Our main complaint had to do with options. Seabourn offers fewer dish choices on its menus than other lines (Regent comes to mind). Possibly this is to ensure a high quality of the food it does serve and to avoid waste on a small-size ship. This is fine if you're a versatile and easy-to-please diner. Those who are pickier or who have dietary restrictions will find themselves limited. For example, we found the vegetarian options to be lacking (more so than on other lines) and poorly thought out (such as offering spring rolls as a main course). We would recommend that diners with even slight dietary restrictions speak to the chef about options. (Also, you won't find spa cuisine or healthier options marked on any restaurant's menu.)
To that end, the staff is very amenable to special requests. They told us at embarkation, when asking everyone about any dietary needs (a nice touch) that they could make nearly anything we liked with 24-hour notice. We tested this out by requesting an Indian dinner one night, and the ship's Indian chefs made us an amazing multicourse feast that was possibly the best meal we had onboard.
Our other minor gripe is that dining hours are very limited. The only way to eat dinner before 7 p.m. is to order from the standard room service menu (limited options) or book a 6 p.m. Grill reservation. If you want to get off the ship right at 7 a.m. when it docks, you'll need to order room service or grab a coffee and a pastry from the Observation Lounge. If you like restaurant dining for lunch or breakfast, you're limited to just one hour of service. In most cases, the hours suited us just fine, but the later we got back from port, the more limited our options.
Service in all venues was generally good but inconsistent. On several occasions, we sat waiting for water glasses to be refilled, ketchup to be brought out and orders to be taken for longer than was necessary. Yet when struggling to carry a bowl of soup and a plate from a buffet, a server quickly came to my aid, and it was no problem for a waiter to fetch hot chocolate, peanut butter or a veggie burger from a different venue to bring to my table. Wait staff were also incredibly friendly and would stop and chat, when they sensed diners were amenable to that.
The Restaurant (Deck 4): The main dining room is quite elegant and light with floor-to-ceiling windows running along the port and starboard sides and a center section with a raised ceiling, gauzy white drapes and lit-up white panels with a white-on-white abstract design. Dark yellow (a staple Seabourn color) chair backs and window curtains add a touch of color to the white table linens topped with white roses.
Dining is open seating, and all passengers can be accommodated at once, meaning The Restaurant can feel oddly empty on nights when many choose to dine in alternate locations. (On the flip side, when nearly everyone shows up for formal night dinner, it can get quite loud.) Ask to share a table if you're feeling social. Seabourn makes a point of inviting passengers to tables hosted by ship's officers and entertainment team members; solos tend to get invited to these group tables nightly. Don't hesitate to turn down the invite if you're not interested or have other plans.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are ordered off a menu and waiter served every day. Note that hours are quite limited; one hour for breakfast on port days (two hours on sea days), one hour for lunch and two hours (7 to 9 p.m.) for dinner.
Breakfast includes a large selection of fruit, pastries and breads, yogurt, hot and cold cereal, egg dishes, griddle items like pancakes and French toast, meat (everything from cold cuts to lamb chops) and fish (pickled or kippered herring, smoked salmon).
The lunch menu is fairly limited with two starters, three mains (fish, meat and vegetable) and two desserts that change daily, plus shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, hot dog, burger, chicken breast, steak and ice cream that are available every day.
At dinner, as with lunch, the menu is divided into two sections: Inspirations (daily specials) and Classics (always available). The Inspirations menu will have four starters, divided into two courses, with salads, soups and appetizers. Four main courses typically include a vegetarian and a seafood option. Options might include a caviar appetizer, foie gras, Maine lobster, beef Wellington or a potato and Gruyere cheese tort. The Classics menu includes chilled shrimp, Caesar salad, chicken consomme, vegetarian tomato soup, tagliatelle pasta with lobster sauce, pan-seared salmon, roast chicken breast, New York strip steak, grilled beef tenderloin and rack of lamb.
