Following in the footsteps of its sister ship, Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Ovation features more dining choices than the smaller ships in the fleet. It's also the first ship to offer the line's new dining concept -- Earth & Ocean -- a pop-up venue that takes over The Patio poolside grill, every night.
As with just about everything else on Seabourn Ovation, restaurants are included in the cruise fare -- even The Grill by Thomas Keller, whose land-based establishments easily can cost more than $500 per person and require diners to reserve seats months in advance.
Introduced with Ovation's 2018 debut is ship-made gelato, handcrafted onboard by chefs who underwent training at Carpigiani University in Bologna, Italy, and served in nearly every dining venue. Cruisers can choose from milk- and fruit-based options, and a variety of unique flavors; different flavors appear in different venues on the same day, so make the rounds if you're picky and don't see the kind you like at your first stop.
While we love the increase in dining options on Seabourn's larger ships, we experienced and heard talk of more service gaffs than we have found on the line's smaller ships. It remains to be seen whether these will disappear once old and new staff gel and get used to the bigger ship, or whether this is the new reality of larger, 600-person ships. For the most part, dishes were cooked perfectly (we only took issue with one rubbery piece of fish).
We do find the line to be just adequate for vegetarians. If you eat meat-free, you might consider making a few special orders.
To help you choose where to dine each evening, a summary of the next day's menu for every restaurant is provided in your suite each evening. Don't miss the Thomas Keller additions to The Restaurant menu, which are listed on the front page (when available) rather than with The Restaurant's main menu. Also worth noting: Unlike other cruise lines, dinner hours are not standard across restaurants. The specialty restaurants open earliest, at 6 p.m., while Earth & Ocean is the last to open at 7:30 p.m.
Note: Complimentary caviar is available anytime, anywhere, upon request.
The Restaurant (Deck 3): Seabourn Ovation's version of the main dining room is a perfect representation of Adam D. Tihany's work -- a gorgeous, off-white room boasting soft contemporary lines in the columns and walls, and a cathedral ceiling with geometric beams and a whimsical chandelier. The Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and can seat up to 400 diners at a time -- with table arrangements for groups of 10, eight, six, four and two.
Ask for a table of two or to share a table with others; Restaurant staff are happy to comply. We also appreciate that Seabourn invites passengers to dine at tables hosted by officers or entertainment staff; most passengers will receive a couple of invites, while solos receive invitations nightly. It's fine if you don't wish to go, but please RSVP to be polite.
Breakfast offers a menu of eggs Benedict, omelets made to order, bacon, hash browns and steaks, as well as assorted fruits, cereals, a wide range of pastries and healthier items like smoked salmon.
For lunch, diners can select dishes from two different menus: one that features "always available" items such as hot dogs, burgers and steaks, and another with more innovative options that change daily. Dishes on the daily-changing menu might include a pan-sauteed salmon and a chipotle peppered beef wrap. Each menu features a small selection of starters, main courses and desserts, including a wide selection of gelato.
Dinner is open seating, meaning diners can show up anytime between 6:45 and 8:45 p.m. Seabourn labels The Restaurant as its most elegant dinner venue, with a stricter dress code.
Every night, diners can choose from three starters, two soups, five mains and four desserts (plus a lengthy gelato and sorbet menu) as well as an "always available" menu of more basic options like steaks, salmon and chicken breast. Typical dishes include a foie gras and morel terrine, miso-glazed salmon, goat cheese tart and, for dessert, chocolate chip lava cake and a hot fudge sundae. Thomas Keller dishes also are available in The Restaurant, on select nights. They're printed on the front page, but your waiter will open your menu to the middle, so be sure to check because they're easy to miss but often quite delicious and inventive additions to your meal. We particularly enjoyed an heirloom carrot salad and a creatively presented phyllo-wrapped falafel atop roasted romaine lettuce.
Sushi (Deck 8): This intimate dining venue serves up fresh sushi and sashimi -- beautifully presented and paired with inventive ingredients. The venue itself is a light, cream-colored room with large picture windows along one side and a sushi counter on the other. Diners can either sit at the counter, with a view of the chefs in action, or in the surrounding dining area.
