Seabourn passengers are a discriminating lot when it comes to food and wine. Expectations are high for all venues. We experienced a few missteps -- incorrect menus, forgotten courses -- on our sailing, but most passengers we talked to seemed happy with their meals and rated the culinary experience favorably against Sojourn's competition.
Although portion sizes are kept small, many dishes are rich, meaning it's still possible to leave dinner with that uncomfortable "stuffed" feeling.
Sojourn's signature offerings include lobster, Champagne and caviar; all three are served copiously and on demand. In the late afternoon, you'll see Seabourn regulars ordering little trays of caviar, complete with egg yolk, egg whites, red onion, creme fraiche and crackers. We didn't find out about this until the end of the cruise -- don't make that mistake!
There are four main places to eat onboard: The Patio Grill/Earth & Ocean, The Colonnade, The Restaurant and The Grill by Thomas Keller. In-room dining and room service are available any time of day.
Every night, the room steward brings the following day's menu for all venues to your suite. We wish every cruise line did this!
Although passengers can have dinner in casual attire at The Patio Grill or The Colonnade, all nighttime meals are waiter-served (with the exception of themed buffets, usually held once or twice per cruise). For anyone wanting a quick dinnertime bite, the only options are the cafe at Seabourn Square or room service.
On each sailing, Seabourn has its signature event, Caviar in the Surf. On cruises to chillier locations, it's held onboard in the pool. In warmer destinations, it's paired with a beach barbecue. The idea of wading out waist deep to nibble caviar from uniformed officers might seem a bit precious in theory, but in practice, it's a lot of fun and even a bit raucous.
Dietary restrictions and special requests are willingly accommodated with advance notice, and all eateries offer at least a couple of options for vegetarians.
Whatever you do, don't miss the line's signature breadsticks, which are heavenly.
The Restaurant (Deck 4)
Meals: B, L, D
The Restaurant is the ship's main dining room, and it's beautiful, with dramatic gauze curtains, crystal chandeliers and fresh flowers on the tables. Dinner is open seating for all meals, and no reservations are required.
The Restaurant is large enough for all passengers to be accommodated at once, and there are plenty of tables for two, as well as larger setups for more social meals. Ship staff regularly host tables, as do the entertainers; discussion of who gets invited and who doesn't can be a touchy topic of conversation among passengers.
Breakfast is only served in The Restaurant for an hour most days. The Restaurant also serves lunch for an hour or so, for those who want a three-course sit-down meal during the day. For both breakfast and lunch, we saw only a handful of passengers choosing to eat there.
Dinner, which runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. nightly with no set seating, is where The Restaurant comes alive. Female passengers are escorted to their tables by crew, starting the meal off on a dramatic foot. The menu has an "Inspirations" side, which changes daily, and a "Classics" side that is always available.
Menus skew French, but local specialties are often worked in according to where the ship is sailing. For lunch and dinner, courses include appetizers, mains and dessert. Complimentary wine is offered during both meals and pours are generous.
The list of complimentary wines is fairly extensive; while servers tend to push one or two for each meal, you can order anything you want.
Whites include Santa Margherita pinot grigio, Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc and Stags' Leap chardonnay. Complimentary reds include Castello Banfi Chianti, Sirius Bordeaux, Tommasi Valpolicella, Cosentino Winery Zinfandel, Kendall Jackson Avant cabernet sauvignon and Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet. Barton & Guestier Rose from Provence is a nice wine for hot weather; a Sauternes is available with dessert, as is Port.
A sommelier is always available to help with the supplemental wine list, which includes heavy-duty bottles from Opus One, Solaia, Chateau Margaux, Chateau Haut-Brion, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and more. Passengers can also bring their own bottles onboard with no corkage fee.
The Colonnade (Deck 8)
Meals: B, L, D
The Colonnade is a more casual option for all meals, but it's more chic than any other buffet we've ever seen, offering a mix of seating options, including bar tables. You can self-serve or order from a waiter during the day for breakfast and lunch.
At breakfast, choose from eggs, breakfast meats, smoked salmon, fruit, pastries and pancakes/French toast. Lunch is often themed to the destination.
At dinnertime, The Colonnade turns into a wonderful themed restaurant with three- and four-course meals. Reservations are required on certain nights; those with a Thomas Keller tie-in are particularly popular. On our sailing, we saw The Colonnade serving as a buffet for dinner only once, featuring an "Alaskan Market" theme with king crab legs galore.
Breakfast and lunch hours vary daily and can be found in The Herald, the onboard daily program. Dinner is always from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each day. In general, The Colonnade closes for two to three hours between breakfast and dinner and for three to four hours between lunch and dinner.
The Patio Grill/Earth & Ocean (Deck 8)
Meals: L, D
A third option for lunch and dinner is The Patio Grill on the pool deck. Smaller than The Colonnade, it's a mixture of buffet and served items that are often themed. One day for lunch, you might find tacos, and on a particular night, dinner might feature French or Korean menu items. An ice cream station is at the nearby Patio Bar.
The Patio Grill is often open for casual dinner from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the venue transforms into Earth & Ocean. Although it's generally a convenient option, it's closed during inclement weather, and its alfresco location around the pool deck can be chilly on colder itineraries, despite heat lamps mounted overhead.
Vegetarian items are available upon request.
The Grill by Thomas Keller (Deck 8)
The Grill by Thomas Keller was developed in partnership with the line and the Michelin-starred chef known for famed restaurants the French Laundry, Per Se and Ad Hoc.
Seabourn's version of an upscale steakhouse, The Grill by Thomas Keller is home to the best steak we've ever tasted at sea -- cooked to absolute perfection and so tender we didn't even need a knife.
Each table is provided with breadsticks and creatively presented crudite, while passengers select items from the four-course (starter, main, sides, dessert) menu. They include fish, seafood, lamb chops and steak with sides like fries, macaroni and cheese, and vegetables. Most dishes are geared toward meat-lovers, but there are a couple of options for vegetarians.
Although there's no charge to dine at The Grill by Thomas Keller, reservations are required, as cruisers are limited to eating there just once per sailing. It's open for dinner only, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. nightly.
Seabourn Square (Deck 7)
Seabourn Square is a great spot for a light nosh. In the morning, you'll find sweet pastries and croissants, and in the afternoon, there are tea sandwiches and (again) decadent pastries, as well as ice cream. Specialty coffee, tea, wine and spirits are offered throughout the day. The venue typically closes at 6 p.m. and opens again from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Observation Lounge (Deck 10)
The Observation Lounge hosts a daily Continental breakfast for early risers, and it's also the spot for afternoon tea, featuring scones with jam and whipped cream along with other finger foods and, of course, tea.
Meals: B, L, D
Room service is available around the clock. Meals in your room can either be set up at the dining table in the suite or on your balcony. (Oddly, though, the chairs in the suite are too short for the table, so it's a little awkward.) The extensive menu includes starters, entrees and desserts. Each night, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., passengers can order items from The Restaurant to be delivered to their cabins and can even request that they be served course by course.
Breakfast hangers are left in your leather folio every night by your cabin steward. You can order almost everything that's available in The Restaurant and Colonnade. Our meals came on time and were the right temperature.