Every other night, Thomas Keller items are added to the menu for additional choice, with one starter, two mains and a dessert. For example, one menu might be ricotta and Parmesan gnudi, fillet of king salmon, roasted king trumpet mushrooms and a frangipane tart. Diners can mix and match from all three menus.
Vegetarian and gluten-free dishes are marked, though some meat-free dishes go unlabeled, so diners should always inquire about ingredients just in case. Travelers with other dietary restrictions or allergies should contact the cruise line in advance of the sailing and speak to the dining team on the first day.
The dessert menu includes four options, with one typically sugar-free and one a different flavor of souffle, plus two ice cream flavors, a sorbet and a frozen yogurt. You can also order a cheese plate.
At lunch and dinner, waiters offer a complimentary white and red wine; these change daily and are a fine selection, at the expected price range (i.e., not too cheap but not the real expensive stuff, either). If you don't care for the offered selections, you can request something else from the complimentary list or pay for a premium selection.
The Colonnade (Deck 8): The Colonnade is the ship's buffet venue, with indoor and outdoor seating (with heat lights on the aft deck for chilly days). At breakfast and lunch, meals are self-service, with small menus of hot items to order a la minute. Dinner is typically off a menu and waiter served, but there will be the occasional buffet meal (like the Tuscany Market Dinner). Note that gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian items are sometimes marked, but not always.
We liked that The Colonnade never seems overcrowded, and a line for food generally means just one person ahead of you. Separate stations helps with flow, as well. While waiters aren't hovering over you, ready to take your plate, they will notice if you need help and will offer to carry your plate or find you a table. Our criticism is that open hours are often too short to accommodate early or late tours. Breakfast generally starts at 7 a.m. and lunch ends at 2 or 2:30, and servers start removing the serving platters on the dot.
At breakfast, help yourself to hot items like scrambled eggs and potatoes, fruit, pastries, meats and cheeses, yogurt and cereal, or order omelets, pancakes, steak, oatmeal and the like from your waiter. There's always a daily special, such as a truffle omelet or baked apple pancakes.
Lunch features a small selection of daily-changing hot dishes (loosely tied to a theme like Greek or Mexican), a soup of the day, salad bar and premade salads, breads, cheese, deli meat and dessert. You can order burgers, hot dogs, salmon, grilled chicken or steak off a menu.
At dinner, you will be seated and served by a waiter and order off a menu that changes daily and is loosely based around a theme. You'll be offered one type of bread, a choice of three appetizers and three mains (one vegetarian -- the same as in The Restaurant), and one dessert. Unlike the dining room, passengers here are limited to what's printed on the menu, and we found the venue was not ideal for cruisers with dietary restrictions. While the setting seemed more casual, and diners here opted for the less dressy end of the dress code, we still spent a good two hours at dinner.
Servers will take beverage requests for complimentary or premium selections; at dinner, as in The Restaurant, a daily white and red are offered but you may request a different bottle if you prefer.
A few nights per cruise, The Colonnade will offer a buffet dinner or a four-course set menu (no choices) created by Chef Thomas Keller. On Thomas Keller nights, passengers must make reservations; on all other nights, you can simply walk in to dinner whenever you wish.
The Grill by Thomas Keller (Deck 8): The marquee specialty restaurant onboard Seabourn Quest is The Grill by Thomas Keller, the Michelin-starred American chef known for restaurants such as The French Laundry, Per Se and Bouchon. You need to make reservations for this must-try dining experience, and you'll have the best results if you do so online pre-cruise. The restaurant staff make a point to get everyone in once; space permitting, you can dine a second or third time.
The venue is long and narrow, and is meant to evoke the upscale dining car of a classic train. The menu concept is modern versions of 1960s classic American dishes (shrimp cocktail, lobster thermidor, macaroni and cheese), with cocktails inspired by the 1920s. Ignore all that. What it really means is you'll get huge portions of perfectly prepared dishes, with no weird gimmicks (a la molecular gastronomy), and if you want an off-menu cocktail, no matter how standard, the waiters will have to run to another bar to bring it. Thomas Keller has also hand-picked all the purveyors of the wines, meats and cheeses used in his restaurant.
