On 11/11/17 my 89-year-old mother and I disembarked Seabourn Odyssey after a 12-day Caribbean cruise. It was our first Seabourn cruise. Most of my cruises have been on Holland America (700+ days), Regent (200+ days), Celebrity (80+ days), Viking Ocean (50+ days) and I have cruised on many other lines but not Silversea or Crystal.
This cruise was selected since I only had a three week window of availability in which to find a cruise that would meet my mother’s needs – in and out of the U.S. on a small luxury ship with standalone showers (or preferably a handicap cabin but none were available on any possible cruise option when booking only three months prior to sailing). We usually book cruises at least 18 months in advance but mom wanted to go on something sooner than her next booked cruise in February 2018.
MUSTER DRILL – On other cruise lines passengers that use walkers and wheelchairs meet in a special place for muster or they are told to come down early or there is a special way to handle it. I called Guest Services and was told mom could stay in the cabin per the Safety Officer. I had never heard of this before and repeated it two different ways and kept being told that I should attend muster and mom didn’t have to. Mom was happy with that and changed into her spa outfit for her 5 PM massage. I was shocked to see her wheeled into The Restaurant in a Seabourn wheelchair during muster. She was embarrassed due to her attire and I was also miffed that her own transport chair wasn’t used. After muster was over mom told me that the steward that was pushing her didn’t believe her when she said that Guest Services told her to stay in the cabin. I went to Seabourn Square to talk to a representative and the Guest Services Manager came to meet with me. She told me that I must have misunderstood what was said since every guest must attend Muster. I told her I didn’t misunderstand anything since I was the one that kept repeating, in different ways, what I had been told. The Guest Services Manager apologized for the miscommunication but continued to believe that I misunderstood. Two hours later a representative of the Safety Officer called to find out when the Safety Officer could come to the cabin to give mom her personal instruction since she was told not to attend. I think the miscommunication was between the Safety Officer and the stewards checking the cabins!
BEVERAGES – We were both looking forward to Seabourn since it was a new experience. Mom especially was interested in ordering the caviar whenever she wanted as well as the champagne! She really liked the caviar and ordered it three times and enjoyed the champagne, too. Alas, my beverage of choice is water, and I drink a lot of it every day, so when I am on a cruise where beverages are included, I drink room temperature bottled still water.
I was unable to get room temp bottled still water twice at Coffee Bar and The Club. It was also challenging to get it in The Restaurant. I solved this by carrying around a 1.5 liter bottle of water most of the time. Bringing in my 1.5 liter bottle of water from our cabin actually caused a problem at The Grill by Thomas Keller. The waitress said she had to go check with her manager to see if I could keep the bottle of water on the table. This was a bottle that I brought in!! I explained that I better be “allowed” to keep the bottle of water or we would leave. She checked with her manager and lo and behold, I was allowed to keep the bottle of. Other than that one issue at The Grill, we enjoyed our meal so much that we went back a second time. Those two meals were the highlight of our dining experience on Seabourn.
I do not drink caffeine but sometimes I do like to drink a fruity, decaf hot tea. However, Seabourn does not have any fruity teas. The crew tried to give me mint and hibiscus teas but neither of those are fruit as far as I’m concerned. They also gave me orange pekoe tea. I realize it is my fault for not inquiring in advance on what type of hot fruity tea is available, but all of the other cruise lines I have ever cruised on have had at least one kind of fruity, decaf tea such as cinnamon apple, cranberry apple, orange spice, etc. so it never even occurred to me to ask in advance.
It is interesting to note that on Day 10 I was told that there were no more travel lids available for the paper cups at Coffee Bar. This was confirmed by a receptionist at Seabourn Square who called someone and was told that they wouldn’t be replenished until we docked in Miami. On Day 12 we docked at 7 AM and by 8 AM the lids were available at Coffee Bar. I’m not sure that they were truly replenished first thing that morning, but that is when they became available again.
