This was my fourth Seabourn (SB) cruise, and DH’s second, with one prior on the Quest summer 2016 we both shared. We have done a dozen cruises on luxury lines, so the review below compares this cruise with prior experiences, and provides some guidance for newbies contemplating taking a SB cruise for the first time.
We also did a detailed semi-live blog during the cruise, with photos, on the Cruise Critic SB subforum, so if you wish to see more details about the ship and the ports than are provided below, copy and paste this link (or if it does not work, then just search the forum for my entry entitled “Not-quite-live from the Seabourn Quest, Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17). Photos start at post 9.
Overall we were both pleased with our experiences on the Quest on this 16-night “epicurean” itinerary cruise from Barcelona to Dover, 4/15/17-5/1/17 to the interesting ports of Gibraltar, Portimao, Lisbon, Bilbao, La Rochelle, Bordeaux (overnight), Portland UK, Rouen (overnight), Cherbourg (from which we went to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arramanches) and Brugge. However, there remains room for improvement in some of the food, and on some services. We rate it a 4.3 overall on a scale of 1 to 5, (and thus round down to 4 on the overall CC scale). It is still the best overall inclusive, primary English language luxury line we have sailed on so far (comparisons: Silver Sea, Regent, Crystal). We did not think the food and service were quite as good as on Hapag-Lloyd’s (HL) luxury ships Europa 2 and MS Europa last year, however, HL is a line where wine and spirits are not included, where the primary language is German, and which is on average more expensive, so it is not directly comparable.
EMBARKATION: very smooth and easy, almost no waiting, friendly welcoming personnel in Barcelona, large bags were immediately taken. We arrived shortly after 12 PM (though the official embarkation time is 2PM we could get on earlier even though our room was not ready), and then went to a buffet at the Colonnade indoor/outdoor casual dining venue (personnel can hold your hand luggage there for you while you take lunch, or you can keep them at your side). The buffet and service were both basic and adequate, nothing special, but we were happy to have lunch on board before official embarkation time. We found all our luggage already in the suite after we were allowed access around 2:30 PM. We had pre-ordered a foam topper for what we knew would be a relatively hard mattress, and it was put on later that evening after we reminded the stewardess. Muster followed shortly thereafter and took less than a half hour. It simply involved going to the MDR according to our stations where we listened to the safety instructions without wearing the life preservers,and where personnel took roll call.
GENERAL ATMOSPHERE : Relaxing and uncrowded overall, though sometimes cleaning staff yelled personal conversations and joked loudly in hallways. The ship was well-maintained and clean. Smoking was no longer allowed on suite balconies or in the Observation Lounge, just in a couple small designated outdoor areas. Unfortunately a lot of the furniture, although stylish, is uncomfortable for me, but I am very sensitive due to musculoskeletal problems, so I found the stiff main entertainment lounge/Grand Salon chairs, the mostly stiff Observation Lounge chairs, MDR chairs, and especially the in-suite hard couch, unpleasant. To help get comfortable, I would often carry a small cushion with me. Overall, with some exceptions, there was a calm atmosphere and long lines for anything were not common (the long line waiting in the sun for a special cheese tasting notwithstanding).
However, sometimes the Colonnade and MDR had slower than ideal table service at peak hours due to apparent staffing shortages, slower than I have come to expect from luxury cruise lines. All staff I saw, many of whom are of Eastern European origins (and some of whom looked like they belonged on fashion runways rather than carrying vacuum cleaners or drink trays around), seemed to work very hard to keep up, but some lacked adequate training for some tasks, and English skills were variable. There just were not enough staff for peak times (especially in the Colonnade, e.g., once we had a waiting time of over 20 minutes to get sparkling water). Table availability at prime hours was also routinely scarce in the Colonnade and at the Patio Grill, so when combined with the matching service problems, we preferred taking both lunch and dinner in the calmer, quieter, guaranteed-seating MDR if at all possible, which also played calmer music at lunch, and where pax were also more sedate. Passengers we met at optional communal or hosted tables, on excursions and cocktail get-togethers, or in the hot tub (perhaps a biased sample, e.g., with the hot tubbers) were generally pleasant, well-off, well-traveled, and well-mannered, with a few odd and loud or boorish exceptions.