Your meal begins with a bowl of crudite and dip and mouth-watering, buttery, warm bread. The menu is simple, with a choice of starters (Caesar salad, New England clam chowder), plates (roasted free range chicken, New York strip steak, veal T-bone), sides (steak fries, creamed spinach) and sweets (ice cream sundae, seven-layer coconut cake). One starter and one main course change daily. Many dishes are prepared or finished tableside on a trolley cart the waiters wheel up and down the aisles, and the waiters will chat with you about what they're doing and the special ingredients they're using.
Everyone we spoke with on our cruise agreed with us that the Thomas Keller dishes we tried were delicious and perfectly prepared, but that you're served way too much food and feel a bit ill when you roll out of dinner, post-dessert. We recommend eating light the day of your reservation and booking an early reservation (dinner hours here are 6 to 9 p.m.).
The Patio (Deck 8): The Patio is so much more than a standard pool deck grill counter, and was the surprise hit of our cruise. It has the longest hours for lunch (12:30 to 3:30 p.m.), though it will close in inclement weather. (No one wants to eat at the open-air tables in the rain anyway.) At lunch, help yourself to an excellent salad bar, three hot dishes (such as panini or grilled chicken or fish), two pizza flavors (one is typically cheese), small sandwiches and cookies. Or, order off a menu of standard hot dogs and burgers, Thomas Keller's Napa Burger and Yountwurst Hot Dog, and a fish that changes daily. Veggie burgers are not officially on the menu, but are available on request. (They're also shipmade and delicious.) Grill items are delivered with irresistibly crispy french fries; you might also get some surprise chips, salsa and guacamole while you wait. Order ice cream and drinks from the bar.
In the evening, The Patio offers table service and diners order off a themed menu. It's still casual dining (even if the dress code applies) and the daily themes are grill-related --Butcher Shop, Chop House Grill, Surf and Turf, etc. Choose from three appetizers (one is always a Caesar salad), one pasta and one pizza flavor, three "From the Grill" options (such as tuna steak, pork chop and beef rib eye steak), daily sides and one daily dessert (or always-available cheese plate, fruit salad, ice cream or sorbet).
Seabourn Square (Deck 7): Seabourn Square is the heart of the ship -- part cafe, part internet center, part lounge and part guest services. In the morning, it's the place to grab an espresso or a chai tea latte and a pastry and kick back on a couch with a newspaper or Kindle. In the afternoon, drop by for a slice of cake or tea sandwich and a caffeinated pick-me-up. It's open from 6:15 a.m. to 11 p.m., closing for a few hours during dinnertime.
Afternoon Tea (Deck 10): Afternoon tea is held daily in the Observation Bar from 4 to 5 p.m., so you can enjoy the view while you munch on scones with jam and clotted cream, tea sandwiches, little cakes and organic loose leaf tea. Raisin scones are the norm, but plain and gluten-free scones are available on request. A note for tea aficionados: Seabourn serves loose-leaf tea in a pot and provides a strainer for you to pour through into your tea cup. This means that any tea left in the pot over-steeps before you can pour a second cup. We recommend either sharing a pot, asking for a half pot of tea or asking for a pot with just the leaves and a pot of hot water so you can steep just a little at a time.
Room Service: For those who want a more private dining experience, the dinner menu from The Restaurant can be served course-by-course in your suite, either inside or on the balcony, but only during restaurant open hours (7 to 9 p.m.). A room service menu of comfort food -- burgers, steaks, pasta and club sandwiches plus soups and desserts -- is always available. (It's not at all vegetarian-friendly.) Order breakfast via a hang-tag you place on your door. Hot and cold items (basically anything available on The Restaurant's morning menu, minus a few items like steak and lamb) can be delivered between 6:30 and 10 a.m. And for sheer indulgence, you can order a platter of (gratis) caviar and blinis any time you like, to any destination onboard (your cabin, the pool deck, The Club).