It was our first trip on a SeaDream cruise ship... and it was the company's first time (maiden voyage) visiting 'The Amazon.'
First, it must be said, the absolutely BEST part sailing with SeaDream are it's wonderful passengers. They are by far the company's greatest asset, and some of the nicest, most fun-loving folks you will encounter on ANY cruise ship. And SeaDream crew members (on the whole) are as well great fun and very professional.
As for the company... it can and SHOULD be better... there were numerous lapses. NOT a good thing for a line charging TOP dollar for what is touted as a high end cruise product.
It all starts with the ships... and both SeaDream I & II are OLD... what was passable 30 years ago does not work well in today's world (even with some upgrades)!!
- cabins are far too small... for those use to and familiar with larger ships they are substantially smaller... and the area around the bed(s) is particularly tight.... and in today's market, high end clients want cabins with balcony's.. SeaDream ships DON'T have any... not even the owners suite ! .... bathrooms are ridiculously tiny.. and there is a fairly high step up to enter the bath.. toes get banged quite often.... closet and bathroom doors are not secured by any restraining hardware.. very annoying when ship is rolling.. this requires just a simple solution and is totally unacceptable.... the boat sauna is for 1 person only.. even if you are not claustrophobic.. a hot steam in this small space will change that... and SeaDream ships are lacking in inside common areas... limited bar/lounge areas to accommodate guests... also, the library on-board is very limited... bring a good selection of ebooks... (larger ships again have it much better... all major pluses with bigger, newer ships).
- extra charges for many services are prevalent... and would appear to be an integral part of company policy.... some of the shore excursions are priced exceptionally high... $160.00 pp for a one hour local 'native' performance was agreed by many to be exorbitant.
- excursion tours are at times poorly managed and executed.. planning is below par for a high end cruise line.. there were missed opportunities to attend important local festivals on shore due to what seemed little or no advanced research or planning.... emphasis on critically important stops was lacking... I.E. missing only opportunity to see virgin forest because no emphasis was placed on that excursion by those in charge... a desirable village tour was cancelled... and several guests were given no choice and did not do any of the scheduled zodiac tours as a result... all so we could get to a 'shopping' experience on schedule... missed out at another magical night at the carnival festival in Santorum... as we arrived a few hours too late.... a real disappointment was never getting to see a true portion of the old growth virgin Amazon forest ... an old growth tree remaining here and there but that's all... the one stop that we had a chance was not at all properly presented and no one was made aware of what they were missing... extremely frustrating! !!
- pool water was unsightly after several days use.. pool water did not appear to be filtered.. and was not able to be changed until a larger port was reached after several days of additional sailing.... insect and a/c were major issues... in a climate that the ships is normally not accustomed to sailing... some of the common areas were exceptionally cold at times... numerous passengers were in agreement.
- food is mostly passable but not great... same for the 'complimentary' wines.. prompting purchase of dinner wines on several occasions... it really should be better on both counts considering the high cost of the cruise... dinner starts serving at 7:30, catering exclusively to those passengers who like to eat later in the evening... after dinner all 3 bars on-board were not scheduled to open till 9:30.. as a result passengers at times were left to force an issue to find a bartender to get an after dinner drink... under the pressure, they somewhat conceded and altered the time to 9:00 ... without being asked passengers are over-poured wines at lunch and dinner ... not a good policy. (again, major pluses in all matters on other high end cruise lines)
- PA announcements for the most part are non-existent ... (and those that are given don't go into the cabins) passengers are left asking questions about basic goings-on... and on several occasions passengers were given unwarranted misleading information as excuses for events... many grumbled about being given obviously dubious information.
- expedition lecturers came on board later than they should have... and they are not used adequately for guests hungry for excursion and Amazon information, and were left to play movie trivia in the afternoon to pass time... very little at all was discussed regarding the future problems and critical nature of the Amazon's future.. this was most surprising and disappointing... SeaDream is looking to make a Med or Caribbean trip of the Amazon, in that regard they are a 'fish out of water.'
- attitude on-board is that we want you to be happy... but we really do not believe we should be hearing any complaints... and unhappy guests were talked to out in the open common dining areas by the captain of all people...(most unusual no other senior officer had this responsibility)
- SeaDream ships use common pathways as a walking/ jogging track.. disturbing to guests seated alongside these areas... (larger ships have designated running/ walking decks).
- in the Port of Manaus there was free wi-fi ... on the boat it costs $35 a day, or $0.35 a min ($25 an HR)... (most other luxury lines include wi-fi for all returning passengers).
- the time spend going from Barbados to Manaus is not worth the cost ... there is nothing happening (at sea) for too many days, and you are not really seeing or doing much of anything... most all guests agreed.
- several important staff on-board do not fully understand their interactive roles with passengers... i.e. wine sommelier... activities director... and the captain.... and no one appeared really adequately in charge of the expedition guides...as a result planning and coordination of their expertise was very uneven at times.
- pack the lightest light weight clothes you can bring... you and your clothing will be somewhat damp most all times, and lighter clothes will dry much quicker... there is no laundry on-board (as on other larger ships)... and SeaDream laundry costs are again very high.
- having the same routine every evening (6:30 cocktail hour... dinner at 7:30) for 3 weeks becomes wearisome ... and there is no after dinner entertainment to break up the monotony (as on all larger ships)... most all activities on the various parts of the river are identical... and 3 weeks is a long time to be doing the same things over and over... zodiac tours became very repetitive ... birds-trees-water... village tours were a bit more diverse.. but not well organized and fewer in number than should have been.. and no meetings with truly indigenous peoples were scheduled while in Brazil... a very long stretch.
As indicated, three weeks is far too long to be on a voyage with SeaDream. There are things to like (and most of their long time loyal cruisers believe sincerely in the company)... but for us, they are much outweighed by policies, mindset, and lack of ship's amenities.
In hindsight, we might only have done a Manaus to Iquitos segment...but more than likely would have really looked to doing it with a more accomplished adventure travel company.
As previously stated, the passengers and majority of the crew were absolutely wonderful... but in the final result, we came to experience 'the Amazon'... and in that regard we feel somewhat shortchanged by the overall SeaDream experience...(especially in consideration of its high cost).
Cabin 407... on a centrally located deck... very small... no balcony's on-board... tiny, tiny bathrooms... a/c dial hard to tune in proper temp... bath & closed doors not secured, very annoying when ship is rolling.
Was a worthwhile first visit... but in all probability would not return... the US Virgin Islands further north offer more and are closer to the mainland.
A city with a population of 2.5 million... the Opera House is worth a visit ($3.50 for seniors).
Be careful and do not wear any jewelry onshore (2 passengers were mugged - one at knife-point.. both okay, but did loose jewelry).
Always carry an umbrella... when it rains... IT RAINS !!!