My wife and I were on the December 6th 14-night Caribbean cruise, from FLL to FLL. This was our sixth Seabourn cruise, and many of the familiar satisfactions were in place. A fine crew dedicated to making you happy, an aging ship, but one kept in very good repair, a vivacious CD who amped up trivia contests, a significantly improved array of wines, assuming you chose with care, the familiar and very generous suites with an attentive stewardess (thank you, Nash.)
But then there was the food.
Restaurant 2 was fine and interesting. The Colonnade was more hits than misses, including a Thomas Keller bbq rib offering that was very good indeed. The Thomas Keller Napa burger at the Patio Grill was memorably better than its predecessor, as was the hot dog.
But, most evenings one would head to The Restaurant. And disappointment.
On our first evening we chose from the TK menu, having sat down at 7:30. More than a hour later, our server informed us that the chosen appetizers were 86. We made alternate selections and the first food arrived at 9:00pm. Very little that was proffered at the Restaurant was the experience you hoped for. Soup invariably arrived luke warm, meat ordered medium arrived rare, meat ordered well done arrived rare. Fish asked to be cooked through wasn't. Side dishes of vegetables came in little domed pots, which helped maintain their (barely) room temperature. Twice a souffle essentially under cooked.
One Thomas Keller entree of lobster was quite interesting. A lobster tail flanked by two pieces of lobster meat, the latter tender and delicious. But the contents of the tail defied removal, whether by gouging, slicing, prying or chopping.
Being gregarious, we usually asked to share a table, and often found ourselves seated with folk on their first Seabourn cruise.Which put us in the unenviable position of having to apologize, explaining to the newbies that "this isn't typical of Seabourn. Really."
When you pay a premium price you should reasonably expect a premium experience. So what caused The Restaurant to become a disaster area?
Well, one (partial) explanation is that a new computer ordering system was being introduced, and at least some wait staff were using mini-pads to enter food orders. Which was fine if you wanted an item exactly as described on the menu. But if you asked to substitute one vegetable for another, or dressing on the side, or any one on the countless variants that one might request, the server froze and the mini-pad became more of a barrier than a catalyst. Another problem may be the parallelism of a Thomas Keller menu side by side with the regular one. Anarchy in the galley, perhaps?
With many satisfying SB cruises to look back on, we can more easily assay this cruise as one in the midst of changes at Seabourn. Changes which will probably make us happy to cruise with Seabourn in the future.
But we might wait to see some positive reviews of the integration of Thomas Keller with The Restaurant.
Excellent as always. Odyssey is aging, but very gracefully.