DEMOGRAPHICS.: The ship was full, with the vast majority of pax English speakers from the U.S., (252) followed by Australia (56) and the UK (30), Canada (16), Germany (12), and remaining pax in single digits. Average age seemed to be in the mid to late 60’s, give or take a few years depending on genetics and sun block usage, and I only saw one child pax. Pax were mostly do-everything-together couples, but there were also some couples traveling with other couples or extended family. LGBT pax are welcomed on SB, confirmed to DH after a long discussion with a hot-tubber who has done dozens of cruises with SB and absolutely loves it. Most pax were reasonably mobile, though there were some with wheelchairs and walkers, and appeared to be well-cared for. Some of those pax unfortunately also repeatedly opted to go on group excursions that were clearly marked as not designed for those with significant mobility impairments, and SB did not enforce mobility requirements for excursions. It was hard to spot a solo traveler (which is not surprising, as SB pricing is not solo-friendly), but there appeared to be a few, and they often opted to dine at hosted tables.
DRESS CODE: Pax usually followed the designated evening dress codes, which were most often the very general “elegant casual”, e.g., for men long trousers and a nice collared shirt or a sweater, though many chose to wear jackets without ties to dinner. There were a couple “formal” nights with jacket required in the MDR on which most male pax wore jackets with ties, rather than tuxedos. Blue jeans are officially not allowed at dinner in the MDR. There were a few pax who occasionally showed up for dinner in overly casual clothing which was definitely not “elegant casual”, and they were not turned away, but no one looked like a slob.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE: Food opinions are subjective, but overall we found the food on this cruise very good to excellent in the MDR, good in the Thomas Keller Grill, good at the Patio, mostly just ok at the Colonnade buffets (some exceptions that were very good), ok at breakfast room service, and definitely good enough to do a SB cruise again on the right itinerary. A highlight of our experience was interaction with the wine steward in the MDR, Antoni Pradeep, whose pairing suggestions were excellent, and who also provided us with a list of included wines on my request to help guide our choices. I would not sail again on this ship just for the food experience, even though this was billed as an “epicurean” cruise, but combined with the excellent itinerary and other benefits of SB, it was still a good overall choice for cruising this itinerary. The food quality and variety were not at the level of the food on HL’s Europa 2 and MS Europa on our cruises in 2016. SB had a decently priced but limited special order wine list, though we only resorted to ordering off of it twice as we could typically find an included wine that worked for us with our meals (even though we are from northern California wine areas and can be picky), and ordering off that list was not aggressively advocated either. Included champagne was Nicholas Feuillatte brut reserve, available at will. Wait staff typically came around at dinner and initially tried to push an inexpensive included sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (we sampled all that were offered and only liked one, from NZ) before we had even had a chance to look at the menu, but we simply chose what to order first and then either looked at the lists of included wines to find an appropriate pairing, or talked to the wine steward.
We ate at The Grill restaurant only once, the first night, where they served the new highly touted TK grill menu, included in the fare. It was fine, solid quality upscale American style food, steak, lamb, fish, but nothing spectacularly unique. First came celery sticks with radishes and cucumber pieces and green goddess dressing, all fresh but not unique, as we can get these at home. DH’s steak and my Dover Sole Meuniere were fine. We did not go back, primarily due to the acoustical assaults in that venue, e.g., loud and annoying music pulsated overhead, just as it did last year, apparently to create a 50’s and 60’s cool diner vibe and atmosphere, plus pax and staff conversations tended to be loud and the room has poor sound muffling, so the noise enhanced a sense of stress. I regret that the delightful and unique old R2 small-plates-with-pairings restaurant concept has been discontinued.
