We were looking for a luxury cruise which would visit Spain and France and would be no more than 14 days. Having sailed on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean with our children many years ago, we were looking for a smaller ship with the 'feel' of a Four Seasons resort. We found that Seabourn was a perfect fit for us. This was to be an 11 day cruise starting in Barcelona and ending in Monaco. The embarkation process was flawless. We boarded the ship around 2p and were welcomed aboard by very friendly crew. We went directly to our state room (754) and met our cabin attendant; she was awesome! She made us feel very welcomed and made sure that she knew what our preferences were(e.g. extra towels, hypo allergenic bedding, etc). Our cabin was beautiful; spacious and in great condition. The marble bathroom and double sink and separate stall shower were designed very well. The walk in closet provides ample space. And we liked the size of the balcony; we enjoy breakfast at sea on our balcony.
We then began to explore the ship and were very impressed by the public areas and the ease of finding areas of interest. One recommendation we have is that Seabourn should improve the public areas by adding more artwork and by using lighter wood tones rather than the darker ones. We expected all of the public areas to have a luxury feel and that was the case in the Thomas Keller Grille, Seabourn Square, the Observation Bar and the Dining room. The other areas could benefit by my suggestions above.
Dining: overall, the breakfasts, lunches and dinners were very good to excellent. The meals we enjoyed the most were at the Thomas Keller Grill, the Dining Room and Earth and Ocean. The Thomas Keller Grill was as fine as any restaurant we've ever experienced. Having been to the French Laundry, we had high expectations for the Grill and these were exceeded. The bar at the Grill was our favorite pre-dinner spot. The bartender, Diago, knew our names and knew exactly what we wanted every time.
The maitre'd for the Grill, Luke, knew us well and made it very special for us to enjoy dining at the Grill three times, once to celebrate my birthday on the 7th of September. He even made sure a special chocolate cake was made.
I would highly recommend that Seabourn introduce another fine dining establishment on the Encore class of ships. Perhaps an Italian restaurant at the same level as Il Milino in NYC and Las Vegas, and /or a Steakhouse. For this to be a true luxury experience, we believe having another fine dining venue is a must. Other experienced Seabourn cruisers felt the same way.
The Colonnade for breakfast was very nice. However for dinner, our experiences(twice) were just average. Slow service, and quality of food was just good, not great. Earth and Ocean we had dinner there once and next time we would go a few more times as the food and service were very very good.
Ports: we were very disappointed that our one Portugal stop was cancelled and replaced with a second stop on Morocco. The cruise line made up for this by offering a discount on our next cruise; they did this for everyone on board as many complained. Most of the ports were very interesting, for example Malaga and Valencia and Cadiz Spain; however, the once port in France, (Cavalier sur Mer) should be removed from future cruises and replaced with St Tropez.
Other than one ship excursion(Tangier) we arranged our own tours privately and enjoyed every one of them. We tend to prefer private tours so that we have more flexibility.
Entertainment: Overall, it was very good. The gentleman from England who was both a comedian and singer was terrific..The woman comedian bombed the first night she performed and came through on the last night of the cruise. We would recommend more variety of performances and more headliner acts. Also, unlike some of the other luxury cruises, Seabourn did not offer any guest lecturers, authors, etc of notoriety. This would be very much enjoyed by most.
Overall, the service was excellent. The folks in guest services were very accomodating and pleasant. The servers at Thomas Keller, Earth and Ocean and Sushi were very friendly and attentive. The cruise director is a hoot! Best we've every encountered; a keeper for sure.
One of our favorite venues on the ship is the The Retreat; a private area on deck 12 with 14 fully furnished and stocked cabanas for rent. For us, we enjoy sun and alot of shade so this is the perfect place to relax, read, and enjoy in a quieter area with outstanding service. A private bar(Diego the bartender)and excellent cuisine from fruit platters, steak sandwiches, chopped salads, and much more more including delicious hot fudge sundaes! For us, it was well worth the upcharge. For most, we find they enjoy the vibe and tumult of the main pool area.
Also, Seabourn Square is the perfect place for coffees, teas, gelato and pastries all day long!
In addition to the recommendations above there is one other thing Seabourn should do right away . offer to all cruisers the option of having bottled Evian or similar water instead of the ship filtered and bottled water which we found unappealing.
We would absolutely cruise with Seabourn again. Our only hope is that the cruise line heeds all of our recommendations above right away. If that occurs, then our thought about comparing this line with Regent or Crystal would likely not occur.