Seabourn Odyssey offers an impressive array of shore excursion opportunities for a small ship. On our Panama Canal itinerary, the options included active adventures (rafting, kayaking), culinary-themed trips to local markets and plantations for coffee and bananas, and heritage tours. All tours cost an extra fee. Prior to the trip, we were intrigued by the line's partnership with UNESCO and its promotion of World Heritage Sites. While we did visit UNESCO destinations, such as Guatemala's Antigua, the tour itself reflected no extra special content or leadership.
Seabourn has two distinctive tour options. On cruises that visit a port with a local food market, the Shopping with the Chef excursion, is offered free of charge. On this tour, passengers, with capacity limited, visit the market and watch as the chef picks out food for an upcoming meal. A heads-up: On our cruise it was announced the night before our port of call and many passengers had already committed to other shore excursions. Caviar in the Surf, a beach party, is another legendary Seabourn experience, and it's also complimentary. Crew set up, typically on a private island or private beach, a barbecue and actually serve caviar and Champagne from atop a surfboard while waist high in the ocean.
Daytime and Evening Entertainment
During the day, particularly on sea days, there's an opportunity for a rich and engaging slate of activities. Mostly geared to a more senior demographic, activities include arts and crafts, bridge lessons, shuffleboard, wine tastings, mini-golf and fashion presentations. Popular with a vast segment of passengers, of all ages, is daily team trivia. Prizes are awarded at the end of the cruise to the top performers but the trivia event, which takes place on sea days, is really more a chance to socialize with others, and, yes, show off your ability to remember arcane data. When you join a team you do commit to being there as often as possible, but it's all good fun and there's no pressure.
At night, entertainment quality varied. We found that any show performed by the talented onboard entertainers was generally excellent, particularly those offered by the cruise director and his staff. Talent imported onboard was hit and miss; one product, The Divas of Motown, had good singers but the costuming and theming didn't fit the concept; same applied to a Celtic show performed on a set reflecting the most sanitized Irish pub ever. Other performers included a xylophonist and a magician. Also worth noting is that the ship's theater, the Salon, has some of the worst sightlines we've ever seen on a cruise ship.
There is always plenty of music around the ship -- in the Observation Lounge, around the pool and in The Club, where a band plays dated pop tunes both pre- and post-dinner. The Club is also the ship's spot for late-night dancing and revelry.
Seabourn Odyssey has a small casino, with table games and slots, that's adjacent to The Club.
First the good: Seabourn generally brings aboard a variety of thoughtful and thought-provoking lecturers (several of whose lectures we've attended while traveling on other cruise lines), speaking on topics like history, politics, the European Union and NATO. On our cruise, there was some discussion of history of the Central America region in which we were traveling, including a particularly intriguing talk on the difference between the Suez and Panama canals.
In light of Seabourn's promotion of its UNESCO partnership, it was disappointing not to learn more about that program. Daily port talks are standard slideshows.
Seabourn Odyssey Bars and Lounges
For a ship carrying 450 passengers, there is a broader choice of bars and lounges than you'd expect. One challenge, however, is that some, particularly the Sky Bar on Deck 9, did not always feel appropriately staffed for the event or time of day. The ship's all-inclusive liquor policy didn't seem to make any difference in the vibe onboard. We can't remember any occasions in which the policy was abused.
The Club (Deck 5): Open for special events during the day (trivia drew a big crowd on our cruise and the bar did a rousing business), The Club is otherwise best utilized as a pre- and post-dinner spot for music with a live band. Music tended toward the banal -- dated pop tunes and such -- but some couples do take to the floor to dance.
Seabourn Square (Deck 7): Seabourn Square, a wonderful destination particularly during daytime hours, offers a full bar along with coffee, tea and sodas, and snacks all day and into the evening. It's got a lovely alfresco space off the ship's aft, with plenty of tables and comfy chairs where you can watch the wake go by. Sometimes service here seemed understaffed, particularly as bartenders needed to be nimble enough to serve sandwiches and pastries from the case, made-to-order coffees and cocktails. We didn't often see wait service on the alfresco deck of Seabourn Square, so plan to belly up to the deli to place your order.
The Patio Bar (Deck 8): A hub on sunny days at sea, the patio bar, adjacent to the festive pool, is generally quite busy and serves all manner of drinks (and bartenders even dish up freshly made ice cream). Pool service is generally quite responsive.
Observation Bar (Deck 10): Offering lofty views off the ship's aft, this circular lounge is a fabulous quiet nook when the bar isn't open but tends to pick up during afternoon tea and then again at dinnertime. A pianist plays show tunes and other warble-easy songs, and the venue is really the most festive of all Seabourn Odyssey's bars.
Seabourn Odyssey Outdoor Recreation
Odyssey's lovely main pool area on Deck 8 is graced by wicker-style chaises and loveseats, and as it's ringed by two decks, there's generally plenty of room for all. Two whirlpools flank the main pool. One nice touch is there's plenty of shaded spots.
There's another small pool on the stern -- it's the quieter of the two -- just off The Club. And a third spot worth checking out is a large whirlpool on Deck 6, all the way forward.
One popular Seabourn trademark that's featured on Odyssey is its fantastic water sports marina on Deck 2. It's typically open on one day per voyage, though that number can change due to the itinerary and weather, and only when the ship is anchored, not docked. (It was not opened up at all on our Panama Canal itinerary, and there was no announcement or explanation as to the reason.) Offered is an array of toys, from a banana boat and kayaks to a most bizarre activity in which you sit in an inner tube and are pulled along by a speedboat to a swimming platform.
Also on Deck 11 you'll find The Retreat, with shuffleboard and table tennis, both sheltered from the wind. There's also a nine-hole putting green. The running and jogging path, located on Deck 5, is fairly limited and doesn't wrap all the way around the ship. (A nice touch, located outside The Club lounge and alongside the Deck 5 aft pool, are the bottles of cold water and cool towels.)
Seabourn Odyssey Services
Seabourn Square, on Deck 7, is the hub of the ship's services, including the guest relations and shore excursions desks. We love the built-in desk meant to host local tourism officials from ports of call; they come onboard with maps and materials and answer questions. The cruise sales staffer has a desk in Seabourn Square as well. The ship's library is also scattered throughout Seabourn Square. What's confusing, considering the ship's demographics, is how many shelves are located so low to the floor you have to get down on your knees to browse.
The ship's series of shops are all located on Deck 7, just outside Seabourn Square. One boutique features fashions that range from casual beachwear to more elegant nighttime apparel. Another, smaller shop, offers logo merchandise and necessities. A third store sells very high-end watches and jewelry.
Internet-connected terminals are located in the Seabourn Square area, too; Wi-Fi signals are best here as well. Unless you're occupying top suites, Wi-Fi is an extra charge onboard Seabourn Odyssey. Though various packages are available, it's extremely pricy. Packages for unlimited use are available, and include two hours ($19.95), three hours ($29.95), seven days ($239.95) and all-cruise unlimited ($399.95); only one device at a time is supported. Light users can take advantage of a 40 cents per minute service.
A pair of self-serve laundromats are located on Deck 5. They're free to use, and soap is also complimentary.
The ship's medical center is located on Deck 3. A card room that also doubles as a small meeting room is on Deck 6.