The food in the MDR both at lunch and dinner was usually prettily plated, very good and usually interesting, (though basics such as simple steak and Caesar salad were also available nightly), and I found the TK offerings there better than last year. There were only a couple entrees that tasted boring. I enjoyed most of the vegetarian dishes which I tried when I wasn’t very hungry (a state easy to get into on SB due to constant food ingestion), even though I am not a vegetarian. Portions sizes were reasonably small, which suited us perpetual weight watchers fine. The only time I asked for a double portion was when I ordered a steak tartare appetizer and was skipping the entree, but large, young and very active men (on this cruise that would be only crew members and perhaps one other pax DH met who was a mountain climber) might want to ask for double portions right from the start to secure adequate calories.
There were also TK offerings on a few nights in the Colonnade, by reservation only, with only one entree offering per night, e.g., fried chicken, ribs or clam bake, but we did not go this year because last year we had been underwhelmed with the odd ribs-related experience. A few people we met during the cruise who had done the “family style” TK ribs in the Colonnade this cruise, however, greatly enjoyed the experience.
We like trying a little bit of many foods when we travel, so our favorite kind of venue is usually an upscale buffet, but this year due to more limited selections of buffet food, Colonnade crowding and inside noise, plus odds of more significant service problems there which could create annoyance, we preferred the MDR for both lunch and dinner. There was a different official food theme in the Colonnade each day, e.g., French, German, Japanese, Tuscan Market, Baltic night (this was much better than last year), pasta, etc., though not uncommonly the same thing was served at the salad bar and dessert bar day after day, just with a different name. Breakfast buffet was ok for usual English-speaker tastes, but the bread, cold meat and cheese choices put out were more limited compared with on HL, where the buffet is more European style.
We used room service for breakfast when we had early morning excursions, and also a couple other times (e.g., usually between 9:30 and 12:30, when typically no dining venue is open other than room service or SB Square simple little pastry snacks). A room service hamburger was very good, compared with a Patio Grill burger on the patio, excellent last year, this year mediocre. I am not sure what caused the discrepancy.
Room service breakfast offerings were basic, from a list of fixed choices you check outside your door on paper before going to bed, (if you deviate you may receive some comical deliveries), and usually though definitely not always arrived on time.
Breakfast pastries and breads in general on board were improved compared with last year, e.g., on a few days French baguettes were baked, and the rolls trended towards appropriately crispy rather than rubbery like they were last year when we cruised.
Snacks and specialty coffees at Seabourn Square varied in quality, although the offerings did not vary from day to day and were not particularly enticing, but I definitely appreciated having these between-meal options available ( closed 6-9 PM). The calm Observation Bar also offered self-serve coffee (variable quality), tea bags, OJ and little pre-made breakfast pastries at 6:15, for those of us who do not wish to communicate with humans until we have caffeinated. Observation bar and Club snacks we tried before dinner were tasty.
SERVICE The best way to describe SB service this cruise is that it was generally good, though I did find myself getting a bit annoyed with occasional service deficiencies by lower level crew who need more training and understanding of what a luxury cruise is supposed to be. The exceptions often involved violations of the Do Not Disturb sign, the most egregious of which was a woman from laundry services busting into our suite to discuss a minor, non-urgent issue relating to trousers when I was in the bathtub and had a privacy sign up, and then not immediately leaving, but also involved poor communication between staff. Many staff seemed fixated on just doing their specific narrow job and showed a disinclination to get involved with resolving a problem in a way that would best accommodate guest's comfort. I spoke with the empathetic customer care coordinator Melissa Selling about these issues but it is unclear if anything was done by her other than to fill out a paperwork report, as a couple of the issues of concern (some of them comical) continued the next day . Some of the room stewardesses and eating venues personnel were not entirely well-trained or well-organized, and some appeared exhausted, especially at peak hours when they struggled to keep up, so SB would do well to improve training and staffing back to the level they had previously (though this might involve raising prices).
