This cruise focuses on the resort areas of southwestern Europe (Spain, Portugal & France.) But we booked it to see a bit of Morocco (Tangier), Cadiz and Cape St. Vincent (where Admiral Nelson famously prevailed over the Spanish fleet). Hailing from Palm Beach, Florida, we don't need to visit beaches or beach towns. Early in the cruise, we took a couple of Seabourn's shore excursions. Each involved a bus ride to see an ancient walled, hilltop town and a walk around the town. Seen one, seen'em all, and traveling in a large group makes it hard to cover much ground (too much time waiting for everyone at public restrooms). In contrast, where we engaged tour guides on our own, we got good guides, who spoke pretty good English, for modest prices. The best was Youssef Sedraoui in Tangier; you can read about him on Tripadvisor.com; although we engaged him in Tangier, he arranges tours anywhere in Morocco.
Many great things have been written by others about Seabourn, and I agree, so I won't gush about the many positives. I offer only one criticism, but it is broad: Seabourn's definition of "luxury" could be more sophisticated. They focus on food & drink, offering higher-end beverages at no extra charge. The staff is delightfully polite and friendly and highly responsive within certain limits, but not quite as responsive to guests needs as in the best hotels (maybe staff insufficiently empowered to make exceptions to accommodate preferences?). We felt we were in one of the better business-class hotels, but not in a 5-star hotel. Of course, facilities like the Spa and the Pool are not nearly as nice as ashore, and entertainment options are limited (one venue, some performances strong & others not so). All this is understandable in a 600-passenger ship. But the question lingers: for similar cost, do you need to endure the limitations of a ship? The thing is, the cost per night for two people (about $1,500 for us in a V6 suite) is comparable to the cost of the mandarin Oriental in Barcelona or a 5-star hotel in New York, with hundreds per day left over for food & drink.
You might be thinking my problem is not with Seabourn, but with cruising. Maybe, but I think that Seabourn could up their performance in terms of service at modest incremental cost, and the scales would tilt in their favor vs. say, of cruising, for us, anyway. This was our first cruise. We are going through the Panama Canal next March on Regent. We'll see how that compares.
By the way, about The Retreat: Encore, at 600 passengers, is bigger than some Seabourn ships and has a new, premium-priced area called The Retreat (a dozen or so cabanas, each with two lounge chairs, a TV and other seating and furnishing). The Retreat generally gets panned by old Seabourn cruisers, mostly because it has no pool, only a hot tub (particularly off the mark in the Med in high summer) and its premium pricing is not in the all-inclusive spirit of Seabourn cruises. We used The Retreat twice, once on a sea day and once on a port day, and liked it, mainly because we hate the crowding of the non-premium pool area. We would use The Retreat again, if we cruised again on the Encore or its sister ship Sojourn.
We haven't been on other cruises, so we can't compare. It seemed to us that our Veranda Suite was as spacious as one could hope for on a ship, and the bathroom, with 2 sinks, and shower separate from tub, was the best one will find on a ship.