CABIN – We had a Veranda Suite on deck eight. Our stewardess, Kudzi, did a fine job and we had absolutely no issues with the cabin or the housekeeping. Our only request was to have raspberries and strawberries every day which she delivered daily around 1 PM. We also asked for a night-light for the bathroom and were given two battery-operated candles that did the job in addition to our own nightlight plugged in under the vanity mirror outside the bathroom. The cabin was smaller than a Celebrity Sky Suite or a Holland America Neptune Suite but we knew that prior to the cruise and were okay with that.
PORTS – I thought that it was very odd that at every port there was never a crewmember at the bottom of the gangway. When my mom and I would get back from touring, I would climb up and request help for mom. Then I would return to the bottom of the gangway and wait with mom. At the bottom of the gangway Seabourn always had a small canopy with four chairs, a cooler of bottled water and a cooler of wet towels, but no one ever manned that area.
ADA – Mom uses a rolling walker when on the ship and a transport chair (a lightweight “wheelchair” with 4 small wheels) in order to explore the ports. Prior to the cruise I talked to the special services department of Seabourn three times to make sure mom would be able to get off the ship at the nontender ports and I was told that it would not be an issue. She WAS able to get off the ship at nontender ports, however, it was an issue, at least in my opinion! Three of the gangways were very steep and she had to be carried down the stairs. On other ships there are often special gangways for people with mobility issues. However, on Seabourn it seems they only have gangways with steep stairs at some ports. Luckily mom only weighs 110 pounds and her transport chair is 26 pounds. I could not bring myself to watch when the crew carried her down the steep gangway steps. They probably have lots of experience with this, but it seems that there is an easier and much safer way like I have experienced on other ships.
ADA – Another thing to note on the Seabourn Odyssey if you are mobility challenged is that none of the exterior doors are automated. The doors are very heavy and have to be manually opened. Also, the ramp leading from the pool area on deck 8 (by The Patio Grill) to the corridor where the rooms are is a bit steep. I know my mother with her rolling walker could not open any of the exterior doors. I don’t know if someone in a wheelchair could do it on his or her own.
ADA – Also, unlike on Regent were someone is there to help you with your plate at the buffet, that is not the case at Seabourn’s Colonnade. (Even on Holland America if a crewmember sees someone coming into the buffet using a walker, wheelchair or scooter, a crewmember will go and ask that person if assistance is needed.) Mom would push her walker and I would hold our plates and fill them. I would try to juggle them as best I could so that we could eat together but many times I would end up getting her food and then going back for mine. There was one time when the man that ladled the soup carried it to our table and there was another occasion when I was getting dessert at the Colonnade that a crewmember carried it to our table. Otherwise, the five times that we ate at the Colonnade for lunch were a balancing act. We ate in The Restaurant for lunch the first three days of the cruise but found the menu options way too limited which is why we ventured to the Colonnade. Mom does not enjoy buffets since she realizes she is an impediment to others and would prefer a sit down option. The last four days of the cruise I went to the Colonnade and got mom her lunch and brought it back to the room since that was easier. We tried In Suite dining one night but the food was delivered lukewarm.
ENTERTAINMENT – The 9:45PM entertainment was enjoyable, especially the humorist pianist that was brought onboard.
FOOD – The biggest area that we had an issue with was The Restaurant for our meals. We ate breakfast and dinner there every day. We went there every night around 7 or 7:30 and on the first night we asked if we could possibly have the same table and waiter each night and we were told yes. We started out by always sitting at table 61. However, we had four different waiters the first eight nights. Jorge, one of the restaurant managers, told us that one of his waiters had to fly home for a family emergency and another one was in the hospital. I don’t understand how losing two waiters out of an entire wait staff would mean that we would have so many new people wait on us but it did. Every night mom wanted Earl Grey hot tea but her hot water needed to be bottled otherwise her ankles would swell. (We realized this on the third day of the cruise and when she started using bottled water for hot tea, her ankles didn’t swell. I know people say the water on the ship is fine, but this is what she experienced.) Anyway, it was very difficult to get a new waiter to understand that the hot water needed to be from a bottle. Likewise, it was difficult for the waiter to understand that we both wanted to drink bottled still water (the waiter would always start pouring water out of the silver pitcher) and that I drink a lot of it. It was easier if I just carried a one and a half liter bottle of water with me at all times and that’s what I did.