Laundry and dry cleaning services are available on board ($50 per laundry bag stuffed so solidly it could serve as a cosh, 2 day service, 50% upcharge for same-day service on items), nothing was permanently lost or transformed into a child’s size though I did have to pursue a disappeared bag. There is also a launderette for self-serve we did not use, and a clothes-line is available over the tub for drying your own items. You can also get as many towels and pillows as you want for your suite, which this pillow princess definitely took advantage of.
SB Square personnel were friendly, and there were either no or short lines to talk to them. The phone was not always answered immediately, but I only fell asleep once while on hold. When we got home we found a large charge to our on-board credit card to an airline for a person we have never heard of, which was processed immediately after the charge that closed out our bill on disembarkation day, and which we think was likely made in error by SB ( we are pursuing details on this through our credit card fraud protection and with emails to SB customer relations).
SPA, EXERCISE AREA, AND POOLS: loud music played not just in the exercise area , where I would expect pep, but also in the communal manicure/pedicure/hair care area, which was not very relaxing as the customers’ conversations and blow dryers there were also competing for attention, and stressed front desk personnel could be snippy. So I only used the area once (I prefer quiet, solo chambers, with calming music, for manicure service, rather than forced listening to stories about other pax problems, e.g., their split ends or toenail problems. DH frequently enjoyed the relatively private hot tub in the bow on deck 6, which is also a good place to meet people. There were also four other hot tubs (two in the very public area near the main pool, often closed off, and two closer to the smaller pool on Deck 5 aft outside the Club lounge). The pool was nicely heated but not used much. DH also used the fitness center, it was fine, usually uncrowded except at peak time on a sea day, with an ocean view, where nothing was broken and there was a trainer there ready to help who may not have been named Hans or Franz, but should have been.
ENTERTAINMENT was overall pretty good, better than last year, especially for such a small ship, e.g., it featured both popular and classical music by Australian pianist Gary Walz, and also
a female former West End singer with a terrific voice. We went to most of the shows. Brit Davey Howe performed innovative and comedic musical works with trumpet, piano, shower hose, and walker leg and was my favorite. There was a funny British comedian, a not so funny or magical female comedian magician, and a singer who had starred in The Lion King who did an assortment of cool-sexy-guy type covers who was very popular with the crowd. The base SB band itself was very good, and the singers could sing, though sometimes sung boring old songs like The Girl From Ipanema at the Patio. The Trio with sultry singer Emma in the Club should not be missed, if she is there. The entertainment this year was much better than last year on the Quest, which was a positive development.
INTERNET was bad. Ship wifi was usually very slow, and in our suite typically non-existent, a constant struggle, as it often is on ships, even luxury ships. We had opted for the unlimited plan for $399 for the 16 days of the cruise to avoid the stress of sensing the clock ticking and price rising while on-line with a slow connection. Only one person per suite could be on at a time which required some coordination (on HL two could be on, but for comparison there was no unlimited plan, there it was 0.19 Euro/minute). It worked best in the Square and in a fellow pax room directly below a router, which ours was not. We thus relied heavily on our cellular service and created hot spots, to get any major work done ensuite. DH, who is technically inclined, communicated with SB Square three times about the issues, and the personnel there smiled and noted the concerns, but not once was he contacted directly by anyone from IT, (we just got promises there would be contact), only some indirect information was communicated by a non-technical lady SB crew member, and the issues (beyond the issue of speed, e.g., cloud services blocking) were not resolved. Ship wifi was one of the weakest aspects of this ship, and it thus rules out future trips where there would be no escape option to use local cellular, e.g., transatlantic or remote area trips, for people who must have reliable internet access when they travel.
PORTS AND EXCURSIONS
There were no complimentary excursions offered by SB, all were for an extra charge. Most were reasonably priced and ok, some were excellent, a few were poor values. Buses were uncrowded and typically had a max of 26 people on an excursion ( a couple exceptions), and had reclining seats and at least passable AC. Sometimes there was a functional WC on the bus, you never knew in advance when there would or would not be one.