Sushi is open for lunch and dinner. At lunch, diners get to choose from a selection of bento boxes, served with miso soup, a salad and dessert. Choices include pork dumplings, miso salmon and ramen noodles, plus you can get a side of sushi (salmon, crab, eel, shrimp or vegetable). Lunch is better suited for diners looking for Japanese cuisine rather than just sushi.
The dinner menu includes sushi and sashimi starters and main courses, as well as small plates, salads and desserts. Vegetarian dishes also are available, but there are no main course dishes that are not sushi or sashimi. On formal night, Sushi offers a set, multicourse menu; otherwise, the menu does not change. Among the drink choices are Japanese beer, sake, wine, Sencha green tea and Sushi's signature cocktail.
Despite Sushi's small size, reservations are not available. Come when the restaurant first opens, or at an off-time to avoid a wait. We beat the lunch rush by arriving at 12:45 after the noon diners had finished but before many hungry passengers showed up en masse at 1 p.m. and the line snaked out the door. Dinner runs 6 to 8:45 p.m.
The Grill by Thomas Keller (Deck 8): Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller is the mastermind behind this venue -- having developed everything from the menu and wine list (with the help of The French Laundry sommelier Erik Johnson) to the decor and background music playlist. It serves American classics with a twist -- the twist being the ingredients used as well as the way dishes are presented. Reservations are required; make sure you claim your spot before the cruise, as seats tend to fill up fast. It's open 6 to 9 p.m.
Looks-wise, The Grill by Thomas Keller is a dim-lit, stately space, with lots of dark browns and golds and pops of red. There's a bar and lounge seating area toward the entrance, which flows into the dining area -- complete with standalone tables and booths for parties of two, four, six and eight. Don't ask for a window table, as all the window shades are closed at dinner.
On the menu, you'll find starters ranging from Caesar salad prepared tableside to shrimp cocktail and New England clam chowder, and mains such as Dover sole meuniere, New York strip steak, lobster thermidor and roast chicken for two. Desserts include a moist dark chocolate layer cake, lemon meringue tart and a vanilla ice cream sundae. Everything is cooked to perfection, and highlights include elaborate tableside preparations for dishes such as the Caesar salad and Dover sole.
These menu items don't change -- and haven't since the restaurant opened on sister ship Seabourn Encore in 2017. To help change things up for repeat cruisers, The Grill now offers three daily specials. For example, at our dinner, we could choose from a chilled white asparagus starter, chicken cordon bleu or egg yolk gnocchi.
The Patio (Deck 9): During the day, The Patio -- Seabourn's casual poolside grill -- offers a buffet-style lunch with salads, pizza and daily specials like fajitas and grilled fish. You can order grilled items -- including Thomas Keller's Napa Burger and Yountwurst hot dog, as well as regular burgers, hot dogs and fish of the day -- from the roving waiters. Veggie burgers are available off-menu, but aren't always on hand; expect a brief wait. In the morning, it offers a smoothie bar.
At night, the space transforms into an alfresco pop-up venue called Earth & Ocean. Developed by Seabourn's culinary consultant, chef Anton Egger, the concept features menus inspired by his world travels, as well as contemporary background music and rustic table settings designed by New York-based ceramic artist Wynne Noble. With its eclectic twist and outdoor setting, Earth & Ocean is the ship's most casual dinner option. It's also the ship's late-dining option, open from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Menus change nightly over the course of the week and include three starters, three mains and three desserts, always with a vegetarian option, in addition to delicious warm bread. Dishes could be tandoori rotisserie chicken and Peruvian-style roasted salmon. Shareable plates are presented in Moroccan-style serving pots. Blankets are kept on hand and provided to diners who need them on chilly nights.
If you're skeptical about a pool deck dinner option, don't be. The food, service and setting are all up to Seabourn's high standards, and it's lovely to dine alfresco or watch the sun set as the ship sails.
