We just returned from a fantastic Middle East cruise on the Sojourn. The cruise could not have been better despite an ominous start due to a late change in the itinerary which left out all Egyptian ports and substituted them with a second day in Israel, a day in Kusadasi and a day in Mykonos (something we managed to solve by organizing a pre-cruise short trip to Cairo and Luxor).
This was our third cruise on Seabourn (Odyssey in 2009 and Spirit in 2012) and the best one yet. In fact, we saw significant improvements, particularly in the service and in the attention paid to the small details; something we truly appreciate and which makes us much more likely to cruise with Seabourn going forward rather than return to Crystal, our line of choice for the past seven years.
There were approximately 360 pax on the 18 night cruise from Mumbai to Athens. There were as many sea days (mostly at the beginning) as there were port days, which we like, as cruising is our way to see the world but also to recharge our batteries from full-time working lives.
Service - attentive, genuine. From our stewardess Nikolett who was prompt and thoughtful and did many little things to make our experience even nicer, to baristas Monika and Reesi serving lattes at the Square with big smiles on their faces, Maria Paula, Paulo, Eugenio and many others from dining services who were calling us by name and remembering our preferences from day one. Handre, our cruise director, is a gem; always there, always helpful and happy. The officers, including the captain, were all very approachable and congenial. Our stewardess was at our cabin within minutes of us embarking and had a chilled bottle of champagne, a fresh appy and the selection of soaps. I told her I really enjoyed taking baths and she immediately brought extra Molton Brown suds for me.
Cabin - perfect. We had a V6 midship (had booked a V1 guarantee) which proved to be in an excellent location for accessing all areas of the ship. The cabin was spotless, spacious and we particularly enjoyed the walk-in closet which kept all of our clothes and shoes organized and out of the way, and the bathroom with its soaker tub which we really appreciated when we were battling a nasty cold or after a long day in port.
Food. Generally very good, a few excellent meals and a couple of not so good ones. We really enjoyed the Colonnade for breakfast and lunch almost every day; sometimes from the buffet and sometimes ordering a la carte from the set menu. The Restaurant food is mostly very good but is missing something; a bit more creativity in the selections and presentation perhaps? We did not go to Restaurant 2 as the week during which the menu seemed to our liking was also the busiest with lots of long days in port. This is perhaps the only area where we felt there is quite a bit of room for improvement the recent announcement regarding the partnership with Thomas Keller should solve these issues.
Outdoor areas – great and varied. Our very favourite is the whirlpool at the front of deck 6 from where we enjoyed many sunsets with a cold cocktail in hand. There are cold drinks, chilled towels and sunscreen regularly brought about. It is always easy to find a nice spot to lounge with a good book, particularly the areas on aft decks 5 and 7. We (and many others) made good use of the jogging track (deck 5) as the weather was very good throughout.
The Ship – in great condition. Did not see any significant wear and tear, minor maintenance being done all the time. The ship is due in dry-dock in May and I understand they will be mostly adding the “Spa Suites” which the other two ships now have and some fixes to the fitness centre which has poor ventilation/air conditioning and repairing/replacing some of the fitness equipment. Not sure what else is scheduled to be done. I must add that I found the size of the ship just about perfect, nothing more than a couple of minutes away and plenty of venues for everything.
Seabourn Square – handy and pleasant. Great place for an early morning coffee and pastry, reading the news or working on my blog in the comfy recliners at the back. Also the go-to place for anything and everything. Lost my reading glasses? no problem, here is a loaner pair for the rest of the cruise.
Music and Dancing – plenty and good. No shortage of venues and opportunities for dancing or simply listening to the guitar (Eli) or piano player (Wayne).
Entertainment – commensurate with the size of the ship. The shows were enjoyable although not high caliber. The entertainers were talented and pleasant but not extraordinary. Two of the three lecturers on board were very good (one not so much) and had really interesting and well-presented lectures or “conversations”.
Fellow passengers – pleasant and friendly. A nice mix with the majority in their 60s and 70s, a small number in their 50s and almost none below that. Generally lively and active, lots of folks in the gym regularly.