BARCELONA — our embarkation port, where we spent 3 days pre-cruise on our own (we had previously been here for several days before). This popular and excellent bustling port city has a lot to see pre-cruise, or post-cruise if you end here. I would recommend at least four days, and preferably take a private tour of La Sagrada and other Gaudi masterpieces in the area, plus a trip outside to Montserrat, and spend a few hours in the Picasso Museum (go early and buy tickets online if you are not part of a tour, as it gets very crowded). The more off the beaten path Catalonia Museum on a hill has excellent modern and Romanesque art collections, as well as city views and adjacent is a massively sized organ. I could easily spend a full two weeks in Barcelona -- every year!
GIBRALTAR — a very interesting small territory town with a lot of history, owned by Britain. We did the excellent though strenuous (marked level 2 out of 3 by SB but it should have been a 3/3 in difficulty) uphill “City under Siege” excursion, where we toured the military siege tunnels, and also the museum in town where there are restored Neanderthal woman and child skeltons. We also saw the interesting indigenous monkeys of the island roaming about who have a history of their own (e.g., during siege, they were food for troops). Beware of the risk of extra high cellular charges by your cell phone company for this separate “country”.
PORTIMAO — the port itself, which tends to be very warm, was out of town, so other than seeing a closed down sardine factory museum within walking distance nearby (worth a look — the video story in Portuguese with English subtitles is both interesting and humorous), there was not much to do directly near the ship. We were bussed on the “A Taste of Algave” excursion to the seaside town of Alvo (old and new features), which has restaurants and shops both near the water and up an old-town hill, and could be more fun to tour without the time pressures of an excursion, followed by a trip to an unremarkable local winery for a tasting with fish dip and chips. This was not the greatest excursion, but ok for an overview.
LISBON — we were only docked here one day, but this hilly and scenic city deserves at least four days if not more (which I had spent last year prior to another cruise), depending on how many museums you want to see and how much Fado you want to hear, even more if you want to do day trips. We did a non-SB group excursion to the medieval walled town of Obidos, about an hour away, which was fantastic, very scenic, with restaurants and shops, it would make a good full-day trip. We also visited the beautiful Santa Quintana winery for tasting and an upscale lunch, which was fantastic. It would be a good idea for SB to do an overnight in Lisbon.
BILBAO — we toured the modern art Guggenheim Museum on a SB excursion, which everyone should do at least once to appreciate the craziness of four-story flower dogs and a giant metallic arachnoid, which have revived this previously dying town. We preferred spending our elective, non-group time on the higher levels where the art, to us anyway, was more interesting (Kandinsky and Picasso rather than Koons). Next time, we’d also like to send more time walking the city streets of this old Basque town, people-watching, and dining locally.
LA ROCHELLE — we did an excellent full-day 5/5 SB excursion to the little market town of Saintes, (you could spend a day there just shopping and eating and visiting the churches), where I loaded up on the best ham I’ve ever eaten, and after a terrific excursion French lunch at a nearby Michelin-rated restaurant Le Relais du Bois Saint-Georges, toured the Chateau de La Roche Courbon castle, which has beautiful grounds.
BOURDEAUX — here we docked for an overnight right in town, right next to a colorful Sunday food market selling all kinds of delicacies (you may want to skip breakfast on the ship if the market is running), and an easy walk to many interesting sights, several fantastic churches, fountains, and saw the new Wine Museum modern structure which we did not have time to go into. There are many reputedly excellent restaurants and museums in town, and we unfortunately did not have enough time to fully take in and appreciate this city. We did a forgettable (and overpriced at $275/person) SB-sponsored “exclusive” excursion to a winery that was anything but exclusive (70 people were bussed there and played follow-the-leader on the winery tour), with (by French standards) mostly mediocre food, served with some good red wine, on beautiful grounds. It would clearly have been better and much cheaper to book a private winery tour and exquisite French dinner, next time we will know better, or at least ask how many people will be on the “exclusive” tour before booking. We also did an excursion to the very cute town of St. Emilion, where there is a fascinating underground ancient church, and where you could also easily spend a day winding through the little streets, eating, and window shopping.