The Colonnade (Deck 9): Seabourn Ovation's self-serve venue features tastefully displayed buffet stations with both to-go and made-to-order items available. The buffet is open for breakfast and lunch; at dinnertime, passengers can enjoy casual table service . (On occasional evenings deemed Market Dinners, the Colonnade does opt for a dinner buffet.) Look for short menus of a la carte dishes on the tables and don't miss the daily special, listed on a chalkboard by the hostess stand.
Breakfast options include all the usuals, such as eggs, breakfast meat, pastries, yogurt and smoothies, cereal and fruit (including little glass bowls of fresh berries daily). Waiters will take tea, coffee and juice orders -- or order a mimosa, because, hey, you're on an all-inclusive cruise! The daily special (a masala omelet or Belgian waffle with berries) and hot items like eggs and pancakes can be ordered from your waiter.
At lunch, The Colonnade offers a buffet version of The Restaurant's menu. It offers a salad bar with DIY and premade options, hot dishes with a loose theme (like British or pasta) and daily specials, like Indian butter chicken, and a soup of the day. Burgers and hot dogs can be ordered from your waiter. There's a separate dessert section, plus four flavors of gelato are available at a cute, vintage-style ice cream cart during lunch.
Dinner typically starts at 6:45, but might be opened earlier to accommodate passengers going out on evening tours. It's generally a themed menu (Mediterranean, American, Russian, etc.) with table service, no reservations needed. Options are limited to three starters, two mains and one dessert, so not the best option for picky eaters or vegetarians.
On select nights, The Colonnade hosts a Thomas Keller theme night, which must be reserved in advance. The menus -- which change each time -- include family-style dishes, inspired by those served at his Napa Valley restaurant, Ad Hoc. The portions are larger than the typical Colonnade entree, and the food is heavier (like platters of ribs and fried chicken).
On other nights, often after a long day of touring or when there's a late night in port, The Colonnade will offer a themed Market Dinner, which is a dinner buffet, set up similarly to the lunch buffets. During a Scandinavian Market Dinner, a folding table was set up as a special addition to the buffet with local items purchased in Helsinki during the previous day's Shopping with the Chef outing. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for those sorts of regional goodies.
Dining staff is accommodating of tours, and on some nights with late-returning evening tours, The Colonnade opens for a midnight comfort food buffet with sliders, fried shrimp, chicken wings, soup and sweets. (No pizza, though, which we thought would have been a nice addition to the greasy fare.)
Seating in The Colonnade is available both inside and outside, on a shaded deck space, and there's a nice flow to the layout. However, on days when large numbers of passengers show up for breakfast at the same time or if the outdoor seating is closed for weather, the buffet can turn into a zoo, with tables difficult to find. On sunny days, if the aft terrace is crowded, know that there is additional seating down one deck (essentially outside The Grill) with an additional salad bar for convenience.
Seabourn Square (Deck 7): Seabourn Square's coffee bar is the ship's go-to for a morning cup o' Joe or afternoon pick-me-up. It serves everything from the basics (American coffee and espresso) to specialty coffees, tea and frozen Frappuccino-style drinks from a machine. The bar is equipped with a mini-roastery, too, so you know you're getting high-quality brews. A glass display feature snacks that change throughout the day -- yogurt parfaits, pastries and doughnuts in the morning; finger sandwiches, cookies and gelato from midmorning until 6 p.m.; and chocolate truffles from 6 to 8. At peak times, there can be a queue for coffee.
Afternoon Tea: Every day at 4 p.m., Seabourn Ovation's Observation Lounge hosts afternoon tea. It's a lavish affair -- complete with china and silver table settings, an extensive loose-leaf tea menu and a beautifully decorated self-serve table with scones, sandwiches, pastries and unique cakes like chocolate peanut butter ganache and apricot.
Room Service: A small selection of comfort food is available for in-suite dining, from shrimp cocktail and tomato soup to penne pomodoro, roast chicken breast, club sandwiches and burgers. Gelato, cookies and cheese are all on the dessert menu. Room service is available 24 hours, with a separate menu for breakfast, which includes hot dishes. You also can order items off The Restaurant menu to be delivered to your suite during dinner hours.