I met with the guest services manager on Day Two because of issues in The Restaurant and due to the issues I had with getting room temp bottled still water at The Club, Coffee Bar and in The Restaurant. On Day Six or Seven I met with Jorge, one of the restaurant managers (who interestingly enough recently left Silversea after 22 years there) and finally on Day 10 I met with the food and beverage manager. Nothing seemed to change after any of these meetings, but at least I let three different people on the ship know about the bad experiences we were encountering in The Restaurant. Towards the end of the cruise, my mother just kept saying, “I’m over it. We’ll be home soon.” as we experienced one problem after another in The Restaurant. I think the main problem was with the kitchen and not the wait staff. Here are some of the problems we experienced in The Restaurant:
I ordered pecan nuts for my breakfast oatmeal and was given pistachios. I then ordered sliced almonds and was given whole, shiny, glazed almonds. I ate one and spit it out since it was so salty it literally hurt my mouth. My mother enjoys salted nuts and insisted on trying one. She also spit it out. When the chef visited our table the next day to apologize, I asked what they are used for. He said that they are used for fish stock and should not have been served to me. By the way, both pecans and sliced almonds are on the breakfast menu. Pistachios are not. A few days later we were told that Seabourn only carries salted pecans since those are what are used for baking. (???) At Carambola Beach a pecan bar was served and salted pecans were not used in it. When I pointed that out to a restaurant manager, we were each presented with a slice of a delicious (unsalted!) pecan pie the next night for dessert.
The nasi goreng at lunch was too salty to eat. We also thought most of the cream soups served at dinner were overly salted, but they were at least edible although we usually chose not to eat them.
A dinner entrée of pork with green apple coulis was missing the coulis. When I asked for it the waiter brought me diced apples and pistachios which was being served with another entrée on the menu and the waiter insisted it was the green apple coulis. I explained that coulis was a puree but never received it.
An arugula salad with tahini dressing was served to my mother completely dry. This was not a special order and was listed on the menu as arugula with tahini dressing. After being shown that it was served dry, the waiter brought her balsamic vinaigrette and insisted it was tahini dressing although we knew it was not. She ate it without complaint and the waiter brought the tahini dressing about 10 minutes later.
My mother is allergic to shrimp and peanuts (not life threatening) and received them on several occasions but since they are non-life threatening allergies we explained many times that she could pick them out of her food and that was fine. One night a butternut squash soup served with scallops and pumpkin seeds was on the menu. Without asking her, the chef decided that due to her allergies she was not allowed to have the scallops or the pumpkin seeds. So, although she was served shrimp on more than one occasion, she was not served scallops or pumpkin seeds.
At the “Chef’s Dinner”, which is a set menu, the dessert had many components. One of the components was frozen chocolate ganache. I asked for just the frozen chocolate ganache and not any of the other components and was told “okay”. What I received were disks of frozen chocolate ganache floating in a pool of melting vanilla and strawberry yoghurt (i.e. frozen yogurt). As the waitress placed it in front of me (and without me saying a word), she told me that she explicitly told the chef that I just wanted the frozen chocolate ganache but was told no.
Because we were so unimpressed with the desserts on the menu, we special ordered a blueberry pie. On the evening that we were to get it (as requested we gave 24 hours notice), we started to leave The Restaurant since it had been 2 hours and 10 minutes from the time we sat down for our dinner. As we were standing up our desserts were delivered – blueberry “muffins”.
Since we had different wait staff almost every night, we would tell them at the very beginning that we wanted to be in and out as fast as possible. There were still three other occasions when we left without getting dessert since we waited at least 20 minutes after ordering our dessert and when it still never showed up we just left.
On two occasions I ordered sambal and mom ordered mint sauce. The waiter repeated each condiment but they were never delivered.
SUMMARY – Mom and I had a good cruise and many of these items are trivial, but when paying what Seabourn charges and after reading many reviews and knowing the crew to passenger ratio is much better than Holland America and Celebrity, we had high expectations. Our expectations were not even close to being met and therefore we will not book another Seabourn cruise. The good news is that I lost a pound on this cruise which has never happened before since I usually gain 5-8 pounds!