PORTLAND, UK — the locals here are happy to see cruisers, serenaded us with a uniformed band and fired cannons at sail-away. We did a very nice excursion to the beautiful Minternes estate and gardens, where the 93-yr-old Lord of the house hosted us with interesting stories of the past, and we were then served scones. The gardens are exhiliarting and worth a trip, you could spend the whole day there (I recommend skipping the scones and just head straight for the garden to maximize your time wandering around there, then go down a series of long, gentle paths lined with rest benches, and loop back, a mile or so). We drove past the “Rude Man” Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure on the way back to the ship, but he was off in the distance and his most famous body parts were barely visible.
ROUEN — (overnight). We cruised down the scenic Seine to this out-of-town industrial port, which itself is unremarkable though there is a church and there are some shops, but it served as a base for excursions. We did a late afternoon/early evening excursion to the picturesque seaside town of HONFLEUR (don’t come after 6 or all the museums are closed, or between 4 and 7 as we did, when the major restaurants are closed, if you want dinner, as dinner does not start until 7). Next time we will visit Honfleur without a SB excursion and allow time for a leisurely French meal.
We also did a SB excursion to Monet's GIVERNY Gardens, where much was in bloom. The flowers were exquisitely beautiful, but the place was oppressively crowded, as the venue does not limit ticket sales. It was hard to pass with so many international tourists (including us), many with selfie-sticks keen on getting themselves into staged pictures (absolutely not us), and with super-long waits for the women’s WC, as there were simply not enough toilets for the female components of the crowds. If you have a weak bladder, I recommend going easy on pre-excursion coffee and keep yourself on the thirsty side.
CHERBOURG -- we went on an all-day excursion (1.5 hour + bus trip each way) to DDAY's Omaha Beach, the American Cemetery, and Arromanches-les-Bain, where the “Mulberry” artificial harbor and docks were set up to allow many ships and supplies to dock in Normandy during WW2, and which has an interesting museum with exhibits, multi-lingual tours, and an informative movie. There were also excursions available to other battle sites through SB, e.g., Utah Beach, and Sainte-Mere-Eglise, offered by SB, but we only had enough time for one. The American Cemetery is beautifully laid out, very peaceful, and well-maintained, over 172 acres, with tasteful memorials and graves of 9387 American military dead from the Normandy invasion campaign. It has thousands of crosses and over a hundred Stars of David, all that remains of known and unknown young American soldiers who died in that campaign to liberate Europeans from unspeakable tyranny, including my immediate family.
We did not see nearly as much as we would have liked in this historic place, for that we will need to come back for a full week in Normandy. Our guide was also less than ideal, as he seemed to just go through the motions in his descriptions of the important historical events rather than showing any enthusiasm or true interest in them (I felt like grabbing his microphone on the bus and taking over the narrative), perhaps due to his own background which was almost certainly not on the side of the Allies. Unfortunately on the bus the guide also seemed equally interested in proudly telling us about France’s mandatory 35-hour work week limitations, wonderful social welfare benefits, and humorous driving habits, with perhaps greater fervor than he talked about the events of 1944, and although these were interesting facts, they seemed inappropriate to discuss on this kind of sobering tour. Halfway, the tour stopped for an included group lunch at a nicely located restaurant with a water view where we were served local pate, chicken, and creamy dessert, with plenty of $5.17/bottle Bourdeaux table wine included in the excursion fee. This was overall an ok introduction to this area, considering we were only there for a day, but when we come back (and we must come back) we will almost certainly get a private guide with greater interest in WW2 history. I highly recommend reading Steven E. Ambrose’s book “DDAY”, or similar, to prepare.
