsletter as starting at 11:45, on a separate note as starting at noon, and actually started at 11:30. The galley tour was scheduled to start at 4 in the daily schedule and at 4:15 in the article in the same issue.

The ship does offer a laundry room. There are two washers and two dryers as well as the iron and ironing board. Guests are not allowed to iron in their rooms but the ironing board prohibited the washing machine doors from being able to open fully. I am not a svelte person, but when I saw my size 2 niece having to climb over the door of the washing machine, I realized that I was not the issue.

We did try to get into Seabourns pre- and post-cruise options but the website didnt indicate that any would be available. We finally made our own pre- and post-cruise hotel reservations at the end of March but since we were not participating in Seabourns options, we were not able to utilize Seabourns luggage service nor could we participate in Seabourns tour of Venice. We did find out that pre-and post-cruise options were available on the website in early May, but six weeks before departure was too close for our comfort level. We gave up trying to get information on where the ship would be docking in Istanbul or Venice and had to trust that the hotels would know.

All in all, this was a disappointing trip. Given our eleven travelers, we spent a lot of money for not a lot of fun in our vacation. Less

Published 07/24/06

Cabin review: 128

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