Being past Seabourn clients, we wanted to test drive this new ship and with a great price on offer for the first leg of its inaugural run, couldn't resist signing up even though the itinerary was not super enticing.
Took the Flight Ease program as well for convenience as finding our own flights out of Dubai was a bit of a challenge - and we were well rewarded for it. The very competitive price included an overnight at Athens at the Grande Bretagne and overnight in Dubai at the Intercontinental Festival City.
The ship was beautiful, without a doubt. Wide corridors, standard veranda suites were spacious compared to the older ones in this fleet. Public areas also well designed. Usual layout for Seabourn Square with the Baristas working away from 5:30am to late in the evening offering all kinds of coffees including alcoholic ones!
Dining room very attractively done although the much flaunted chandeliers were probably lost on us. Thomas Keller had its own restaurant on deck 8 rear and often even outside the Thomas Keller restaurant, there were theme nights in the Colonnade that featured Keller ideas and in the Restaurant, there were samples of his dishes. The Colonnade was well done and more attractively designed than in the other Odyssey type ships. There was even a Sushi restaurant offering very good fare accompanied by hot or cold sake. The Club on deck 5 seems smaller but each night, the energetic quartet played songs from the era of the majority of the passengers.
The shows were quite good, comparable to other smaller ships in terms of variety and quality. One Beatles era show drew many in the audience to get up and dance and was probably the best received of all the presentations.
The last night in Muscat was one where we were treated to a typical Seabourn affair : meet the crew and poolside dancing with very nice appetizers pre dinner.
Service was up to its impeccable Seabourn standards. They no longer nauseate you with repeatedly calling you by your name within 1 day of boarding but there is no doubt that the wait staff is expected to know who you are within a short time of embarcation.
The cruise director Handre was a veteran at his job and was the consummate cruise director: professional, affable, humorous but not obtrusive in any way. His assistant, Jacqueline was almost as good and was obviously his protegee.
After an expectedly popular shore excursion at Petra, in typical Seabourn fashion, some 200 staff lined up to greet the returning guests as they got off the buses by the gangway, accompanied by music and cheering even though it took place late afternoon in the brisk wind. You can't forget things like that.
Having said all these good things, I have to mention the bad.
1) There were no guest laundry on board! none were planned for. The majority of the passengers just shook their heads in astonishment. When you are on board for 16 or more days, on a cruise line that like the rest of the industry always provided laundries for their guests, it was an eye opener. Oh sure, you can send out your laundry at $50 a bag.....
2)The Sushi restaurant, although open for lunch, did not serve sushi except at dinner ! You can only have Bento boxes......They never ever made that known on the daily dining venue list. Incomprehensible.
3) Underneath the outdoor dining of the Colonnade (which was located on 9), there was a similar al fresco dining area also belonging to the Colonnade. This was barely used as few knew of it and fewer wanted to walk up to 9 to get their food from the buffet. The concept was puzzling. Furthermore, the outside area was 90% covered, so that sun lovers that choose to dine alfresco has to contend with shade.
4) Our suite had double sinks that would not drain properly, and it took 2 days before they were adjusted to useable conditions. Also a non-functioning bedside light took 3 days to be remedied. The day after it was repaired, we had a knock on the door in the afternoon and there were two engineers who came to fix the already fixed light.???
5)The eating area (The Patio) on the pool deck was placed on the aft end of the pool deck and so when the ship was sailing, any breeze was magnified at that end of the deck. If the tables and the serving area had been located on the bow end of the pool deck, we would have had more meals there. We had the most delicious steak and Nigerian prawn dinner there one evening. All the more ironic since the previous night, we ate at Thomas Keller and had a tough and less than mediocre rib eye steak.
6)The Thomas Keller restaurant was a tremendous disappointment to us. We were not alone in that opinion. One is greeted with a dose of pompous air when arriving for dinner. The menu is not extraordinarily varied. The wait person immediately pointed out the wine list (not mentioning that one could have the many complementary wines that are available on board) encouraging extra charges in the name of "Thomas Keller thinks that these wines pair better with his dishes". We ate there twice and there were less airs the second night but we remained unimpressed with the whole thing. I would never eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant again.
7) The very last comment refers to The Retreat. On deck 11, where there used to be an open area with golf putting and loungers has all been enclosed by a series of cabanas with a private hot tub. The passengers had the choice of paying a significant premium to be pampered for half or a full day. That became an immense white elephant. I don't think it ever paid for its overhead during our time on board. Just think about it, if all your drinks are free and you have several hot tubs elsewhere to use as well as a spa that offers a variety of treatments already, Which business school to you have to go to in order to realize that it makes no sense to build this area? Several passengers in private conversations suggested that they should convert the cabanas to laundries for the guests.
In addition, we were pleased to see lots of outlets for 110v North American plugs
Bed and pillows very comfortable.
Bath was configured somewhat strangely. Separate shower good.
Cabin sitting area very spacious
We were surprised that a new ship still used paper "make up suite" signs when even the older ships of Crystal had electronic door signs. Door bell quite quiet and you may not hear it if the TV was on.
Climbed up to the top of the Baha'i Gardens
Tiring but well worth it. Glad it wasn't during summer