BRUGGE. This is a a beautiful city with a lot to see, including canals and chocolate shops, museums and churches, and we booked an excursion to it which SB called “Romantic Brugge” , which was anything but romantic. Unfortunately it was a 3-day weekend and the city was a solid mass of tourists, and it was very hard for us to keep up with our oblivious, insensitive guide who seem to stride briskly to Chopin's Marche Militaire through the city, with senior citizen pax in her group mostly fending for themselves. The excursion was rated 2/3 but should have been 3/3 difficulty given the strain of walking several miles at a brisk pace, with little time, while dodging horses, scooters, carts, baby carriages, Segways, and other fall hazards. The 30-minute canal ride, however, was lovely. I do not recommend this tour in high season or on weekends if you are in any way mobility, cardiac, balance, or pulmonary impaired. If we return, it will be without a group guide, and not on a busy weekend, and on our own (SB offered a busride to and from Brugge without a group tour, which would have been better, but the huge crowds would still have been there in the key areas). I rate this as the worst excursion of the cruise, 2/5, but sadly in one of the most beautiful cities.
IN SUMMARY, we enjoyed the cruise, the itinerary, and generally good SB service, exceptions noted both above and in more detail in my referenced blog. I was a bit disappointed in the decline in quality food offerings and variety in the Colonnade, and in some service deficiences apparent now that I had not seen in 2015 when I did my first two SB cruises on the Odyssey, but was pleased with the improvements in the MDR foods since we were on the Quest summer 2016 and in the TK offerings, breads and included wines. We realize no cruise is perfect, and SB must be compared with other English language luxury lines. We have put down a deposit for a potential future cruise that would give us a 5% discount, but have made no irreversible commitments. We have a few more cruises booked with HL instead of SB on similar itineraries, which we are not canceling, as that is where I thought the overall food and service were 5/5 instead of 4.3/5 like on SB, (and where Do Not Disturb signs were always strictly respected), but as noted, has other disadvantages.
We have posted some pictures of the cruise and the ports in this beautiful, fascinating, and history-rich area, to which we plan to return.
CABIN : We had a veranda suite a bit towards the bow of deck 6, 625, which was clean, spacious enough, and had a mini-bar stocked with soft and hard drinks of our choice. It had a separate deep tub (frequently used) and shower, Molton Brown toiletries (including bath gel for bubble baths), dual sinks that did not leak, and a veranda with two comfortable though cushionless adjustable reclining chairs with footstools and a table. There was a small walk-in closet with a safe, 5 drawers, and hanging space (short and long), and overall adequate storage, though some clothing had to overflow into non-closet drawers. The TV was small, mid-room, and offered in-room music and movie options as well as overviews of the day’s events, performers, and our account, but not the daily menus. The standard SB sofa was unfortunately hard and very uncomfortable, but we salvaged it by putting a little camping Thermarest on the top which I suggest you bring if you are sensitive. The bed was a bit hard and also required advance order of a foam topper for us to get comfortable. There was no in-room coffee machine, as is typical for most ships. Sound insulation between suites was good, but not between the suite and the hallway.
Wonderful port, where we embarked. Many museums, excellent food people-watching opportunities, Gaudi architecture, photograpjer's paradise.
Very interesting history of the sieges and tunnels, plus interactions with the monkeys. 200 meter incline upwards so a bit strenuous.View All 24 Great Siege Tunnels Reviews
Trip to Obidos, a medieval town an hour outside Lisbon, plus an upscale Santa Quintana winery lunch. Obidos is like a museum, beautiful and well-preserved, many shopping and dining opportunities, very nice.View All 29 Private Tour Reviews
Wildly modern building and sculptures and a good collection of modern art. We also walked through old-town Bilbao which was colorful and interesting.View All 18 The Guggenheim Museum Reviews
You can walk Bordeux on your own. The ship was docked mid-city near a colorful open food market. There are many churches, fountains, and shops to keep you busy all day.
A picturesque fishing village with an interesting wooden church, restaurants, shops, and museums. Unfortunately museums had already closed at 6 and restaurants do not open until 7.
The town itself is beautiful, with canals, swans, and historic churches. But it was May Day weekend and much too crowded, hard to relax, and our guide was poor. Very rushed, stressful, though the canal ride was pleasant.