Shore excursions – well done. We did a number of them on this itinerary and found them well organized, every tour guide was knowledgeable and spoke very good English. There was cold water available all the time and the group sizes varied between 15 and 25 or so. Although the ship excursions are more expensive than if done independently, we felt we got value for our money knowing that we were in a region where unexpected events happen (for example the horrible the attack on tourists at the museum in Cyprus the week before we left) and wanted to make sure we would never be left behind if returning late to the ship or get any assistance we could need on shore, for example.
Signature event – Beautiful evening concert at Ephesus. This is a very nice complimentary event put on by Seabourn. Approximately 350 pax attended as the Aegean Chamber Orchestra played a lovely program with the Amphitheatre in the background. Wine was served continuously and small spreads of olives and nuts waited at nicely decorated tables for four. As night falls the monuments are illuminated and the character of the site changes completely from that during daytime. When the concert was over we were loaded onto buses for the half hour ride back to Kusadasi. There was a big “Welcome Home” party waiting on the dock with the band playing, hot chocolate and baileys in Champaign flutes handed out. It was really very nice.
Embarkation - weird. This is the first time we've ever experienced embarkation in Mumbai. Contrary to every other port we've been to, the entire process seemed to be in the hands of the Indian military and not Seabourn personnel. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t great either.
Disembarkation - painless. Got off the ship quickly and just as quickly retrieved our luggage. We had purchased the transfer to the Athens airport (cheaper than hiring a taxi) and it was very smooth.
To summarize, was everything perfect? Of course not, nothing ever is. There was a missed port (Crete) due to losing an entire day waiting to transit the Suez Canal (weather on the Mediterranean was holding up the south-bound convoy). The captain (and other officers) handled the entire thing very well giving timely information and proper explanations when asked. My fish was overcooked one time, every other time it was cooked to perfection. One night I didn’t care for the white wine offered so I asked for another one; no problem.
Everyone’s experience is different however, including a couple who had a horrible start to the cruise when the ship left Mumbai without them two hours earlier than scheduled (they had been delayed arriving from Katmandu but could have made it to the ship had it departed at the scheduled time). They were ultimately satisfied with Seabourn’s handling of the situation and the efforts made to compensate them (they were only able to embark in Oman four days later) and I don’t know how I would have reacted in their circumstances.
A big negative, smoking on board. Even though it did not personally affect us overly much, the smoking policy needs to change; there are still many areas of the ship (including cabin verandas) where smoking is permitted and this often has an impact on non-smokers’ enjoyment of the cruise.
We are looking forward to our next cruise on Seabourn and excited about their upcoming new ships.
V6 midship, an excellent location for accessing all areas of the ship. The cabin was spotless, spacious and we particularly enjoyed the walk-in closet which kept all of our clothes and shoes organized and out of the way, and the bathroom has a separate shower and soaker tub . The veranda is spacious and the furniture comfortable. No noise or any other issues.
We booked a half-day tour with Namaste Tours. From pick up at the airport to delivery at the port the service was excellent and they adapted to our time constraints. Great service, I would recommend them.View All undefined undefined Reviews
The tour was interesting and the tour guide was very good. Visited an interesting museum, an ancient fort, a more modern fortified governor's house and the souk where we purchased frankincense.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Great tour guide, lunch at a local high-end hotel was chaotic but ended up well when restaurant management directed us to a different area of the restaurant where we could be seated and served. Petra is magnificent and a must-see.View All 92 Petra Walking Tour Reviews
Good all-day tour which hit many highlights including the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, the Church of the Dormition, the Mount of Olives, etc. The guide was entertaining and spoke perfect English, nice lunch at an Armenian restaurant.View All undefined undefined Reviews
This was a great introduction to Haifa and Acre. The tour guide was extremely knowledgable and personnable. It was a half-day tour and the highlight was the Crusader Citadel and Tunnel. Highly recommend this excursion.View All undefined undefined Reviews