This was our second cruise on board Sojourn. Our first was an excellent experience so much so that we were a little nervous returning. Would this trip live up to the previous experience?
Fireworks look amazing because you aren't expecting them. You know you're going to see some and the organisers use flowery words like "extravaganza" in their promotional material but you aren't exactly sure what will happen in the sky. They light up the night sky, you see colours and shapes for a brief moment then it's all over and hopefully you walk away with a smile on your face and excitement in your voice.
Having been on Sojourn last Christmas we knew what was going to happen. It was like knowing each firework in advance having seen it before. That,"startled in the headlights of luxury" feeling wouldn't be there this cruise. Would it all come crashing down when we knew the script?
The answer is absolutely and unequivocally no. If anything I would say that knowing the ropes helped us enjoy our time on board even more. We didn't feel pressured to use the main dining room for evening meals choosing to take ourselves off to the Colonade a couple of nights for a delightful dinner. Sitting under cover on the back deck in particular was wonderful.
The service was still just as sharp but this time we knew a lot of the people looking after us and more importantly they knew us. Even 12 months on there were a couple of times when we were amazed when a favourite item arrived without our asking. Vladan in the observation lounge remembering a cocktail, Temur and Paul remembering a wine choice.
The food was excellent. Although we ate in restaurant 2 one evening it wasn't to seek out better offerings, merely for a change of scenery. The New Years dinner in the main restaurant for example was spectacular. Chef Neil and his team are at the top of their game and he was to be seen regularly doing the rounds making sure everything was in order.
But the headline act onboard Sojourn is the service. Little moments like Antonio popping down to the square to fetch a coffee whilst I was playing cards by the pool in spite of my saying not to, I'd grab one myself later.
At no time did the staff feel overwhelmed, not even one morning when the world and their mother descended on the Colonnade just before they closed. In fact at no time does the ship it's self ever feel overwhelmed such is the space per passenger ratio.
Last year we had a problem during embarkation, they were so quick we didn't get to have a drink in the check in area! This year we got one but only just, once again the check in process could have been measured in seconds rather than minutes or the hours of some cruise lines.
Speaking of other cruise lines the one area where Seabourn are scuppered from the start is entertainment. Where other ships have gargantuan theatres with hydraulic stages and flying gantries Sojourn has to make do with far more modest facilities. Once again though Handré and his team punched well above their weight. In particular we were delighted to see Sergii and Anastasia the two dancers on board again. They not only put on some amazing shows for us but also helped out around the ship and meeting up again was a genuine pleasure.
The trivia quiz was, as expected full of controversy and inter team rivalry. Sadly we fell somewhere short of winning the key ring but enjoyed ourselves none the less. More successful was name that tune where we stormed to an unexpected victory amongst stiff competition.
As per last year we had a V2 balcony cabin, or suite as Seabourn refer to them. To be fair size-wise it slots in between a Royal Caribbean Junior and Grand suite, worth bearing in mind when comparing prices.
Ports of call this time were ok although we found ourselves in some pretty dire surroundings on a couple of occasions. The overnight stop at Richards Bay was taken amongst coal and scrap metal.
Will be be coming back to Seabourn? Categorically yes. We paid a small deposit on board which gives a modest discount off the next cruise. Our concerns that the sparkle might fade on a second cruise were unfounded. If anything it might have been a better cruise. We met some great people as seems always to be the case on Seabourn. The ship helped us host our own table of new friends on New Years Eve, they even went to the trouble of printing out invitations for us then delivered them to cabins. Once again no additional charges were made.
We met up with some people we had cruised with the previous year. Because Seabourn ships are smaller and there are fewer of them the guests form part of an elite club bumping into each other from time to time. This is particularly the case on special cruises such as the Christmas / New Year trip. Seeing familiar faces and trading stories from the moment you step foot onto the ship really helps you to get into the spirit of things.
If I was to look for fault service in the main dining room was a little slow at times, but probably down to the individual rather than an institutional failing. The menu on the day, when we and other guests arrived probably all played a part and it certainly didn't detract from and otherwise tremendous product. I can't recommend the experience highly enough.
Until the next cruise.....
Much larger than a normal balcony cabin on board other cruise lines.